Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Palestinian civil disobedience exists...and we don't hear about it

Neve Gordon summarizes examples of Palestinian civil disobedience that should be reported far and wide. That is the type of action that will move mountains, unless of course it is ignored and belittled by a corporate media that would rather promote terrorism stories.

Yes, this has been tried before, and again before with this man. However, this time, it may get traction through the Internet.

So by all means, let Palestinians find their inner Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will all be better for it.

ADDENDUM: Civil disobedience is not a picnic, as this young Jewish Israeli found out. For those who say, as in the last linked article, that civil disobedience is not the answer against the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) I respond: Dying for peace through civil disobedience will be better for Palestinians than blowing themselves up, and killing other regular folks sitting in cafes.

A libertarian who gets it

Jesse Walker, perhaps my favorite libertarian writer at Reason.org, understands precisely the point I have long made: Obama is no radical on economics (or probably much else). And Jesse agrees we would be better off as a nation if Obama was as radical as the right wing loons are saying. Great closing line:

The president could pal around with militiamen, hook a money hose from the Treasury to ACORN HQ, and sleep each night with a Zapatista plush doll, but as long as his chief concern is preserving and protecting the country's largest corporate enterprises, the biggest beneficiaries of his reign will be at the core of the American establishment.

My only sad surprise: Jesse says Andy Williams is talking that nonsense about Obama being a "Marxist", too. Yuck. I have to say I really liked Andy Williams. I think the article linked to is wrong about his being a "lifelong" Republican. He was a supporter of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, and he was friends with Bobby and Ethel--and after Bobby was killed, was very friendly with Ethel.

His show in the 1960s was a favorite in the Freedman family home.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Glenn Beck has a lot in common with Islamic fundamentalists

Digby posts on another commentary on the Glenn Beck interview with Katie Couric. It is a fascinating read into Glenn Beck, who is clearly a troubled mind. I had been recently saying Glenn Beck is a more of a right wing version of Howard Beale. But I think we have to face something more dangerous.

The shorter Glenn Beck point is this:

"I can't control my own impulses, so I want to control YOURS."

Right wingers in the US have alot in common with Islamic fundamentalists: They want to control women so that men are not tempted by their urges. They have a fear and loathing of someone not from their communities or culture. They want to exert more social control over unpure thoughts and confuse thoughts with deeds in an almost pathological manner. The believe in conspiracies that are based upon their fears and who they loathe (Such people believe illegal immigrants are consciously and actively trying to take over our nation, as opposed to trying to get a job here to survive after losing their own land due to larger economic market conditions. Among Arab oriented Islamic fundamentalists, the Jews are trying to take over the world and have hoaxed the world about the mass killing of Jews in Europe in order to justify repressing Arabs as they build a Western colonial power inside Palestine).

So how do we think our right wing friends will react to such a broad set of generalizations? Think they will finally begin to understand how hurtful and poisonous it is to hear the bashing of "liberals" by the likes of Glenn Beck or that other schmuck, Dennis Prager? Nah. It's only okay when conservatives engage in this sort of broad brush de-legitimization.

Perhaps then it is time to push back with a new de-legitimization, one that de-legitimizes these right wing talk show guys and gals, and pushes for their removal from corporate media through larger consumer boycotts than the one that befell Glenn Beck. Why should we even have to hear these right wingers, any more than we should have to hear outright Communists? Communist speakers and commentators were removed from civil society's public discussion during the Red Scare following World War II (such that Ted Kennedy and Michael Moore form the furthest most "left" in our nation's public discussion these past few decades). Perhaps we should be doing the same to these right wingers now, when they are clearly poisoning the public discourse with their snarling ignorance. You know, kind of like what William Buckley and Brent Bozell said in their infamous book defending Joe McCarthy first published in 1954:

"Whether the speech (of McCarthy) was a conscious effort to narrow the limits of tolerable opinion so as to exclude left-wing Liberals, only McCarthy can say...But it may well be we have not heard the last of this idea. Some day, the patience of America may at last be exhausted, and we will strike out against Liberals. Not because they are treacherous like Communists, but because, with James Burnham, we will conclude 'that they are mistaken in their predictions, false in their analyses, wrong in their advice, and through the results of their actions injurious to the interests of the nation. That is reason enough to strive to free the conduct of the country's affairs from the influence of them and their works.'...


(Page 333 of McCarthy and his Enemies)

Oh, and want to see some "interesting" views about women from one of the leading lights of modern conservatism in America, Dennis Prager? Just read this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The petition that roared..

Naomi Klein's article in The Nation regarding the petition signed by various folks during the Toronto Film Festival was highly illuminating. From reading accounts of the petition, I had thought the petition was calling for a boycott of Israeli films at the festival. Not so. In fact, the petition was far more narrowly focused on the Sister City program between Toronto and Tel Aviv, and how the City was marketing that relationship during the film festival.

I had read articles in the LA Times on the petition, which failed to provide quotes from the petition in a straight-forward manner. The first article on the substance of the issue started out decently, but then confused the issue with Ken Loach's call for an actual boycott of Israeli filmmakers at the Edinburgh Film Festival. All the writer, Patrick Goldstein, had to do was quote the petition and keep his discussion to the petition itself.

The second article was about the controversy, but again failed to discuss the petition in any meaningful way.

Admittedly, I had problems with the petition's use of the word "apartheid" (that is incendiary without being illuminating), the phrasings of a "mass exiling of Palestinians" and saying the city of Tel Aviv was built on the destruction of Palestinian villages (Really? The whole city?). But its thrust was narrow and was not a call for a boycott of Israeli films at the festival. It was an attack on a governmental public relations offensive between the Israeli and Canadian governments. The corporate media failed again, and demonized those with a legitimate concern. Ms. Wolf may say it was great that people were talking about the occupation and Arab-Israeli relations, but I am more struck by the demonization of those who signed the petition and the distortion of the intent of the petition.

Friday, September 18, 2009

America Can't Wait...Right on, Dr. Dean!

See here, and sign the petition.

What else is there really to say at this point? It's time for the Senate leader and the 51 Democrats in the Senate to act. And act boldly and with the majority in the House of Representatives. You're called socialists and dictators anyway. Pass laws with the majority of the votes you earned from open elections. Let the right wingers bray and snarl. People will thank you for it after the new laws and health insurance system is in place. And Democrats will win larger majorities in 2010.

Act boldly: Safety and success. Fail to act: Danger and failure beckon.

It is that simple.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Joseph Stiglitz catches up to RFK

Joseph Stiglitz, an economist, thinks he has uncovered something thought-provoking: The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not tell us about a nation's actual well-being.

True enough. But of course, Robert F. Kennedy recognized this in an elegant, symmetrical and deeply moving two minute speech over 41 years ago. RFK's speech (with some interfering music) is here. RFK's speech may be read here.

Better late than never, Joe. Welcome aboard.

Joseph Stiglitz has had an interesting journey. After starting out as the usual corporate mouthpiece in the 1980s and as a member of the first Clinton administration in the early 1990s, Stiglitz began to dissent from the elite consensus in DC, NYC and Los Angeles about the phoniness of so-called "free" trade. Now, he catches up to progressives who understand the limits of a GDP-centric universe.

Who says you can't teach an elitist economist to think about economics in practical, human terms?

Nice that Obama is throwing a bone to the remnants of the American tire industry. Still, we need more comprehensive rebuilding through tariffs and similar legislation. It's how nations develop, whether it is the US in the 19th Century, or China or South Korea today with their tariffs on imports.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor law reform and the scourge that is Wal-Mart

Harold Meyerson writes a great review of two new books on Wal-Mart. If Congress and Obama had any true concern for American workers, they would immediately pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and make speeches that demand Wal-Mart provide better pay and benefits to its employees. Wal-Mart will find it will survive unions, and even continue to thrive. The only change would be that some of its profits that go to executive compensation would be squeezed. Costco execs make less than Wal-Mart execs, but Costco execs still make lots of money. And that means less money to the Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart and are largely billionaires as a result of the exploitation of its workers.

Labor law reform and the reforming of labor practices at Wal-Mart would have a salutary effect on our economy as wealth would begin to percolate up, as workers with more income will spend that income on things business people sell. There is no coincidence that the time of leveling of the income of our nation (1929-1973) brought about in large measure through union power, was also a time of tremendous growth in the U.S. economy. Union growth is good for even those of us who are not in unions.

And one more thing to consider: Costco workers are more productive than those at Wal-Mart. Why? You treat people with some dignity and better pay/benefits, and...whoa...what a surprise...they perform better at work.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

So I wrote my congressman...

And this is what I wrote to my area congressman, Duncan Hunter, Jr.:

Here is the link from Robert Reich's nice summary of why we need the public option.

You've lived on government health insurance and even health care almost all your life. And you seem just fine health-wise.

Americans deserve the same system you have lived under. Medicare for all makes the most sense when Medicare takes care of the most expensive population health insurance wise, and yet its costs go up more slowly than private insurers, and its administration costs are a fraction of the private insurers. If a public option plan or Medicare for all can negotiate pricing with Big Pharma, we'll save even more money.

Let's put the nation above petty ideologies when we know what works. There is no "free" market in health insurance and there never will be. I don't negotiate when my appendix bursts. Simple is better and the public plan makes the most sense. The compromise is the public OPTION.


----

My Congressman inherited his seat the way Ted Kennedy inherited his seat from his brother Jack. My Congressman's father was Duncan Hunter, Sr. Not a chance will he support a public option even when he knows he has no argument based upon anything other than ideology. No facts. No public policy analysis. Just a position that will please his corporate sponsors (It appears Hunter's largest contributors are in the military contracting industry). His true constituents.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Brought a tear to my eyes...

This article about Michael Jordan asking David Thompson to be the presenter for Jordan's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame brought a tear to my eyes. I loved watching Thompson the Skywalker back in the 1970s and early 1980s. I used to say to myself as I watched his vertical leap, "Did I really just see that?"

The 1970s before Bird and Magic had its moments. Dr. J. in his prime. The greatest single NBA Finals game: Phoenix v. Boston, 1976, Game 5. In that game, there were three overtimes with unbelieveable shots and plays led by Havlicek and Westphal. There was also Rick Barry's amazing commentary during the game, including knowing the rule that said you can call a timeout when you had none and simply take the penalty, which was only one shot by the adverse team. Phoenix did that, Boston hit the one shot, and then Garfield Heard hit a shot that tied the game--again.

And through it all, David Thompson on the Denver Nuggets--he was "only" 6 ft. 4 inches but played like he was 7 feet tall (said Dr. J)--was someone who, every time he touched the ball, there was an electricity in the crowd and in any bar where the game was shown.

Great job, Michael. It is why you are the Great One. You respect your Forebears and help us understand you did not spring out of nowhere.

Israel roundup: Friends shouldn't let friends drive drunk

Three related articles in Ha'artez let us understand even better why Israel needs to face more international pressure, starting with the US, to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Still, there is hope that Obama can force Israeli leadership to realize there is another moment for peace with Palestinian Arab leaders. Arab leaders are telling the Obama administration they will normalize relations with Israel if it would simply freeze all settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This is Israel's moment of choosing. Which will its leaders choose? Move toward peace with the Palestinians, or continue what may end up being a 100 years' war? The US has an interest here in promoting peace, and Obama can multi-task and take the opportunity.

I'd consider supporting a boycott of Israel if it was narrowly focused on pushing for a true settlement building freeze. But from what I see, the calls for boycotts against Israel are too often promoted by people who really hate the essence of Israel--and I have strongly opposed a boycott for that primary reason. Perhaps Peace Now America can take up the idea of more limited in focus boycott designed to push Netanyahu to stop building more settlements? Sadly, I hold no hope for that...The way to pressure Israel will start at the levels of the Obama administration, and we may watch for the first time, American Jews starting to pressure the organizations that speak in their name to support the president--again to say we are friends of Israel, and will no longer let Israel drive drunk.

Remembering why the fight is never easy...

This is a nice article in our local area newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, about the lost meaning of Labor Day.

However, there is something missing, which is how our First-Monday-in-September Labor Day was itself a dilution from the May Day, or May 1 Labor Days that were started by more militant worker movements in the mid-19th Century. Ironically, one finds this deeper history of the holiday in Forbes magazine, a proud capitalist magazine.

I guess what this reminds us is that the fight is never easy, and that things we will eventually take for granted were fought for with the proverbial blood, sweat and tears. Kind of like health insurance for all.

It is too bad that more labor unions don't stage parades on Labor Day in areas such as San Diego that are promoted to hit the big issues of the day that need tending to, such as Medicare for all, labor reform and the rebuilding of our nation's infrastructure and industrial base. The San Diego Union article says the local labor organizations are holding a 7:30 a.m. rally at the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado Island to protest a particular hotel for not negotiating in good faith with workers there. It was not well organized or promoted, and frankly, not something that is going to be significantly effective. Had they done a more mass organized parade, and had speakers highlight what is happening there (You can't get from downtown San Diego to Coronado except by a big, long bridge that might have been incredibly symbolic to walk over...), then you'd help people connect political dots. But I don't want to criticize too harshly local labor leaders as I frankly don't know what they discussed, me being here in Poway, a somewhat distant suburb and someone not in the labor movement.

Still, if there is nothing in your area, then it is at least nice to drink a toast of your beer, wine or soda to the movement of organized workers who decades ago made our lives easier today. And maybe be a bit of skunk at your labor day bar-b-que if someone else brings up something political. I did that yesterday at my mother in law's house filled with Mexican-American and White working class folks. Someone, a white worker, made a comment about the "black" president, and I said "Well, didn't we have enough of stupid white men running things?" which knocked him on his heels as he was forced to say, "Well, yes, I guess so..." And then I said, "Obama's a really smart guy, isn't he?" And again, "Well, yes-yes, he is..." And the kill line, "And of course, he's half black, half white, and therefore no more black than he is white, even tough we all we see is his skin tone. Which really has nothing to do with anything as far as good working folks should be concerned, right?" Now he was just reeling, and quietly agreed. And that was the end of that. Or so he thought. And then I said, "And what we should be fighting for is Medicare for all--everyone should get Medicare and let's start from there." And there were nods and agreements among these workers...

I'll admit it. That was fun...

(Edited)

ADDENDUM: File this under The More Things Change...Mr. Block comics are one of my all-time favorites.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Is the Obama administration still worth defending?

David Sirota, Bill Boyarsky and Andrew Levine lay out the sad, bad truth that I too have written about: Barack Obama is simply Bill Clinton with a better marriage.

But the question I have is this: Is Obama worth defending at all?

The answer to that question is, frustratingly, still "yes." And that is because of the snarling, batshit crazy right wingers, who attack Obama for having the temerity to speak to schoolchildren about staying in school and working hard; call him a Nazi or compare him to Hitler; and peddle or fall for any number of truly insane opinions and a paranoiac, violent worldview closer to the Muslim fundamentalists who they hate almost as much as something they call "liberals." And let's remember that these batshitters carry guns to public forum events. They only fear government when the Republicans are out of power, but when Republicans are in power, these same people support any number of oppressive policies (domestic and foreign). And some of these batshitters may actually be thinking that killing the Muslim-Kenyan-Commie president will save America. And don't think I am ignoring the silent batshitter Libertarians who love their guns and would see the assassination of a Democratic Party president as "sticking it to the Statist Man." Who is John Galt indeed?

If one wanted to make analogies from German history, which seems to be the vogue these days, we already know that Obama is not even remotely like Hitler. The frustrating truth is that Obama, in his supine passivity in the face of rapacious and gluttonous capital, is more like Heinrich Bruning, one of several failed Weimar Republic leaders of the late 1920s and early 1930s. People like Bruning and sadly, Obama's leading economic advisers, think we have to coddle banks in difficult times. No, guys. We have to put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation, help make it easier for people to organize into labor unions to balance the distribution of profits in corporate enterprises, and enact national health insurance policies so people are not held hostage to a job or live with the fear that a catastrophic illness will bankrupt their families.

Like a child wanting to believe there is a Santa Claus, I keep hoping Obama will wake up and realize that his safest road to success is to act boldly, not timidly. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress must now enforce the rule of 51 in the US Senate, and pass a real public option in medical insurance, reform labor laws to make it easier for workers to organize at their workplaces, and put people to work rebuilding America's infrastructure.

If we don't do these things now, I can promise this: In 2010, and with say a General Patreus as their presidential nominee in 2012, the Rethuglicans will promise people they will help create jobs for them. They will promise to protect Medicare for seniors. They will promise to erase deficits with growth from tax cuts as they destroy any part of government that is not truly oppressive. They will reinstitute their war against science and learning, and reinstate torture policies and promote bigger wars than the one we have starting to boil in Afghanistan. And they will make partisan speeches to our schoolchildren all along the way...

Not the most inspiring way to support Obama, is it? And yes, there is something breathless and hyperbolic in what I am saying. It seems any analogy to 20th Century German history is fraught with that. I myself think it is a big stretch to compare Obama's administration and Washington DC culture to the Weimar Republic. But if we are going to indulge in analogizing 20th century German history, let's at least find a closer analogy. The Hitler descendants in today's America are the right wingers who support corporations uber alles, who snarl against minorities and immigrants, hate labor unions as they exault but fear capital, and mouth the most dogmatic of religious philosophies while they brazenly indulge in their own psycho-sexual impulses (see William Shirer's magesterial book on the Third Reich, which details the hidden homosexuality among Nazi leaders while they publicly attacked homosexuals) and reduce women to baby-makers tending the hearth. And it is right wingers like Pat Buchanan who actually defend Hitler.

It may still yet happen here.

(Edited)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Krugman properly attacks his profession...again

Paul Krugman is getting to be a bit like me. He sure does think most economists of the past 30 years are morons.

Here are two posts of mine on this subject, with the latter being one where Krugman said he "hates" economists.

Still, he is far too kind to the idiot Milton Friedman. Here is my take on Friedman, though perhaps I need to back off a bit on Friedman's earlier monetarist views. Even there, it shows one consistency, and that is being a toady to power. For him to support the Federal Reserve Board shows his true fealty is to the very corporate power he purposefully denied existed. The banks are the ultimate in corporate power, and the Fed is an institution that is anti-open government, and is designed to create a government of the banks, for the banks and of the banks. Just read William Greider's "Secrets of the Temple" and ask yourself whether I am being too extreme here...

ADDENDUM 9/8/09: My uncle sent me this link to Naomi Klein's comments about the economic meltdown being the result of Friedman-esque economics.