Thursday, June 30, 2005

Forest Activism: Durito and Pom Poko

It's so fitting that I just came home from one of the most fascinating political movies I've ever seen only to have in my mailbox, a notice of the outcome of the Zapatista consulta and the publication of the 6th declaration of the Selva Lacandona. This new declaration, which gives a brief history and explanation of the Zapatistas' organizing since 1994 is the product of a consulation with over one thousand indigenous communities in Southern Mexico. It is not clear what the next step will be, but the declaration says that it is necessary or the movement will really come to an end.

The movie that I just saw, Pom Poko, is a tale of magical racoons of Japanese fable who fight, through creative non-violence and guerilla warfare to try to save their forest from suburban development. The film is a really clever mix of Japanese lore and commentary on capitalism. Norman A. Rubin describes the magical powers attributed to raccoons in Japanese folklore: The ‘tanuki’ is a small hairy animal, and it is believed that he can transform into a frightening creature. Sometimes he is depicted humourously, having a gigantic scrotum which he drags behind him or wears it as a kimono. In some Netsuke figures the ‘tanuki’ appears as a Buddhist monk dressed in robes and banging on his scrotum as if it were a temple drum. “There is a fable that tells of an incident by the abbot of the Morinji Temple. He bought a tea-kettle and instructed one of the monks to clean it. Suddenly a voice spoke from the kettle, ‘Ow that hurts, please be more gentle.’ When the abbot wanted to boil some water, out popped the tail, legs and arms of a ‘tanuki’ and the vessel started to run about the room. It dumbfounded the poor abbot and he tried to catch the kettle, but it eluded him.”
The film is very true to the fables of racoon magic, for when the raccoons are being trained in transformation in Pom Poko, their first step is practicing the tea-kettle. As for that other bit, the "raccoon's pouch" is used in all kinds of bizarre and surprising transformations in the movie. It is quite an amazing film,and not just because it features furry cartoon animals with visible testicles. Since Disney has brought this movie out in the US, it will be interesting to see how some parents react. More important in the movie is the way it addresses the serious problem the animals face as their forest is bulldozed and replaced with housing for humans. The fights between the animals over strategy reminded me of old revolutionary political meetings at times.
I don't want seem insulting by comparing a movie about shape-shifting raccoons to a real, ongoing struggle of human let me explain. There's a way that Marcos' Durito character and the raccoons of Pom Poko are similar - animals used to give the story of a political struggle charm and universal appeal. I think that Marcos would wholly approve of "Pom Poko" if he were able to see it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Too Cold inside in Summer

So, today as I sit here typing, I'm still coming off the effects of a summer cold, which has had me spending the last few days groggy, coughing, and sucking vitamin c tabs. I initially thought that the pain in my lungs might be related to high ozone levels, but apparently, NYC's been not that bad. Then, contemplating the upcoming, icy trip into Manhattan, I thought it might be the air-conditioning in the city's various libraries, theaters, restaurants and subways. According to at least one website, it might be. For people with low blood pressure and lower body fat especially, air-conditioning seems to be a health risk!
The fact that higher levels of body fat contribute to a desire for a chilled environment also makes me wonder if lower and lower indoor summer temperatures might somehow be connected to the increasing average weight of Americans. And then, as I thought about the especially frigid temperatures in the city's museums, snotty NYer that I am, I began blaming suburban tourists, who come to our land of pedestrians and public transportation from the land of driving, fast-food, and couch-sitting. I plan to discuss this over my lunch time salad with the nice woman from Central America who wears the heavy sweater to work behind the cash-register at my favorite mid-town lunch place. There is something so unnatural about these extreme interiors, something so galling about having to bring a sweater along when it's 90 degrees outside, that I get agitated just thinking about it.
If you want to complain to the MTA about how cold it is on the friggin' subway, here are some tips from the straphangers campaign.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Statement from USLAW and Iraqi union leaders

Given the controversy, I figured it was worth posting this message I just got from USLAW....
I'll make comments on it later.

Joint Statement by Leaders of Iraq's Labor Movement and
U.S. Labor Against the War

June 26, 2005 Washington DC, USA

At the invitation of U.S. Labor Against the
War, a delegation of six Iraqi labor leaders
representing three of that country's major labor
organizations toured the United States between June 10
and June 26, 2005. They visited 25 cities, attended
45 events and 10 press conferences, met with thousands
of working people, union leaders, members of Congress
and other public officials, religious and community
leaders, and antiwar and other social justice
activists. They have given voice to the people of Iraq
whose voices have been largely unheard in this country.
They brought a story of courage, hope, struggle and
resistance on the part of Iraq's working people that
has been absent from the mainstream U.S. media. The
following statement was drafted and signed at the
conclusion of their visit. It represents the
consensus view of all the Iraqis and their U.S. hosts:

We, the representatives of the Iraqi Federation of
Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils
and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), the General Union of Oil
Employees (GUOE), and U.S. Labor Against the War
(USLAW) issue this statement at the conclusion of an
historic 25-city tour by leaders of the three Iraqi
labor organizations in the United States. We speak in
the spirit of international solidarity and respect for
labor rights around the world.

We speak in the spirit of opposition to war and occupation
and for the right of self-determination of nations and peoples.

On behalf of the Iraqi labor movement, we met and spoke
directly to thousands of Americans, including workers,
union, religious and political leaders, anti-war
activists and ordinary citizens. All of us, both
Iraqi and American, were deeply heartened at the
solidarity expressed throughout the tour. We have seen
with our eyes and felt with our hearts that the people
of the United States do not want the war and occupation
of Iraq to continue. We are strengthened in our
understanding of the deep commitment of organized labor
and workers in Iraq to a unified democratic,
independent Iraq, with full equality between women and
men in terms of rights and duties, and based on full
respect for the human identity without discrimination
on any basis.

The tour was an expression of the following key

The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the
reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation. The
occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi
sovereignty and independence must be restored. The
occupation must end in all its forms, including
military bases and economic domination. The war was
fought for oil and regional domination, in violation of
international law, justified by lies and deception
without consultation with the Iraqi people. The
occupation has been a catastrophe for both our peoples.

In Iraq, it has destroyed homes and industry, national
institutions and infrastructure - water, sanitation,
electric power and health services. It has killed many
thousands, and left millions homeless and unemployed.
It has poisoned the people, their land and water with
the toxic residue of the war.

In the United States, more than 1700 working families
have suffered loss of loved ones and thousands more
have been wounded, disabled or psychologically scarred
in a war that serves no legitimate purpose. The cost
of the war has led to slashing of social programs and
public services. It has militarized our economy,
undermined our own liberties and eroded our democratic

We believe it is the best interest of both our peoples
for the war and occupation to end and for the Iraqi
people to determine for themselves their future and the
kind and extent of international aid and cooperation
that suits their needs and serves the interests of the
Iraqi people. We strongly and unambiguously condemn
terrorist attacks on civilians and targeting of trade
union and other civil society leaders for intimidation,
kidnapping, torture and assassination. The occupation
is fuel on the fire of terrorism.

The national wealth and resources of Iraq belong to the
Iraqi people. We are united in our opposition to the
imposition of privatization of the Iraqi economy by the
occupation, the IMF, the World Bank, foreign powers
and any force that takes away the right of the Iraqi
people to determine their own economic future.

We call on nations across the globe to help Iraqis
regain their economic capacity, including full
reparations from the US and British governments to
rebuild the war-ravaged country.

We call for the cancellation of Saddam's massive
foreign debt by the IMF and other international lenders
without any conditions imposed upon the people of Iraq
who suffered under the regime that was supported by
these loans. The foreign debt of Iraq is the debt of a
fallen dictatorship, not the debt incurred by the
Iraqi people.

Further, we call for the cancellation of reparations
imposed as a result of wars waged by Saddam Hussein's
regime, and call for the return of all Iraqi property
and antiquities taken during the war and occupation."

The bedrock of any democracy is a strong, free,
democratic labor movement. We are united in our
commitment to build strong, independent, democratic
unions and to fight to improve the wages, working and
living conditions of workers everywhere. We confront
the same economic and corporate interests that have
mounted a global assault on workers and labor rights.
We demand strong labor rights in Iraq at the same time
that we strive to reverse the erosion of labor rights
in the United States and elsewhere around the world
where they are threatened. We call for free and
independent labor unions in Iraq based on
internationally recognized ILO conventions guaranteeing
the right to organize free of all government
interference and including full equality for women
workers. We support the direct participation of labor
and workers' representatives in drafting the new labor
code, in determining government policies affecting
unions and workers' interests, and in drafting the new
constitution. We condemn the continued enforcement of
Saddam's decree number 150 issued in 1987 that
abolished union rights for workers in the extensive
Iraqi public sector and call for its immediate repeal.
We commit ourselves to strengthening the bonds of
solidarity and friendship between working people of our
two countries and to increase communication and
cooperation between our two labor movements. We look
forward to delegations of Iraqis and Americans visiting
each other's countries for mutual support, and to
strengthen international understanding and solidarity
in our common struggle for peace and establishment of
a democratic civil society that respects human rights
and freedom.

With the strength and solidarity of workers across the
US, in Iraq and internationally, we are confident that
we can build a just and democratic future for labor in
Iraq, the US, and around the world.

Signed: June 26, 2005

Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq Iraqi
Federation of Trade Unions General Union of Oil
Employees US Labor Against the War



More News on the Zapatistas

Thanks to "chanders" for posting that link to the IMC's latest posting on the Zapatistas. In New York, following the first discussion, the group made the move to join the Austin-based network called "Accion Zapatista" and are hosting a second organizing meeting that will be held in Tompkins Square park's "grassy area" at 6:30 tomorrow. For a fuller news update, here's another imc article. Beyond leaving these areas in preparation for possible government raids, Marcos has announced that the Zapatistas may be about to change their approach and emphasis, moving from primarily indigenous struggle, to something else,a broader, national effort that embraces the concerns of "farmers, workers, students, teachers, and homosexuals."

I'm happy to see new life breathed into Zapatista solidarity, but can I make one suggestion please?... Maybe you all can drop everything and run off to a meetting on one day's notice, but some of us have stuff to do and plans made long in advance. Especially in NY, especially if you want Brooklyn/Queens people to come, you've gotta give people some advance notice. One day's notice is not enough, especially for revolutionaries over 30. Meetings are great, but meetings with a week's notice are even better. So, I Still haven't heard from anyone on the first meeting: Did anyone reading this go? Who was at the meeting? How many people? What was it like?

More news on Peak Oil

I'm off to the library basement and its microfilm stash, but before heading off for circa 1927, I ran into this "tomgram" in my electronic mailbag. Yes, it features more about the Chinese bid for Unocal, and an article by oil-scarcity scholar, Michael Klare, who is discussing the new book "Twilight in the Desert" by Matthew Simmons, which suggests that Saudi reserves are not as plentiful as is often said.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Does Attacking Other Anti-War Groups Help the Movement?

I was just over at the Indymedia site looking for new information on the Zapatista info meeting held on Wednesday night (found nothing) and was frustrated by a long set of comments referring to UFPJ and USLAW as sell-out, democratic party insiders supporting a pro-occuapation labor tour of the USA. I have plenty of criticisms of UFPJ and its choices, especially regarding how it handled the 2004 convention protests, but this discussion of USLAW's tour as "pro-occupation" is a real misprepresentation of a tour, which includes not just the IFTU, but two other labor organizations in Iraq: The General Union of Oil Employees and the FWCUI, both of which the ISO has described favorably in the same bulletin in which they denounce the IFTU.
I had the feeling, when reading the ISO's attack on the IFTU as pro-occupation that there was a certain misrepresentativeness in the posting. I wrote a long post about it on this blog under the headline "What's Behind the Conflicts," which apparently didn't clue people in that it was about the IFTU controversy. I attended the meeting and the IFTU people were asked repeatedly whether they opposed the occupation and what steps they saw leading to that, and every time the answer was that they opposed the occupation and supported immediate withdrawl. However, as ISO people have pointed out, mainly because of sources in the London SWP, the IFTU played an instrumental pro-occupation role there in October 2004, when courting the support of the British labor party. The critiques of the IFTU as playing political games seem merited to me. However, if the two other major labor organizations in Iraq agreed to be on a tour with them, is it possible that their position has actually changed? I found no recent sources linking the IFTU to pro-occupation forces. Everything was almost a year old.
Since ULSAW included IFTU as one of three groups, I think it's more important to ask, what is the reason for denouncing USLAW as if they are the backers and promoters of IFTU instead of covering the actual tour, mentioning the presence of independent groups on the tour, etc.
It seems to me that there is a terrible fear that the more broadly based anti-war groups will cave in to the fear of the two-party system and become democratic party puppets. Based on what I read on the marxism-list, I found what I believe is a message from Stan Goff, posted by Carlos Rivera: Watch it, after this tour the anti-war movementis going right and the slogan will be: "Listen to the Iraqis." And everyone that opposes that will be called a "sectarian". Of this I am as sure as that water gets you wet...Complete with a media blitz in the NYT and The Nation.
Want to bet? No? You know you'll lose."

I know a lot of folks in USLAW and none of them seem to me to be either the nimble wheeler-dealers of the Democratic party, nor do they seem simply to be its idle pawns. If we want to keep larger anti-war mobilizations from becoming pro-occupation mobilizations, it seems to me that the answer is to participate in anti-war organizing in a way that builds an anti-war movement. Does attacking the most widely recognized movement (instead of perhaps offering constructive criticism in the proper spaces for that) as secretly a sell-out imperialist force do that effectively? I don't see how.

China Bids for Unocal

Remember Unocal? That's the company that had that pipeline deal in Afghanistan that meant the US first supporting the Taliban in 1995 (as a force of political stability) and now supporting Hamid Karzai, a onetime unocal consultant. Unocal was also involved with the Baku-Tbilsi-Ceyhan pipeline deal. Initially Chevron made a $16.5 billion dollar bid for the company in April and was expected to buy it.
Now, China has made a larger bid for Unocal, and the US, dependent on China to buy US treasury bonds, is in a pickle. Should Unocal become a Chinese-owned company, that would bring the US business's investment share in the BTC pipeline down from 12% or so to about 2.5% - at least if I understand what I read correctly. If you read this article in "Petroleum News" you can find out even more indepth info on the possible effect or non-effect of the sale. As the articles will tell you, the US government can block the bid by declaring it to be bad for state security. I look forward to reading Michael Klare's comments on this latest development, and the US reaction to it, which begin to make resource wars - even between superpowers sound increasingly immiment and scary.
On the production end, go to USLAW's page to read about the oil employees union portion of the US tour of Iraqi labor activists.

Friday, June 24, 2005

DMC and Chuck D's Comments on Current Music

Once again, I awoke early in order to see Marc&Mark of Morning Sedition at the ever-so-comfortable Tea Lounge. The guests of honor Nelson George, who has a new book, Chuck D, who showed up by surprise, and DMC of Run-DMC. It was worth sticking around to the very end for them. When asked what he listened to these days, DMC confessed that he didn't listen to hip-hop anymore, but rather, was listening to classic rock, and specified who he meant as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. He has recently made a record in which he covers Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun," and he said that he thought it was important that contemporary artists make music relevant to the war, and that GIs can relate to. Hip hop, he said, is all about parties, not about anything important that's going on. That is true of most contemporay hip-hop, though there are few out there still talking about the issues.
One of them is .... Chuck D, who was lamenting the depature of the oldies format on NY's CBS radio station, and talked about how the music of the eighties (he mentiond the Cure and Scritti Politti as examples) were why he started making rap records himself. He doesn't listen to hip-hop when his children are around becase, he says, it's "too grown" for them.
To read about "Machine gun" go here:
For Nelson George's new book "Post-Soul Nation," go here:

(Sorry, for some reason, my handy html commands don't work on the public library computer. Just one more way that the digital affects us.)
And so kids, to comment...what are your views on hip hop or other music new or old? What are you listening to these days? For me, it's been Chet Baker, Charles Mingus and PJ Harvey.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Just How incompetent is the Dept. of Homeland Security:?

Pretty damn incompetent. For the past two days, I've been racing around my apartment looking for important mail that they had sent to my former room-mate, who is a legal, permanent resident of the United States. In case you didn't know, if you are such a person, you have to inform the authorities of any moves you make from house to house, which my very law-abiding room-mate did. Nonetheless, they mailed vitally important mail to her former address, where it got promptly buried and took several days to locate.
In the meantime I wondered, how many of the people languishing in our patriotic prisons are there because of some similarly stupid bureaucratic incompetence, some case of mistaken identity?

Open Thread: Comment on the Zapatista Info Meeting if you went

Hi folks,
Some of you may have noticed that my weekday blog entries are getting shorter lately. I hate to admit it, but it's because I'm working on my book and I just can't procrastinate the way I used to. However, I'm very eager to hear from anyone who went to the meeting last night in Tompkins Square park. Please post your thoughts, and any updates if you have them.
As for me, I'll be back with a rambling post about something by next week, I promise.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Zapatista Red Alert: Meeting in Tompkins Square Park Wednesday 7pm

I received this message in my email today.
Read on:
The Zapatistas have declared a Red Alert.
What does this mean?
What can we do in solidarity?
Information sharing and discussion
WEDNESDAY JUNE 22, 7pm, Tompkins Square Park Bandshell area.

Here is the communique:
Originally published in Spanish by the CCRI-CG of the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

Communiquй from the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee ­
General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.


June 19, 2005

To the People of Mexico:
To the Peoples of the World:

Brothers and Sisters:

As of today, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has declared,
throughout all rebel territory, a


Based on this, we are informing you:

First - That at this time the closure is being carried out of the
Caracoles and the Good Government Offices which are located in the
zapatista communities of Oventik, La Realidad, Morelia and Roberto
Barrios, as well as all the headquarters of the authorities of the
different Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.

Second - That also being carried out is the evacuation of the members of
the different Good Government Juntas and the autonomous
authorities, in order to place them in shelter. Now, and for an
indefinite time period, they will be carrying out their work in a
clandestine and nomadic manner. Both the projects as well as the
autonomous government will continue functioning, although under
different circumstances than they have been up until now.

Third - That basic community health services will continue functioning in
the different Caracoles. Civilians will be in charge of these
services, and the CCRI-CG of the EZLN is distancing them from any of our
future actions, and we are demanding that they be treated as
civilians and with respect for their life, liberty and goods by
government forces.

Fourth - That there has been a call-up of all members of our EZLN who have
been engaged in social work in the zapatista communities and those of our
regular troops who have been in their barracks. In a similar fashion, all
broadcasts by Radio Insurgente, іThe Voice of Those
Without VoiceІ, in FM and in short wave, have been suspended for an
indefinite period of time.

Fifth - That, simultaneous with the publication of this communiquй,
national and international civil societies who are working in peace camps
and in community projects are being urged to leave rebel
territory. Or, if they decide freely of their own volition, they remain on
their own and at their own risk, gathered in the caracoles. In the case of
minors, their departure is obligatory.

Sixth - That the EZLN announces the closing of the Zapatista
Information Centre (CIZ), not without first thanking the civil
societies who have participated in it, from the time of its creation until
today. The CCRI-CG of the EZLN formally releases these persons from any
responsibility for the future actions of the EZLN.

Seventh - That the EZLN releases from responsibility for any of our future
actions all persons and civil, political, cultural, citizens and
non-governmental organizations, solidarity committees and support
groups who have been close to us since 1994. We thank all of those who
have, sincerely and honestly, throughout these almost 12 years,
supported the civil and peaceful struggle of the zapatista indigenous for
the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture.


From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee ­ General Command of
the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, in the sixth month of the year 2005.

White Collar Crime Blotter: Are these really long sentences?

According to today's news, John Rigas the founder of Adelphia is getting 15 years in prison , which is just three years longer than the average sentence for posession of crack cocaine, and almost twice as long as the average sentence for simple robbery. The newspaper headlines all are discussing the sentences as "long" and much longer than usual in white-collar crimes.
However, lawyers seem to be arguing that the sentences are actually somewhat short - at least they are about ten times shorter than what the federal sentencing guidelines would suggest. Here are some interesting blogs with comments on the sentences that relate them to the important Supreme Court ruling in United States Vs. Booker, which provided judges with more discretion in sentencing. There's the "sentencing law and policy" blog and the "white collar crime prof" blog.
The most interesting of all these commentaries is on the white-collar crime prof blog, and argues that white collar criminals have a good reason to expect more leniency in sentencing from judges.

Monday, June 20, 2005

News Flash: The Smoking Axe

The headline is slightly wrong in the details, (it was an ice-axe, not an ice-pick), but go here to read about what may happen to the ice-axe used to kill Trotsky.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Open Thread: Heard on the Street

Last night on the subway, 2 am, I was reading, "Homage to Catalonia." I was deeply irritated by three guys discussing some woman who'd gotten into Juliard drama school. This made her more of a catch than they'd realized. They talked about how competitive it was, what the slaughter was like every year as the class was pruned down by 50%, etc. etc. They seemed to be in the know. They were a little theatrical, self-congratulatory. "Theater people," I thought, "harrumph."
Imagine my surprise as one of them said quietly, just before he got off the train, "great book" and as I turned to see who he was, he gave me a winning smile, "that's a great book," he repeated, louder this time. Not knowing what to say, I responded brightly, but idiotically, "yeah, it's classic!" oooph.
Your turn.....

Friday, June 17, 2005

What's Behind the Conflicts?

I just returned from US Labor Against the War's "Iraq labor tour" which in NYC hosted the controversial Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). The other groups on the tour, which is visiting "two dozen cities" in the US according to USLAW are the Federation of Workers' Councils (FWCUI) and the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE). I had wondered about the IFTU, because I was reading news about assasinations of them by resistance fighters. I did wonder, were they somehow part of an official state union structure? It seemed fairly obvious that they were CP affiliated. Were they really independent? From what I could tell at the time, it seemed that they were the remnants of the Iraqi Communist Party, which I had always understood to have been severely repressed by the Baath regime and had been underground for years.
I was unable to find anything else about them at the time, but finally, thanks to some tendentious ISO organizers who handed out fliers critical of the IFTU at the event, now I have more information about them.
I want to write this post in a way that is informative to whoever's reading this without trashing either USLAW or the ISO. I do want to say at the outset that I increasingly find that the ISO's positions on the issues posit the world as a rather black-and-white place, in which choices are simple. "Support the Resistance!" for example, without reflecting on what/who "the resistance" (which is not a unified organization or coalition) is, instead of a more principled position of "support the right to resist." Theirs is also a sectarian world that is all too familiar, where rival organizations are supposed to engage in deliberate plots to thwart worldwide revolution. Perhaps I am reading too much into things, but when I read, for example at the beginning of the ISO pamphlet that "USLAW is sponsoring a Northeast tour for the IFTU," I found it curious that they didn't mention that the USLAW's tour also included two other unions - two of the main unions that the ISO have quoted in their pamphlet critiquing the IFTU, and, by implication, USLAW. There are some inaccuracies, misrepresentations and inconsistencies in the flier that you may find if you check the footnotes. For example, the ISO flier cites Tariq Ali's Bush in Babylon to support their claim that "from 1972-1978 the ICP belonged to Sadaam's cabinet." While this was technically true, as Ali presents it, the ICP, because of their subservience to the USSR, joined the Baath regime and stayed in it until the protested treatment of the Kurds and were subsequently ejected from the government and their leadership executed. While it doesn't speak to the ICP's independence or political smarts, it doesn't implicate them as completely as the ISO pamphlet does with Sadaam, and the ISO's pamphlet failed to mention why the stay in the cabinet ended in '78.
Interestingly, one of the organizations (FWCUI) that the ISO cites as a source of accurate information on IFTU has also pretty seriously denounced the ISO! The reason that the FWCUI opposes the ISO's position is that their organization, the Workers-Communist Party takes a position that socialist revolution is essential, uses quotation marks when referring to the "Resistance," and argues that there is an equal need to oppose "the Islamists" and the US occupation. Similarly, the GUOE, whom the ISO describes as a genuine and legitimate union does not take the kind of absolute position that the ISO calls for. In their discussion on the Socialist Unity website, GUOE said:
We hope that the elected government, though not fully legitimate, will take us forward. We don't think this government will have a magic wand to stop all violence. But certainly there will be some change. We hope that the new government will provide security.
They also remkared, just as the other two unions have, that "There is confusion between the resistance and those who carry out acts of violence, the suicide bombers etc., who are hurting Iraqis more than the Americans." When I see this many people who actually live in Iraq saying the same thing, I find it hard to understand the ISO's argument that the only correct position for US leftists to take is to blindly support something called "the resistance."
Now, those matters aside, what is the story with the IFTU? It seems pretty clear, if you read reports about their visits to England in 2004, that they have a history of being supportive of either a military occupation by the US and Britain, or a replacement of those forces by the UN. However, it also seems pretty clear that the IFTU does support the rights of workers to organize, that they have faced tremendous repression, and even murder, and that they came out against the war. My guess is that what they really want is a UN force to follow the departure of US troops. The ISO and British allies who seem to be their main source of info (Sami Ramadani) seem correct to me in their depiction of labour friends of Iraq," which strongly backs the IFTU as an essentially pro-occupation group.
Given the situation on the ground, I don't doubt that a lot of Communists are almost as afraid of the "resistance," as they call it (and that's not just the IFTU, but the FWCUIC who uses those quotation marks), as they are of the US. However, as all three groups are currently on tour of the US, I'll look for reports from the rest of the tour and hope to learn more.

Pre-Crime Detention, Deportation

A friend sent me a story from today's NYT about a teenaged immigrant girl who has been deported because she visited an internet chat room. Based on this visit, the FBI has decided that she and another girl, presented "an imminent threat to the security of the United States based upon evidence that they plan to be suicide bombers." The document [provided to the New York Times] cited no evidence. And in background interviews, federal officials were quick to play down the case as soon as reporters called, characterizing the investigation as a pre-emptive move against potential candidates for recruitment, not the disruption of a plot.
The young woman interviewed by the Times also wears a veil, and says that she sees an Islamic state as ideal because in it "you don't pay for don't pay for transport." This should be a clear example of how privatization has contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Regardless of the girl's politics and beliefs, this case is an example of the increasing adoption of the "legal" theories of Carl Schmidt, who said that preventive arrest was legitimate. No... he wasn't a character in Phillip K. Dick's "The Minority Report," in which people are arrested for "future crimes," but the legal bulwark of the Third Reich.
And...Good news. The AP covered the Downing Street Memo hearings and they're in today's Chicago Tribune, The so-called liberal New York Times also covered the DSM hearings, though they refer to John Conyers, a senior membeer of the house judiciary committee as an "anti-war group." in their headline. The Times story also makes it sound as if the document, which is the minutes from a meeting between Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence agency M1-6 and the Prime Minister, is somehow second-hand, reporting thatThe memo said Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, had said in the meeting that Mr. Bush had already decided on war, "but the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."...... and say that "Activists have accused mainstream news organizations of playing down the document's significance, even as antiwar bloggers have seized upon it as evidence."
But as we know, it's not the "memo" written by some outside person which "says" anything about Richard Dearlove and Tony Blair. The memo is a set of minutes of a meeting between them. Argggh!
There's an interesting story about the DSM from the Fort Wayne Gazette, which discusses the criticisms made of the mainstream media by activists who have demanded that the story be covered, and in the story, the response is exactly what Ray McGovern noted in the hearings yesterday. There are two responses: "it's not true" and "we already knew that." Nowhere in the story does it explain why the people on the left say it's a smoking gun...nowhere in the story is the memo itself printed. It's enough to make you think that there must be very severe pressure being brought by the whitehouse to keep the memo from being printed in full.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

the State of the Anti-War Movement

I'm on the "portside" email list and thus just read a long piece by Van Gosse about the "state of the anti-war movement" based on a talk he gave at a big UFPJ steering committee meeting. In it, he argues: that the
Republican hold on power, while apparently commanding,
is extremely fragile, the Right's apparent hegemony is illusory, there
is no realignment (yet), their control of
the institutional levers of power is real but insecure.
I wasn't totally clear about what Van Gosse was suggesting, but it seemed mostly to be that people in the anti-war movement have to get more involved in electorial and legislative politics. He also said that it was disorganization early on that led the sectarians of ANSWER to be the initial leaders in the anti-war movement. (more on that in a future post)
Tom Hayden said something very similar back in 2004, right after the election: In short: pinch the funding arteries, push the Democrats to become an opposition party, ally with anti-war Republicans, support dissenting soldiers, make "Iraqization" more difficult, and build a peace coalition against the war coalition. If the politicians are too frightened or ideologically incapable of implementing an exit strategy, the only alternative is for the people to pull the plug. Where do mass demonstrations and civil disobedience fit into this framework? Certainly Bush's inauguration will be an appropriate time to dissent in the streets. Nationwide rallies are an important way to remain visible, but many activists may tire if they see no strategic plan... Care will have to be taken during such militant actions to send the clearest possible message to mainstream public opinion.
Van Gosse's electoral strategy involves getting states to pass resolutions for "out now" resolutions. Not quite there, but close, Wisconsin's state legislature has passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush, Chaney and Rumsfeld based on the lie that sent us to war. I think that's good and I'm also greatly encouraged by Conyers' hearings on the Downing Street Memo, which will be held on Capitol Hill this afternoon at 2:30 and broadcast on CSPAN-3 and Pacifica Radio.
However, while I think that it's very important for people who are active Democrats to push the party to act against the war, I have to agree with Ron Jacobs' comments from May 2nd in Counterpunch, ....groups like the US organization UFPJ are in real trouble. This trouble does not come from a lack of antiwar sentiment, nor does it come from apathy. Instead, it comes from a growing sense that the leadership of this organization (and others like them) are attempting to lead those of us who attend their demonstrations into the arms of the dead-end process known as mainstream politics. By this, I mean that the UFPJ leadership wants to lobby Congress to end the war. While this is certainly a noble thought, it has about as much possibility of success as me turning into a frog.
A strong anti-war movement, well organized, with chapters in schools, unions, and other locations articulating its own clear positions on issues, reaching the broad public, etc. will ultimately force the political establishment to respond. SDS did not gain its strength by writing to letters to congressmen, as I recall - largely because the escalation of the war began under a Democrat and because SDS activists had staked out early territory in opposing JFK's aggression against Cuba, and because SDS was active in community already used to direct action because of the growing strength of the Civil Rights Movement, which had been building for ten+ years by the time that SDS began organizing.
No matter how much Van Gosse wants to argue that the right is not strong, I think that the reason people are so determined to work within the Democratic party is that the right wing is in fact very strong and very powerful in the US. Their control of the media, which Van Gosse doesn't mention in his article, is very significant and demoralizing. The most important thing that the anti-war activists can expect and should be prepared for is that their efforts and strategies will be described as "way out on the left" and crazy no matter what they do. If we base our actions on avoiding media distortions, etc., we will be completely paralysed. I am dubious about Democratic party's willingness to act courageously in the face of bad coverage in teh media when I look at how many in the party responded to Howard Dean, who is far from taking an "out now" position on the war.
People who are the base of the broad anti-war movement, those who are against the war in principle, but not experienced activists, also worry about how to get the best "spin" from the media, and are afraid of "looking like wackos" (just read the Dailykos and you'll see what I mean). I think that the negative commentaries and baiting of groups like ANSWER has contributed greatly, particularly at the beginning of the anti-war movement in 2001, to the generally negative characterization of people on the left as "way out" "fringe" and "wacky." There was a more principled way to respond to that group than what Michael Lerner, whose actions were terribly damaging, did. These attacks ulimately hurt anti-war organzing, in my opinion.
While I disagreed strongly with ANSWER's tactics, I think that a lot of the pressure brought to bear against them had more to do with their positions on the issues and their un-corporate-media-friendly style than it had to do with their top-down structure. While certainly there are better ways to relate to people than carrying leftoid jargon-filled signs around, trying to build a media-friendly movement is not going to succeed in winning over the corporate media, and it is unlikely to succeed in "diversifying" the leadership or the base of the anti-war movement beyond the white and middle-class, highly educated world of progressive activism. Wading more deeply into democratic party activism and lobbying is even more likely to take the group down the white-middle class, bureaucratic, slow, slow, slow road to change. I don't feel as negative as Jacobs does about UFPJ, however, and I think some of the elements of their program are directed at building a real grass-roots anti-war organization, such as the "grassroots education campaign" and the "local costs of the war" plan.
Within this strategy, I think that the fear of looking like a freak really should not be underestimated. It's something that I think people have to confront when they move from holding opinions to taking action collectively. It has to do with our media climate. The media's reporting on politics is often based on predicting how people will react to statements, demonstrations, etc. These predictions then become prescriptions to the public about how they should feel about events. (For example, the coverage of the Dean scream predicted how people would react, and then created that reaction. There are plenty of other examples.) People on the left must come to recognize that the way they get talked about in the media is not the measure of their real success.
Look at what anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, of Gold Star Mothers for peace said to the president at a rally in Kentucky yesterday:
"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one
Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper
you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having
three military officers come to your house a few hours
later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son,
your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard
work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th
birthday. Hard work is holding your other three
children as they lower the body of their big (brother)
into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave
with him and having the earth cover you both,"....
"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to
do everything in our power to have you impeached for
misleading the American people," she said, quoting a
letter she sent to the White House. "Beating a
political stake in your black heart will be the
fulfillment of my life ... ," she said, as the audience
of 200 people cheered.

I'm glad to see someone willing to say something that negative is about to be a witness at John Conyers' hearings today. However, even as I'm excited about the anti-Bush organizing, the agitation around this memo, and its focus on the war's illegality, in the rush and the excitement, it's important for us to talk about the war in a way that encourages probing how this war fits into American foreign policy in general and doesn't just focus on the deaths of Americans. Iraq Vets Against the War have done this, and when I've heard them speak, they talk a lot about US imperialism. It can be done...and not just by college professors.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Memo Protests Continue -- Keep Hope Alive!

I didn't think I could get more annoyed about the lack of coverage of the "Downing Street Memo," but I got even more annoyed by it when I was listening to a lovely podcast of Counterspin this afternoon on the subway. FAIR has an action alert associated with the memo and the characterization of people who are interested in the minutes as "wingnuts."
Raw Story has published a nice little time-line of public statements connecting Bush to early Iraq war plans. It's nice, but doesn't include the kind of details that you get if you go check out Normon Solomon's Target Iraq, which is now online for free.
Brandon30721, of the Dailykos, suggested that the hearing should be held on the capital steps, not in the DNC. (That evil man, Sensenbrenner wouldn't give him a room on Capitol Hill.) People at are calling for CSPAN to broadcast the hearings, which will be on Thursday at 1:30pm.

Craziest Street Comments: Open Thread

What is the nuttiest, funniest, or most remarkable thing someone's said to you on the street? I ask because, at about 11am today as I was on my way to that celebrity hang-out, the NYPL, I heard a man muttering, in true a true Bowery-brogue,
"nice feet."
(I didn't respond)
"hey!" he got louder, "nice feet," he wanted me to KNOW, "Really! That's a beautiful foot you got there."
So, I took it in. I admit, I was pleased, but I didn't turn to see him. Maybe I should have, but I generally don't respond to comments from strange men. I was reminded of Trilby, whose feet were an erotic thrill among NY's elite in the gilded age.
So, how 'bout you.... comments from strangers?

I don't know why I'm disatisfied with the garden right now. I didn't realize those verbena were going to be so red!! Posted by Hello

The flower box looks great Posted by Hello

Rose in full bloom Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Iraqi Trade unionists on Tour -- June 17

Be There or Be Square...
Iraqi labor leaders are speaking in NY
Friday, June 17, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
1199 SEIU
330 West 42nd Street
9th Floor
New York City

This event is sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), 1199ers for Peace & Justice, CWA-1180, UUP-SUNY AFT 2190, PSC/CUNY AFT 2334, and Code Pink New York. For more information see or contact Nancy at

Top Ten Lists

I just got an email from a friend about "Human Events" magazine's top ten most harmful books of the 20th century. It's distressing to read, but if you're interested in what the wing-nuts think, go to here. Of course Marx and Engels topped the list, but I was most surprised to see John Dewey's book on education. They also include Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. John Stewart Mill's On Liberty and Adorno's "Authoritarian Personality" were runners-up...the latter probably because it is such an apt description of so many of the right.
If you look and see the ten books they think everyone should read, they're pretty standard fare (Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Nicomachean ethics, etc) but they also include Burke's wildly inaccurate "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (but no Tom Paine for balance) and Surprise Surprise, the Bible is #1 and the Federalist Papers are number two. Leo Strauss and some of the more wacked out people, like Hayek, only make it to "honorable mention."
But so readers, I'm sure I'm not the only blogger asking today,,,what would you list as must-reads for every college student? What would you put down as "harmful books"?
I generally don't agree with the idea that books are harmful but if any are, how 'bout these?
Moynihan report on the Black family
The Left Behind series
Charles Murray, Losing Ground
Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Thomas Dixon, The Klansman (the film Birth of a Nation is based on it)
Theodore Herzl, Der Judenstaat (Herzl's Zionist manifesto)
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Herbert Spencer, Progress: Its Law and Causes (social Darwinism)
or Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of
Gustav Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (analysis of how to sway crowds, a favorite of demagogues)
Jean Baptiste Say, A Treatise on Political Economy (the original theorist of "supply
side" economics and popularizaer of laissez faire capitalist theory)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ken Wiwa on Blair's Africa Commission, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Case

The top story in the London Guardian today was about Africa. Bob Geldof's name was prominently displayed. Ken Wiwa, son of Ken Saro Wiwa, who was killed by the Nigerian govt. for his Ogoni activism, made interesting comment. It's almost amazing to see such a thorough-going critique of bad banking practices in such a mainstream newspaper at the moment that the British govt. is being hailed for its goodwill. He says the panel is good but the prescription for change, not. "For example, its insistence on economic growth as the only curative is hard to swallow. Is it likely that the very institutions, governments and corporations that have made a killing on the continent can be trusted to repent, tear up their business and political models and 'fix' Africa?
Finally he makes a point that suggests that what Walter Rodney said about the relationship between the West and Africa is till too true: He says....Africa is not poor. As the Africa Commission report has noted Africa is rich in human and natural resources. It has two-thirds of the world's mineral resources. Africa pays out more in debt relief than it receives in aid. Africa trains and sends 77,000 professionals abroad each year to work in North America and Europe. There are more Ghanaian doctors in New York than in the whole of Ghana.The problem is that Africans have been forced to live in nation states whose raison d'etre was not to enrich the lives of the people within them; rather, they existed to transfer the resources abroad.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, there is a story in the NYT on the debt relief plan, which

Also in the news is the reopening of the murder cases of the conspiracy to kill James Chaney, Micky Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. The Times article mentions the political impact that the lynching, about which much of the town's white population knew, still has for Neshoba County whites. What it doesn't mention is how the pioneer of today's Republican party participated in that in 1980, as Derrick Jackson pointed out in 2000 in Commondreams,
Reagan established the institute in 1980 by kicking off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss. The Neshoba County Fair for decades had been the legendary gathering spot of segregationists and near the site of the grisly murders of three civil rights workers.

Reagan took the microphone and, to the roar of thousands of white fairgoers, said, ''I believe in states' rights.'' Anyone who knows Southern race policy knows that saying ''states' rights'' is like waving a Confederate flag, telling racists they can do whatever they want to black folks.
For a perspective from a Mississippi native, who can tell you exactly what it was about, no matter what the GOP-spin-meisters would have you believe, check out Donna Ladd's August 04 comments.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Mumia and Assata Shakur Update

You never know who you may run into in that hip hangout, the New York Public Library. Today, I ran into Graham Russell Hodges and Kathleen Cleaver (not at the same time.) Hodges is working on a new book. Cleaver was in town for a meeting.
We talked and she gave me a new perspective on two ongoing cases. I want to write first about the Mumia Abu Jamal case, because I posted about it a few days ago, and was quite critical of the current defense team. I must admit that the two issues that have troubled me most since 2001 were the sectarian attacks on people involved in the defense movement and the arrival on the scene of Arnold Beverly, whose story of being hired by the mob to kill Daniel Faulkner has always seemd a bit far-fetched to me- it sounded like something from the movies. However, note this...The story makes more sense if you think about how incredibly corrupt the Philly police force was and is.
If I'd been keeping up with the news, I would have known sooner what Ms. Cleaver told me, that the ultra-sectarian lawyers are off the case. Indeed, as Lindorff wrote in Counterpunch a little under a year ago,
In the past year, Abu-Jamal has finally seen the light. Dropping his flakey and woefully inexperienced legal duo (neither attorney had any federal death penalty appellate experience at all), he has hired the San Francisco-based Bryan, an acknowledged death penalty litigator and appellate pro, for his lead attorney.
He has also dropped the Arnold Beverly appeal, though many of his more ardent backers seem still to have missed-or ignored--this important development.
For his part, attorney Bryan has been reaching out to people and groups that had backed away from the movement in recent years. "I'm convinced that Mumia is innocent. Not everyone agrees with that, but this movement is open to anyone who feels that there has been a miscarriage of justice and that Mumia deserves a new, fair trial," he says.

So, despite the completely bad decision by Judge Dembe, it looks as if there's some hope for the movement to grow.
What's going on with Assata Shakur?
Every now and then, one hears of an effort to get Assata Shakur out of Cuba and bring her to the US. Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and is now living in exile in Cuba, where she has received asylum. It seems that every few years, New Jersey makes an effort to get her back. However, this time, the United States has listed Assata, now a 57 year old grandmother, as a terrorist, and has added a 1 million dollar bounty to her head. The US has apparently circulated
information about the bounty internationally, so that bounty hunters from all over the world can go hunt for her. A creepy thought, and so weird. Cleaver wondered, "Why is this so important to New Jersey," and compared it to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. As Cleaver pointed out to me, the current bounty offer & the terrorist label are terrible for a number of reasons, so if you haven't yet, check out and see what you can to support the "hands off Assata" campaign.

Open Thread: Anxiety Index

Apparently it will take decades to repair the ozone hole above Antarctica. Remember the Ozone hole? Still there. I think about it all the time in the Summer when I am out in the sun.
From the same website, you'll find this information:

# Over the past 100 years global mean temperature has increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius and in Europe by about 1.2 degrees Celsius
# The 1990s was the warmest decade over the past 150 years (EU environ site)
# Temperatures are projected to increase further by 1.4 to 5.8 C by 2100
# The UK, with one per cent of the world's population, produces 2.3% of the world's C02

Statistics 1 and 2: (Source: EU Environment Agency); Statistic 3: (Source: Friends of the Earth, 2003)


"Global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels, is the worst environmental problem we face today."
# Greenpeace, 2003

"In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."
# David King, UK Government's Chief Scientist, 2003

"The parties should protect the climate for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity, and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."
# Article 3, UN convention on Climate Change, 1992 End of item

And what does our govt. have to say?
Even when they're caught red-handed fixing the scientific reports, the Bush admin stays on message. This time, at least they got caught.
And your favorite anxiety producing stories. Let's see if we can drive up the anxiety index along with the temperature.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A House Made of Books, A World Made of Books

Go to this link to take a photo tour of a really wild house. I wish my house looked like that, but it doesn't. I'm just back to a world governed almost entirely by reading.
If you think of reading as virtuous, reflect on this. I'm reading this book right now, by Ernie Lopez and Rafael Perez-Torres called "To Alcatraz, Death Row and Back: Memories of an East LA Outlaw." Ernie Lopez, whose life story it is, was beaten hideously by his father, whose sole occupation was, according to him, to sit in the house reading all day, "that was his life, reading, and he would read every day, all day long up until midnight." Despite his education, he was cruel to his children. It really was because of him that little Ernie became a criminal. Because his father demanded that Ernie make money for the family by selling newspapers during the height of the Depression, he found himself stealing in order to make enough money on bad selling days.
I read all day today too. Today it was Gerald Horne's book on the Watts uprising of 1965. A thought provoking account that I wish I read before seeing "Bastards of the Party."
As for what's going on in the world today, I heard Brian Lehrer talking to Steven Spinola and Gifford Miller about the various development plans and it sounds like at least some people are going to try to do the stadium anyway. Noooo! I'm glad that at least someone on the show (Lehrer) pointed out that there's a glut of office space in NY and a housing crunch. It doesn't make sense even to build high-rise office space in downtown; Golderberger's right. Make Ground Zero into housing, puhleese.

Very Bad News about Mumia Abu Jamal's Appeal

This morning I had an email about Judge Pamela Dembe's May 27th rejection of Mumia Abu Jamal's most recent appeal for Post-Conviction relief. You can read about the case and the decision at free One of the main items in the email is that there has been "a deafening silence from many of those who were outraged ten years ago."
Why is this? Part of it has to do with the overturning of Abu Jamal's death sentence in December of 2001 in Pennsylvania. This move was viewed as a victory and considerably slowed momentum for the defense. I recall thinking during the five years of activism on this issue that commuting the sentence would be the most skillful strategy for making the movement "go away." (Readers should know however, that while the sentence was overturned, it could still be reinstated, especially after the turning down of this appeal by the Court of Common Pleas).
I think that the movement's lack in momentum also has to do with the some very bad political decisions on the part of people in the defense movement upon the publication of a seriously problematic book by a member of the defense team. Briefly, there has been so much sectarianism in the immediate defense movement that it has been very difficult to retain a mass base. The best political analysis of the case appears in Dave Lindorff's book, reviewed here. Not all the slowed activism on the case can be attributed to the focus on the war. After all,when I read the latest decision by Dembe, it was clear to me that all the issues are still there, and quite urgent to a number of people. The primary reasons she gave for denying the appeal were that it was "untimely" an issue that has haunted all death penalty cases since the 1996 passing of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and McCleskey vs. Kemp decisions, and that the witnesses brought forth by the defense team are "untrustworthy," which speaks to the general disbelief of anything done/said by prisoners/defendants in criminal cases. Both of these issues are even more urgent today, given revalations from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the patriot act.
However, when I hear the deafening silence around the case, I am still reminded of of the words of the first lawyer, Fred Moore , who fought for Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s...

...Sacco and Vanzetti are entitled to the unswerving loyalty of those who pretend to be their friends. A committee that would serve them must be broad gauged enough and intelligent enough to act in such wise as to permit all shades of political and industrial opinion to cooperate freely in the struggle for justice. I am compelled to believe that your committee is not actuated by such motives....all but... are of one political faith and you have looked askance and with disfavor upon the aid or assistance of anyone unless they accepted your political dogma. Members of your committee are not even affiliated with organized labor. You have never made any sincere or honest effort to reach even the Italian public of America. It is impossible to secure a decision from you which is abided after being made. At the so-called convention of last February you created a committee of members of the same political faith as yourself and all Italian. Arbitrarily and by your own action you have cut yourself off from all contact, moral and racial with all other groups in America. Now you are bankrupt. (Fred Moore to SVDC, 7 July 1924)
While I wouldn't say what Moore said - either about the SVDC OR about the Mumia team, I was frustrated by the firing of Leonard Weinglass from the case and alarmed by the strategic direction since 2001. My larger point is that the Sacco-Vanzetti defense was damaged by sectarian conflicts in ways that injured the lives of the defendants; I think this is true of Mumia's case as well. Moore was eventually fired from the case that year because of his efforts to control the political direction of the defense committee instead of just working on the legal aspects of the appeals. (If you want to read more about the story behind Moore and the defense committee, you'll hvae to wait on my book...or read my dissertation.)
Meanwhile, with the rejection of this latest appeal by Judge Dembe, there is a new urgency to Mumia's case, and interestingly, it looks as if momentum may grow. I have been unable to find any further information about Mumia's current legal status, or about what the next steps in the case are, but just this week it looks as if some Mumia supporters have wound up in positions of power in a "renegade" NAACP chapter in Ossining, NY (right outside Sing Sing prison.) I think that's a very good thing, no matter what my disagreements with some strategic decisions. FYI: There's a march in Philly on June 16th to support Mumia and oppose this most recent court decision. You can read about it on links above.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Crumbling City Dept.

I don't know whether it's working on a book, or what, but I was wide awake at 5 this morning. My solution for this kind of insomnia is to use it, at least somewhat productively. If I stay awake it will mean getting all my important procastination chores done when I would otherwise be sleeping, leaving more time for doing the real work of the day.
So, now that the stadium's gone, the big NY development stories are about Ratner's plans for the Atlantic Yards and what the hell is the plan for downtown. Paul Golderberger's article in the 5/30/05 issue of the New Yorker, "A New Beginning" was a sensible plan....but possible? likely? Tell me what you think.

totally other news...the white stripes' new album is out. and I loved it when I saw this headline on the newstand the other day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quote of the Hour and more

Every student of history knows that this phenomenon is a common one; rulers who destroy men's freedom commonly begin by trying to retain its forms - and so it has been from the reign of Augustus to the present day. They cherish absolute power withthe moral authority that comes from popular assent. Almost all have failed in this endeavor and learned to their cost that it is impossible to keep up such appearances for long when there is no reality behind them.
Alexis De Tocqueville, 1856

And then there's this tidbit about French history.

Nice picture of anti-stadium celebrants.

Crazy News

I just got an email from h-afro-am that there is a plan to exhibit African people in the Augsburg Zoo this month. That's right, people, in the zoo. You can read about it on the prometheus website. It does not seem to be an urban legend.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Stadium News & More

OK, it's time for some Good news updates. I'm not really hugely familiar with city council politics, but this all seems promising to me, even though this one-neighborhood-development-vs.-another-one" is not the reason to jettison the Jets stadium. Do you like how NY1 refers to this as jeapardizing NYC's bid for the olympics? That's a pipe dream. If I were France, Germany and the rest, I'd boycott this rogue state instead of sending my athletes to play here. After all, we all know that the jingoistic media will just cover "team America" anyway. It makes me ill to think about it.
Also in the good news department, is some motion among party elites around the Downing Street Memo. I heard Amy Goodman do this interview on the radio this morning and I was impressed, but also dubious. The only way to get an impeachment movement going on this issue is to base the entire 2006 election on impeaching the pres. and ending the war. Does that mean that the Democratic party is suddenly going to become oppositional?? oy. hard to imagine.

Confusing headlines...What is going on with Microsoft? Some headlines say they made concessions, while others represent the inability of the EU to get Microsoft to share proprietary info on the Windows operating system with Open source people as a victory for Microsoft. Clearly, a corporation whose software controls 90% of the world's personal computers is in a position to tell the law what to do. Here's what the folks at slashdot have to say about it.

And OK, I've been printing some mean things about students lately. But none of them has ever pulled off something this f---ed up. As Jenny Holzer said, "abuse of power comes as no surprise." But really, I am surprised.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I heard that there was a "free ice-cream social" in Prospect Park today. This was it - five kids and the staff of the Lefferts Historic House hunched around a hand-cranking ice-cream machine. I didn't have the heart to sit and wait while they worked...especially when the handle broke .But I still say that Brooklyn is the best Borough. & Thanks to the nice man at the Lefferts House for letting me take this picture. (for more about the site go to: the lefferts house website. Posted by Hello

Is that round-leafed mystery plant a hollyhock sprout? And what about that thing next it to with the ruffly leaves - a weed?? Posted by Hello

Sunday Miscellany

It's 9pm on a Sunday night and I'm only a few pages into DeToqueville...but I'm not ready to settle in just yet. I have summer fever.

Before the fever here are some links: This article and this one about "grade grubbing" via the DailyKos diaries.
When it comes to school and entitlement, there are other, perhaps less insidious, but more frightening events going on, as Joseph Massad reports in his current Counterpunch article.

Tales from Prospect Park:
It was finally a beautiful, hot weekend in NY. Both days started with me in my garden, unknowingly contributing to soil compaction as I wandered about trying to identify the various mystery plants pictured above, and then wound up with me wandering around in Prospect Park.
On Friday night, I was waiting for some friends to show up, and sat reading from around 7:15 until 7:45, on a bench near some 14-15 year old boys skateborading at the 9th street entrance. They were in today's version of junior high rebel gear: long hair, baggy pants, and Marilyn Manson t-shirts. Seated near me were a hip, young mother and her son. I liked her instantly because of her warm smile. Her son was about ten years old, quiet, in a mousy way, with a neat plaid shirt tucked into his khaki shorts and wearing a baseball cap. Pretty adorable, really, but the picture of a school victim in a different context. The two of them and I watched the teen-agers, who insulted each other as they performed their tricks and came up with games such as "jump over/on top of the soda can" on a skateboard - to pass the time. Their hostility was immense. I remembered the boredeom of those years and smiled at their creativity, even as I was appalled at the way that they treated each other. "I skate better than you while I'm eating my ice-cream," one of the better skaters said, drolly licking his good-humor pop while his clumsy friend looked on, transparent in humiliation. They laughed hysterically at each other, calling each other all sorts of names when the the trick failed.
One of them was trying some trick and the others were busy burning something on the ground, and his shame was already worse than anything the others had dished out. He shouted, "fuck!" "Oh fuck..."I'm fucked!" "fuck me!" but nobody noticed. As I watched them I thought about the romantic way that I had viewed such kids when I was their age, how they had seemed daring, exciting, smart, challenging, how attracted I had been to kids like them. I sat there now imagining homes where they were ignored, brushed aside, or where their obvious talents were irrelevant to over-anxious, achievement oriented parents. Unlike the grade-grubbers described above, these middle-class boys have opted out of the game, but in doing so, have created a new competition whose standards are just as impossibly high.
My co-spectators, the mother and son were a happier family, no doubt, than the ones that I imagined these boys came from. Initially, I had thought that the mother was charmed by the scene. We both reacted to something at the same time, I don't remember now, but I turned to her and said, "Kids are so mean." She nodded, "that one's a real piece of work," pointing to one who seemed like the leader. At some point, it became clear that it was not she, but her son who was entranced, that he wouldn't let her leave, that he admired and desired those mean, creative boys. She was impatient, "It's the same thing over and over," she looked bored, "just jumping and cursing."
For him though, it was obviously new and exotic, part of that mysterious world that he couldn't wait to enter. She got up, and went across the square, leaned against a rail and waited. He crossed through the skating area most deliberately, very careful to appear completely unconcerned. I imagined the trouble coming her way all too soon.

The News Gets Older Every Day

Actually, not quite older, but my immersion in the "antient" as Burke would put it, is progressing apace. Today, I came across this set of writings from Italy by Margaret Fuller, one of country's great long lost people. What do we owe her and her fellows? Some smart person defended Burke for progressives in a comment on yesterday's post, and I tried to give the best anti-authoritarian argument I could. Check it out and add your own commment, if you like.
For what we owe ourselves now, go to john conyers' website and sign the petition about the "Downing Street Memo." And if you're in Brooklyn, may I suggest that you amble over to Prospect Park where there will be a free "ice-cream social" at 1pm along with other exciting events, such as free reading at the public library. Speaking of libraries, in another symptom of our backwards corporate city government, there is more bad news. I was in the poorly funded public library last week and they had the little tables set up for the patrons to write letters to the mayor and the city council. They also have a donation page, if you feel so inclined.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Too Early To Think

There's a lot of news happening today, especially regarding NY and the stadium, but I'll leave that to others who are more informed.

Here is an eerily apt quote from Thomas Paine, that could relate to today's Supreme Court in ways he hadn't thought about.

Those who have quitted the world, and those who are not yet arrived at it, are as remote from each other, as the utmost stretch of mortal imagination can conceive: What possible obligation then, can exist between them: what rule or principle can be laid down, that of two non-entities, the one out of existence, and the other not in, and who can never meet in this world, the one should control the other to the end of time? - Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man 1791

Now, I think that "pro-lifers" might read this as saying that the authors of the Constitution should not be able to "choose" to kill the "unborn" and see it as justification of their wacko ideas. However, it makes more sense to read it, even narrowly, to argue that the dead and what they wanted - or what we think they would have wanted - can't dictate to the living. Paine is not speaking about the "unborn" as they've entered our current political discourse, but interestingly, lumps them with the dead into the category of non-existence. His larger point is that rights can only be held by the living, not by the dead, and I would extrapolate from the importance of "living" over "life" as the basis of rights in general, that only the living have any rights to speak of. The implication of the connection between the already dead and the not-yet-born is that neither group actually is alive and living in the world. Paine makes it very clear that it is up to people actually living in the world to make the laws according to their present conditions.."the circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it."
And take that, you "originalists."

I have way too much to do today to really blog, but I just wanted to thank Jill of Brilliant at Breakfast for posting the pic below on her blog.
If you can stand being awake and upright at 6am and in you're in the city, it's worth seeing Marc & Mark of "Morning Sedition" in person. The guests are more hilarious in person than on the radio, and Marc M. seems to be more at home with a big audience - the "stand-up" vibe is much more obvious than on the radio.

I got up super early yesterday to go to Manhattan and see these guys, Marc Maron and Mark Riley - the funniest team on Air America radio It was fun and the coffee was free. Thanks to Jill at for both taking and posting this photograph.  Posted by Hello

Friday, June 03, 2005

Open Thread: Anxiety Index

Who can find the most anxiety-provoking news story of the day?
How about this story about the end of US regulation of the carcinogenic chemical atrazine? This isn't a story of the day...actually the linked stories are all pretty old, but as far as I can see, the regulation hasn't been restored, although the EU has by now banned the use of atrazine entirely. In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the EPA is making .illegal deals with pesticide companies. Back in February, when I was a little preoccupied with other things, it seems that the NRDC sued the EPA and found that:
"The EPA's secret, backroom deals with pesticide makers are clearly against the law, and they're a threat to our health," said NRDC attorney Aaron Colangelo. "EPA is required to make independent decisions on pesticide safety, instead of negotiating deals with the chemical industry."

According to government records obtained by NRDC through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPA officials met secretly more than 40 times with representatives from atrazine's main manufacturer, Syngenta, while the agency was evaluating the weed-killer's toxicity. Ultimately the agency agreed to allow atrazine to stay on the market even though the chemical has contaminated drinking water sources across the country. (See EPA Won't Restrict Toxic Herbicide Atrazine, Despite Health Threat.) The EPA also has been involved in private negotiations with the chemical company Amvac over the status of the insecticide DDVP (dichlorvos), which it sells under a number of trade names, including "No-Pest Strips." These negotiations violate EPA's regulations and federal law, specifically the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Freedom of Information Act, according to NRDC's lawsuit.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Live from the NYPL: The Torture Debate

Last night I went to a forum at the NYPL featuring Mark Danner, (who's not as hot now as he used to be, but is really, really smart), Mark Bowden, Elaine Scarry, Darius Rejali, and Aryeh Neier. Because of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc. people been having these debates in print and in person a lot lately, as David Simpson notes in his February review of a whole set of books about torture in the LRB. Mark Bowden, author of "Black Hawk Down" represented the pro-torture position, though he denied that he was really pro-torture. He argued for what he called "coercive interrogation," which he said should still be illegal (but moral) only in the "ticking bomb" situation (the hypothetical scenario in which a suspect has information about an imminent attack.) As the discussion went on, it ultimately came out that his notion of the "ticking bomb scenario" was pretty broad, so that any interrogation with a high-value suspect in Al Quaeda could be called a "ticking bomb" one.
Simpson's LRB review brings us an excellent critique of the "Ticking Bomb scenario," via philosopher Georgio Agamben: "The state of exception or emergency presumed by the ticking bomb scenario is in fact the normative state of the nation at war, and the US is now indefinitely at war. Giorgio Agamben tells us that the power of the modern state is always premised on the state of exception and on its ability to dispose of bare life as it sees fit and with impunity. The Jay Bybee memo provides empirical evidence of just this, as it argues away any limits on the president’s ‘constitutional power to conduct a military campaign’. Indeed it finds that any efforts to impose limits must themselves be ‘unconstitutional’: even Congress is thought to have no say in how troops are deployed or how prisoners are interrogated."
Only one of the panelists, Darius Rejali, whose forthcoming book "Torture and Democracy" promises to be an encyclopedic history of modern torture, made such an over-arching connection between the modern state and the use of torture as Agamben, and commented on the widespread belief that democracy and human rights exist in opposition to security, that the punchline of the popular ticking bomb story, which he said comes from a 1961 French novel, "The Centurion" is that "democracy has made us weak, but real men know how to respond." The popular version of this notion in the US which I write about in my own (forthcoming) book appears in the heroic character of the "vigilante cop," most recently immortalized with the Dirty Harry character. And need we go further? Hannah Arendt, in Origins of Totalitarianism writes about the centrality of the leader who is accountable to no law, and whose awe-inspiring power as a leader comes from his embodiment as an exception to all law.
This was really an extraordinary discussion. The audience was enthralled for over two hours, and we could have stayed longer. The four anti-torture speakers were not only deeply knowledgeable, but also astute in their analysis of the issues at hand. One of the best parts of the discussion was in answer to an audience member's question about why the Abu Ghraib scandal had not elicited a national outcry. One reason was a lack of leadership from the opposition. As Elaine Scarry put it, it seemed that in the presidential election, the position was that torture was too serious, too grave to be part of the election. Thus, "only if something is minor should it be a major election issue," and this serious issue should just be "respected." Danner was a bit less abstract in his comment. John Kerry, he said, was in the bad political position of having denounced atrocities in Vietnam, and this was deemed bad politically, un-American. Finally, I'll end on this note, all of the anti-torutre speakers pointed out the use of torture is related to the US's weakness in Iraq, that it reflects a profound failure of intelligence gathering, which can only be done in an environment where the US's political mission has some support from the population. Clearly, the continuing, ongoing, use of torture by the US is an urgent problem that the US must face, not only because it is a moral outrage, but because it is so dangerous for the American people who fear terrorist attacks. One might say, in fact, the ongoing torture is itself the ticking bomb.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has published a response to the Bush administration's dismissal of their 2005 report.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Call the City Council about the Corporate Give Away

It's not a good blog day for me. First of all, I'm in a public space and I'm afraid I'll get in trouble 'cause I'm not doing the approved book browsing. Secondly, I've just, after being up till 3:30 AM, finally submitted my grades and now want to get away from all things electronic for at least a while.
However, I think everyone should call the City Council members who are voting for the stadium. Here's a link with the details on what happened.
I think about the stadium every time I have some hateful experience on the subway. Yesterday, as I was leaving home, I discovered that my train had been replaced by a pokey shuttle bus to downtown Brooklyn. Instead of going through that time-consuming ordeal, I walked to a neighboring train. However, my otherwise successful alternative travel plans were wrecked when a "smoke problem" between 125th and 42nd caused the "East side" trains to go out of service indefinetely, spitting me out about 1/2way to my destination. thanks.
Now, this is just the time, don't you think, that the city should be spending a huge amount of money on an unnecessary, traffic-creating, corporate boondoggle. Oh yeah, and while they're at that, why don't they do something about the public schools? Thanks to my anonymous friend in Chicago, who dug that gem about Mark Felts out of his father's pack-rat newspaper collection, as I recall. That's an excellent archive your Dad has developed, and you should be proud. It makes me smile to think of it.