My latest op-ed at Al Jazeera English is here. It begins like this:
NATO Summit Highlights Neo-con/Neo-liberal Overlap
More similar than different, both of America’s recent imperial ideologies have failed.
By Paul Rosenberg
As the general election phase of the American presidential election gets underway, the recent NATO summit serves as a potent reminder of just how little difference there ultimately is between the neo-con extremists who dominated US foreign policy under George W. Bush, and the neo-liberals who run just about everything in the Obama Administration.
Most notably, dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans returned their medals in a mass action that recalled Operation Dewey Canyon III, in April, 1971, when more than a thousand members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War held five days of marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, including a memorial service near the Tomb of the Unknown and a ceremony on the Capitol steps where more than 800 veterans returned their combat medals.
Sgt. Alejandro Villatoro introduced the other veterans at the NATO protests: “At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed.”
To read the whole piece, click here.
Cross posted yesterday at Notes on a Theory.
Today, Up With Chris Hayes featured a good discussion of wrongful convictions and the death penalty. But Chris repeated a misleading claim about public opinion on the death penalty that highlights a larger problem. The claim was that Americans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and therefore efforts to repeal the death penalty face a serious challenge in terms of changing people’s minds. Chris pointed to a poll showing that a solid majority of Americans said the death penalty was morally justified. More typically, people point to polls that ask simply if people support or oppose the death penalty.
My new AJE op-ed is here. It begins as follows:
Mitt Romney, ‘Welfare Queen’
The private equity business model that Romney’s wealth is based on is founded on tax-payer subsidies, says the author.
Ever since Brown v. Board of Education, conservatives have been complaining about judges “legislating from the bench”. It was a brilliant strategy: “We’re not racists,” they could say. “There’s a matter of high principle involved here.” But it was not until 56 years later, with the Citizens United decision, and conservative justices ruling the roost, that we got to see what an earth-shattering example of legislating from the bench really looks like – and the Republican presidential primary is the number one surprise casualty. It’s just the sort of unintended consequence you’d expect in the absence of a thorough legislative fact-finding process, and the fine-tuning of final legislation. It’s not that the legislative process is flawless – far from it. But this sort of staggering bolt-from-blue consequence is precisely the sort of thing that the legislative process is intended to avoid, and that the judicial process is ill-equipped to anticipate. Oops!
So now the GOP has gotten a taste of their own medicine, with lurid, hyperbolic attack adds dominating the electoral process. And they do not like it, not one bit. Two deeply-flawed candidates have emerged as frontrunners in a process that has exacerbated and amplified those flaws a thousand fold. The tide may have finally turned, Mitt Romney may have finally learned how to punch back, and the tide of establishment money may have finally swamped Newt Gingrich for good as a serious threat – though he’s unlikely to quit. But even if Gingrich were to quit today, months and months of videotaped debates, press conferences, attack ads and various other vicious odds and ends are not just going to go away. They’ll be back when the general election campaign really heats up next fall.
More importantly, the Republican primary has unwittingly validated the Occupy movement in spades, laying the groundwork for a potentially very different sort of campaign environment not just in the fall, but starting right now. Mitt Romney’s limited tax-form release validates what we already knew: He’s not just a member of the 1 per cent, he’s in the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent – perfectly positioned to illustrate everything that’s wrong with the existing system. Seen through the lens of Romney’s own example, it’s not capitalism per se that’s the problem, but the dramatic shift away from a form of capitalism that benefited almost everyone to a form that only benefits a small handful. And it is Gingrich’s campaign that has forcefully made this point, on the stump, in debates and in the half-hour video, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, which starts off with a paen to capitalism as the source of the US’ strength before turning dark with its focus on Wall Street, leveraged buyouts and Romney’s Bain Capital in particular.
Although Gingrich attacks Romney for what he’s done to American workers, there’s an even deeper jujitsu criticism to be made of his business mode: Mitt Romney is a welfare queen. As we’ll see below, without the tax-breaks given to interest payment, the private equity business model would never have been born. Those tax-breaks are nothing but a taxpayer subsidy, paid for by everybody else picking up the slack for Mitt Romney and his crony corporate raiders. But let’s not spoil our appetites by starting with dessert.
To read the whole article, click here.
From an Associated Press story today:
Just months after he was deployed to Iraq in 2008, a Marine veteran now suspected in the deaths of four homeless men in Southern California sent his family a short, upbeat video greeting.
The video, which was mostly in Spanish, showed Itzcoatl Ocampo wishing his father a happy Father’s Day and reading an excerpt from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to his then 10-year-old sister.
The former Marine’s 17-year-old brother, Mixcoatl Ocampo, recalled how happy his family members were when they got the video in the mail that summer. They all gathered around the television in the living room to watch Itzcoatl Ocampo, who appeared in fatigues and talked against the backdrop of an American flag.
“We hadn’t seen my brother since he got deployed,” he said. “Dad saw the video, and when he first saw it he was thrilled.”
According to friends and family, a much darker Ocampo returned home after he was discharged in 2010. His parents separated, and his father eventually became homeless.
Now, Ocampo’s family is left trying to reconcile the smiling, slightly nervous-sounding soldier in the video greeting friends and family with the blankly staring man in the police mug shot accused of murder.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Tuesday to announce charges against Itzcoatl Ocampo. The 23-year-old is expected to be charged with four counts of murder in the serial killings of four homeless men since late December.
He was arrested Jan. 13 after a locally known homeless man, John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death outside an Anaheim fast-food restaurant. Bystanders gave chase, and police made the arrest. Ocampo is being held in isolation at the central jail in Santa Ana for his own safety because of the notoriety of the case, according to Lt. Hal Brotheim, a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
And on my Facebook page today, I saw this link from a Martin Luther King speech that I’d forgotten, The Casualties of War in Vietnam:
I would like to speak to you candidly and forthrightly this afternoon about our present involvement in Vietnam. I have chosen as a subject, “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” We are all aware of the nightmarish physical casualties. We see them in our living rooms in all of their tragic dimensions on television screens, and we read about them on our subway and bus rides in daily newspaper accounts. We see the rice fields of a small Asian country being trampled at will and burned at whim. We see grief stricken mothers with crying babies clutched in their arms as they watch their little huts burst forth into flames. We see the fields and valleys of battle being painted with human blood. We see the broken bodies left prostrate in countless fields. We see young men being sent home half men, physically handicapped and mentally deranged. Most tragic of all is the casualty list among children. So many Vietnamese children have been mutilated and incinerated by napalm and by bombs. A war in which children are incinerated, in which American soldiers die in mounting numbers is a war that mutilates the conscience. These casualties are enough to cause all men to rise up with righteous indignation and oppose the very nature of this war.
But the physical casualties of the war in Vietnam are not alone catastrophes. The casualties of principles and values are equally disastrous and injurious. Indeed, they are ultimately more harmful because they are self perpetuating. If the casualties of principle are not healed, the physical casualties will continue to mount.
What Itzcoatl Ocampo did, apparently murdering four homeless men (he’s not been tried or convicted), clearly is wrong. But we as a society also bear culpability. Sending people off to war is not without predictable hazards. And those hazards extend beyond likely death and destruction of our soldiers and the civilians they encounter. The hazards also extend to those soldiers who return home.
To willfully damage people like Itzcoatl Ocampo, adding a burden to his family and community, for oil or payback in Iraq and whatever the reason was for Afghanistan, that’s profoundly immoral. It violates human decency and requires people be held accountable legally, especially in the case of Iraq which apparently was pursued with lies. To think Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush can retire, that we’ll all get over their stupidity or whatever motivated them, is to ignore people like Itzcoatl Ocampo and his (apparent) victims, the community they live in and Mr. Ocampo’s family.
The AP piece also includes these timely details, given the economic injustice in our country:
Ocampo’s father, 49-year-old Refugio Ocampo, said his son came back a changed man after serving in Iraq, expressing disillusionment and becoming ever darker as his family life frayed and he struggled to find his way as a civilian.
The father said he lost his job and home, and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.
Just days before his elder son’s arrest, Itzcoatl Ocampo came to visit his father, warning him of the danger of being on the streets and showing him a picture of one of the victims.
“He was very worried about me,” Refugio Ocampo told The Associated Press on Sunday. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. I’m a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.’”
And this bit, which every person who hates illegals should be forced to read:
A neighbor who is a Vietnam veteran and the father both tried to push Itzcoatl to get treatment at a Veterans hospital, but he refused. Refugio Ocampo said he wanted his son to get psychological treatment as well.
“He started talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense, that the end of the world was going to happen,” he said.
While Refugio Ocampo lives away from his family, they remain close. He saw his children every day, and his wife brings food to the parking lot where the truck is located in the city of Fullerton.
Refugio Ocampo, who said he was educated as a lawyer in Mexico, immigrated with his wife and Itzcoatl in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen. He described building a successful life in which he became a warehouse manager and bought a home in Yorba Linda. In the past few years he lost his job, ran out of savings, lost his house and separated from his wife.
Standing near the truck where he sleeps, Refugio Ocampo fought back tears as he described the changes he saw in his son in the year since returning home.
Yet another American, playing by the rules, doing most everything right, loses everything and has nothing left but family. And a son who comes back from a war and apparently cannot handle what he experienced.
My son the other day asked me what this poem meant and it seems relevant in every era:
‘No Man is an Island’
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
We need more people like Dr. Martin Luther King, don’t you think? Our country would be, could be, a much better place for families like the Ocampos.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed has been published here. This is how it begins:
Enshrining the lies of the US’ 1%
What chance does truth have, if Americans cannot cast off lies that directly steal money from their own pockets?
Last week, in an act of profound deception, the American “fact-checking” organisation, PolitiFact, chose a true statement as its “Lie of the Year”. The pseudo-lie? “[House] Republicans voted to end Medicare”, as part of the GOP’s “Ryan Plan” last April. The reality? As the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid wrote at the time, in a preview of the vote that Democrats would then cite to justify their claims:
The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the healthcare bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a programme that directly pays those bills. Mr Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs.
There is a potential lie-of-the-year in that paragraph. It’s just not the one that PolitiFact thinks it found.
The real lie is the claim that Ryan’s plan “is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs”. In fact, the problem isn’t Medicare per se, it’s the entire cost structure of American medicine as a whole, which is roughly twice the per capita cost of healthcare spending in other advanced countries – even those that have 50 per cent more people aged 65+than the US has.
The reason for that cost structure is non-competitive private oligopolies – insurance companies, drug companies, hospital chains, etc., – in sharp contrast to other countries with their government-run systems of various different kinds. There’s another name for these oligopolies -they are the cash cows of the one per cent. Paul Ryan is their man, and PolitiFact is part of their protection system.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
My latest AJE Op-Ed is here. It begins like this:
The dual failure of conservative policy and liberal politics
Politicians must ‘recognise and nurture a new sort of dialogue between two different ideologies’, author says.
Last week I wrote about Newt Gingrich’s incredibly destructive record and mindset. But as I wrote then, “If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person”.
They are even larger than one party or one ideology. For the me-too-but-not-so-much style of “opposition” that the Democrats have increasingly practiced over the past 30 years is as problematic in its own way as Republican conservatism has been. After all, Wall Street deregulation was a bipartisan project, even though the Democratic base was ignored in the process. So, too, were NAFTA, the Iraq War, the no-strings TARP bailout, “No Child Left Behind”, and countless other initiatives that have chipped away at the New Deal legacy, the most successful governance system – or “political regime” – that the United States has ever known. The New Deal system took the US from the depths of the Great Depression to the pinnacle of world power while also giving birth to the largest middle class ever known in human history, and tearing down the legal barriers to full citizenship for women and minorities.
But conservatives saw this triumphant success as a nightmare that threatened the “natural order” of established privilege and power. Democratising opportunity and power, which liberals see as an unvarnished good, is deeply threatening to conservatives. With the legalisation of mass labour unions and collective bargaining in the 1930s, the democratisation of higher education and home-ownership in the 1940s, and the elimination of second-class citizenship for women and minorities in the 1950s and 60s, the US became a much freer and equal place to live than it had ever been before. This rapid expansion of “liberty and justice for all” resonated powerfully with the promise of the US as a liberal democracy.
Yet, this same promise and its progressive unfolding deeply scared and angered conservatives – and helped drive their activism. Backed by enormous private wealth, they set about organising a multi-generational movement to overthrow what the New Deal system created from the 1930s to the 1960s.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
Talking Points Memo highlights the National Review‘s Newt-bashing issue, and asks, “[W]ill rank and file Gingrich supporters accept the increasingly loud message from party elites that he’s a disaster? Or will they just resent it?”
A further question might well be, “If they DO derail Newt’s nomination, will this fuel enough resentment to undermine Romney in November and otherwise further deepen the GOPs internal conflicts?” Maybe even push them to the breaking point?
The big problem behind Newt’s surge is that it’s not just about Newt. Yes, Newt’s a problematic individual, so be sure, as my recent AJE op-ed argued. But he’s also quite integral to the conservative movement’s successes as well as failures.
The common conservative approach is simply to ditch anyone who becomes an embarassment (ahem! George W. Bush) and take up the line that they’re not a “true conservative”. So ditching Newt would be totally in keeping with conservative tradition. But the problem is, conservatives STILL haven’t figured out how to reinvent themselves after Bush. Being anti-Obama is the most unifying theme they’ve got.
Yes, they’ve tried that whole “constitutional conservative thing”, but beyond wearing silly hats, and confusing the US Constitution with the Confederate one, what more is there? That may be enough to win the House in an off-year election with unemployment through the roof, but that’s REALLY not saying a lot. And if the M$M weren’t so much in the tank, it would be painfully obvious how little the conservatives have going for them… even with Obama doing everything conceivable to keep them in the game, so that he can pull off his beloved “grand bargain” going-out-of-business sale.
This is why Newt appeals. There ISN’T any more substance left to be added to the mix. It’s all been discredited by reality, with it’s well-known liberal bias. But Newt with his spectacular bombast can keep this reality at bay MUCH better than any other “credible candidate” can. You take that away, and you face the very real risk that the entire conservative ediface may start to crumble back into its constituent parts–the Wall Streeters, nakeder than ever, the religious right, more reconstructionist than ever, and the Paulite libertarians with their insatiable thirst for the 19th Century… without, of course, the publically underwritten canals, railroads, Louisana Purchase, Homestead Act, Morril Land Grant College Act, and, oh year, THE CIVIL WAR, etc. that made it, however flawed, a century of dramatic, if erratic economic progress.
Yes, the right has TONS of money to paper over all of this. But that’s all it is… PAPERING OVER. Without Obama hatred to unify them, they’de have so little they’d be on the brink of tearing each other apart. Newt may be a crazy-quilt sociopath, but he’s THEIR crazy-quilt sociopath. And as of right now, crazy-quilt sociopathy is all they’ve got left. Toss that out, and they’ve got nothing.
p.s. Which just may be enough to get by, thanks to the neo-lib losers running the Democratic Party.
My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is here. It begins like this:
Newt Gingrich’s ‘Heart of Darkness’
Behind the smokescreen, Gingrich’s true accomplishment is being a master of propaganda.
I last wrote about Newt Gingrich in May – “Newt Gingrich, Eternal Victim”- as his presidential campaign exploded onto the scene and imploded on arrival. Now, amazingly, Newt is back – not just back, but back on top. Whether or not Newt ends up as the GOP nominee, his resurgence makes him once again a key figure for understanding today’s GOP, American conservatism, and American politics in general.
The picture that emerges is not a pretty one – even for those nominally on the same side as him. He was a disastrous leader as Speaker of the House – deposed by his own allies just shy of serving two terms – and the GOP establishment can’t put their faith in him. In fact, GOP pundits are “freaking out” as Gawker put it in their quote roundup, which featured David Brooks saying, “As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated”. Peggy Noonan also chimed in: “He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”
Of course, these are voices of the GOP establishment, whom Tea Partiers tend to hate. But Newt’s lucrative Washington insider career doesn’t jive at all with the Tea Party’s official anti-Washington narrative. By all rights, they ought to despise him as well. If he winds up being their man, nothing they claim to stand for can be taken seriously.
But deep as those failings may be, Newt has been far, far worse for the United States as a whole. He has played a key role in making American politics much more nasty, polarised and dysfunctional. If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person. But the Washington Post‘s straw man argument that Newt didn’t do it alone hides much more than it reveals. Newt understood, as well as any other figure on the right, that conservatives had to make America dysfunctional in order to take it over, and Newt lead the way in doing so in the House, as I’ll explain in a moment.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.
My latest AJE op-ed, “American Deceptionalism” is up here. It begins like this:
Under the growing influence of the 1 per cent, American exceptionalism has become American deceptionalism.
From the dawn of the colonial era, long before they even had a national identity, Americans have always felt they had a special role in the world, though the exact nature of American exceptionalism has always been a matter of some dispute.
Many have taken it to be a special religious destiny, but Alexis de Tocqueville, the first to consider it systematically, affirmed the exact opposite: “a thousand special causes … have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects.” Ironically enough, the exact term “American exceptionalism” was first used by Joseph Stalin, in order to reject it.
And yet, for 70 years American exceptionalism has been most prominently and consistently associated with imperialism (“benevolent”, of course!), via the phrase “the American Century”. It was coined by Time-Life publisher Henry Luce in February, 1941, 10 months before Japan’s Pearl Harbour attack drew the US into World War II. The history of Luce’s coinage provides a depth of resonance for a recent twist: a not uncommon, but particularly telling juxtaposition of four Timemagazine covers from around the world this week.
In three editions – Europe, Asia and South Pacific – Time magazine’s visually hot, tumultuous cover featured a gasmask-protected Egyptian protester, upraised fist overhead with a chaotic street background behind. The headline: “Revolution Redux”. Not so in the exceptional American edition. There, the visually cool, wanna-be New Yorker-ish cover was a text-dominated cartoon against a light gray background: “Why Anxiety is Good For You.”
Clearly, Time is whistling past the graveyard.
Read the whole op-ed here.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed is available here. It begins thus:
Pepper spray nation
With most of the UC board of regents being in the 1%, student demonstrators should expect more police brutality.
The viral video of Lt John Pike casually pepper-spraying a line of peacefully seated student protesters has deep resonance for the Civil Rights generation. It’s impossible to escape comparisons to Bull Connor ordering the use of fire hoses on the black youth of Birmingham on May 3, 1963. Pike sprays the students’ faces as if they were cockroaches, many have said. The youth of Birmingham were sprayed with such force that some were knocked over like paper dolls. But it was segregation that was about to fall. The UC Davis students face a much more formidable foe, not least because it is harder to define. But their sacrificial courage holds the promise of helping to change that.
The details may differ between Davis and Cairo, but the underlying struggle is fundamentally the same: It is not just youth against age, freedom against repression, innocence against cynicism, hope against fear, dreams against nightmares – it is all that and more. But it is also something historically much more specific. It is the neo-liberal promise against its own grim reality, represented in the street battles in and around Tahrir Square, as well as the pepper-spraying of docile students at UC Davis.
How does it come about that this is the example that America sets for the world? How does a purported liberal democracy become a police state? The drama at Davis provides two paths towards answering that question.
First is the bizarre bifurcation of America’s First Amendment freedoms, with one virtually unlimited form for 1%, who really don’t need any protection, and another, carefully constricted form for the 99%, who really do need it. For the 1%, “money is speech”, an absurd proposition that effectively transforms democracy into plutocracy. But for the 99%, actual speech, along with the closely-linked right of assembly, is subject to all sorts of restrictions as to “time, place and manner”. Tents may cost money, but that doesn’t make them speech. Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not talking about the kind of money that the 1% has.
Sticks over carrots
The second answer is a bit messier one. It has to do with the gradual recasting of a social democratic state – with a broad ethos of shared struggle, shared prosperity and a bedrock foundation of common dignity – into a neoliberal state with a runaway individualist ethos that ultimately tends towards psychopathy. Despite the stories they tell themselves, neoliberal elites are actually much closer to elite conservatives than they are to their own self-imagined liberal base. Their public rhetoric may still carry occasional echoes of FDR and LBJ, even Martin Luther King. But the privatising logic of how they think of policy is vastly more similar to that of Ronald Reagan, or the far less visible figures who worked busily in his shadow….
Read the whole op-ed here.
My latest Al Jazeera English Op-Ed is up. It draws on material about conservative victimology ratios that I first discussed at Open Left, but it starts out dealing wth latest concrete mega-example that’s been in the news the past few weeks. It begins like this:
Herman Cain and the Conservative Victimology Ratio
Herman Cain’s claim that he’s the real victim reflects a wide-ranging conservative belief with profound consequences.
As Herman Cain’s candidacy has begun to falter – like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry before him – at least there’s an important lesson to be learned from the counter-attacks on those accusing him of sexual harassment. These come, not just from Cain itself – “the Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations” – but also, more extremely, from supporters in the conservative movement who have attacked victims of sexual harassment more generally, and even the very concept of harassment itself.
“I’m the victim here,” has been Cain’s rallying cry, invoking the memory of Clarence Thomas, who claimed to be the victim of a high-tech lynching. But outside of conservative circles, history has not been kind to that line of argument. Not only do most now believe that Thomas did harass Anita Hill, the over-the-top “high-tech lynching” charge never did make any sense. A lynching is a way of circumventing the legal process, ignoring the evidence, rushing to judgment and destroying a human life. But in Thomas’s case, the only threat he faced was that of not being confirmed, still leaving him on the second-highest court in the land.
What’s more, it was Thomas himself, with his dramatic, but unfounded accusation, who was seeking circumvent the standard legal process, suppress evidence and rush to judgment – one that would favour him, rather than his accusers. Yes, there were other accusers in addition to Anita Hill. And Thomas had help in suppressing their testimony, most notably from Vice-President Biden, then head of the Judiciary Committee, who was all in a hurry to wrap things up quickly. Nor were we allowed to hear about the extent of Thomas’ obsession with pornography, a pattern of behaviour that made Hill’s accusations far more credible. Nor, for that matter, did we know for certain that Thomas had already lied under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he claimed to have never really thought about Roe vs. Wade. (A sympathetic conservative biographer conclusively judged that he had a decade ago.)
For the entire op-ed, click here.
“People who fear disorder more than injustice will only produce more of both.” — William Sloan Coffin
Mojo Nixon & Jello Biafra’s take on Phil Och’s “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” (lyrics at the end, after the jump and after my rantiness)
Joan Walsh is very concerned. She’s concerned the rabble being abused on a daily basis might not act nice enough for her delicate sensibilities. She’s not worried about police violence, or their massive efforts to generate violence where none existed previously. Nor is she concerned about the politicians who are issuing the orders to ramp up the brutality being visited upon the haplesss proles. Instead, she is busily taking offense at the Oakland GA for not banning violence outright.
City officials served a fourth eviction notice Sunday evening, after a murder at the camp’s borders Thursday night validated worries about crime and safety even among some camp supporters. Some Occupy Oakland leaders insisted the victim had nothing to do with the protest, but once police announced Sunday night that the 25-year-old man, Kayode Ola Foster, had been camping there, and so had at least one of the suspects, it seemed it could only be a matter of hours before cops moved in to close the camp.
I made my first trip to Occupy Oakland midday Sunday, and I wasn’t going to write about it without returning, because the movement is too complicated for a drive-by report. Several people I admire, including Alternet’s Joshua Holland, have been doing day-in, day-out shoe-leather reporting. But now that Foster and at least one murder suspect have been tied to the camp, and now that it’s gone, at least in its present form, I’m going to try to make sense of what I saw.(emphasis mine)
As in, “Some economists say next year will bring ponies to all the poors,” Walsh applies the oft-overused ruse of a negative suggestion that “some leaders” suggested this murder did actually have something to do with The Movement, even though every account I’ve seen that involved real reporting suggested that incident was simply a symptom of Oakland’s larger social problems. And that’s the lede!
Read the rest of this entry »
My latest Op-Ed for Al Jazeera English is here. It begins like this:
Time to occupy the Democratic Party
Politicians should see the Occupy movement as a call to engage instead of “business as usual”.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is less than two months old, and its future trajectory is impossible to predict. But with the expansive strategy of last week’s general strike in Oakland, which brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, it’s beginning to look increasingly possible that it could be the emergence of a long-time force in US politics.
The initial numbers are quite promising. While Congress’ approval rating has registered as low as nine per cent in recent polls, Occupy Wall Street enjoyed landslide majority support of 67 per cent of New York City residents in a mid-October poll. Just before that, a Time Poll found that 54 per cent of Americans had a favourable view of OWS, vs 23 per cent unfavourable. Even more telling, Time went on to ask about “some of the issues the protestors have raised”, and elicited even higher levels of agreement with the following statement: “Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington”: 86/11 per cent agree/disagree. “The gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large”: 79/7. “Executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted”: 71/23. “The rich should pay more taxes”: 68/28.
Meanwhile, also echoing the Occupy Wall Street message, a nearly simultaneous Washington Post/Bloomberg News Poll found the public overwhelmingly opposed to the Washington bipartisan consensus on slashing the welfare state. Respondents opposed “Reducing Medicare benefits” by 82/14 (77/18 among Republicans) and opposed “Reducing Social Security benefits” by 83/13 (79/16 among Republicans). Other polls have yielded similar results. When Occupy Wall Street says “we are the 99 per cent”, the polling says they are right.
Yet, it’s a long way from being a fledgling movement in sync with the public to building long-term influence and staying power.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.
By any reasonable standard, Islam Karimov is one of the world’s most infamous torturers. His particular brand of infamy is so horrid that even the Bush Administration had to cut off military aid to the Uzbeki dictator in 2005. For example, one of his favorite methods of punishing his victims is to slowly immerse them in boiling oil. That horrid.
But it seems a good “friendship” is a difficult thing for the Clinton’s–both Bill and Hillary–to let go of. As Fred Kaplan pointed out way back in 2005, before US aid was cut off:
President Bill Clinton struck up a relationship with Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov to stave off the common threat from Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. After Sept. 11, President Bush tightened the alliance. Karimov supplied the CIA and the Pentagon with an air base, which served as the staging area for the invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. During that war, he also allowed the United States to set up listening posts and to launch Predator drones from Uzbek territory.
Later, in 2009, Clinton attended an AIDS fundraiser in Cannes and had his picture taken with the elegant Gulnara Of The Oil Vats:
Ken Silverstein made a point of inquiring with the Clinton Foundation whether or not Karimova made contributions to the foundation. He didn’t receive any reply, which normally translates into English as, “We can’t actually deny it, so we’re not going to say anything at all.”
In any case, it’s a fair question to ask since (1), Clinton is always raising money, and (2), he doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being terribly picky about his funding sources. In this case however, it matters, since Gulnara Karimova–Harvard grad–has a rather terrible reputation as was laid out in Wikileaks releases as noted in this Guardian story from last December:
The post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan is a nightmarish world of “rampant corruption”, organised crime, forced labour in the cotton fields, and torture, according to the leaked cables.
But the secret dispatches released by WikiLeaks reveal that the US tries to keep President Islam Karimov sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN).
Many dispatches focus on the behaviour of Karimov’s glamorous and highly controversial daughter Gulnara, who is bluntly described by them as “the single most hated person in the country”.
She allegedly bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business in the central Asian state and is viewed, they say, as a “robber baron”. Granted diplomatic status by her father, Gulnara allegedly lives much of the time in Geneva, where her holding company, Zeromax, was registered at the time, or in Spain.
Gulnara acquired interests in the crude oil contracts of Zeromax in “a deal with [a] local mafia boss“, the embassy said. She also got hold of shares in the Coca-Cola bottling franchise after it was subjected to a tax investigation, they claimed.
“Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way … She remains the single most hated person in the country.”
The relationship between the US and the Karimovs hasn’t been without its complications though, since Hillary bestowed an award to one of Uzbekistan’s human rights activist:
But the US secret cables go some way towards explaining western ambivalence. They detail how the dictatorial president recently flew into a rage because the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, presented a Women of Courage award in Washington to a newly released Uzbek human rights campaigner, Mutabar Tadjibayeva.
Karimov’s displeasure was conveyed in “icy tones”, which alarmed the embassy: “We have a number of important issues on the table right now, including the Afghanistan transit (NDN) framework.”
A break from the usual, for those of us who run, from the NY Times:
It’s what Alberto Salazar, for a while the world’s dominant marathoner and now the coach of some of America’s top distance runners, describes in mythical-questing terms as the “one best way” — not the fastest, necessarily, but the best: an injury-proof, evolution-tested way to place one foot on the ground and pick it up before the other comes down. Left, right, repeat; that’s all running really is, a movement so natural that babies learn it the first time they rise to their feet. Yet sometime between childhood and adulthood — and between the dawn of our species and today — most of us lose the knack.
We were once the greatest endurance runners on earth. We didn’t have fangs, claws, strength or speed, but the springiness of our legs and our unrivaled ability to cool our bodies by sweating rather than panting enabled humans to chase prey until it dropped from heat exhaustion. Some speculate that collaboration on such hunts led to language, then shared technology. Running arguably made us the masters of the world.
So how did one of our greatest strengths become such a liability? “The data suggests up to 79 percent of all runners are injured every year,” says Stephen Messier, the director of the J. B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University. “What’s more, those figures have been consistent since the 1970s.” Messier is currently 11 months into a study for the U.S. Army and estimates that 40 percent of his 200 subjects will be hurt within a year. “It’s become a serious public health crisis.”
Buried in this wonderful story, however, is a cautionary tale of what has happened to this country over the past three decades.
Turns out that running shoes most likely are the reason so many runners get injuries. Worse, running shoes are pushed like drugs to sustain a billion dollar industry:
Bob Anderson knows at least one thing changed, because he watched it happen. As a high-school senior in 1966, he started Distance Running News, a twice-yearly magazine whose growth was so great that Anderson dropped out of college four years later to publish it full time as Runner’s World. Around then, another fledgling operation called Blue Ribbon Sports was pioneering cushioned running shoes; it became Nike. Together, the magazine and its biggest advertiser rode the running boom — until Anderson decided to see whether the shoes really worked.
“Some consumer advocate needed to test this stuff,” Anderson told me. He hired Peter Cavanagh, of the Penn State University biomechanics lab, to stress-test new products mechanically. “We tore the shoes apart,” Anderson says. He then graded shoes on a scale from zero to five stars and listed them from worst to first.
When a few of Nike’s shoes didn’t fare so well in the 1981 reviews, the company pulled its $1 million advertising contract with Runner’s World. Nike already had started its own magazine, Running, which would publish shoe reviews and commission star writers like Ken Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson.
“Nike would never advertise with me again,” Anderson says. “That hurt us bad.” In 1985, Anderson sold Runner’s World to Rodale, which, he says, promptly abolished his grading system. Today, every shoe in Runner’s World is effectively “recommended” for one kind of runner or another. David Willey, the magazine’s current editor, says that it only tests shoes that “are worth our while.” After Nike closed its magazine, it took its advertising back to Runner’s World. (Megan Saalfeld, a Nike spokeswoman, says she was unable to find someone to comment about this episode.)
“It’s a grading system where you can only get an A,” says Anderson, who went on to become the founder and chief executive of Ujena Swimwear.
Just as the shoe reviews were changing, so were the shoes: fear, the greatest of marketing tools, entered the game. Instead of being sold as performance accessories, running shoes were rebranded as safety items, like bike helmets and smoke alarms. Consumers were told they’d get hurt, perhaps for life, if they didn’t buy the “right” shoes. It was an audacious move that flew in the face of several biological truths: humans had thrived as running animals for two million years without corrective shoes, and asphalt was no harder than the traditional hunting terrains of the African savanna.
For the writers among us, there also are these great bits of rhetoric to enjoy:
“He has turned a small town in an obese state into a running-crazed bastion of health,” Larson says. “Mark’s effort in transforming Shepherdstown is a testament to what a single person can accomplish.”
Cucuzzella began trying it himself. As I watched, I recalled another lone inventor, a Czechoslovakian soldier who dreamed up a similar drill: he’d throw dirty clothes in the bathtub with soap and water, then jog on top. You can’t heel strike or overstride on slippery laundry. There’s only one way to run in a tub: the one best way.
At the 1952 Olympics, Emil Zatopek became the only runner ever to win gold medals in all three distance events: 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the marathon, the first he ever ran. Granted, “the Human Locomotive” wasn’t a pretty sight. During his final push to the finish line, his head would loll and his arms would grab at the air “as if he’d just been stabbed through the heart,” as one sportswriter put it.
I plan to try and run barefoot after learning this method. Anyone else want to try? And I learned something about Nike (aside from their sweat shops) and the art of selling (needless) running shoes. Indeed, I’ve been saving money for a new pair of running shoes, waiting to wear out my five year old pair. Now I’ll spend the money on hard liquor instead. I’m due a couple trips to the bar after a long hard and dry year.