Wednesday, December 29, 2010

...and gun rights meet terrorism hysteria, with what otherwise would be a freak out being forgiven

Here. About, what, just a whole bunch of ammunition primers, meaning the explosive parts of bullets and shotgun shells, found in luggage that exploded at an airport. Nothing serious. Because it related to an all american past time, guns, the story is not being questioned, touted as being a potential terrorist plot, etc... but being quietly excused. Hypocrisy, thy name is the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. Folks who are Muslim and who have gone shooting have been convicted of "training for terrorism" based on videos of them saying things in Arabic while doing it, but this fellow, who checked potential explosives onto a plane, without a permit, is getting the aww shucks treatment.

Monday, December 27, 2010

....and Chavez slips towards a more authoritarian and possibly totalitarian state

Through forbidding foreign funding of NGOs, enacting a law that, in the words of the Guardian

"....also penalises organisations or political parties that invite foreigners to the country who publicly give "opinions that offend institutions of the state, its high officials" or that are contrary to Venezuela's sovereignty. Groups can be fined for such statements, and political parties can be barred from elections for five to eight years."

, putting into action another law that forbids elected politicians from changing political parties, and also passing a measure that will start the censoring of the Internet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

....and the repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" is signed into law

A very good day. I was in fact impressed that it passed the Senate by the margin that it did, which is possibly evidence that despite the Tea Party uprising the country really isn't quite that conservative, at least on gay and lesbian issues.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In unrelated news....it seems that the show Alf is regularly watched by a third of the people of the Ukraine

Which means that Jerry Stahl's heroin fueled insights are reaching even more people than ever. I liked Alf as a kid, and I also really enjoyed "Permanent Midnight", by Stahl, as well as the film with Ben Stiller. Still a good show, though there's something of a perverse thrill in all of this.

While we're talking about population gains in the South, that lead to more congressional seats, let's review how things are in the Senate

According to Census.gov, as of 2010, 2,476,186 people total live in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and according to Wiki, the estimated population of Brooklyn in 2009 was 2,567,098. New York has two Senatorial seats while Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have six. We're not talking about parity and balancing with these numbers, we're talking about undemocratic power.

**on edit: looking up states by population it seems that Delaware, Vermont, and Alaska are in the same boat, as well as Wyoming.: low population, over representation. I have no problem with the idea of less senatorial representation being extended to these states as well.

...and the South and West pick up more seats in Congress, along with Washington

Because of high population growth. It wouldn't be something that has a lot of impact on the country except for the fact that the Senate is widely undemocratic and favors the points of view of small, conservative, states in a way that's completely disproportionate to the rest of the country. I've ranted on this before, but in the Senate we have a situation where a state whose entire population wouldn't fill up a single borough of New York City has the same power as the entire state of New York.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The King's Torah and Himmler

Lately, there's been controversy over a book of religious instructions written in Israel called "The King's Torah", "Torat Ha'Melech", which I've found in Hebrew is "נפשות בין ישראל לעמים" that gives advice on what's permissible in killing non-Jews, with Palestinians in mind, and that among other things gives reasoning as to why killing non-Jewish children is right.

Max Blumenthal's article: How to kill goyim and influence people, leading Israeli rabbis defend manual for killing non jews gives a decent overview of it. It should be noted, by the way, that, yes, Max Blumenthal is Jewish, lives in Israel, and likely titled his piece that to be humorous.

The killing children part, as quoted in that article and in others, is this:

“There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

Which is strikingly similar to a part of a speech Himmler gave to newly trained members of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing force deployed on the Eastern Front that was tasked with killing any man, woman, and child who was Jewish that they came across, on October 6, 1943:

"We came to the question: what to do with the women and children? I decided to find a clear solution here as well. I did not consider myself justified to exterminate the men -- that is, kill them or allow them to be killed -- and allow the avengers of our sons and grandsons in the form of their children to grow up. The difficult resolve had to be taken to make this race disappear from the earth."

Translation from "An introduction to the Einsatzgruppen" from Holocaust-History.org

So it seems that the authors of the King's Torah are in fine company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How the U.S. can be so religiously intolerant despite being for freedom of religion....an explanation

Basically, it's because "Freedom of Religion" was understood for most of our history in a way that was only superficially true. The U.S. has had ups and downs regarding freedom of religion, but I would argue that freedom of religion for most people in the 18th and into the 19th century really referred to freedom of people to belong to Protestant Christian denominations, and freedom of religion was considered to be a success if a community tolerated a diversity of these denominations. Catholicism, in particular, was something frequently left out of the idea of freedom of religion, because Catholicism was seen to be the enemy of freedom, specifically the enemy of Protestant Christian sects. Other, more exotic, types of religion were not even considered. Freedom to not believe in any religion was, and has I would argue, been tolerated because the people who have frequently been atheists and agnostics have come from Protestant Christian backgrounds, have been ethnically similar to the dominant groups in the community, and so have posed less of a threat than Catholics, Muslims, or Jews.

In fact, up until fairly recently, maybe in the last 15 years, it would not have been uncommon to go into a small town in a more conservative area of the country, ask about freedom of religion, and be told that "Sure! we have lots of freedom of religion here! Just look at all the different churches we have--Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostal, Presbyterian....even Catholic!" ignoring the fact that the majority of these churches are really very similar sets of beliefs within one subsection of a bigger religion, that is they're all variants on Protestant Christianity, meaning they're basically the same when compared to, say, Hinduism.

Because toleration has in practice mostly referred to Protestant denominations of Christianity, there's really no contradiction between people having an ultra-religious, almost theocratic, interpretation of the world in the United States and at the same time professing to believe in freedom of religion.

I would guess that the model immigrants for America in the days after the Revolution seem to have been white, Germanic, Scandinavian, or British, Protestant dissenters of some kind, cheerful Mennonites and Amish, as opposed to dirty Irish Catholics.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Laura Ingraham praises Obama in new HuffPo roundup: proof that Barry is doing a good job

In relation to Obama's cave in about tax cuts for the rich. Because, hey, if someone who brags about going down to Honduras in the '80s to help out with the Contras as a young conservative, is on your side you must be doing something right, right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

From Truthout: "An Open Letter to the Left Establishment"

Basically calling on people to no longer support Obama.Here. I whole heartedly agree with this.

"This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.

It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.

Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.

Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.

Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.

We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.

Best Regards,

Sen. James Abourezk
Michael Albert
Rocky Anderson
Jared Ball
Russel Banks
Thomas Bias
Noam Chomsky
Bruce Dixon
Frank Dorrel
Gidon Eshel
Jamilla El-Shafei
Okla Elliott
Norman Finkelstein
Glen Ford
Joshua Frank
Margaret Flowers M.D.
John Gerassi
Henry Giroux
Matt Gonzalez
Kevin Alexander Gray
Judd Greenstein
DeeDee Halleck
John Halle
Chris Hedges
Doug Henwood
Edward S. Herman
Dahr Jamail
Louis Kampf
Allison Kilkenny
Jamie Kilstein
Joel Kovel
Mark Kurlansky
Peter Linebaugh
Scott McLarty
Cynthia McKinney
Dede Miller
Russell Mokhiber
Bobby Muller
Christian Parenti
Michael Perelman
Peter Phillips
Louis Proyect
Ted Rall
Michael Ratner
Cindy Sheehan
Chris Spannos
Paul Street
Sunil Sharma
Jeffrey St. Clair
Len Weinglass
Cornel West
Sherry Wolf
Michael Yates
Mickey Z
Kevin Zeese"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

...and just to make it extra clear what side they're on: The Republicans hold back unemployment benefits in response to tax cuts

Or, to be more precise, because Obama wanted to end tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts which decimated the budget in the Bush years, Republicans vowed to not extend unemployment benefits that ran out on the first. Obama caved, extended the tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, and the unemployed, people who have been thrown out of jobs because of the recession, got to have money to pay rent in the run up to Christmas. Have a happy holiday, brought to you by the Republican Party.

Anti-alcholism Russian squirrel video



From Disinfo:

"‘Demon Squirrel’ Stars In New Russian Anti-Alcoholism Campaign (Video)

Posted by Ralph Bernardo on December 3, 2010

Man, this rodent needs to lay off the sauce. Via BBC News:

A Russian cartoon on alcoholism featuring a red-eyed “demon squirrel” with “the shakes” has had more than a million views on YouTube.

The squirrel rants about “chasing spiders up the walls” with a friend, who then murders his wife. The public information ad has created a buzz word, “kudyapliki” — imaginary creatures the squirrel and his friend want to hunt during their binge. “Are you on the booze yourself?” he asks at the end. “I’ll be seeing you.”"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fuckin' US-Korea free trade agreement

Here. I have an idea: why not make a trade agreement that lets people in Korea buy all the U.S. products they want while restricting the goods they can send to the U.S.? That way, they can buy shit and we'll keep our jobs. Otherwise, my feeling is more along the lines of "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out".

While you're at it, it might be a good time to download the "insurance" file for Wikileaks--here

It's here on the Pirate Bay. It uses a technology called BitTorrent, and if you're not aware of it you can easily download a client that will allow you to safely download and distribute both this and many other interesting files, of many different types, over the internet.

Turns out that the UN spying was only the tip of the iceberg--Wikileaks, spying, Area studies, links

In particular to the aggregation page for cables emanating from the Secretary of State's office, Here. When you deal with the sort of "Open Source" approach, what you're really doing is spying. But before that, in fact, the documents show that collection of information went way beyond that. The cable saying that people should collect credit card numbers of UN officials turns out not to be out of the ordinary but common practice with regards to officials posted in other countries, the only difference being that, in point of fact, what people were directed to get from the UN was much more extensive than is being reported. In fact, the people who are trying to minimize it either haven't actually read the cable or are flat out lying. You can look at the cable itself, through the link above, to verify that.

Check out the links on the page above to the "Reporting and Collection Needs" documents listed and you'll see that, guess what, they also want credit card numbers, frequent flier information and biometric information about officials in the Slovene, Hungarian, and Romanian governments, which suggests that as opposed to being an isolated incident the UN spying request was a standard set of requests mailed to diplomats around the globe to pursue with regards to the officials of the countries that they're stationed. In fact, the language used in all of these reports is exactly identical, meaning that it's standard practice to try to get credit card numbers of foreign political actors by embassy personnel attached to the U.S. government, which is pretty interesting.

The only reason I'm not posting the actual text is that Blogger and Google would most likely take it down.

Onto the "Area studies". A lot of the information requested is superficially just good information gathering about what you're dealing with, but if you look at what they're actually pursuing it's really an attempt to figure out the societies' political, military, economic, and social structure so that they can be manipulated for the benefit of the US and potentially overthrown if necessary. While the Eastern European countries probably don't face this risk, the same sort of information gathering, done by graduate students in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s, particularly about Latin America, was not only secretly linked to intelligence agencies but was directly used to destabilize and to overthrow governments there, putting fascist and otherwise dictatorial, right wing, pro-capitalist, governments in place.

Hey, if you want some interesing reading, go to Wikileaks and read the cables emanating from the Secretary of State's office

This is a current WikiLeaks source. Particularly some of the stuff marked "Secret//Noforn", although there's lots of good stuff with other classifications.

Nice stuff about basically spying on many countries in Eastern Europe. They may call it something else, but it's clearly activity that any non-biased and non-coopted person would call spying.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Yes, being in it for the long haul

I remember the week before the WTO, 11 years ago, I was down in Ft. Bening Georgia protesting against the School of the Americas. Before that, I had been reading all about the upcoming WTO protests over the summer, but being in the Midwest and in college couldn't really do anything. And before that....I remember the huge annual anti-police brutality march in New York City in '98, strangely enough just a month or two before Amadou Diallo was shot by police for holding a wallet. Before that, I remember discovering a non-ultra ideological reading of Marx earlier in '98, Chomsky in '97, Project Censored in '96, before that reading about government oppression of activists and general misdoings via the Zine culture in '95, and reading about the Zapatista Revolution in High Times in '94. Ms. Hanks can't seem to keep her attention on the prize for two solid years.

Incidentally, it will be interesting to see the Republican's take on why Obama should cave into them.

Back in '06 Bush argued time and time again that because people had (sort of) elected him that the change of the guard in Congress didn't matter, and the Republicans in Congress at that time backed him. He was the decider. Now, it's a different story of course, because the American people have spoken, or something.

Nice article from "The eXile" on the Rally for Sanity and general hipster apathy at politics now that it's gotten tough

Because, wah wah wah, now there's opposition! It's not, like, fun anymore. Better to bury yourself in pop-culture trivia than to confront reality.

Here

"THE RALLY TO RESTORE VANITY: GENERATION X CELEBRATES ITS HOMERIC STRUGGLE AGAINST LAMENESS
By Mark Ames

***

I confess, I couldn’t hack it. I came to the rally–saw those two pastry chefs from the Mythbusters show get all the Liberal Elites to hold a post-modern human wave, an ironic human wave allowing all the self-conscious Liberal Elites to play like Real America, while salvaging their vanity because it was all ironic and post-modern… And to make sure that everyone knew they were not really human-waving but rather meta-human-waving, the Mythbusters duo deconstructed the human wave. And all the Liberal Elites smiled and laughed knowingly, because all 150,000 were in on the biggest inside-joke wankathon in American history. And that was it for me–I was outta there.

A century-old ideological movement, Liberalism: once devoted to impossible causes like ending racism and inequality, empowering the powerless, fighting against militarism, and all that silly hippie shit—now it’s been reduced to besting the other side at one-liners…and to the Liberals’ credit, they’re clearly on top. Sure there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of pressing needs—but the main thing is, the Liberals don’t look nearly as stupid as the other guys do. And if you don’t know how important that is to this generation, then you won’t understand what’s so wrong and so deeply depressing about the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity.

***

I’ve come to the conclusion that this has been the Great Dream of my generation: to position ourselves in such a way that we’re beyond mockery. To not look stupid. That’s the biggest crime of all–looking stupid. That’s why they’ve turned Stewart into a demigod, because he knows how to make the other guys look really stupid, and if you’re on the same team as Stewart, you’re on the safe side of the mockery, rather than dangerously vulnerable to mockery.

In fact, I think this is why so many Gen-X/Yers turned against Obama: because he made them look stupid. They made themselves vulnerable to looking stupid by believing in him–and he jilted them. That’s how they see it–not that politics is a long ugly process that has nothing to do with self-esteem and everything to do with money and brawling–it was more like an “indie” consumer choice: They bought into the Obama brand, wore it, and suddenly discovered that the label wasn’t as cool as it seemed at the time, especially after the sentimental high of electing a half-black president wore off to the hard slog of what came after… so they threw the Obama jeans away and went to work trying to salvage their coolness creds for having made that fashion mistake. It’s captured best in this Awl essay by Tom Hanks’ daughter–E. A. Hanks, of all people: “Dear The Left: A Breakup Letter” which begins with her reaction to the special Senate election that Scott Brown won:

Dear The Left,

It’s interesting that you couldn’t keep Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat. I’m taking it for granted that you understand that I don’t mean “interesting” at all, but rather “detestable.”

So little Miss Hanks is not joking in her title for the essay–it really is written like a breakup letter. Leaving aside for now the question of “What the fuck is Tom Hanks’ daughter doing talking as if she and ‘The Left’ ever had a deal?”–or the other issue of “Why does your father make shitty Romantic comedy movies that turn decent people into anti-American suicide bombers?”–because we’ll get nowhere if we try answering those…anyway, leaving that aside…By framing her disillusionment as a breakup letter, she reduces the political struggle to a kind of frivolous private-school irony for 20-something Heathers, indemnifying her against Gen-X/Y reader suspicions that her break with Obama might mean she’s one of those Lefties who “have a cow.” She’s not–she’s cool and ironic and has a “Scott Brown? Really? You lost to Scott Brown? No, Really?” attitude, just like all the people who read her have.

20_6338201612102812503930176_21_JGregoryEHanksMMcCainLRettmerACowtherCCheek_063009-1

E. A. Hanks (second from left) with Megan McCain and her friends from “The Left”

Keep in mind that this E.A. Hanks “break-up letter” wound up becoming a hugely popular, heavily-e-forwarded article earlier this year among all the Daily Show Democrats, as embarrassment swept across the Liberal egosphere following Scott Brown’s surprise victory in the Senate race. She is the voice of the Rally today.

So now ask–who writes breakup letters? What’s the point of that? If you’re breaking up with a lover whom you just want to get away from, you won’t publish a breakup letter, you just want it to go away. But if you’re breaking up with a lover because s/he humiliated you, or you’re worried somehow how this will affect your reputation among the cool crowd (the obsession of Gen-Xers and –Yers), then you DO write a letter and publish it, so that you make HIM look like the fool, you transfer the mockery and humiliation out of your hurt little feelers and restore your public image as someone who is cool, who is self-aware, who never gets too excited about things but this one time you did and you got burned and that sucks dude….It’s an elaborate Gen-X/Y rhetorical strategy to abandon a movement or a trend that’s in serious danger of making its fans look stupid. And it’s even worse than that—there’s something very 1950s about her peevishness and selfishness, a kind of Ayn Rand cheerleader dumping the QB because he lost the Homecoming game—all the while she waited it out beneath the bleachers to see who’d win, but she’d foolishly placed her bets a bit too early with the new black QB…"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A very nice interview with Ted Rall from Russian Television, in English.

Yay!

What's happening in Europe in terms of finance should not be used to justify cutting programs in the United States.

The two problems have separate origins. What happened in Europe was triggered by the economic downturn of the United States, but it had nothing to do with easy credit, predatory lending, or the inflation of the housing market. It had nothing to do with unregulated finance. The fact that people in the U.S. are using Europe as a reason why we should have less, and not more, regulation and social programs is turning reality on its head, since we've never been in the situation Europe is in right now. We essentially have no welfare state. We don't even have effective regulation of even the basic excessive features of capitalism. To say that what we have, or that a very tepid health care reform, could put us in the same situation that Europe is in with regards to state budgets is just absurd. Why not change what banks and other institutions do before trying to talk about what we need to do less of?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The New York Times: out of 250,000 Wikileaks cables it's only going to publish 100 on its website, and even then some will be edited

Because they're responsible, and they've vetted it with the White House. And they've also, gladly no doubt, shared their "advice" about which ones to publish and which ones not publish with foreign news organizations. This advice comes both from the New York Times itself, which diligently started self censoring, and from the White House. I'm sure that foreign news organizations really appreciate that, you know, the thought, the courtesy, of getting unsolicited advice from a paper with close ties to the U.S. government about which U.S. government cables to print and which ones not to.

Article A Note to Readers: The Decision to Publish Diplomatic Documents

"The documents — some 250,000 individual cables, the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world — were made available to The Times by a source who insisted on anonymity.

*****

Reporting Classified Information

About 11,000 of the cables are marked “secret.” An additional 9,000 or so carry the label “noforn,” meaning the information is not to be shared with representatives of other countries, and 4,000 are marked “secret/noforn.” The rest are either marked with the less restrictive label “confidential” or are unclassified. Most were not intended for public view, at least in the near term.

The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.

After its own redactions, The Times sent Obama administration officials the cables it planned to post and invited them to challenge publication of any information that, in the official view, would harm the national interest. After reviewing the cables, the officials — while making clear they condemn the publication of secret material — suggested additional redactions. The Times agreed to some, but not all. The Times is forwarding the administration’s concerns to other news organizations and, at the suggestion of the State Department, to WikiLeaks itself. In all, The Times plans to post on its Web site the text of about 100 cables — some edited, some in full — that illuminate aspects of American foreign policy. "

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Basic question for the Tea Party about limited government:

You're for less government interference in our lives, but you're for completely cracking down on illegal immigrants. Doesn't that require lots of police on the roads, lots more government officials overlooking immigration enforcement, as well as more people directly on the border? With the "Ground Zero Mosque", so called, in order to stop the construction of it you need the government, that is the police, to withdraw the permit, meaning that you're strengthening the power of government over zoning laws in order to accomplish what you want. How does this jibe with your limited government stance? Some of the Tea Party folks are against the right of gays to get married, which is an issue of government preventing people from doing something. What are your opinions about drug laws, and about crime in general? I know it's hard to summarize the opinions of lots of diverse people, but would you support more cops on the streets in order to fight crime, and do you think that personal use of drugs is something that the government should be concerned about?

Any takers?

Ultra-conservatism and homosexuality uneasily combined in the high echelons of the Catholic Church: Der Spiegel interview

Excellent interview on Der Spiegel's English Edition with theologian David Berger, talking about his experience moving within the ultra-traditional circles that seem to have taken power with Ratzinger while also being closeted.

"Berger: I kept having to listen to inhuman views. For example, Hitler was praised for having interned and murdered homosexuals in concentration camps. The point came when I couldn't remain silent any longer ...

SPIEGEL: ... after you and your career had profited for a long time from contact with these right-wing circles.

Berger: Ever since Pope Benedict XVI, at the latest, you have to be anti-modern to have a career in the Catholic Church. I criticized the relatively progressive theology and left-wing church policy of Karl Rahner. That is how people noticed me. Because I was an expert on the medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, I was invited by almost all right-wing conservative groups to give lectures. I was in touch with the Sedevacantists, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, Una Voce, Opus Dei and the Servants of Jesus and Mary.

SPIEGEL: What went on at the meetings?

Berger: These groups are very careful about who they invite. They meet in very high-class venues, sometimes in former aristocratic residences or in luxury hotels. Old men smoke fat cigars, drink expensive red wine and eat well. It is a parallel world whose inhabitants seek to defy the modern world.

SPIEGEL: And what do they discuss?

Berger: They talk about a supposed Jewish global conspiracy or about how to keep emancipators, freemasons and gays out of the church. For many years, there were "gentlemen's evenings" in Düsseldorf that were organized by a tax consultant. They increasingly became a focal point for a right-wing Catholic network. At one of the meetings, which were regularly visited by senior clerics, the man sitting next to me, a retired university professor, was railing against the gay parades on Christopher Street Day (in Germany): "Instead of standing in a corner, being ashamed of themselves and just shutting up, they behave like pigs gone wild."

SPIEGEL: Why didn't you turn your back on the church at that point?

Berger: Many gays are attracted by the clear hierarchies of the male world of Catholic rituals. Among clerics I discovered extremely effeminate behavior of the sort I knew well from certain gay scenes. People give each other women's names and attach very high importance to clerical robes in all colors. Just think of the nicknames Bishop Walter Mixa (who recently stepped down amid accusations of violence and financial irregularities) and his housemaster friend gave each other: "Hasi," or "bunny," and "Monsi," short for monsignore.

SPIEGEL: Did you get the impression that your homosexuality may even have helped your career?

Berger: In clerical circles I kept getting shown through unmistakeable looks, hugs, stroking of my upper arms and excessively long handshakes that one didn't just appreciate my work a lot. The fact that many prelates had homosexual tendencies is certain to have made them more ready to help me get positions. "

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Been think of the Popular Front/United Front/Peoples' Front lately

The one sponsored by the Communist Parties in the '30s and '40s. The contradictions seem so obvious now--the policies that the Communist Parties applied in the world outside of the Soviet Union in order to build positive coalitions to fight Fascism, which entailed less hardline beliefs, were the same policies that people inside the Soviet Union in the '30s were being executed for having supported. The United Front did a lot of good in that the relaxation of hardline dogma and the effort to genuinely reach out to people produced a lot of good initiatives that actually helped real people, but when Stalin no longer needed aid in fighting Fascism he essentially canceled the program and went back to policies on the international scene that had been current within the Soviet Union all along. During the United Front, when folks were recruited who weren't completely pro-Stalin and hardcore about it, there was a campaign to prevent folks who were in international Communist Parties from finding out the truth about what was going on in the Soviet Union at the time. People believed it most likely because they saw the work that was actually going on around them, saw that it was productive, and didn't want to believe that they were part of something that could be committing atrocities like Stalin was doing. Once Stalin had died and Khruschev read his "Secret Speech" the last vestiges of deniability faded away and lots of people, in the U.S. and possibly elsewhere, left the Party, upset that they'd been tricked into supporting this.

But signs of what was actually going on, on top of being present during the '30s themselves, were also available in how Stalin, and then Mao, behaved in the post-World War II world. So-called "Popular Front" governments were installed in occupied Eastern and Central Europe, that then staged "popular uprisings" which lead to the adoption of an orthodox Soviet system of economy and government, of course in reality being coups engineered by the Soviet Union under the guise of popular action. In Mao's case, it turns out that little by little, or campaign by campaign, the promises that the Chinese Communist Party too gave to cooperation and coalition government in a modified Soviet system were betrayed, leading to the establishment of a hardline Soviet state in the post-war world, when Stalin was still alive.

In the U.S., Earl Browder, the very successful promoter of the general idea of a popular front, was kicked out as head of the Communist Party, ostensibly because of controversy kicked up by a hostile letter in the international Communist community generated by a member of the French Communist Party but more likely under orders of Stalin. He was replaced by a series of hardline, stupid, apparatchniks.

All of this shift, the huge difference between the policies stated by the Communist Party in the United States and the policies that were enacted after the war, fueled the idea in the U.S. that the Communists were really liars who wanted to secretly overthrow the government while saying that they were for cooperation. The events in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere were cited as well, although off the top of my head I don't remember just where I read the citation, etc.., so can't cite their cite myself. It wasn't just because of the popular front that the red scare happened, not by any means, but it provided fuel for the fire. William Z. Foster's very clumsy and not that intelligent or sophisticated book "Towards Soviet America", which was written before the liberalization of the Party, was reprinted by a conservative book club as proof about what the Communists supposedly really meant and were concealing.
"The Book the Communists Wanted to Destroy" was the subtitle of their edition. No, actually, it wasn't a smoking gun, but they made it out to be one.

Stalin of course gave the OK for Kim Il Sung to invade Korea, with a report (again, I don't have the cite), saying that this was under Kim Il Sung's initiative, not Stalin's, and that the Soviet Union only gave permission and some small support, with China, a client state at that time, giving direct military support. It can be inferred that if the hardliners had staid in power after Stalin's death that fights like Korea would have become the norm, and would have given at least some credence to some of the Cold War anti-Communist fears, but history evolved otherwise. Khruschev reversed many of Stalin's policies, dismantled the gulag system, liberalized the media, and backed off from a goal of directly using Soviet military power to spread socialism. Even after he was gone and Brezhnev came to power, the tide wasn't turned back. So the classical idea of the Cold War was not in fact in existence for all of the post-Stalin era, even though relationships between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world rose and fell in terms of hostility.

In the end, the folks who wanted to help people in a more moderate way were betrayed, many people's lives were crushed by the Red Scare, and the Cold War itself became a more theoretical construct removed from reality than anything else. Who on the Left exactly won from this?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I support Ted Rall

As Rall says on his blog, there's a double standard here between Republicans and Democrats. Glenn Beck has basically been calling for Revolution both in his books and on his show for months and months. Rall isn't doing anything really different. The only difference, if there is one, besides the ideology, is that Rall lays it out instead of hiding behind weasel words and rhetoric designed to give plausible deniability. And, although I haven't read the book, it most likely is more cogent and better argued.

Monday, November 08, 2010

...and the rich hire people to help their children cheat:"Homework Helpers Help Focus Students' Attention" from the NYTimes

Here.

"If a student finds French grammar or algebra incomprehensible, a tutor in those subjects can help. But if the problem is a child who will not budge from the Xbox, or pens doodles instead of topic sentences, some harried parents with cash to spare have been turning to homework helpers who teach organizational skills and time management, or who sometimes just sit there until the work is finished.

As schools have piled on expectations and as career paths have sucked in both mothers and fathers, this niche industry is catering to “students who are capable of doing the work” but “need someone there who can just be there with them to consistently do the work in a regular manner,” said Mike Wallach, who along with Ms. Kraglievich runs the service Central Park Tutors. "

So let me get this straight....they're not just private tutors, i.e. people who give the kids educational advantages that most other kids couldn't dream of, but they're there to help little ones succeed who through either their own laziness, stupidity, or bad upbringing would otherwise not rise to the top of the class?

Wouldn't it be great for people with less money to get even half of the help that these overprivileged youngsters get.

How about this? If you're not motivated and aren't able to do well in school, don't go to college. Instead, get a vocational job, and let someone else who cares take your place. But that's not going to happen anytime soon for any kid who grows up on the Upper West Side, now, is it? Instead, they'll be pampered, with lipstick put on the pig, in order to preserve status that they don't really deserve.

And Obama commences his "Send our jobs to India" tour

Because free trade is still a good thing, despite our economic situation and despite the fact that trade with India is one way. I mean, the Indian President said that companies were investing in "Infrastructure" in India, which is code for factories, and Obama is taking the tour with 250 business leaders from the U.S. They aren't looking for a market for the millions of Indians who make less in a year than many U.S. citizens make in a month, they're looking for cheap labor so that they can fuck over American workers even harder than they're already being fucked. Thanks.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Now the battle lines have been drawn--the November election

Pretty clearly. Corporate money and xenophobia on one side, democracy and the interests of the people on the other. It'll be an entertaining series of years, since there's no ambiguity to it anymore. The process that started with the judicial coup of Bush v. Gore has now come to a close and we'll now truly get the country that we fight for. What this means is that corporate Democrats are gone, Clintonist centrism has lost, and the idea of moderate Republicans, already pretty battered, has mostly disappeared. The ones who now survive are pretty much just open corporate shills. So you have Progressives (and some liberals) on one side, corporate shills and über patriotic xenophobes on the other. It's going to be like shooting fish in a barrel to plan and strategize in these upcoming years. Which side will you be on?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dilma Rousseff

Good person. Good fighter. Glad that she's president of Brazil.

Monday, November 01, 2010

And Jon Stewart does implicitly tell Progressives to fuck off at the Sanity Rally

Because, like, it's all the press. All of the strife in the U.S., the division, is just the press feeding the flames. We should just hug one another when we see people holding signs talking about the Tree of Liberty having to be watered with blood at Obama rallies. Sorry Jon, it's not "The Press" over reacting, it's Fox News pushing its own agenda. MSNBC and others are bit players compared to Rupert Murdoch. Fox had a large part in creating the Tea Party movement and actively stokes it while donating millions to Republican politicians. MSNBC did not create the Progressive movement. Maybe people are experiencing 'strife' because there are actual contentious issues involved, not because they're collectively overreacting. Maybe strife in this sense is good and we need more, not less, in order to bring this country to some sort of clear sense of where it stands in the world, instead of having it be implicitly conservative while having a liberal veneer, which was the case before the round of Progressive activism that started with the 2000 election and that went on from there. Or don't you remember, say, 9/11, or George W. Bush, or the insane patriotism that started then? You criticized Bush daily, pointed out that the Democrats were doing nothing similar, and now that Obama's in office you suddenly call for understanding and reconciliation between liberals and folks who you spent years criticizing? I guess having a Democrat in office does matter in that it makes people who were previously engaged spineless and complacent.


From "Democracy Now!"

" The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker, and perhaps eczema. And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly, good—because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an [bleep] shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball. So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-[bleep] forehead eyeball monster?

If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. But the truth is, we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us, while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make. [...]"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A nice response to the Left/Right equivalency drawn by Jon Stewart at today's rally: "Dear Jon, Sane People Protest Crazy Wars by Medea Benjamin"

Which details how The Daily Show wanted to use Code Pink as an example of freaks and nuts on the Left that we have to 'restore sanity' from. The only reason Code Pink is being picked on is because they're effective and get air time. Instead of thinking that getting publicity for progressive causes is a good thing, the Daily Show seems to feel that it's evidence of scary extremism that's destabilizing the country.

"When Jon Stewart was on Larry King's show talking about his Rally to Restore Sanity, he likened himself to Alice in Wonderland and the rally as the Mad Hatter Tea Party. But is Jon Stewart really Alice, trying to find sanity in an upside-down world? Or is he the March Hare, the ultimate "slacktivist" who thinks it's always teatime -- time to sit back and jibberjabber?

The 10-30-10 rally on the capital's mall is looking more and more like a celebration of "slacktivism." Stewart is courting people who do not want to open their window and yell, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" As he says in the Rally for Sanity website, he's looking for the people who've been "too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs)."

So let's get this straight: people who were so horrified when the U.S. invaded Iraq that they joined millions of others to protest are not sane? We shouldn't speak out against Wall Street bankers whose greed led to millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes? It's irrational to be angry when you see the Gulf of Mexico covered in oil because BP cut corners on safety? Don't get upset when the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can pour unlimited funds into our elections?

Stewart often roasts the warmakers and corporate fatcats on his show, but he seems to think that his viewers should be content to take out their frustrations with a good belly laugh.

When Jon Stewart announced the Rally to Restore Sanity, he included CODEPINK among the "loud folks" getting in the way of civil discourse. He also equated progressives calling George Bush a war criminal with right-wingers calling Obama Hitler.

So we started a facebook page asking Jon Stewart to invite us on the show to set the record straight. Beware of what you ask for. We did, indeed, get a call from the producers but it was not for a live interview with Jon Stewart. No, it was for a taped session with myself, a Tea Party organizer and a tear-gas dodging, anti-globalization anarchist "giving advice" to Daily Show's Samantha Bee about how to organize a good rally. It was clear they wanted to portray us as the crazy folks who should not come to their rally for reasonableness.

I consulted with my CODEPINK colleagues. Some said, "Don't do it. It's a trap and will only further marginalize us." We'd already been ridiculed several times on the show, like when we stood up to question General Petraeus at a Congressional hearing or when we organized protests at the Marine Recruiting Center in Berkeley. But the majority of my colleagues thought it would be crazy to decline the chance to get an anti-war message out to millions of viewers.

The producers told us to come to the New York studio "in costume." The anarchist, Legba Carrefour, was all in black, including a black bandanna covering his face. The Tea Partier, Jeffrey Weingarten, came in patriotic red, white and blue. I decided to "go professional," with a CODEPINK t-shirt and a gray suit. The producers were disappointed. They had wanted me to appear in one of the wild outfits we have worn in Congress -- like a hand-lettered pink slip accessorized with a hot-pink boa and a glittery "no war" tiara.

But my attempt to look professional was thwarted by the fourth guest who suddenly appeared and was positioned right behind me: A huge, scary puppet head of Iranian President Ahmadinejad."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rand Paul Tea Party supports stomp on head of woman trying to give a pro-corporate award to Paul

How's that Populism for you? That's what she was doing. Literally, Tea Party folks wrestling down to the ground and stepping on a woman who was trying to give Rand Paul a mock award for his support of corporations. Glenn Beck would be proud.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Revolutionary Piggybacking

I'm reading Max Elbaum's excellent book Revolution in the Air, which I can't recommend highly enough. It's not the story of Marxoid Maoist groups but the story of what folks were doing before they solidified and rigidified into the groups that we now know and love, and they were doing some pretty good work despite the overall flaws in their political ideology. One thing, though, has stuck out in reading the accounts of these groups: the reliance of white activists recruiting in civil rights movement derived groups of people of color for members as opposed to doing the heavy lifting of getting white workers to be revolutionary.

There was a huge emphasis on making the new movement, the New Communist Movement as it's called, inclusive, but it seems to me that this was in a sense a dodge because half the work in recruiting people of color was already done through non-Marxist organizations who had started and maintained the various civil rights movements. Folks who were people of color were already energized. It was white workers, particularly white male workers, who weren't in on it and who the right then as now was courting for support, who were the constituency that needed the most attention in terms of organizing, and folks seemed to shy away from that task. Perhaps it was a measure of comfort: easier for white middle and upper class activists to recruit in foreign communities of color than it is for them to go to their own communities and confront people who might have called them on bullshit. It could be said that white organizing in general wasn't a problem, since so many people came from the white middle class, but that only when working class was added to the label did organizing whites suddenly become something contentious, something that people debated about whether or not it should be done.

To me, this seems like a huge cop out. At the most extreme level you have the pre-Prairie Fire Weathermen who seem to have totally sold out the white working class. The challenge isn't to go along with the current, where things are easy, for instance linking the civil rights struggle with movements for national liberation, but to go against it and do what folks would rather not do, in this case organizing white workers who might be distrustful of the New Left, distrustful of anti-Vietnam War organizing, distrustful of the Women's Movement. Calls for inclusivity shouldn't conceal weaknesses in constituency: sure, white middle class college students may have been over represented, but to counter that over representation with recruiting people of color who are workers without simultaneously recruiting white workers just creates a new imbalance, one which only appears to not exist if you're a white middle class person who doesn't particularly like the working class when it doesn't have some sort of exotic label attached to it---i.e. black or other minority culture. Exoticism and fetishism of the other may have possibly played a part, but again, reality is often not romantic, and it has to be dealt with if a strong coalition that won't fracture is to be built.

*on edit: I could add to this that there seems to be a stereotype among folks even today that white male workers are all the type of people who are "rednecks". This is absolutely false and is simply another way of discounting people who may be harder to organize than groups of people who are already mobilized.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Over the top racism that has to be seen/read to be believed: Central Illinois State Senate candidate on black men doing drugs rather than go to college

"And it's a pretty good reason. Most of the women who are single parents have to find work to support their family. The minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It's easier." Here, the man in question being Al Reynolds. It gets better....but let me just comment....if black people aren't promiscuous and single parents they're drug dealers and users....but since being a single parent is a responsibility more black women go to college.

"Reynolds' comments came in response to a question about increasing the number of black and Latino students at the University of Illinois.

"I've been in the city and the dichotomy of the women and the men in the minorities, there is a difference in the fact that most minority women, either the single parent or coming from a poor neighborhood, are motivated more so than the minority men," he said. "And it's a pretty good reason. Most of the women who are single parents have to find work to support their family. The minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It's easier.

"We need to provide ways that are more incentive, other than just sports avenues, for the men for the minorities to want to go to college and get an education and better themselves before the women have to support them all."

****

"Look at the number of black men who opt out of getting a job and opt out of higher education. They don't even make it out of high school because the lucrative drug trade is so rampant that it's just easy for them to fall into that. What are the avenues for the black man to get out of the ghetto? He becomes a star athlete or he does drugs. I mean very few men of the black race get out of that ghetto through education. The women do. The women do because, number one, they're forced to because they don't have anybody to take care of them. They do a good job. A lot of the women are very good about getting out and getting an education. The men just have a more ... you know, the lure of high money because it's high money in drugs without having to pay the price of going to school."

To what extent are anti-immigrant and anti-muslim sentiments in the U.S. influencing Europe's rightwing turn?

This is something that would be good to look into. I'm sort of convinced that the anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe is enabled and fueled by anti-Islam sentiment in the United States, and that the Tea Party in general is also enabling these folks to go farther than they ordinarily would.

In Europe lots of the immigrants are at the same time Muslim, so it works out really well: feed on our prejudices and use them as green lights to go at people who live where you are.

Folks don't seem to take into consideration that just because the average immigrant hating conservative who thinks Islam is a heathen religion doesn't know a damn or give a damn about the internal politics of France, Germany, or Sweden doesn't mean that they don't have influence due to the sorts of things they come out with being rebroadcast around the world as typical representations of what Americans believe.

But the more anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim the U.S. becomes the more it will embolden people on the Right in Europe and elsewhere to go forward, even if in their normal rhetoric they take a condescending view towards Americans in general. That's just what they have to say in order to keep up the appearance of having some sort of pride in themselves.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A favorite: Dead Kennedys-Cesspools In Eden

Nice song, although as Jello Biafra says, the guitar quality on the album is strangely better than the vocals....

Why people who know philosophy don't like to talk about Ayn Rand

Randoids are often pissed off because people criticize her and yet often don't want to go through the trouble of conducting a critique of her that draws on all her major works as well as her minor ones. There's a reason folks don't want to do this, and it's quite simple: from virtually the first paragraph in her works on philosophy it's apparent that her arguments are so bad, so flawed, and so ignorant that there's little motivation to keep on and on and on unless a person is a masochist who enjoys punishment. Her writing isn't real philosophy. It's not even real intellectualism. It's something that Rand thought was profound and thought was insightful but is ignorant of basic philosophical ideas and history. Her work is basically very similar to someone who read a summary of Enlightenment philosophy on the back of a cereal box, decided she knew what was being talked about, and then procedes to write article after article, and book after book, based on this assumed knowledge.

It's bad. It's fucking bad. There's almost no parallel to how stupid Rand is with regards to philosophy. People who know philosophy likely see Rand as someone who's not worth the time in responding to. But if you don't have any background in philosophy, i.e. you're a high school student, it might seem profound.

* in other words, most people who know philosophy would be more likely to claw their eyes out than to give a full on treatment to Ayn Rand's philosophical ideas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Slavoj Zizek thinks democratic tolerance means you can't say what you think in public

Here

"What really worries me is—I will say something very simple, almost commonsensical, that, you know, for me, I’m here always for censorship. Through democracy, tolerance, in an authentic sense, means that you simply cannot say certain things publicly. You are considered—you know, like if you say publicly an anti-Semitic, sexist joke, it’s unacceptable. Things which were unacceptable ten, fifteen years ago are now acceptable."

Hmm....interesting. Maybe it's his poor English skills that lead him to say "I'm here always for censorship" or maybe not. I thought that in a democracy tolerance meant the protection of minority voices, even when those voices are unpleasant. I mean, who's to say what I 'can't say publicly', Zizek? Today it may be folks talking about anti-Semitism, tomorrow it might be people who think that Left wing positions are unacceptable and shouldn't be publicly tolerated. Zizek doesn't seem to remember that the same principle that he's talking about now was present in the Communist system that he was a part of, which made lots of things that which you 'cannot say publicly', for fear of being fired, ostracized, and given a job as a street sweeper for the rest of your life. This is not what we should aim for in a democracy. If the democracy is to be authentic we should counter what we consider to be bad speech with good speech, not turn up the level of social unacceptability when people start saying things that we don't like.

Anything used against the Right will eventually be used against the Left. This is my personal belief, something that I sign up to 100%, and it's something that folks like the ACLU also believe in. I'm sure that few of the folks working on the case of the Nazis marching in Skokie thought that Nazism was cool, but they realized practically what could happen if groups started to be arbitrarily denied the right to march because of their political positions, no matter what they are.

Zizek seems to have a sort of lacunae, or inexplicable blind spot, that some Europeans tend to have: in one sense, many European intellectuals are very cultured and knowledgeable, but in many cases this knowledgability also co-exists with stupidity over basic issues that folks elsewhere learn about in grade school.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Picaso in Seattle.......saw it, it was great, will post something more substantive later

Want to note though that even though this great exhibit was and is here in Seattle, one of the things that I heard from one of my fellow Seattleites was a guy making fun of the name "Braque", because it sounded funny to him. Way to go America, of which Seattle is a part!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Helping the economy.....why not put up walls to companies moving jobs overseas?

It would help. Put something in the way of the globalized market dictating where the American economy should go. It wouldn't be Statist so much as it would be an assertion of Sovereignty over our country, saying that the actual people who make up the United States matter more than market forces.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Roman life wasn't necessarily that different from our own: a letter from Seneca

I've said before, but when you actually look at Greek and Roman writings you find that they're quite current, as compared with those of the Bible. I think that part of the disdain folks have for the classical world is that they think that what's covered in the Bible is what it was all like. In fact, it seems that the Biblical world was a sort of primitive backwater compared to the more cosmopolitan centers of life, and that Jerusalem was a kind of cow town compared to Rome. Yet religions based on the thoughts of backwoods sheep farmers continue to dominate our lives. In any case, take a look at this description of Baiae, a Roman holiday town, that Seneca puts out in Letter 56 to Lucillius, taken from the new Oxford World's Classics translation of the Letters. Seneca lived from 3 BC to 65 AD, so was writing at the same time as Christ. He was also a tutor of Nero in his later years:

"I'll be damned if silence is as necessary as it seems for a man withdrawn for study! Here a mixed hubbub surrounds me on all sides. I am living over a public bath. Just imagine all the varieties of cries that can fill the ears with loathing; when the tougher fellows are exercising and thrusting arms heavy with lead, when they are either straining or imitating those under strain, I hear their grunts, and whenever they let out the breath they have been holding, I hear their whistles and bitter panting: when I come upon some feeble fellow content with the common-or-garden massage, I hear the crack of hands slapping the shoulders, which changes pitch as it hits them flat or hollowed. But if the umpire of the ballgame joins in and begins to count the balls, that is the end. Now listen to the brawler and the thief caught in the act, and the man who likes the sound of his own voice in the bath. Then add those who leap into the pool with a great splash, as well as those whose voices, if nothing else, are loud and clear. Imagine the depilator suddenly emitting his thin, shrill cry, calculated to make him more conspicuous, constantly uttering and never silent except when he is plucking the underarms and forcing the other man to cry out instead. Now I hear the different cries of the cake-seller and the sausage-seller and pastrycook and all the hawkers from the snack-bars selling their wares with a special distinct intonation."

So you have that, then you have these pleas to Jehovah for mercy for some sort of imagined transgression, people wailing and moaning on their knees to atone for some guilt that their Father has seen and is supposedly punishing them for.

Wow, the person who wanted to shoot up the Tides Foundation cites Glenn Beck as an influence

From Democracy Now!




Quite amazing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Because of course the first thing I think of when I see this photo is whether or not the people in it are located in Mexico

Republicans’ ‘scary’ immigrant photo depicts Mexicans in Mexico, photographer reveals". I mean, when I see photos of people who are brown who are depicted as menacing thugs, my first thought is "Are they really living in the USA, or are these scamps trying to put one over on us?" I mean, the outright racism, on par with the Willie Horton ad in its crudity, isn't what catches my eye.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"I Am Curious (Yellow)" one of the best modern films I've seen

And I don't say that lightly. This film from Sweden in '67 is just as relevant today as it was back then. Despite the uproar about the nudity in it, the film is about politics. It's not just implicitly political, it's explicitly political, with Lena staging various protests about issues, interviewing Olaf Palme, going to the headquarters of the LO, Sweden's trade union federation, and interviewing people about class in Sweden, on and on. The opinions implied and the questions asked are very current. They even interview Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who has some very interesting opinions. So the fact that you have a 22 year old girl with big boobs naked for a good portion of it, or at least half naked, is sort of besides the point--although the nudity was part of the point for sure. But I think that it was intended as a politics in a broader sense, in relation perhaps to Naturism and to erotic freedom, rather than as porn. If you want to see a Swedish 22 year old's breasts, get a magazine. If you want to see a provocative film that makes you think about social issues, see "I Am Curious (Yellow)". The film is so current that it could have been made today. Now I sound like an advertising slogan....

Glenn Beck and Nazism

There's a parallel that disturbs me in his conspiratorial thinking, which declares that Progressives were behind both Communism and Nazism itself. This doesn't come out of the blue, and it doesn't just come out of the fact that the Nazis had "socialist" as part of their name, but builds on an established theme in conspiracy theory literature that says that both the Left and the Right are being funded and controlled by some sort of secret force. For present day hard core conspiracy theorists the Left and Right are being funded by people supporting a "New World Order", who in turn are controlled by the global elite. Back track about 90 years and you'll see Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi ideologist, saying essentially the same thing, only in his formulation both capitalism and Communism are funded by the global elite, and the global elite are bankers who are Jews. Bankers also show up in present day New World Order conspiracy theories as being part of the global elite. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is based on this premise. The function of these equivalences is to try to argue to people that, no, despite the Left being for regular people and against elites that somehow that's not really the case, and that instead of supporting people who say they're taking on elites you should support reactionaries who in non-conspiratorial thinking are more closely associated with real elites than Communists or Socialists have ever been. Here's a quote from Rosenberg, from his book "The Folkish Idea of State":

"And yet National Socialism knows that Italian Fascism has not yet surveyed the final consequences of its great battle and especially has not yet realized that in the long run it does not help to fight only the results, without also making clear to the entire people the causes of these results. Fascism still lacks the insight to see that international private and stock-exchange capitalism, against which Fascism has not begun to fight, was and is the very same element which pays for Marxist propaganda throughout the world, that a community of interest between Marxism and international loan capital existed and still exists--namely, to make the national industries which are tied to the soil dependent on mobile loan capital. And Fascism has not yet comprehended that this community of interest is symbolized by the fact that the leadership of one as well as the other power finds itself almost exclusively in the hands of the Jewish race or of a few personalities compliant to Jewish money"

George Soros, anyone?

Holy fucking shit, Limbaugh declares that some people are just "born slaves"

Here, from Raw Story:

"
But that's fine, Limbaugh explained, because "everybody's needed for something."

"There is no equality," Limbaugh said on his radio show. "You cannot guarantee that any two people will end up the same. And you can't legislate it, and you can't make it happen. You can try, under the guise of fairness and so forth, but some people are self-starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves."

Limbaugh seemed to be echoing the "objectivist" philosopher Ayn Rand's belief that only a few gifted people are capable of moving society forward, while all others must depend on the efforts of the elite few for their well-being.

"Some people ... are born and they're not going to take anything from anybody," Limbaugh continued. "They're going to be totally in charge of their lives. They're not going to sit around and wait for something. They're going to make it happen. You can see this throughout the American population.""

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The One Nation Working Together March....plus working class whites favoring Republicans 58%, something is wrong here

The 58% figure comes from This Story. Basically, the count saying that the One Nation Working Together rally was 165,000 people is bullshit. No non ultra-partisan news source has confirmed it, and pictures taken of the rally show it to be significantly less attended than Glenn Beck's. My conclusion is that the folks who ran the One Nation rally are out of touch with basic America if they can't even draw the same amount of people as Glenn Beck to their rally. It's not surprising, looking back on it. These folks are the organizations representing the old New Deal Coalition, albeit with minority organizations from the New Social Movements of the '60s and '70s added in. As such, their political reality does not reflect what's going on in America right now and probably hasn't since the '80s. That they've sort of limped on and are now coming together, with little change, speaks volumes to their strategic thinking or lack thereof. Which is not to say that all the groups that participated are wrong or ineffectual; the NAACP was part of it, for example, but it is to say that this particular strategy of depending on rump union support combined with minority organizations alone, with maybe an environmental group thrown in for some variety, is not the way to go. The overall strategy isn't working.

Instead, what we need is a broader based socialism that appeals to regular people in general, including but not exclusively aimed at white working class voters. Socialism in particular needs to cut itself loose from the old union movement and forge new ties with folks on the grass roots level if it's ever going to be a force that can compete with the Tea Party. So let's start doing this.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The destructive assumptions of "Say's Law" with regards to technological unemployment

"Say's Law" in its popular form is that supply creates its own demand. There are a couple of applications for this, one of which has to do with people put out of work not because of a downturn in the economy but because technology has rendered their jobs obsolete. Ideally, the amount of people who are now unemployed would drive down labor costs because of more competition for jobs and so make it attractive for businesses wanting to expand, or to start up, to hire more people. I say 'ideally' not in a moral sense but in the sense of this is what the principle if working according to its premise would do. But there's a problem there. If a person's job is eliminated by technology it means that the economy can get along just as well without them being employed, putting them outside of the system. The only way for them to be integrated back into the system is if the economy expands and grows. Economic expansion and growth doesn't just mean more businesses but more production, which needs more consumption to make it work. Therefore, the cycle of technological unemployment combined with businesses taking advantage of Say's Law is premised on infinite and continued expansion not just of production but of consumption as well. While at the beginning of technological innovation more consumption and more production might have been a good thing, we're at a point now where excess consumption is destroying the planet. Technology and the disruptions that technology creates are now fueling this destruction through making increased consumption and further consumption part of normal life. 

Of course distribution within the system itself is unequal, and the consumption that already exists could be made more fair, and this should be done, but even so it will not stop the total consumption that's going on which is destroying the planet. This can only be done by decreasing consumption as a whole. There needs to be alternatives to technological unemployment that don't fuel the increasing consumption of natural resources and the destruction of the eco-system.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mechanistic materialists reduce the possibilities for human achievement

There's a strange dichotomy that goes along with a lot of the scientific materialism that's out there in American culture: on the one hand, we hear that we're more like animals than ever in our behavior and in how our social relationships are shaped by that behavior, on the other hand we communicate with each other through increasingly high tech means that depend on integrated circuits and on science that animals would never be able to formulate. There seems to be a disconnect. Love is reduced to oxytocin and sociobiology reduces group behavior to evolutionary adaptation based on animal drives, and yet we live in cities and we drive cars. To me what this means is that the mechanistic materialists out there and the sociobiologists are missing some essential part of the human experience. If what they say about us, that we're just sophisticated machines and that we're just more well developed animals, was really the last word on the human experience I don't think that we would have produced half of what we see around us on a daily basis. In fact it's jarring sometimes to read about how things like current trends of behavior within romantic relationships derive from ancient evolutionary adaptation from a magazine put together with the aid of computers running sophisticated software, that depends on digitalized photos, and that has used sophisticated offset printing presses to produce it, as well as a network of transportation and distribution to get it into my hands. What's missing is human freedom and the human capability to both collectively and individually determine our own destinies outside of the limits of biology. Economics and social structure play a role in attempting to limit human freedom, but unlike biology they're not set in stone, and neither are the existence of these constraints incompatible with the manifestation of the complex world we see around us and that we actually live in. People may have fantasies about cave men living in the past adapting to life through instincts to hunt, and having their family structures determined by that, but the same people are content to live in the modern world.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Why people are especially upset over the suicide of the gay student at Rutgers

I think that the reason that people are extra upset, me included, is precisely because this didn't take place in the South or in some rural conservative community. The fact is that even in the Enlightened North, the Northeast, and the West, there's endemic anti-gay discrimination that folks face both as students and beyond. It's not like regular life up here is a homophobic free zone. Therefore, the experience of Clemente, and his response, is very understandable. I can see how an asshole at college would do something like that to his room mate. It's perfectly reasonable and likely, and most folks have experienced lesser forms of humiliation by these sorts of folks throughout their lives if they're queer.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Talib Kweli, what utter bullshit

Was hearing some of his stuff at a coffee shop recently. It's like "Yo yo yo, this music is for organizers, you folks who might belong to a Marxist-Leninist sect that worships Stalin, yeah, this music is for you and your struggles as you try to enlighten the people!"

U.S. Democracy---maybe states that have more Senators than Representatives in Congress shouldn't have so much influence

Strange thing is that since every State is apportioned two Senators, but the numbers of Representatives are arrived at through population, you get some States where there are more Senators than Representatives. This means, to be clear, that there are so few people in the State itself that by population they're only entitled to the minimum level of representation in Congress--one Representative. Yet they still have 1/50th of the power of the Senate. The following States have only one Representative. For comparison, the numbers of Reps from California, Texas, New York and Florida will come after.

1. Montana

2. Wyoming

3. North Dakota

4. South Dakota

Combined, they have 8/100 seats in the Senate, or 2/25 seats

By comparison, these are how many Representatives California, Texas, and New York and Florida have in Congress:

1. California 53

2. Texas 32

3. New York 29

4. Florida 29

Now, these also have 8/100 seats in the Senate, or 2/25 of the Senate. But the total number of Representatives that they have is 143 versus the 4 of Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming, which means that they have over 35 times the Reps of these States taken collectively.
Equal power in the Senate, 35 times the Reps in the House.

How can this be even remotely Democratic?
The idea of the Senate was to protect the interests of smaller States, but this system puts North Dakota, which at a population of 646,844 , on par with California. For comparison's sake, Sacramento, the State Capitol of California, has 481,097 people, the City of San Francisco has 845,559, and Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, has 425,068. According to Wiki, the San Francisco Metropolitan Area, which includes San Francisco and Oakland, has 7,427,757 people, or about 11.5 times the population of North Dakota. This goes beyond giving small states a voice, it undermines democracy in the United States as a whole.

*on edit: for comparison's sake, Seattle has 617,334 people, a little less than 30,000 below the entire population of North Dakota. Do we then get two Senators as well?

Friday, October 01, 2010

The suicide of the gay student at Rutgers

I just found out the details of it, unfortunately. What would a fitting punishment for the room mate be? My thoughts, and they're the grim fantasies of someone sitting behind a computer in Seattle, go to piano wire and meet hooks. In various conflicts in the 20th century stringing someone up by piano wire was considered a particularly cruel way for them to die because the death was by suffocation and the victim felt every bit of it until they passed out. But hopefully justice will be done and he'll go to prison for a long time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fichte on Freedom

Not really the fire breathing right winger I'd been lead to expect, at least not in the series of lectures entitled "The Characteristics of the Present Age". Anyways, he makes a basic but good point: that is that freedom, by definition, is meant to be used, and that freedom without the actual use and application of it is pretty empty and somewhat meaningless. Take for example Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Religion. If most people don't speak their minds, decide to gather with other people in groups, or to practice a religion that they've decided on then what exactly is being accomplished with having these rights? If folks are conformists and obedient, then the society they live in might as well not have these sorts of rights, because they don't really need them. To really need these rights a society needs to have active people who think and express themselves in ways that they, and not the society around them, determine. A very Fichtean statement.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marx in relation to organic wholes and freedom, Schelling, Fichte

I'm indebted to Beiser's "Romantic Imperative", about the early German Romantic philosophers for this line of thought. It seems that the absolute freedom of the individual 'I' to determine its own destiny first goes out to be a collective determining through democratic decision making, where many 'I's determine the way society as a whole should go, thereby transferring the action from the individual 'I' to the collective 'I' that we as individuals help make up and that is partly made up by the social relationships that we have with one another. This collective, social, 'I', in its power to determine its own destiny, can choose to recreate the social, socio-economic, organic structure of society in any way that it sees fit, with the only limits being the limits imposed by the viability or non-viability of the structure itself. Because of this, people can essentially co-create their future through a sort of revolution in the form of society taken as a socio-economic organic whole, directing it through the recreation of society to something juster and more meaningful. Marx's particular view was that the social 'I' in capitalist democratic society did not remain united but was undermined by the economic progress that separated citizens into workers and owners. Capital took control of society, putting another barrier between forces of the social 'I', and the owners of Capital thereby dominated society. Society, in this opinion, needs to take back control of Capital, to put it under social control, but in order to do that the folks who were shunted into the role of workers need to come to power. Once workers are in control of society, and have social control over the Capital that has previously dominated over society, and other class divisions are eliminated, making everyone workers to some degree or another, then the social 'I' can be reformed and society can truly act in concert in order to direct its social development towards a new socio-economic organic whole of its choosing.

On the young Marx in relation to Fichte, Schelling, Hegel et al. Socialism as Freedom realized

An interesting thing about the Young Marx's philosophy, i.e. the philosophy of Marx when he was more Hegelian, is that the idea of radical freedom espoused by some of the idealists as the state of the individual appears to be socialized to society as a whole. Many of these thinkers saw humanity as a sort of self conscious pinnacle of the development of nature, where matter, going through vegetative and animal phases had emerged with full self consciousness and the full ability to determine its own destiny. Individual humans were uniquely free because of the power of self hood and of reflective reason, and human society could be seen as an extension of the powers of self-perfection going from the animal world into the physical world, as history propelled individuals to realize more of their inner potential through creating situations such as cities and economies where such things would be possible. It seems that for Marx the march of economic history was also the progress of mankind towards a state where they could realize this radical freedom through pure self-awareness of the 'I' by the 'I', which he believed happened with the advent of capitalism. The next phase of society would then be that where the lessons of pure self consciousness are applied back out from the individual into the world itself, where the radical self determination possible through all of this is applied collectively to transform the world into a sort of ideal state of affairs for personal and collective self realization. This could only happen with a radical restructuring of the economic system, which serves as a mediator between human beings and nature and therefore defines the ultimate limits of collective human endeavor. Personal motivation in this case can't be abstracted from economic Work, and living in and participating in the economic system, which makes up much of the process of life and living.

Americans may possibly defeat the Hegelian dialectic

Because Hegel's idea of the progressiveness of history depended on folks in every generation getting off their asses and doing something, with 'something' not just meaning something political but something that in some way engages the world around them in a way above utter passivity. I think we're approaching a sort of nadir here in the U.S. where despite lots of world issues going on that our country is directly involved with people are more inclined than ever to just sit at home and unplug themselves from anything beyond the most material preoccupations, and instead of trying to in any way understand the world to just be vegetables with brains that go to work in the morning, come home, consume and sit on the couch, go to bed, and then repeat the process everyday ad infinitum. Hegel responded to critics who asserted that his ideas of history and of things like the 'world spirit' or the 'spirit of the time' were mystical by saying that, no, it was all just how accumulated human actions manifested themselves. But of course without something from beyond pushing human action there's the possibility that humanity itself will default and either no progress or reverse progress will take place, that humanity will either stagnate or go backwards to some less sophisticated form. Witness the Tea Party.  Marx had the idea that continued economic necessity powered history, but that gets us into territory that goes far beyond Hegel's belief that humanity would always be something above and beyond educated animals.

Cognitive dissonance department: on Obama

Even though he went on the rampage against the base that elected him, there's barely a ripple of discussion about Obama's comments on  the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post. One could say that it's 'old news' since it happened more than two days ago, but, come on, folks on these sites keep things going for weeks and weeks. Yet when they're dismissed by the President they keep silent rather than criticize him. For instance, they're keeping on about O'Donnell's forged education background. Granted, she's kind of nuts, but isn't it more important to respond to the President directly criticizing you than it is to keep on with minutiae about a kind of freak show? Glenn Greenwald made the argument that the focus on some of the Tea Party candidates by Democrats was just a bid to get the focus off of their lack of positive goals and their caving in on issues. At first I only partially agreed with him, now it's making a lot more sense. It appears that Christine O'Donnell has basically sabotaged herself in Delaware to the point where she's no longer a viable candidate as well. In any case, the failure of progressives to respond to Obama's criticism, or at least the failure of some of them to, demonstrates how much some of the progressive movement has been co-opted into the Democratic Party sphere of influence. Obama works for us, we don't work for them, and the reason why progressives formed in the first place was because politics as usual from both parties did not work.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last night I dreamt I met Kenneth Rexroth

And told him that I was interested in his anarchist essays, as well as that I had read "The World Outside the Window", a collection of his prose essays.In my dream he was very enthused about this, saying that not many people asked about it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Freakonomics, how the economy secretly effects life.

A little known fact is that the aggregate pursuit of profit by small producers leads to the creation of large scale enterprises that have a unique division of labor, into workers on the one side and owners, managers, and the adjuncts of them on the other. This 'division of labor' eventually works its way through society as a whole, creating a 'working class' and an 'owning' or 'ruling' class. The formation of these classes makes it harder for folks to jump from one class to another, thereby undermining the idea that everyone has an equal chance in life. So amazingly, from seemingly inconsequential actions, i.e. small businessmen trying to make a profit, large scale change happens.

An interesting Fight Back! member website, "The Marxist-Leninist"

HereThe restraint about Stalinism now shown on Fight Back!'s main website is nowhere in effect.  These are some interesting pictures from the front page. Fight Back! members were targeted in the raids in Minneapolis and Chicago.








People raided in Minneapolis and Chicago

It seems that the folks involved were members of Fight Back!, or Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Fight Back! which was a product of the Freedom Road split a few years ago. The interesting thing about Fight Back! is that it lists very publicly Stalin and Mao as people it admires and also openly talks about its support for the FARC and for the PFLP. The FARC and PFLP are listed on the FBI's terrorist list. One of the people involved, a member of Fight Back! had traveled to Columbia and to the Middle East. The folks involved were also involved with anti-war demonstrations.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"The Rightwing Upsurge in the U.S.: Less Than Meets the Eye? " by Mark Weisbrot

Thank Goodness. Weisbrot makes the very reasonable argument that, you know, the Left, can probably attract voters who would be attracted to the Tea Party by offering some economic populism. This is good. It doesn't do much good if folks derided as latte drinking elitists don't even bother to defend themselves by saying that they care about inequality and aren't on the side of the rich. The construct that the Right has built up about what the "liberal elites", meaning liberals in general, are like is tenuous in the extreme. But inequality has to be addressed for any of that to come crashing down, and folks on the Right are banking on the notion that folks on the liberal-left are too scared of being labeled Commies to engage in economic populism.

"But 55 percent of voters – a record for the past 20 years – say it is time to give a new person a chance to represent their district.

The conclusion is obvious: Voters are angry – not the anger of the rich who believe, as John D. Rockefeller famously said, that “God gave me my money.” It is a populist rage that will drive some independent or swing voters to vote against incumbents and the incumbent party. Even if it means voting for people who they don’t particularly like, trust, or agree with on the issues.

Republicans were able to keep this country moving to the right for nearly four decades – including through the Clinton years. For much of this time they used a fake populist appeal based on cultural issues, portraying a “liberal elite” who was contemptuous of the values of working-class white voters – who have generally been the biggest group of swing voters. The strategy succeeded because Democrats refused to make the obvious economic populist appeal to the real interests of these voters – who were getting hammered by the loss of manufacturing jobs, weakening of labor and redistribution of income that was engineered by the leadership of both parties. In 2004, non-college-educated whites with household income between $30,000-$50,000 voted for Republicans for Congress by a 60-38 percent margin; in 2006 a switch to a 50-50 split (22 percentage points) contributed significantly to the Democrats’ victory in Congress.

The Republicans’ long-term strategy collapsed in 2008. The Democrats were lucky in that the peak of the financial crisis hit just before the elections that year. In October 2008 the number of Americans believing that the country was on the wrong track hit an all-time record of 89 percent. Most importantly, this situation focused the attention of swing voters on the economy, something that negates the potential appeal of “distraction” issues such as abortion, gay marriage, guns or even the thinly-veiled racism that had been part of the Republicans’ appeal since President Nixon’s post-civil-rights-movement “southern strategy.” Obama himself had eschewed economic populism in his campaign (making an exception in Midwestern primaries such as Wisconsin, where he needed more working-class support in order to win), in keeping with his carefully cultivated media image of post-partisan conciliator. But the economy did the job for him, and for the Democratic Party.

What does this mean for the elections of 2010? I would predict that Democrats – even in some not-so-Democratic districts – who appeal to the massive populist discontent among the voters will do better than those who follow the conventional wisdom and run to the right of Obama on such issues as health care reform or taxes. This applies especially to the swing voters but could also be significant in rallying the party’s base, which is somewhat disillusioned and needs to be energized. Since this is a non-presidential-year election, voter turnout could easily swing the election."

An interesting fact: the Quran burner in Florida had lived in Germany for two decades before moving back to the U.S. last year

This puts a whole 'nother spin on it. Thanks to Der Spiegel for pointing this out.

"The world is holding its breath -- and it's all down to a tiny Christian fundamentalist church in Florida.

Next Saturday, on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rev. Terry Jones and his colleagues plan to burn hundreds of copies of the Koran on the church's property in Gainesville, Florida"

***

"In the United States, Jones has already attracted attention on several occasions as an Islamophobic provocateur. What is less well known is that the pastor led a charismatic evangelical church, the Christian Community of Cologne, in the western German city up until 2009. Last year, however, the members of the congregation kicked founder Jones out, because of his radicalism. One of the church's current leaders, Stephan Baar, also told the German news agency DPA that there had been suspicions of financial irregularities in the church surrounding Jones. "

***

""Terry Jones appears to have a delusional personality," speculates Schäfer. When he came to Germany in the 1980s, Jones apparently considered Cologne "a city of Hell that was founded by Nero's mother," while he thought Germany was "a key country for the supposed Christian revival of Europe," Schäfer says.

Terry Jones used his powers of persuasion to expand the congregation. By the end, Schäfer estimates, it numbered between 800 and 1,000 people. They had to work in the so-called "Lisa Jones Houses," charitable institutions named after his first wife who has since died, under very poor conditions."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obama is going to have to make a choice--acknowledge Progressive demands or lose more influence in Washington

The door swings both ways. The reality is that Obama needs Progressive support to be able to have a Congress that can get things done, and he's in no position to dictate demands to Progressives who in fact hold the balance with independent voters of whether he'll be able to do that after November. Ultimately, it's not just about Republicans and Tea Party people taking over and gaining influence in the House and Senate, it's also about whether Obama personally will be able to act in ways that he would like to act, it's about his own personal agenda. He'll be able to work that personal agenda to a greater degree if he acknowledges Progressives and Progressive demands as being legitimate, thereby garnering at least some good will from them. As it stands now, people don't want to be abused and then asked to support candidates that they don't agree with. What have you done for me lately, Obama?