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No Sale

By: Anthony Noel Thursday September 11, 2014 1:44 pm

At some point, we must say, “No.”

At some point, we must recognize that every member of Al Queda or ISIL we kill comes back to haunt us – in the form of five more recruits. Five more people who hate us. Who are determined to pay us back. Who will not rest until they have.

So often we hear that we are a Judeo-Christian nation. I don’t buy it, but let’s play along.

Confession is a key component of both systems of belief. So at what point do we confess to our mistakes? Does anyone reading this really think our leaders – ANY of them – will ever stand at a podium and admit that there is one thing and one only (fossil fuel) that keeps us meddling in the Mideast, supporting an apartheid regime in Israel, and killing brown people?

I am ashamed of our inability to fess up. Great nations can, you know. Great nations – and we are not one of them – use the rearview and the information it provides to gauge and adjust the effectiveness of their policies going forward. By what measure does our behavior and history in the Mideast amount to anything other than colossal failure, let alone proof positive that renewing our efforts to kill brown people is the informed course?

“Better to fight terrorists there than here.” Or we could stop giving them a reason to fight.

A mere fraction of the billions upon billions spent on making war in the Mideast – applied instead to border security – would have solved this problem. Without bloodshed.

Instead we ignored the first WTC bombing in 1993. We left our borders porous. We didn’t put hardened, 24/7/365 security on the roofs and in the parking garages of every iconic American property.

In short, in the face of evidence that bad people were trying to make a bold statement like the one they made 13 years ago today (and 21 years after that first attack) we failed to do what we twist ourselves into pretzels claiming we are doing in the Mideast: Defend the homeland.

What might we have learned, had we inquired about what was behind that first attack? If introspection had taken the place of hubris? Could we have worked proactively to stop using the Mideast as our gas station and mothballed our weapons plants?

Of course.

But that’s not what we’re interested in.

We want to impose our will all across the world. And that means killing people. Doing it keeps the engines (jet engines, specifcially) turning. It keeps the munitions lines rolling. It keeps the Offense Industry – can we please start calling it what it actually is? – humming. From drone manufacturers to casket makers.

And all across the world, we are hated – deeply – for it.

We (and by “we” I mean our military leaders) are addicted to oil and gas and to destroying lives and the planet to get them. But it’s more than that. We go and get and continue to use oil and gas because we can, with absolute impunity. You know it and I know it.

But what U.S. official has ever stood up and said so, let alone expressed appropriate shame over it? Or admitted something else we all know: Had we put the same effort and resources into developing alternatives to oil and gas that we did getting to the moon, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared, we would not be hated, and CO2 levels would have remained safe.

And maybe – just maybe – the “Peace Dividend” we heard so much about when the Cold War ended would have actually materialized.

 

The United States is a Failed Experiment

By: Anthony Noel Wednesday July 2, 2014 9:36 am

Capitalism is endemic to the American way of life. Since the earliest days of its founding, the United States has valued, praised, and encouraged “free enterprise” as a hallmark of individual initiative and a key element in citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A photo of the original US Constitution

Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby is the last nail in this never-really-was-a-country-anyway’s coffin.”

All that changed Monday.

The United States has been worshipping at the altar of capitalism for so long now that we’ve lost all ability to see that rights accrue to individuals – free agents and groups of same which sometimes form legal entities for the purpose of conducting commerce – not to those legal entities themselves.

While clear signs that the personification of businesses had gone too far prevailed before the Supreme Court’s ridiculous ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, the Court had an opportunity to moderate that clearly untenable path. Instead it doubled down, affirming that, at least for five ideology-driven old men, businesses are not just people, they can also be religions, where individuals – be they customers or employees – must check their rights at the door.

The theoretical and actual impact of this is beyond doubt. America – to many of us little more than a legal construct (much like the businesses it worships) – is dead. Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby is the last nail in this never-really-was-a-country-anyway’s coffin.

While surely a blow to the broader population’s chances of reining in the capitalist model, the Court’s much-reviled Citizens United ruling was not, for me at least, absolute proof of Carlin’s Theorem. (Yes, that would be George Carlin: “They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”) Like many others when Citizen’s United was handed down, I reasoned that if people would finally organize around an umbrella of indisputably humanist, commonsense, peace-, people- and planet-first policy imperatives, it wasn’t too late to beat back the forces of unbridled greed, and oppression of the working masses. There might even still be hope for collapsing in a dusty heap that grand enabler of capitalism – perpetual warfare – in favor of responsible freedoms, egalitarianism and peace.

Such a successful challenge had not been mounted in this (“)country(”) for more than 100 years, but I chose to believe – foolishly, it now appears — one could again take root.

My hope was grounded in part in single-issue successes of varying importance won since our Progressive Era of 1892-1917; the first (and apparently last) great cross-partisan uprising against elitism, corporate greed and worker oppression. That era produced women’s suffrage, direct election of Senators, the eight-hour workday and labor unions, progressive taxation, anti-trust laws, and the beginnings of a social safety net. Victories since, including civil rights (though under direct assault as I type), abortion rights (ditto); women’s rights (tritto), gay rights, marriage equality and reform of marijuana laws buoyed my spirit.

Then came the Occupy movement, which held real promise as the populist uprising I’d hoped for, embracing myriad issues of humanism while advocating kicking corporatists to the curb. Before, at least, its masterful and nearly immediate co-option.

And now, finally, Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. Hope is a disease, and I’ve been cured.

It’s bad enough when greed and oppression are personified and treated as legitimate constituencies in any national debate. But when their practitioners are also sanctified — granted special dispensation from following the law based on a claimed set of religious beliefs, despite the long-held and rigorously tested ideal of separation of Church and State — the game is clearly over. Why fool ourselves?

In codifying companies’ “right” to refuse to follow duly-enacted American law – despite operating in America and employing Americans and selling to Americans who access their businesses via American infrastructure – the Supreme Court, in legal effect, created countless Branch Davidian compounds all across the country. (You do remember the Branch Davidians, right?)

In light of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, it’s no stretch to suggest a sign be placed at the entrance of every for-profit company claiming an exemption to laws of the United States, to wit:

UPON ENTERING THESE PREMISES, THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES NO LONGER APPLY NOR PROTECT YOU. FROM A LEGAL STANDPOINT, YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER AND WILL REMAIN WITHIN THE BOUNDS AND UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF ANOTHER COUNTRY, UNTIL YOU AGAIN CROSS THIS THRESHOLD. ASSUMING YOU DO.

Is that extreme? Think about it.

By bowing to what it deemed a “sincerely held” religious objection to the law — a “sincerity” questionable at best (and more accurately an outright lie) when one considers that oh-so-abortion-aghast Hobby Lobby purchases and sells products produced in a country (China) where forced abortion is the law – the Supreme Court accepted prima-facie Hobby Lobby’s claims of religiosity of an extent sufficient to countervail its inherent responsibility to obey the law. What now stops the Court from opining that companies have a right to police their grounds however they see fit, up to and including summary executions for, say, shoplifting — if that’s what an organization’s claimed “deeply held religious convictions” dictate?

Dear Son: I’m Spinning In My Grave

By: Anthony Noel Sunday May 18, 2014 12:50 pm

Artie:

Portrait of NYTimes publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr

A message from the ancestors of NYTimes publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr

What the hell are you thinking? Is your memory really that short? Your male pride that excessive? Or your desire to become the pet of the government that irresistible?

I gotta tell you, Junior. When the rumors first surfaced up here on Wednesday, I had my doubts. My own flesh and blood – practically weaned on the First Amendment and exposed to countless applications of its tenets throughout his life – had just fired the Times’ first female editor because… she’s pushy???

Son, just what the hell do you think the Times’ consistent Progressive stance, maintained throughout my tenure as publisher for almost 30 years, was all about? You think I published the Pentagon Papers for my health? Oy.

You do realize that newspapers have always played a key role in our society in general and politics in particular — right? Because from what I’ve seen and heard about your tenure, I really can’t be sure anymore. I should have had my suspicions back when your colleagues nicknamed you “Pinch.”

And today, this tripe about Abramson’s management style. Really? Do you have any concept of how that looks to women? For Christ’s sake, pushy, abrupt — wait, make that tyrannical — male editors are the stuff of journalism legend! And you fire the first woman in the role at our once-great paper over management style? To put it in the current vernacular, son, WTF?

Maybe the other storyline is accurate, that you were pressed by government officials to replace her. At least that wouldn’t offend an entire gender; it would merely subvert the Times’ mission of government watchdog to that of Administration lapdog.

Either way, son, I am EXTREMELY disappointed in this decision. In less than three years Abramson brought you eight Pulitzers. She was righting the ship. Did you seriously expect that to be anything like smooth sailing, given its chronic foundering with you at the helm?

In less than a generation you’ve managed to rip apart what took me, your grandparents, and MY grandparents several generations to build. Not merely an organization, but its reputation.

Please, son. Make at least this one thing right.

– Punch

New Yorker: NYT Editor Fired for Seeking Gender-Neutral Wage

By: Anthony Noel Wednesday May 14, 2014 4:30 pm
The front of the NY Times building

A glass ceiling at the Gray Lady?

From the “Love Me I’m A Liberal” department:

The New Yorker is reporting that today’s firing of The New York Times’ first female Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, occurred because she was “pushy” with the paper’s masters er, CEO and owner.

Specifically, Abramson demanded equal pay for equal work, and Art Sulzberger Jr. wasn’t happy about it. Ken Auletta reports:

Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. ‘She confronted the top brass,’ one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy,’ a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.

Ya think?

This is shameful. Long considered journalism’s gold standard — and once considered unapologetically liberal, back when that was a badge of honor – it seems NYT is unable to walk the talk even on something as basic as equal pay for equal work.

Seems the “Old Gray Lady” is more like an Ole Boys’ Club. It will be interesting to see if Abramson’s replacement, upon learning the real facts, stands with her or for himself. Although based on Auletta’s reporting, I’m not holding my breath.

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I’ve grown older and wiser
And that’s why I’m turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

–Phil Ochs

Photo by Peter Dutton released under a Creative Commons license.

Thompson Knew in ’72

By: Anthony Noel Wednesday April 16, 2014 12:21 pm
Hunter S. Thompson in sunglasses & Hawaiian shirt

It’s a mistake to focus on Hunter Thompson’s debauchery while ignoring his political wisdom.

Go to GoodReads, search on Hunter S. Thompson, and you’ll get first-page results like this:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

And this:

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Thanks to quotes like those, the efforts of Bill Murray, Johnny Depp, and Garry Trudeau — and the fact that Thompson was every bit as wild as they portrayed him — his name will probably forever conjure Raoul Duke, the outsize self-portrait he wove in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — a.k.a. “Uncle Duke” in Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

But remembering Thompson only as a Ralph Steadman caricature is a mistake. Immeasurably more important — more even than that “expensive little twister rising up from the Great Red Shark” — is Thompson’s gift for keen social and political analysis. In a single presidential election, he taught us more about who controls America than the combined work of all those who pounded the same beat for entire lifetimes.

Nonetheless, since stumbling upon Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shortly after its publication, I — like legions of others — had been most enamored of Thompson’s scathing wit; most engaged by his Sixties sentimentalism; most vicariously thrilled (right!) by his dedication to mind-altering substances — and, as a writer, wholly envious of his ability to smite even the jumbo-est mumbo-ers in 10 words or less.

There’s not much of that Thompson I haven’t read, along with his (more or less) straight reporting (Hell’s Angels), fiction (The Rum Diary), and the vast collection of letters and essays he banged out on his IBM Selectric.

The excellence of it all should have convinced me years ago, but until two recent, ridiculously long experiences “in the system” (as the air travel monopoly now calls it), and for reasons I’ve resigned myself to never fully knowing – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, which I now consider Thompson’s masterwork, was a blip on the radar I chose to ignore.

*ping*

Maybe its half-borrowed, ungainly title had me thinking it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of that other Fear and Loathing.

*ping*

Maybe it was the age of the story itself.

*ping*

Or maybe, rather than ignored, I avoided Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 for the same reason others have: The depression I knew reading it would cause, thanks to the story’s already-known, fateful ending.

Whatever the reasons, not reading it until now was a mistake.

Small Act. Clear Message.

By: Anthony Noel Monday February 17, 2014 10:03 am

Tired of the DNC filing up your mailbox? Christ knows I am. So I’m helping these morons figure it out:

ReturnToSender1

Not that it’ll change anything: If the DNC had any intention of giving a shit about the distinction between words and deeds, we’d have smelled it a long time ago.

ReturnToSender2

If some intern opens this and it makes them think, that’s a good thing. But, at the very least, I’m returning trash straight to its source.

ReturnToSender3

Off to the post office…

Livestream: Building Progressive Power

By: Anthony Noel Saturday February 15, 2014 9:16 am

A conference on building progressing power, duplicating the highly successful one held last month in Duluth, is under way today in Minneapolis. Watch via Livestream here. If you are in the Twin Cities, try to attend this free event, at 4200 Cedar Avenue.

occupymn on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

Activists from across the state are demanding that Governor Mark Dayton and his Democrat super-majority in the MN legislature make good on their campaign promise to bring forth real Living Wage legislation – as opposed to the $9.25-per-hour joke they have already floated. To help you plan your viewing, here’s the full program, which includes noted speakers on a host of issues important to true Progressives (all times Central):

OPENING CEREMONY 9:55-10:00 am (Native American)

Michael Cavlan: New Progressive Alliance
Nathan Ness: Effective vs. Non-Effective Organizing
Ty Moore: The $15 Minimum Wage Campaign

Public Comment and Discussion section

Sabry Wazwaz: Palestine and US Foreign Policy
Dr. David Mair and Dr. Laura Lehman: Making Single Payer Happen in Minnesota
Patricia Shepard: US and Canadian Policies Attack Mother Earth

Public Comment and Discussion Section

12:00-12:45: LUNCH BREAK

Mark Novitsky: Federal Whistleblower speaks out
Alan Maki: A Living Wage vs. A Minimum Wage
Liane Gale: Living Wage Conversation Continues

Public Comment and Discussion Section

Daryl Robinson: Cop Watch and Know Your Rights
Leena Buggs: Running For Office
Dennis Leahy: What Is The Reset Button?
Angel Buechner: Why It Is Important For Poor Communities To Organize
Public Comment and Discussion Section

- BREAK -

Coleen Rowley: The Military Machine and Resistance To It
Eric Morrison: Polymet Mining Contaminating The Boundary Waters
Sam Wagner: Why We Occupy
Marcus Harcus: NOC Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Today.

Last Full Hour: Public Comment and Discussion on “What Next?”

5:30 pm: DINNER

Want a Living Wage? DEMAND IT

By: Anthony Noel Tuesday February 11, 2014 9:57 am
Overpass Light Brigade supports "Fight for 15"

Demand that the Democratic Party support real living wages.

For years which have become decades, Democratic candidates have run on improving working conditions for all Americans, starting with better pay. All we have to do, they’ve told us, is elect them. But when we have, one of two things always happens:

  1. Nothing, or
  2. Far too little, much too late.

A couple of examples:

In 2009, the Obama administration increased the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. In real, cost-of-living-adjusted dollars, that is less than 50 cents above the value of the 1955 minimum wage of 75 cents per hour. Today’s $7.25, in real dollars, is just $4.87. That’s only 48 cents higher than its real value nearly 60 years ago.

Like I said: Far too little, much too late.

It gets worse. Despite trumpeting his requirement that workers on new federal contracts be paid a minimum of $10.10 per hour, Obama was more muted about the change not taking effect until 2015 – a year before a new administration takes over and, very probably, rolls it back.

Worse still: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, both these rates are anywhere from $15 to $20 per hour LESS than what is necessary to meet workers’ basic needs.

The GOOD news?? Americans are taking the issue to their local governments – and getting results.

In San Francisco, San Jose, Sea-Tac, Maryland, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, local governments have enacted Living Wage requirements well above the federal minimum wage. In every case, the changes have come thanks to citizen pressure, which is continuing to expand across the country. Socialist Kshama Sawant’s successful campaign for Seattle City Council was fueled largely by her “15now” campaign, which demands that Seattle join with the neighboring city of Sea-Tac in setting a living wage at $15 per hour.

Last month, activists in Minnesota adopted an open letter calling out Democrat Governor Mark Dayton and his legislative super-majority for running on the promise of a Living Wage, then turning around and proposing only $9.25 per hour. Their movement is growing, and a forum to push the issue further is being sponsored this weekend by “Building Progressive Power,” “Uniting People” and more than 15 other organizations – including the New Progressive Alliance. If you’re in the Twin Cities, check it out this Saturday, February 15, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4200 Cedar Lane, Minneapolis. You can also follow the proceedings via live stream at the NPA website that day.

Join the Living Wage Movement!

To help you take the battle to your local and state officials, here’s a fact-filled letter to organize around. Feel free to copy and tailor it to fit your local situation. Then, host your own forum and rally your fellow activists for support, signatures, and peaceful protest.

TO: (Local government officials and/or body name)

FROM: Your constituents

RE: LIVING WAGE