Sunday, September 16, 2012

Over at the Music Blog

Here are some recent posts at Some Lost, Some Found. ----------------

Hip-Hop from the dollar bin featuring Nobody as well as Charles Bradley's scorching track "The World (Is Going up in Flames)", as well as a free Ubiquity Records sampler.

Hot Freak Nation represent Nashville.

Psychedelic Garage Rock from another southern act, The Sufis.

An interview with the Burger Records folks about cassette culture and running a small independent label.

Some great 4-track symphony jams from Car Seat Headrest.

Indie-disco act Kisses put out a DJ mix.

 ...and my own band has released another cassette tape. Our last one picked up some fine reviews, and I think this set is our strongest yet.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Other Convention held in August

(Richard Lipsitz, President- Western NY Federation of Labor, speaking at the SDUSA convention)

The SDUSA, a group that I interviewed earlier this year, held their national convention in Buffalo last week. While the group is small and not running candidates for office, they did bring in speakers to address issues important to social democrats in the US. You can read a synopsis of the event at Social Currents.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back in Action and Around the Web

I spent the summer in the Mediteranian (specifically Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Egypt), and had a great, eye opening set of experiences. I'll speak more about some of my adventures there later.

Although I wasn't here to post, thanks to the advent of smartphones, I was able to read a great deal while traveling and kept up with some of the debates circulating in our little corner of the web. Here are a few choice pieces, even if they are a few months old.

Alan Johnson critizes the Eurabia postulation that Europe is turning into a Muslim continent.

Bhaskar Sunkara talks about the Italian Communist Party in the 1960s.

Adam Holland addresses the vile Antisemitism at Counterpunch.

Bob addresses the Julian Assange rape /extradetion ordeal, argung that contrary to what some left leaning groups claim, we are not all Julian Assange.

Plump addresses  the Greek crisis.

Elizabeth Faue has a great piece in Dissent about the internal battles and changes in the labour movement.

James Stavridis argues that the West is winning in Afghanistan in the Guardian.

Marko's important and timely piece on the Henry Jackson Socity's right-ward drift away from its centrist/liberal roots.

Martin writes about his family lineage during the Age of Revolution.

Michael Totten on the anti-imperialism of fools.

Shiraz Socialist and the anatomy of the new Stalinism.

Ron Radosh and his early life at a predomintly communist school in NY.

Return to Work, and Return to History

It's been a long summer in the Middle East, but I am back in California and prepping my classroom for the coming school year. Since I will be teaching US Government and American History, I felt this piece in the new issue of Jacobin Magazine was worth a read. James Oak's piece challanges the lazy narrative adopted in recent decades that the American Civil War was about anything but Slavery. He writes:

"Unwilling to take seriously what contemporaries were saying, historians have constructed a narrative of Emancipation and the Civil War that begins with the premise that Republicans came into the war with no intention of attacking slavery – indeed, that they disavowed any antislavery intentions. The narrative is designed to demonstrate the original premise, according to which everyone at the time was mistaken about what the Republicans intended to do."

Definitly worth a read. Just avoid the totalitarian ramblings of Richard Seymour on the front page.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Golden Dawn Wins Seats in Greek Parliment

Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή), a far-right neo-fascist organization in Greece, has garnered enough support in this weekend's election to earn seats in parliament. Here are a few links related to the group.

A recent NYT piece about the group. A look at the books for sale on the group's website tells you everything you need to know about their ideology and agenda, with works such as "The Story of White Power Music" and "Hitler's Thousand Years" openly advertised and sold.

An interview conducted by Vice Magazine with the group's spokesperson.

And here we have Golden Dawn members demanding that journalists stand when their leader enters the room.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Schools Need the Right to Say "No" - Part 2

This is part 2 in a series on education reform. Read part 1 here.

When I advocate a policy that allows schools to remove a student from its ranks if they are antagonistic to the process, I am always met with “where will they go?” from detractors. There are a litany of solutions, all of which are superior to the current system that treats our schools like prisons. The most obvious solution is to provide education that actually provides a skill set to a young student that allows them to make money in our economy. Our current instruction system, while excelling in many ways, does not provide an education of value to those who will not succeed in higher education. Even at a middle school, many students realize that the skill sets being taught are ones they will never excel in and thus, reject the process until they can be set free at the age of 18.

By creating a tiered education system like they have in Germany, the United States can reverse the perverse effects of forcing the liberal education model on all of its citizens. Hilmar Schneider, when discussing the low rate of unemployment within the German youth class compared to their counterparts throughout Europe, argues:
In Germany, more than half of each age-group graduate from dual training programs in which they simultaneously earn academic credentials along with gaining work experience, rather than attending classes alone like in many other countries. This style of training brings future job applicants in closer contact with the job market and generates more reliability when it comes to qualification standards. It also offers a long period in which employers can get to know young employees, offering managers a relatively reliable insight into trainees' skills and potential for development. That limits employers' risks when taking on young workers.”
Hilmar fails to make clear that this system results in a percentage of students receiving an education that prepares them for the rigors of the university system, and a significant portion that do not. This type of tiered, or “tracking” system as it is referred to in America, has its detractors. My mother, coming from a working class household that did not hold an important position in her community, was often directed to trade based education throughout her childhood. She feels this system did not give her the means of seeing beyond her immediate opportunities, and undermined her potential abilities to shine in more academic fields. I don’t have an easy answer to this problem, but I do think a system can be put in place that does not punish working class children by forcing them into trade-based education while funneling simpletons in the middle and upper class towards higher level liberal arts education due to money and influence.

In my classroom, I have a slew of students who are simply not given a real opportunity to succeed in a field that is applicable to their abilities and interests. Worst of all, we have created a climate in our education system that treats the jobs they wish to partake in as second-class and less worthy than those that require a college education. In a recent conversation with The New Centrist, he brought up an important point:
I read an interesting article in the “American Educator” that talked about the role of the educator in all of this. The author mentioned sitting in on a high-school class where the students were talking about the jobs they were interested in and the colleges/training they needed to complete. When a student mentioned they wanted to be a nurse, the educator responded “why not a doctor?” This, at a time when the need for nurses in the US is incredibly high. I understand the teacher’s question. It’s a way of asking “why limit yourself?” But that’s the problem. Why see the nurse as “less than” the doctor”? Nurses are highly-paid, receive excellent benefits, and the educational process takes a significantly shorter period of time than becoming a doctor. Perhaps getting school out of the way and getting into the workforce is a priority for this student?”
I assume that many of the people who read this blog and engage in debates regarding this topic are the type that have enjoyed higher education, and are likely the folks who participate in “education for education’s sake.” The evident reality is that not everyone does. There is no reason for an individual to feel guilt or failure for pursuing nursing and not an MD. The same goes for a student who wishes to be an electrician and not a historian. Worse yet, we have established an entire culture that requires that its citizens get a liberal arts education (often at an expense that hardly seems justified and is borrowed to achieve) to compete for jobs that do not require such instruction. We have only placed expensive, unnecessary barriers on our young people who just want an opportunity to make a living and live the life they desire.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Schools Need the Right to Say "No" - Part 1

 In the debate involving school choice, rarely is one of the key elements of choice actually discussed: the right of a student to reject school, and the ability for schools to let said student go.

The very core of our education system has been hotly debated for decades now, and it seems as if everyone has an opinion related to how our schools should be run. I suppose it has to do with the fact we have all spent time in classrooms during our lives, and have seen some that work while others failed. We have all been inspired by some educator along the way, and been discouraged by others. There is general consensus that something must be done to change our public education system, but the path forward lacks even the faintest trace of concurrence.  Being a teacher myself, I feel I can provide additional insight into the problems facing our school system, and reiterate some of the whispered concerns made by teachers in every school I have been a part of. 

President Obama made a statement during his State of the Union address that, while being met with applause from the politicians before him, would push our schools in the wrong direction. Obama declared the following:
We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better.  So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”
As a wholehearted Obama supporter this election, I found myself floored hearing him utter these words. After talking to other teachers, I realized I was not the only one.

School discipline is a major problem, and is not the result of “poorly trained” teachers as some may suggest.  If anything, the newest crop of teachers has been far better trained in classroom management than those that came into the profession in the 50s and 60s. Large portions of my teacher training program, both academically and within the classroom, revolved around handling difficult students in our current cultural environment. 

Having grown up in California, I have seen pedagogical fads, funding structures, and various teaching approaches come and go. Educating our children costs more than it did in the past, and yet it appears our nation is receiving a lower quality education than it did 40 years back. 

Not a day goes by that a major newspaper does not publish an op-ed bemoaning or defending the state of our education system. Fellow travelers like Henry Levin and Cecilia Rouse, both supporters of the President’s plan to require students to stay in school, argue:
High school completion is, of course, the most significant requirement for entering college. While our economic competitors are rapidly increasing graduation rates at both levels, we continue to fall behind. Educated workers are the basis of economic growth — they are especially critical as sources of innovation and productivity given the pace and nature of technological progress. 

If we could reduce the current number of dropouts by just half, we would yield almost 700,000 new graduates a year, and it would more than pay for itself. Studies show that the typical high school graduate will obtain higher employment and earnings — an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income — and will be less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further, because of the increased income, the typical graduate will contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out.”
Other than the facts themselves, just about everything else is wrong with Levin and Rouse’s argument. It is not the degree or diploma that makes financially successful individuals, rather the type of individual that works to gain such credentials are those that possess the work ethic to succeed in the modern workplace environment. Simply forcing more young people to “earn” a diploma will not improve their chances of succeeding in the marketplace; it will only demean the credential and undermine its value to those who have actually worked towards achieving.

Ask most teachers, and they will tell you that the problem with our school system is the reluctance (or inability) to remove students from the classroom environment that are antagonistic to the process and disrupt the operation, thus hurting other student’s attempts at learning the curriculum. Forcing schools and teachers to keep students who have no interest in the process is the main problem facing our schools today. For President Obama to make it a requirement that they stay in the school system, to the detriment of the taxpayer, our society, and more importantly the students in those schools, would be a tragedy of Titanic proportions.

Read Part 2.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview with the Social Democrats, USA - Part 2

This is the second part of an interview conducted between myself and the newly reformed Social Democrats, USA and their spokesperson Glenn King. The first portion of this interview can be found here.  

Roland Dodds: The organization Penn Kemble ran had a significant influence within foreign policy circles. Joshua Muravchik wrote a glowing obituary to Penn in 2005 in Commentary magazine, and many of the organization’s members ended up in significant government positions. Does this new SDUSA feel they are following in Kemble’s footsteps?  

Glenn King: No. The simple fact is that the current SDUSA does not have the same level of strength that the organization had in the '80s and 90s. Therefore we can not continue that policy. However if we did have those resources that strategy would certainly be considered.  

Roland Dodds: “Neoconservative” is a dirty word in some political circles. Do you feel there is anything worth defending regarding the aforementioned persuasion, or does the new SDUSA reject the framework in its entirety?  

Glenn King: Neoconservatism developed in the '70s as an ideology of Cold War liberals who strongly resisted the rapprochement with Communism that became dominant within the Democratic party during the Vietnam era. Early Neoconservatives were liberal and progressive on domestic issues and strictly anti-communist in foreign policy. Those are the same values that have always motivated the SDUSA. Thus during the '70s and '80s many leaders of the SD moved into political positions that were very similar to that of the Neoconservative movement. The commitments of leaders such as Penn Kemble and others were to broadly social democratic goals in domestic policies and to a defense of democracy and free labor union movements on the international level. Kemble and company believed that the movement of international communism was inherently totalitarian in nature and thus was the primary enemy of both American liberal democracy and democracy around the world. Therefore the interests of the SDUSA and early forms of Neoconservatism tended to converge.

Unfortunately Neoconservativism has moved from the more realist positions of persons such as Jeanne Kirkpatrick in the '80s who argued that you can't build democracy in societies not prepared by their histories for it toward being an ideology that had the hubris to believe that the United States could export democracy by military means to nations such as Iraq which had little concrete experience of it. Unfortunately these neoconservatives dominated the thinking President George Bush after 9/11. It was also unfortunate that Penn Kemble who led a fossilized SD from the '90s to his death in 2005 also bought into the hubris of latter neoconservatism.

 I would say therefore that the modern SDUSA relates to the aspects of its Neocon-like past ambiguously. While some within the SD seem ready to reject that past entirely, many do not. We believe that people such as Carl Gershman and Penn Kemble were sincerely motivated by the ideal of supporting liberal democracy in a world which seemed to be moving toward a totalitarianism guised as communism. These people genuinely supported the cause of free labor movements and liberal democratic institutions. Thus they were willing cold warriors. Many of us do not believe that they were wrong in their general outlook this even if we believe that some of the details of their specific positions may have been flawed in the past.

We furthermore feel that the same passion for the defense of human rights and democracy in the world of the old SDUSA is still relevant in a world such as ours where genocide or extreme crimes against humanity are regularly practiced by regimes such as Assad's Syria and Bashir's Sudan. The SDUSA while recognizing that America does not have the financial means to engage in countless military interventions around the world, does believe in a vigorous American foreign policy that to a great degree is centered on opposing these kinds of brutality in the world. In this I think we honor that which was best in the old SD.  

Roland Dodds: Social Currents has published pieces spanning the Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as Israeli foreign policy. What can this new organization add to debate on the left in America? Is there a specific voice that is not being aired that requires a new organization?  

Glenn King: Now regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement in particular, I do not think that we have anything unique to contribute to that movement beyond that of some other groups. One of the problems with the Occupy Movement was its early adaptation of anarchist and consensus forms of decision making. This has contributed to its failure to develop more specific and concrete positions beyond those attitudes that it expounds. The head of the Young Social Democrats the youth organization of the SDUSA, Michael Mottern has been deeply involved in a highly successful Occupy Buffalo Movement. However given the general situation of the SDUSA vis a vis the Occupy movement we do not see ourselves as being a major player in determining the future of that movement. But then of course I may be surprised.

Now regarding what role the "new" SDUSA might play within the left and what voice it might have? Part of the answer to that might be related to the question of what voice any specifically left ideological parties and organizations might have in 21st century America. The fact is that even the most numerous of significant socialist organizations such as the Democratic Socialist of America are terribly weak and play only very limited roles in realist American politics. Many other organizations such as the small Marxist Leninist sects certainly will have no long term political influence.

So what of the SD? Well historically the SD has been the most pragmatic and least counter cultural organization of the Left. It has been the party that has been least affected by the cynicism about American society and policies that has infected the American left for decades. Furthermore, the SDUSA has historically been the one organization which continually has said No! to the totalitarianism and antisemitism that has often expressed itself in the Left through out the world. So in many ways the Social Democrats USA has been the organization that one would think would have had the best chance of appealing to constituencies such as the Reagan democrats and more realo / centrist forces within the Democratic Party and the American labor movement.

Unfortunately these potentials were not realized during past decades. In fact the SD's potential strengths helped isolate it from the mainstream of the Left. However in spite of its past problems I believe that there can still be a dynamic role for the SDUSA within American politics. The current organization is certainly more vital than the fossilized organization of the "90s and the early years of this century. We still have all the advantages that we have always had, what we need to do is to learn how to develop them to their full potential.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Interview with the Social Democrats, USA - Part 1

The Social Democrats, USA was a small but influential organization in American politics. They were one of the many offshoots of the Socialist Party split, but found an important niche for themselves between the totalitarian apologists on the left and the more conservative elements on their right. They stood for labour rights, a social welfare state, and international solidarity. The group disintegrated after its leading member and organizer, Penn Kemble, died in 2005.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Glenn King, spokesperson for the newly reformed SD-USA via email. The following questions are unabridged.

Roland Dodds - What is the SDUSA, and how do you define the organization’s legacy?

Glenn King- The Social Democrats USA is the remnant of the 110 year organization founded by Eugene Debs and others in 1901 as the Socialist Party of America. The party in the first decades of the 20th Century represented the high point of Socialist organizational strength in America electing hundreds of candidates to local, city, state, and even national offices. Prominent members of the party have been such persons as J Philip Randolph, Helen Keller, Norman Thomas, and Max Shachtman. At the party's National Convention in December 1972 the party after years of debate over the issues of the Vietnam War and participation within the Democratic Party changed its name to the Social Democrats USA.

As far the heritage of the SDUSA goes I hope that we are able to continue creating it. However as of this time the heritage has still been significant. The SDUSA has been one of the few organizations of the American left which simultaneously has supported a broadly social democratic domestic agenda while simultaneously opposing totalitarianism often in the form of communism internationally. SD leaders such as Penn Kemble and Tom Kahn, were able to through their roles in government and organized labor to contribute mightily to those struggles. The SD has also had significant role in the civil rights and gay rights movement particularly through one of its first co-chairs Bayard Rustin who was the dominant figure in organizing the historical March on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963.

Roland Dodds - "In short, how would you describe the new SDUSA’s outlook towards domestic and foreign policy?"

Glenn King - On the issue of domestic policy I believe that the practical changes in the basic direction of SD politics have been modest. We still follow the realignment policy of working within the Democratic Party to support broad social democratic tendencies that was adopted in 1972. We still believe that a growing and healthy organized labor movement is central to the movement toward social democracy and democratic socialism in the United States. We still tend toward a pragmatic politics which supports realistic political goals as opposed to rejecting the good for the sake of the impossibly better as is often done in progressive political circles. The SDUSA is not the kind of organization to go off on tangents and support left insurgencies to against President Obama within the DP nor third party candidates during important election years.

Furthermore, we have continued the more moderate polices of the old SDUSA on what are normally termed "social issues." Thus while we support the human rights of gays and lesbians to civil unions we have not yet moved in the direction of support for gay marriage. Neither does the organization have any position opposing it. Of course individual members of the SD are free to take more radical stands on this and other issues. We support the full rights of women to to broad political, social, and economic equality, but have refused to take a stand on the issue of abortion. We believe that these "social issues" tend to divide people when what needs to be done is to unite them. Thus we would rather work to develop a full social democratic agenda to unite people as opposed to support measures that divide. This is very much in line with the old SD Thinking.

The current SDUSA direction on issues of foreign policy is both a continuation and rejection of the policies of the old SD. Thus while there may be much to criticize in some of the foreign policy positions of the old SD, there is much to admire as well. So yes there is probably a consensus in the current SD that the old SD support of the anti-Sandinista Contra movement in the early '80s and the support given to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Penn Kemble were mistaken. Conversely, our strong political support for Polish Solidarity was a shining moment for the SD and demonstrated a convergence of labor rights and anti-communism. However We think that the broad anti-communist and pro-democracy stance of the SD during past decades was often sound.

For the most part, the current SDUSA follows many of the same policies as the old. Thus we continue to support the right of Israel to exist as a nation state while at the same time reserving the right to criticize the polices of its government. The SDUSA also supports the right of the Palestinian people to have a nation state of their own. That may be a change. The SD is also one of the few left organizations that whole heartedly supported the NATO no fly zone in Libya and to support President Obama's undeclared policy of regime change. To summarize the SDUSA attempts to support US foreign policies that it feel reflects the legitimate interests of this nation and which are both humane and moral. The SDUSA does not generally share the attitude of many that the United States is some sort of evil empire (the center of world imperialism) that is the major enemy of the world's peoples.

Read Part 2 here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Amoung the Righteous

PBS has an interesting documentary related to the Holocaust in North Africa, and the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs at the time. Well worth a watch.

Watch Among the Righteous on PBS. See more from Among the Righteous.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Street Fighter 4 Life

Having spent my fair share of time in pizza parlors, arcades, and comic shops as a kid (and as an adult for that matter), I played many a fighting game in my day. Claiming to be the best at Street Fighter or King of Fighters became a bragging right that had to be earned by defeating other kids from school on an arcade cabinet and in public. I was pretty good. Not great, but better than most in my area.

It wasn't until I moved up to Northern California that I came across professional Street Fighter players, and I then realized how inadequate my skills were. I Got Next is a documentary that focuses on the competitive Street Fighter community, and some of its most recognizable individuals.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Alan Johnson and Michael Walzer

The always great Alan Johnson has an excellent interview with Dissent's Michael Walzer on the future of democratic Israel. Here is a bit:
WALZER:  I was in Israel this past summer during the social justice protests – a totally unexpected uprising with a very large social base. It has had difficulty – as have the protests in Spain and other places, in the US too – finding a political expression. The party system at this moment is not congenial. But the protests signalled that there is a base for a left-liberal or social democratic politics. And I also think that the settler militants, the so-called ‘hill-top youth,’ and the ultra-Orthodox militants, have overreached.  I think, well, I hope, that there will be an anti-clerical reaction and a return to the old Zionist idea of the ‘negation of the Galut,’ which entails a rejection of the rule of the rabbis. I think or hope that there will be a return of secular politics. I am sure this would happen if there were peace. But it might manifest itself quite strongly even in current conditions. So that is my hope – some combination of the politics of social justice and a Jewish equivalent of the anti-clericalism we saw in Catholic Europe in the late  nineteenth century.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Israel Firster" and Around the Web This Week

Antisemitism and "Israel Firsters" Ben Cohen's piece in Commentary on the way anti-Semetism has been framed in the current debate is required reading. Cohen writes:
"Anti-Semitism’s newfound respectability is not unprecedented. Indeed, the fact that anti-Semites have been given power over the definition of anti-Semitism reflects the very origins of the term. Coined in late 19-century Germany, anti-Semitism was not intended as a descriptor for a troubling social trend—like racism, or the more recent Islamophobia—but as the positive organizing principle of an emancipatory political movement."
Spencer Ackerman responds to the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal who have been using the phrase "Israel Firster" to describe Jews who they believe put Israel's interests (or at least the settlers and Likud) above Americas. You have folks like Freddie doubling down on their own nonsense, rejecting all claims that the term is anti-Semitic, a laughably ridiculous postulation. Ackerman counters:
"This is tiresome to point out. Many of the writers who are fond of the Israel Firster smear are—appropriately—very good at hearing and analyzing dog-whistles when they’re used to dehumanize Arabs and Muslims. I can’t read anyone’s mind or judge anyone’s intention, but by the sound of it these writers are sending out comparable dog-whistles about Jews."
Ron Paul: I have enjoyed Ron Paul in the debates as of late. Don't get me wrong: legitimizing this old crank is not good for the debate or for the country, but challenging the basic premise the Republican Party approaches most of its efforts is somewhat refreshing. I think a Ron Paul like candidate should be in every party's primary, questioning party orthodoxy and forcing the organization's mainstream to face some incoherence in their own policies. Having said that, Adam Holland has dug up another inconvenient truth regarding Paul's comrades, this time regarding the way they have been pushing the Protocols of Zion. LGF covers more of the racist newsletter ordeal.

"Realism" is not Reality: A.Jay Adler has another fine take-down of one of the most boring and ideologically inconsistent pundits, Robert Wright. Regarding Wright's foray into the "Israel Firster" debate, Adler argues:
Wright is developing a habit of these less than straightforward appeals, in closing, to authority. In a recent post on the “Israel-Firster” slanders, in which he took what is by this point a predictable position attacking those who rightfully object to the term, Wright in all pretense of ingenuousness offered this:
Is it anti-Semitic, or even anti-Israel, to call the Israeli occupation a moral abomination? I’m not Jewish, so I always feel awkward weighing in on the question of what constitutes anti-Semitism. Instead I turned to someone who is not only Jewish, but is also an Israeli who served in the occupied territory as a lieutenant and is still in the Israeli army reserve.
Now, of course, the issue is not whether one is anti-Semitic because of how one feels about the Israeli presence on the West Bank; it is whether the expression “Israel-Firster” is anti-Semitic in pedigree and aspersion. So Wright has distorted the issue. He also offered not the testimony of, at least, some wise man of Israeli or Jewish culture, but of the co-director of Breaking the Silence, a group guaranteed, in the honest gentile’s search – he only wants to know – to return to him the opinion he already holds. And so it does.
 Union Rights:  Shiraz Socialist brings to my attention the Labour Start campaign to free Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA) who is currently under arrest. The Alliance for Workers' Liberty has an excellent piece criticizing members of the left that mourned the death of Kim Jong Ill in one form or another. Rossie Huzzard echos my sentiments: "This nonsensical affection for tyrannical “anti-imperialist” states taints the entire left. We are on the side of the international working class against all enemies. Solidarity with the working class of North Korea against their state oppressors!"

Anarchism, Socialism, Unionism: AWL also has a pamphlet debating the role of anarchism in the labour struggle.

And forget the OWS movement, with Newt Gingrich making inroads with Republican voters by criticizing the capitalist culture Romney comes from and perpetuates, Peter Dreier asks if Capitalism is on trial in America.

The Social Democrats USA, the small but influential organization led by Penn Kemble before his death in 2005, has been revived to some degree. Follow their activities at Social Currents.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Sad Red Earth takes down Glenn Greenwald

A.Jay Adler links to a post by Reilly at Counter-dominance on Glenn Greenwald in regard to a piece he wrote following the death of Cristopher Hitchens. The whole piece is worth your time, but here is a choice bit:
Just as in the Hitchens piece, Greenwald diminishes the actual societal forces at play on one side and invents forces by elevating trivialities on the other side, so that both conform to his narrative. And again as in his Hitchens post, Greenwald, writing from his influential platform over which he has complete editorial control, strikes the pose of victim on whom “demands” are being made even as he spends most of his word count on conflation and inference rather than directly addressing an argument, and even though the oppressive forces he tilts against are little more than other people’s opinion.
Update: 4:13 PM.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let the Church Say Amen

This morning, I was lucky enough to catch Let the Church Say Amen on TV, a moving documentary about the World Missions for Christ Church. This small church and its congregation has been making a positive impact on the lives of the poor in Washington DC for years, and the film received accolades when it was released in 2004.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A History of Socalism for the small screen

It has been out for some time but if you missed the opportunity to catch it on PBS, the film version of Joshua Muravchik's excellent book, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism (hosted by Ben Wattenberg) is now available in its entirety on youtube (with multiple comments from the Hitch). For those unfamiliar with Muravchik, he is now a leading neo-conservative, but was once a leading figure in the democratic socialist left, heading the Young People's Socialist League in the 1960s. He would later drift right, but his work documenting various socialist movements last century is one that still contains a tinge of nostalgia and honesty about the desire for a better world imbedded in various socialist movements. The successes of social-democratic models in Europe, America, and Asia are also presented in fair, and positive light. Additionally, Muravchik's work focused on some lesser known socialist leaders and movements, such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Pandit Nehru in India.

Part 1: Part 2:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Elsewhere in 2012

Fine thoughts from Bob on the Stephen Lawrence case. A follow up here.

Anti-German Translation on the Hitler Youth haircut.

Adam Holland has provided great criticism and fact-finding related to Ron Paul. His most recent piece on the topic should be read by all.

The Fat Man ponders morality.

Marko's 2011 retrospective is worth the time.

Poumista on books and obituaries.

Johnny Guitar - Defending the indefensible with the absurd.

Terry Glavin on China.

Social Media and Insurgencies

Sean Kennedy has an excellent piece up at Small Wars Journal detailing the power social media has in changing the political landscape, while also providing a means to insurgent groups. Just a bit:
"Although social media has been widely lauded as a positive force for social change, the successes of insurgents in Egypt might be best explained by the Mubarak regime’s unwillingness to develop a proactive approach to the insurgency, and specifically his disregard of the Internet. Counterinsurgents of the future will likely conduct a pervasive, coordinated, preventive Internet propaganda campaign designed to undermine opposition groups. China and Russia already practice these methods with the purpose of preventing insurgencies from forming in the first place. Pro-regime forces in Syria have used the same new media tools as insurgents to disseminate information."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When Mitt Romney Came to Town

I would have never believed the following video would be released during a Republican primary by someone within the party, let alone Newt Gingrich. But it is great, and worth a watch.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Santorum: The Trojan Working-Class Candidate

Watching the Republican debates, I occasionally found myself nodding to Rick Santorum’s proclamations. Much like Ron Paul, Santorum seemed to be challenging the status quo of the Republican Party. Ron Paul looked to further libertarianism at every level of government, while Santorum argued that the trickle-down, pro-business model of social and economic order that has become the norm in the Republican Party hurt America and its culture. Having a Republican candidate talks about putting public funds towards supporting families or working to re-energize our manufacturing sector was the type of talk that could energize even a stalwart Democrat. Santorum quickly revealed himself to be a shill for corporate interests, as his actual polices demonstrate. Yglesias wrote:

“For A Working Class Champion Focused On Social Mobility, Rick Santorum Seems To Be Pretty Interested In Cutting Rich People's Taxes.”

Santorum may claim to look out for the working class (when he is not denying class entirely), but his candidacy is yet another in a long list of corporate minded individuals that works to pull support away from candidates that may actually support working class interests.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What is it that Ron Paul fans fail to grasp?

Andrew Sullivan (not a blogger I have the greatest respect for, but that I do find entertaining), seems unable to understand that Ron Paul's conspiratorial policies are exactly what makes him appealing as a candidate. Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, notes the following about Ron Paul:
"Bottom line: Ron Paul is not merely a "flawed messenger" for these views. He's an absolutely toxic, far-right, crackpot messenger for these views. This is, granted, not Mussolini-made-the-trains-run-on-time levels of toxic, but still: if you truly support civil liberties at home and non-interventionism abroad, you should run, not walk, as fast as you can to keep your distance from Ron Paul. He's not the first or only person opposed to pre-emptive wars, after all, and his occasional denouncements of interventionism are hardly making this a hot topic of conversation among the masses. In fact, to the extent that his foreign policy views aren't simply being ignored, I'd guess that the only thing he's accomplishing is to make non-interventionism even more of a fringe view in American politics than it already is. Crackpots don't make good messengers."
To which Andrew responds:
"And yet many, many voters who watch and listen to the man do not see a crackpot. They see the only person in public life prepared to tell the truth: that America cannot afford its current military-industrial complex and entitlement state; and that America's lurch after 9/11 toward authoritarianism and empire has been disastrous for our interests and liberties."
Selectivity at its most obtuse. Andrew claims that he only likes Ron Paul for his "good positions" (something I am not entirely sold on, seeing how Andrew spilt plenty of digital ink on the Sarah Palin/ Trig conspiracy, and justifying the Bell Curve). I have no doubt that some of Paul's supporters like him for his "legitimate," and understandable critiques of the Federal Government and interventionism. What Andrew seems unable to grasp is that some Americans believe terrible, crazy things. Significant percentages of the US public believes the American government was involved or had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only 4 in 10 Americans believe in evolution. Shit, one in five Americans believe the sun revolves around earth! Why Andrew thinks that this same group of people would not also support a crazy, racist, conspiratorial crank is beyond me. Andrew has it backwards; it is Paul's craziest ideas that provides his most forceful draw. If people were simply drawn to him for traditional libertarian ideals and limited intervention abroad, they could have supported Gary Johnson.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Guest Post: Who Keeps Shitting The Bed?

 Horace Brickley is an author that has fashioned an extensive body of work in a rather short period of time at his blog, Horace Brickley's Assault on Virtue. He is currently a teacher, working in Taiwan. This is his take on the 2012 U.S. election.

Like most Americans, politics is a dirty word around me. The choices given for elected officials is less like choosing between “cake or death” and more like choosing between Chinese water torture and water boarding – one is clearly worse than the other, but both are just awful. The upcoming presidential election is going to be one of those moments. We Americans, if we even bother voting in this catastrophe, are going to be given three options: a disappointing incumbent that spends money that doesn't exist anywhere, whatever caricature of a politician that survives the Republican primary, and opting out (or throwing away a vote on a third party candidate). None of those options sound reasonable, but that is the downside of a Republic. Our involvement in government is merely choosing the person whom we believe will fuck up the least, and complaining through any reasonable or unreasonable medium that we can find to express our discontent.
The two reasons I departed from America, for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time, are the steep drop in opportunities for educated adults, and my fears of what is to come for the citizens of a declining America. No candidate in Republican primary has addressed either of those issues with anything resembling critical thinking. The tax-cut religion of the Republicans is not going to produce the miraculous effects that the old-guard Republicans hope for, and the front-running candidates are some of the least qualified human beings to run a Subway, much less a nation hemorrhaging from debt.

Here's a breakdown of the candidates:

Rick Perry: He's the Tim Tebow of politics. He makes just as many mistakes as Tebow, and Jesus seems to be the major running theme of his political ideology. “If we just add more Jesus, then everything will work out.” He's done, however, so onto the next of the people that won't be president next year.

Michele Bachmann: She's like Christine O'Donnel's marginally-less-crazy aunt. If Sarah Palin could spell twice as well, then she'd be Bachmann. The only person involved in the primary that is crazier than Bachmann is Bachmann's husband. She's not only not presidential, but she's like personified dark matter - nothing good can come from her.

Hermain Cain: He's no longer in the race because he got grabby, or because he wasn't man enough to stand up to the heat. Either way, his policies had a degree of ignorance that can only come from someone too proud to read a history book or “The Idiot's Guide to Economics.” The 9-9-9 plan, or the revised 9-0-9, was an even less realistic plan than Steve Forbe's flat tax idea back when Forbe's proved why running a corporation does not qualify someone to be president.

Ron Paul: Let me put this out here, Ron Paul isn't crazy. He's not, at all. The problem with Ron Paul is that he does not care about the consequences for his policies. “Fend for yourself” is what he preaches, which is easy to say when you aren't dependent on an entitlement system. No one knows exactly what would happen if Ron Paul became president, and no one ever will because he's absolutely unelectable. Road Warrior comes to mind when I think about a Ron Paul presidency, but in actuality he would just be a loud, lame duck president that oversaw a political structure that ignored his pleas for drastic reforms. He'd be as useless as a president as Vincente Fox.

Jon Huntsman: The only remotely qualified person of the lot, but he doesn't have the bravado or the clout to win anything more than Employee of the Month at the State Department. Huntsman can't even raise enough money to run one national ad, much less mount an entire campaign. His whole effort looks more like a clever ploy to write off “Running for President” on his 2011 taxes than an actual attempt to win a nomination.

Mitt Romney: Romney reminds me of an affable class president at a local high school. He really doesn't give a damn what comes out of his mouth, or what he said last week, what Romney wants is the office. He probably hasn't thought that much about what he's going to do as president, or whether or not anything that he does will have a positive effect. Romney just wants to sit in that chair and hear himself called “Mr. President.” He's a flip flopper of the strongest degree, and it reeks on him, as if he's pleading with the Republican base, “Just tell me what you want me to stand for guys!” He claims he understands the economy, but he wanted to see Reaganomics applied during the recession. Eesh.

Newt Gingrich: Gingrich is like the smart guy you always debate on issues with and you never win the exchange, but you know full well that you were right and he was wrong. His obvious intelligence aside, his stances on the issues are dumb.
He wants to:
- remove regulations on financial industries
- make a Federal ban on abortion
- remove funding from Planned Parenthood and stem cell research
- reduce the size of government and eliminate entitlement funding (not a bad thing, but how will he implement it)
- make unemployment benefits four weeks (because he's a consummate realist)
- wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and reduce the corporate tax rate to 12.5% (so the government can bring in even less money) 
- use a Reaganomics-style plan, like Romney.
In other words, he's wrong on the economy, and if you are a social liberal like me, then you know Uncle Newt wants to get all up in your personal business. He's got all the classic Republican stances without any of the charisma. Gingrich wants to reduce the size of government, but he wants to maintain a strong international presence and doesn't seem to want to reduce the size of the military. Those two stances conflict on a major level. The size of government and the cost of government cannot be seriously reduced without reducing the size and role of the military abroad. There is some sort of logic break inside Gingrich's head, and it doesn't look like it will mend before the election.

Those are the current candidates, but I feel like I should mention Chris Christie. Christie is actually Tony Soprano, and, sadly, that makes him the most qualified person to hold office. Unfortunately, America hasn't had a genuinely fat president since Taft, so that's a no go for the American people. We are too vain to elect such an out-of-shape president when he's standing next to the svelte and presidential Obama.

So, what is the purpose of all this? Why did I even bother heckling the Republican candidates? I don't hold allegiance to Obama because he's been a failure at virtually everything he's done. He squandered the super majority he had on an ill-conceived, and unaffordable, attempt at universal healthcare, and the only thing he's been consistently good at is war, which he ran against. Last year I voted early for 2012 president: I voted with my feet and left America for Taiwan. America's my first country, and just like my first girlfriend I'll always have fond memories of our time together, but for now we aren't hanging out because she went nuts.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

How to Start a Revolution

I watched a new documentary on Gene Sharp tonight on Current TV, and the power his words have had in inspiring democratic, revolutionary discontent. The trailer for the film can be seen below, and should be sought out by anyone who reads this blog.

In Sharp's influential work, he writes the following words, which should ring true to all revolutionaries in the Muslim world.  
"The oft quoted phrase “Freedom is not free” is true. No outside force is coming to give oppressed people the freedom they so much want. People will have to learn how to take that freedom themselves. Easy it cannot be. 

If people can grasp what is required for their own liberation, they can chart courses of action which, through much travail, can eventually bring them their freedom. Then, with diligence they can construct a new democratic order and prepare for its defense. Freedom won by struggle of this type can be durable. It can be maintained by a tenacious people committed to its preservation and enrichment." 
They will however have the support of democrats elsewhere, in whatever form we can provide. They are not alone in their struggle for liberty and justice.

Live Blogging the Iowa Caucus

I will be posting live updates during the Iowa Caucus on Tuesday via twitter from 5pm to 9pm Pacific Standard time. You can follow me at @RolandDodds. See you there.