Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nader on Democracy Now!

     Ralph Nader appeared today on Democracy Now! and gave his opinion on Barack Obama, John McCain, and the difference between their campaigns and his. During election time it's so easy to get in the "Republican vs Democrat" mentality that it's easy to forget which issues one actually cares about in politics and whether they are being represented in the major campaigns. Nader's interview with Amy Goodman may help you remember.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Support Nader now to make Obama Progressive later

     With just half a week having passed since Obama brought on Jason Furman, the man who in 2005 wrote a lengthy defense of Walmart entitled "Walmart: A Progressive Success Story", as his chief economic advisor, I think it's becoming more and more clear that progressives need to do something different this election cycle if we are hoping to get the change that our country so desperately needs. Do you remember the election of 2006? Do you remember all the "hope" we had then? Remember the claims and expectations that as soon as the Democrats regained power that this ridiculous war in Iraq would end and that Bush and his cronies would possibly be impeached and removed from office? On looking back, it seemed that we were all so naive to think that the Democrats would have done anything regarding these promises. Yet here we are again, in 2008, "hopeful" as usual. Why are things going to be different this time? Is it because Obama has a crack PR team and the good guess of his website crew that people would respond so positively to images of a politician who looks like he's coming out of the clouds like a god?

    I don't buy it, and I don't plan on being duped again this year. That is why I'm supporting (at least for now) the Nader/Gonzalez ticket. Despite the virtual complete blackout from the mainstream media, Nader is polled at a remarkable 6% of the electorate. This is considered an important number because many debate organizers have minimum thresholds of 5% of the vote to get to the debate. Can you imagine the impact of having Obama being forced to go up against Nader and McCain in a debate? Obama wouldn't be able to just slip by with arguing for centrist policies, he would actually have to commit to progressive positions. I think that getting Nader in the upcoming Presidential debates should be first priority for any Obama supporters out there. This is one of the easier ways for you to help Obama stay true to the progressive values that you assign to him and to actually give his campaign the substance that would make it deserving of the hope that so many seem to have in it.

    Again, it's pretty simple. If you are willing to vote for Obama, regardless of what his positions are as long as he is to the left of McCain, he is acting in the most rational way if he decides to go further to the right. In this way he picks up more conservative votes and doesn't have to worry about losing yours. Only if you give the impression that you won't vote for him if he doesn't make progressive changes in our government will he take to the time to actually do any of it. Remember, Obama has been in Washington for many years now and has he shaken up this illegal government? No, he's been rather passive. So why would you expect anything else if you don't force him to be different?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 1968 and Gore Vidal on Democracy Now!

     I've been out of the political loop for awhile. This is due to a combination of a rush of research related material that I've been needing to get done (I submitted my first paper this past month), finishing up the cycling season, and honestly, also due to the fact that I am nearly uninterested in the whole Obama vs Clinton war (unfortunately, that is all that anyone wants to talk about).

     However, I glanced at the Democracy Now! update that I get daily in my mailbox this week and noticed that they were going to talk about the spectacular events that occurred in France in May of 1968. I've read a good deal about these events in the past and always enjoy hearing more, even if it's just more of the same, because of how fascinating these events were and the hope it gives me that someday again everyday people will reach this level of political and social awareness.

     There's also a great interview by Amy Goodman of Gore Vidal. It's actually probably the most entertaining interview that I've ever seen her do. I really recommend both of these. They are from the show from this Wednesday and you can find them here. Check them out and if you're interested we can discuss them in the comments.

Note: Democracy Now! now has a wide variety of video selection formats to choose from (including torrent) that they didn't have a couple of months ago.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Good anti-religion song

     Driving to a road cycling race this weekend I heard a song called "Haillie Sallasse, Up Your Ass" by a group called Propagandhi (on the driver's iPod, not the radio). It's not the best song in the world, but it's sort of catchy, and I like how they don't shy away when they say 'Fuck religion' over and over again. And in any case, someone made a YouTube video to go along with it that lists some of the reasons why religion is so harmful to society.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Iraq War Blogswarm: 'We Own the World' by Noam Chomsky

     So I'm a little bit late on my post for the March 19th Iraq War BlogSwarm. Let's just say that yesterday was a busy day.

     I thought about what would be most appropriate to write here. Simple criticism of the Iraq War, while certainly valid, lacked the historical context that I wanted to provide linking this war to the way our government always operates. The Iraq War was not just a 'botched job', a 'miscalculation in the fight for freedom', or a 'misguided attempt to attack the evil-doers', it was instead a simple application of the way our government works. Power and profit for the few, squalor and death for the others. Noam Chomsky, whose ability to step back and see the big picture always makes his thoughts illuminating, wrote an essay at the beginning of this year entitled 'We Own The World' that expresses the sort of ideas that I wanted in this post. Feel free to check it out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Iraq War Blogswarm

     March 19th will be the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War and will probably only get passing mention in the corporate media. This despite the fact that over a million Iraqi civilians and thousands of U.S. troops have died, that it's given people in the Middle East more legitimate reasons to seek revenge against our country, and that it's cost more money to the U.S. taxpayer than any war in U.S. history with the exception of World War II.

     But on the web we can set a different tone than the one set in the media. We can dominate the blogging medium on March 19th with posts calling for the end of the Iraq war and immediate withdrawal of troops. This is organized by the people at the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm and I encourage you to check it out and participate. I'll be going to an anti-war rally in San Francisco on that day and will report on the event (with pictures!). Let's provide much-needed coverage and assistance to those who will be out protesting in the streets on that day and make it so that no one goes the day without reflecting on the outrage that is the Iraq War.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Single issue coalitions as an electoral strategy

     Super Tuesday isn't still for a couple of days, but already, most of the big issues of our country have already been decided for us. Whether or not a Republican or a Democrat wins the Presidency, it seems that our government will remain in Iraq, that healthcare matters will still be controlled by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, that the military will still eat up a gigantic fraction of our tax dollars, that the American government will continue to pursue an aggressive and unilateral foreign policy, that homosexuals will still be denied their rights, that our voting system will remain ineffective, that media companies will continue to consolidate power, torture by government agents will still be considered a topic of debate, and judging by the complete lack of discussion on environmental matters we will continue to ignore the adverse effect that we are having on the environment. Let's face it, we lost the 2008 election. Our strategy does not work, and we desperately need a new one.

     It seems like the vast majority of educated Democratic voters (i.e., the ones who follow politics from reasonable sources, say, online) scrambled to distance themselves from the progressive candidates such as Kucinich and Edwards and jumped on the 'ship of viability' in order to 'win'. But what has this accomplished? Have we succeeded in advancing even one progressive issue? If you think so, please do tell.

     An idea of how to change this is the subject of this post. It's somewhat similar to my previous stated ideas about a Progressive Front but perhaps more realistic and achievable. The idea would be to pick a single progressive issue and attempt to unite as many progressive voters as we could behind that issue. We would try to organize as many people as possible to agree to not vote for any candidate who did not support this single issue. Outside of this single issue, it's up to each individual. But we strive for at least one issue with which to be united. To me it seems like if we do not focus our attention around one specific issue it's too easy for us as voters to get distracted, fragmented, and then race to the right-wing of the Democratic party where the corporate-funded,'viable' candidates are so that the even worse Republicans do not win.

     An obvious question would be, how do we pick the issue? Well, the best answer I have for that is that some of us get together, pick what we think is the best issue to unite behind, and hope to convince others to join us. Now a careful choice of this first issue may be result in this being easier than you might think. The issue I have in mind is IRV, or instant runoff voting. I think IRV is a very important electoral achievement that we could strive for. It would then allow for people who supported say, the Green party, to vote their conscience without worrying about whether they are 'helping' the Republicans win. Whether or not this would open up our political system to third-parties is debatable (money and advertising would still play a powerful role in the election process) but it would certainly force the Democrats to offer some real alternative to the Republicans. The 'secret weapon' behind choosing IRV as the first issue to test this strategy is this: as more and more of us agree to not vote for any candidate who doesn't support IRV there will be an increasing number of people who vote for Green or other third-parties instead of the Democrats (I'm supposing that initially the Democratic candidates don't support IRV). This will, in some states, put the Democrats in a position that they might lose to the Republicans without our votes (like what happened in Florida in 2000, not paying attention to the cheating of course). And this will put pressure on other Democrats to support IRV-backing candidates, even if they don't think that it's the most important issue or think that our strategy is worthwhile. In this respect, a couple of Republican wins over the Democrats due to third-party voters would be a huge boost to getting more people behind the issue and having it succeed. In addition, I think it's hard for someone to argue that IRV wouldn't be a good idea. In fact, there are libertarians on the other side of the spectrum that would be interested in this sort of change themselves. After achieving success with getting IRV passed, we would have demonstrated that single issue coalitions can actually make a difference and would continue with some other issue. But I think it's important that as voters we unite and force our government to fix a particular problem rather than be disorganized and have nothing of any value happen at all.

     This strategy is of course not restricted to electing a president, it would be applied to all elected offices. We would need a sympathetic Congress and House to help make IRV a reality. And of course, just like with the Progressive Front idea, an important part of this strategy would be to give ourselves visibility. We would need heavy blogger support, t-shirts, bumper stickers (e.g., 'I only vote for IRV candidates'), and the like to let our neighbors know what we are trying to accomplish. With enough funding we could pursue more ambitious outreach, such as newspaper ads.

     One of the biggest advocates out there for IRV is FairVote, whose influence and existing infrastructure could be used to launch this campaign if those who run it are interested in it. Then we as bloggers would help play a support role and could volunteer in the FairVote efforts. But I think it's important to not mix the issue with others issues (such as some of the other initiatives that FairVote sponsors), and this may require an independent organization to do so if it's impossible to do this within FairVote. We would need a website to allow people to 'sign up' (projecting our strength in numbers is crucial I think to success) and to organize the campaign (although this, in many respects, should be as decentralized as the efforts to impeach Cheney and Bush are from

     Okay, does anyone else think this is a good idea? Have a better one? Or are we just hopeless?


Sunday, January 27, 2008

NYT: Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

     Here's an interesting article I just read in the New York Times regarding the consumption of meat in the world economy. Of particular interest to me were the following pieces of information:

Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

and this one, which I already was aware of qualitatively but didn't know the difference was so substantial:

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

     My fiancee and I currently are not vegetarians, but we do try to limit our meat intake for both health and economic reasons (we have a lot of fresh, cheap vegetables available out here in California). Sometimes I joke that we're "vegetillusullarians", i.e., that we "usually eat vegetables". I believe the information will further factor into my mind when I'm looking through our recipes deciding what I should make for dinner.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Review: Superpower principles - U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba

     Occasionally you'll hear some story about Cuba or Fidel Castro in the news, generally portraying the country as a wasteland and the man as a ruthless dictator. You may have also heard presidential candidates talk about Cuba, how they support the U.S. embargo against the country (which has been condemned each year for over a decade by the United Nations and also the WTO, where the European Union brought charges against the United States for the illegal embargo in 1997) which if we listen to the official line is imposed to help bring about "democratic" change in the country.
     Why is the United States government so hostile towards Cuba? The book Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba is a great collection of essays by people like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, William Blum, Michael Parenti, and more which help explain this phenomenon. The "Cuban threat" began in January of 1959 when Fidel Castro and his guerrilla forces overthrew General Batista's U.S.-backed dictatorship. Michael Parenti explains what angered the U.S. government
    In June 1959, some five months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the Havana government promulgated an agrarian reform law that provided for state appropriation of large private landholdings. Under this law, U.S. sugar corporations eventually lost about 1,666,000 acres of choice land and many millions of dollars in future cash-crop exports. The following year, President Dwight Eisenhower, citing Havana's "hostility" towards the United States, cut Cuba's sugar quota by about 95 percent, in effect imposing a total boycott on publicly produced Cuban sugar. Three months later, in October 1959, the Cuban government nationalized all banks and large commerical and industrial enterprises, including the many that belonged to US firms [Cuba offered to reimburse those who previously owned land or property that was nationalized, according to whatever value they had placed it at on the previous year's tax return. This was rejected.--Delta].
    Cuba's move away from the free-market system domination by US firms and toward a not-for-profit socialist economy caused it to become the target of an unremitting series of attacks perpetuated by the US national security state. These attacks included U.S.-sponsored sabotage, espionage, terrorism, trade sanctions, embargo, and outright invasion. The purpose behind this aggression was to undermine the Revolution and deliver Cuba safely back to the tender mercies of global capitalism.
    The U.S. policy toward Cuba has been consistent with its longstanding policy of trying to subvert any country that pursues an alternative path in the use of its land, labor, capital, markets, and natural resources. Any country or political movement that emphasizes self-development, egalitarian human services, and public ownership is condemned as an enemy of the USA and targeted for sanctions or other forms of attack. In contrast, the countries deemed "friendly towards America" and "pro-West" are those that leave themselves at the disposal of large U.S. investors on terms that are totally favorable to the moneyed corporate interests.
    Of course, this is not what U.S. rulers tell the people of North America. As early as July 1960, the White House charged that Cuba was "hostile" to the United States (despite the Cuban government's repeated overtures for normal friendly relations). The Castro government, in Eisenhower's words, was "dominated by international communism". Cuba was a threat to the "stability" of the hemisphere and to the survival of American democracy, we heard. U.S. officials repeatedly charged that the island government was a cruel dictatorship and that the United States had no choice but to try "restoring" Cuban liberty.
     U.S. rulers never explained why they were so suddenly concerned about the freedoms of the Cuban people. In the two decades before the Revolution, successive administrations in Washington manifested no opposition to the brutally repressive autocracy headed by General Fulgencio Batista. Quite the contrary, they sent him military aid, did a vigorous business with him, and treated him well in every other way. The significant but outspoken difference between Castro and Batista was that Batista, a comprador ruler, left Cuba wide open to U.S. capital penetration. In contrast, Castro and his revolutionary movement did away with the private corporate control of the economy, nationalized U.S. holdings, and renovated the class structure toward a more collectivized and egalitarian mode. That is what made Fidel Castro so insufferable in Washington--and still does.
     Needless to say, the U.S. method of mistreatment ahs been applied to other countries besides Cuba. Numerous potentially dissident regimes that have asked for friendly relations have been met with abuse and aggression from Washington: Vietnam, Chile (under Allende), Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua (under the Sandinistas), Panama (under Torrijo), Grenada (under the New Jewel Movement), Yugoslavia (under Milosevic), Haiti (under Aristide), Venezuela (under Chavez), and numerous others. The U.S. modus operandi is:
  • to heap criticism on the targeted government for imprisoning the butchers, assassins, terrorists, and torturers of the previous U.S.-backed reactionary regime;
  • denounce the revolutionary or reformist government as "totalitarian" for failing to immediate institute Western-style, electoral politics;
  • launch ad hominem attacks upon the leader, labeling him as fanatical, brutal, repressive, genocidal,power hungry, or even mentally imbalanced;
  • harass, destabilize, and impose economic sanctions to cripple its economy;
  • attack it with surrogate forces, trained, equipped, and financed by the CIA and led by members of the former regime, or even with regular U.S. armed forces.

  •      The book goes into many aspects of U.S.-Cuban relations, and offers important historical background to understand why the media and government act the way they do towards Cuba. It also goes into some detail about the plight of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five are a group of five Cubans who infiltrated anti-Cuban terrorists groups that are located in Miami and who operate with the consent of the CIA. They used this information to warn the Cuban governments of future attacks, which were often involved with planting bombs in tour buses, hotels, and other attacks with the intent of hurting Cuba's vital tourism industry. After doing this for over a year, the Cuban government met with the FBI and handed over all the evidence that the Cuban Five had gathered and asked the U.S. government to take action against the terrorists. But instead of acting against the terrorists, the United States arrested the Cuban Five. The Five were tried in Miami, the most unlikely place in the world for Cubans to get a fair trial. At the end of the day many of the Cuban Five were sentenced to life in prison with the only crime actually committed being identification fraud. However, the government accused them (and the biased jury convicted) on conspiracy to commit espionage, which there was no evidence available suggesting this. The trial has been criticized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, among others.

         Leonard Weinglass, an attorney for the Cuban Five,writes
    The Five were not prosecuted because they violated American law, but because their work exposed those who were. By infiltrating the terror network that is allowed to exist in Florida they demonstrated the hypocrisy of America's claimed opposition to terrorism.

        I recommend this book to anyone who wants more insight on U.S.-Cuban relations or the Cuban Five. Also, if you become outraged at the treatment of Cuba you could participate in the boycott of Bacardi (which also makes Grey Goose vodka, by the way). Bacardi is a private company whose owning family is strongly anti-Cuban, has funded the groups that carry out terrorist attacks against the island, and was strongly influential with the U.S. government in making the embargo harsher in 1996 (the lobbyist for Bacardi actually wrote part of a bill that was passed in 1999 as well).

         Cuba isn't a perfect place and there are certainly mistakes that have been made (some admitted by the leadership itself). But the United States supporting an illegal and immoral embargo, backing terrorist acts against the Cuban people, rejecting public opinion in the U.S. (most of which wants normal relations, even among the business community), and imprisoning Cuban anti-terrorist heroes is not the way to bring about democratic change (which of course the U.S. is unwilling to do anyway). If anyone wants to talk about issues relating to Cuba, please bring it up in the comments.

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to reflect 'God's standards'


         I'm posting this for two reasons. One, because I think it's a interesting sound byte. But also, I think it's important to point something out here. It's common among the secular community to view this kind of proclamation as simply a way for politicians to manipulate religious nutbags. And while this fact is indeed true, it's also important for us to remember that this does not make Huckabee the "bad" Republican. All the Republicans are bad, both for our country's people, for people around the world, and for the health of the world itself. Each one of them is firmly attached to the idea of US corporate control over the political and economic life of the country, each one is attached to the idea that the US should invade and undermine the political expression of foreign people's if it endangers US corporate profits, and each one is opposed to actually solving the climate crisis that our planet faces (unfortunately many of these are actually part of the "bipartisan consensus"). Huckabee cannot make "God's law" U.S. law for two primary reasons: 1). The wealthy of our country who have control of the government do not particularly want this and 2). Huckabee probably doesn't want to do this himself, he just wants votes and will disappoint the Christian fascists the moment he gets in office (as did Bush and those before him).

         The response for this from the secular community should not be to excessively fear a Huckabee presidency and to work towards getting those who we know who might vote Huckabee to vote for some other, "better" Republican candidate. The point is that we don't want any Republican candidates in office, and so we should fight at the very least for Democratic candidates (if not Green, Peace and Freedom, etc.). To do otherwise is to allow these types of statements made by politicians to manipulate not only religious nutbag political opinion, but also that of the freethinking community.

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Documentary - What Would Jesus Buy?

         I recently became aware of a documentary by Morgan Spurlock (creator of Super Size Me) which addresses over-consumption in American society and the commercialization of Christmas called What Would Jesus Buy?. It features "Reverend Billy" of the Church of Stop Shopping who brings a unique and comical way of getting people interested in the anti-consumerism movement. I haven't been able to see the film yet (it's only playing at select locations) at the moment) but I'm anxiously awaiting a wider release.

         Here's the trailer. Enjoy, and happy New Year =) I suppose I've had a dry spell in terms of writing as of late, but I hope to bring this blog back up to a more active state. You know how it is...