Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Boom! U.S. Fails In Attempt To Legitimize Child-Murdering Weapons

Anybody who has read anything about war in the last fifty years knows something about cluster bombs. They're large bombs containing hundreds of smaller bomblets: the large bomb is dropped and spreads its payload over a wide area, expanding the death-dealing capacity of airborne munitions. The bomblets can kill hundreds of human beings in a wider area than a single powerful explosive. Plus, the bomblets either don't always or are designed not to go off upon impact, but lie around waiting to explode and kill some unfortunate who stumbles upon them or picks them up. As you can imagine, said unfortunates are often children who live in an area and come out to play after a battle has moved on. Some countries have been accused of designing the bomblets in bright and shiny ways meant to actually attract children to them. The Soviet Union was heavily condemned for using them in Afghanistan as was Israel for using them in Lebanon. Cluster bombs are the deadly child-murdering gift that keeps on giving.

And so I read an article on the BBC that seemed confusing at first until I really read it. Then it becomes outrageous. It was titled "UN rejects US-backed cluster bombs regulation bid", and at first glance you would think it's the story of the nasty United Nations failing to endorse a brave American attempt to limit the use of cluster bombs: "UN member states have rejected a US-backed plan to introduce new regulations on cluster bombs - munitions which break up into hundreds of smaller bomblets. The plan would have eliminated all cluster munitions made before 1980. ... The US said that it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision..." But if that's what you thought was happening you would be wrong, dead wrong.

Because it turns out this American resolution is an age-old sleight of hand trick: by feigning moral outrage over older cluster bombs, it legitimizes the modern production of these fiendish weapons. The resolution was meant not to eliminate cluster bombs, but to undercut the Oslo Convention, signed by 111 nations, that actually prohibits the production, distribution and use of cluster bombs. Guess what countries have not signed the Oslo Convention? Here's a few: China. Russia. Belarus. Israel.... and the United States of America.

Yes, read on: "'The protocol would have led to the immediate prohibition of many millions of cluster munitions [and] placed the remaining cluster munitions under a detailed set of restrictions and regulations,' the US embassy in Geneva said in a statement.... A senior US official said the bombs were a military necessity for when targets were spread over wide areas, and that using alternative armaments would cause more collateral damage and prolong conflicts."

The world has seen through this transparent hypocrisy. The article continues: "though the proposal would have eliminated millions of ageing cluster munitions, even military allies of the US, like Britain, chose not to support it. Many UN member states felt, she says, that getting rid of some cluster weapons while officially sanctioning others would set a dangerous precedent, and might even legitimise their use in the long-term. The US move was also opposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the top UN officials for human rights, emergency relief and development."

Thank you Ambassador Susan Rice via Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for your strong moral stand in favor of murdering innocent children. Oh yes, did I forget to mention? The U.S. is the largest manufacturer of cluster bombs in the world.

In not unrelated news, Egyptian dock workers are protesting the shipment of tear gas shipments being unloaded in the port of Suez. The tear gas is destined for the military government's repression of demonstrations of Tahrir Square. Oh yes, where is this tear gas coming from? That would be its point of manufacture at Combined Systems Inc. in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Among CSI's other leading clients are the Israeli Defense Forces.

Notice any patterns?

Those with strong stomachs may click here for a google search which shows the diversity of cluster bombs and the cold reality of what children look like after they have been murdered or maimed by them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ken Russell Made Me Gay

Well, that's not really true. But exposure to the famous nude wrestling scene from Ken Russell's 1969 film "Women In Love" in my later teens certainly provided my developing prurient mind with much fodder for the imagination, and planted all sorts of romantic and not-so-romantic notions in my young head. This scene featuring Alan Bates and Oliver Reed is one of the most sensuously homoerotic of all-time classic cinema. Neither actor was gay, of course, and Oliver Reed seems to have been anything but a gay icon in his personal life. But the screenwriter of "Women in Love" was none other than decades-later legendary gay activist Larry Kramer, who undoubtedly crafted the slow burn of this scene with his own aesthetic bent in bringing D.H. Lawrence's novel to life. Speaking as anything but a film connoisseur, the whole film is sort of a textbook late 1960s art film: moody and striking and not really the kind of thing you want to watch for light viewing. This one scene, not exactly pornographic but not exactly in the safe for work category either, certainly pushed the edge. Even when I first saw it I appreciated how it derives its homoeroticism from two burly manly men rather than from angular elven blondes like Michael York, whom it seems was featured in every art film of that era with a male character of ambiguous sexuality, and yet who did nothing for my own developing gay identity.

Director Ken Russell has just passed on at the age of 84. On behalf of once-young gay men everywhere who grew up in a time without openly gay role models and without gay reality TV basic cable, let me say "thank you thank you thank you" for these immortal four minutes of cinema. Rest in peace.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Is Race?

Having had my umpteenth argument on another blog about how Islamophobia is a form of racism, I ran across this clip on the "We Are Respectable Negroes" blog. It's an excerpt from a talk last year by Dr. Charles W. Mills of Northwestern University at the University of King's College.

This fairly short clip is incredibly rich with ideas. I post it here because it addresses how race itself is a social construct and not a biological reality. The identities of race are determined by the lens of cultural dominance: Professor Mills gives an example of how his own mixed national heritage would be determined completely differently depending on who gets to make the rules. This is so key: when I say Islamophobia is racism, those who say "Islam is not a race" are erasing the systems that inform social dominance and prejudice. This becomes easy to see when one considers Hitler-era Germany, where racist laws and racial prejudice were applied by one group of white people sharing overwhelmingly identical genetic makeup with the white victims of their repression. Although religion was the window dressing, be sure that the holocaust was not the product of German Christian theological difference with Rabbinical interpretation of the Old Testament. Anti-Semitism is a clear example of how divorced racism is from actual human biology.

Professor Mills concludes with the idea of racism in society being a product of cultural racial dominance not just the race of individuals, another key concept in the age of our first black American president.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Lump for Your Gravy

I've referenced this piece before, but it's been reposted on Kasama by its author Mike Ely with an intro that puts it in context of today's #OWS Occupy movement. "Original Occupation: Native Blood & the Myth of Thanksgiving:"

"We are talking widely among ourselves about “occupying” Wall Street — taking the center of an empire back for the people of the world. We are talking about “Occupy Everything” — sharing our dreams of taking all society away from banks, police, and the heartless authority of money. We hope this moment marks a beginning of the end for them.

And yet, just such a moment cannot be understood without remembering that other occupation — the one that marked the beginning of their beginning.

Arrogant invaders occupied a land using the most naked forms of genocide. They invented new forms of slavery, slave trade and profit making. They arrived with their high-tech arms and bibles. They declared all was theirs by divine right, while they took it all with raw force....

Here is the true story of that Thanksgiving — a story of murder and theft, of the first “corporations” invented on North American soil, of religious fundamentalism and relentless mania for money. It is a story of the birth of capitalism.

This piece is intended to be shared at this holiday time.

Pass it on. Serve a little truth with the usual stuffing."

Read the whole article or download it as a podcast. There's nothing wrong with being together with your loved ones enjoying a break from work. But it's important to remember. Context is everything. Peace to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Pinkwashing" Called Out in the NY Times

It's not the kind of thing you usually see in The New York Times. While the Times has a "liberal" reputation, its position on Israel is quite fundamentally compromised (see the Angry Arab for near daily demolitions of the Times's anti-Palestinian racism). But there it is, an Op-Ed piece entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing.'" I'm proud to say that the author of this piece, Sarah Schulman, is a friend of mine, somebody I actually went to college with many years ago. She's been active as a writer, academic, and lesbian activist for three decades, and getting this piece in the Times is a real achievement not only for defenders of Palestinians but for lesbian and gay activists in general.

Schulman skillfully ties the Israeli attempt to make gays complicit with the repressive policies of the State of Israel to the European-American Islamophobic movement that is racist to the core:

"These depictions of immigrants — usually Muslims of Arab, South Asian, Turkish or African origin — as “homophobic fanatics” opportunistically ignore the existence of Muslim gays and their allies within their communities. They also render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred of gays. And that cynical message has now spread from its roots in European xenophobia to become a potent tool in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Read the whole piece. Congrats, Sarah.


In related news, New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC QAIA) continues to be excluded from using the meeting rooms at New York City's LGBT Community Center. It's been conducting its business for months now at sit-ins in the Center's lobby. Veteran gay activist Steve Ault, both a member of QAIA and a founder of the LGBT Center, tried to meet with Center Board Members but was rudely disinvited from any board discussion. NYC QAIA has now issued an excellent identity statement:

New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC-
QAIA) is a group of queer activists who support Palestinians’
right to self-determination, and challenge Israel’s occupation
of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the military
blockade of Gaza. We endorse Palestinian civil society’s call
for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel,
and the call by Palestinian queer groups to end the
occupation as a critical step for securing Palestinian human
rights as well as furthering the movement for Palestinian
queer rights.*

NYC-QAIA also calls for an immediate end to Israel’s siege of
Gaza and the collective punishment of its people, which are
clear and widely recognized violations of international law.
NYC-QAIA opposes the continued construction of illegal
settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the
demolition of Palestinian homes. NYC-QAIA calls for the
release of all political prisoners in Israeli jails. Lastly, given
that Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians depends so
heavily upon our own government’s support, NYC-QAIA
demands an end to U.S. military and financial aid to Israel.


As queers, NYC-QAIA recognizes the myriad ways in which
various forms of oppression — including colonialism, racism,
homophobia and transgenderphobia — are deeply entwined.
As queers, we refuse to accept state violence against
ourselves or others. As gay rights gain support in the US and
Israel, the Israeli government and its defenders have
increasingly co-opted the rhetoric of gay rights to veil Israel’s
racist, colonialist state violence—and this pinkwashing we
also adamantly refuse to accept.

To those who claim Israel is a haven for queers, NYC-QAIA
replies: queer rights in Israel have not been granted by a
benevolent government—they were demanded, fought for,
and to some extent, won. Because Apartheid Israel applies
different rules and laws to Jews, non-Jews and particularly
Palestinians, those minimal rights do not universally apply to
queer Palestinians, nor to queer Israelis of any ethnic group
who build families with Palestinians, nor to queers who
support BDS and oppose Israel’s crimes against Palestinians,
nor to many others. The presence or absence of the same
minimal rights in Palestine is not comparable; apartheid and
occupation strip Palestinian queers of the basic human rights
that have permitted queers in Israel to make their small
gains. Apartheid is the issue.

NYC-QAIA does not speak on behalf of Palestinians — we
stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle. NYC-
QAIA does not support any formal political entity and we do
not all necessarily stand behind a one- or two-state solution.
We reject outright all systems of domination and hate,
including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Despite what our
detractors claim, we are not self-hating queers. And the
many Jewish members of NYC-QAIA are not self-loathing
Jews but rather Jews who refuse to support an apartheid

NYC QAIA meets at the LGBT Community Center. We're currently forced to hold our meetings as sit-ins in the lobby: at the behest of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatemongers, the Center refuses to rent meeting space to anti-apartheid queers. But the Center is wrong to deny safe space to Arab queers, Muslim queers & other queers it deems “controversial.” And the Center is wrong to censor queer political organizing. So NYC QAIA is holding the space. Occupy!

*The BDS document and its original signers are posted at For more information, see the websites
of Palestinian Queers for BDS, Aswat, and al-Qaws.

NYC QAIA sits-in at the Center alternate Tuesdays, next meeting December 6. They're working on getting a blog up, I will update here when that blog is made public.

For past Cahokian articles on Pinkwashing, click here. I also recommend another activist friend's article "Scott Piro, Queer Support for Israel & the Pinkwashing Scam" by Pauline Park, at her blog on gender rights.

UPDATE: Check out Sarah's "Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing" on Essential!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy My Life?

I can't believe how busy I've been...after years of a sense of political hopelessness and activist dormancy I'm finding the #Occupy Wall Street movement is Not only is there an amazing succession of city-wide protests and events to go to, there's an Occupy Brooklyn, and shock of shocks, an "Occupy Sunset Park," named not for an encampment in my local spot of green but for the patchwork multicultural neighborhood I live in. So of course I've gotten involved. I have to keep this short because having just attended an awesome forum on the movement in Manhattan I've got to lay out two different Chinese versions of the above flyer before I call it a night....and then get up a little early for a busy work day. It's refreshing to be feeling like I'm part of something, participating in a wave of political awakening unlike anything I can remember. It feels...great!

Update: Here's one of the two Chinese language flyers we produced. This one is in the modern simplified characters developed in the PRC. The other is in the more old-fashioned traditional characters. Sunset Park is home to one of the three large "Chinatowns" in New York City.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"We Aren't Talking to Them"

The following is the Editorial, "We Are Free People" from the just-printed issue #4 of the Occupied Wall Street Journal:

"Democracy is not simply speaking truth to power, to ask, politely or not, for reforms great and small. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

The 1% is just beginning to understand that the reason Occupy Wall Street makes no demands is because we aren't talking to them. The 99% are speaking and listening to each other. 4,167 people have been arrested since the occupation began; millions more are reimagining the world we want to live in.

Police forces have been deployed by Republican and Democratic politicians alike to break a movement that was first ignored and then mocked in what passes for news. It's not just America. This is a living democratic movement that is global in scale and growing in real time. That this beautiful thing is met with state violence says everything we need to know about the perpetrators. It also means we're on to something. Their attacks are based on an understanding of power that's dying, if not already dead.

Mubarak is Berlusconi is Bloomberg is Quan is Walker is pepper spray is broken politics bound to the past and we make no demands of them because free people constitute governments, not the other way around.

We don't know how this is going to end, but the beginning is near."

(Photo is a sign at this week's 30,000+ rally at New York's Foley Square: "Not a different slice, we want a different pie!" After his cops tried their best to harass and repress the rally and march afterwards, Mayor Bloomberg said, "That's not even Occupy Wall Street...those were trade unionists." How very little he understands.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"We Are Free People"

"We Are Free People - Occupy Wall Street Now"

What an exhilarating day. I was stuck at work til late afternoon when I made it to the 30,000+ strong #OWS rally down at Foley Square. Amazing energy. Much to report later. Much to think about the foiling of the coordinated national attempt to crush the movement on Tuesday. For now the beautiful poster above says it all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Serving and Protecting

the raid on zuccotti park from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Watch this until the end; Footage from yesterday. This should change your associations with Frank Sinatra forever.

And pretty sure the guy getting pepper spray washed out of his eyes was in a photograph published a couple weeks ago here.

They are clearly serving and protecting somebody besides you and me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It Ain't Over

Mayor Bloomberg's shock troops have smashed the #OWS encampment at Zuccotti Park. the peaceful, nonviolent encampment was violently attacked by riot police doing the state's bidding. The media was kept away in an attempt to let the goons brutalize the Occupy Wall Street protesters without public scrutiny. According to an activist quoted on radio, the police came in with knives, shredding the tents and sleeping bags and tarps of the encampment and turning the protesters' belongings into so much garbage.

RT points out that the encampment was shut down in advance of the planned November 17 day of action.

Bloomberg and his friends in the 1% are fooling themselves if they think this means Occupy Wall Street is going away. They have revealed to the world their true face, and it's not pretty. This thing isn't going away. Even my neighborhood in Brooklyn now has an Occupy movement. We can Occupy Together!

Update: Check out this post of overheard quotes at the police raid on Gawker: "Just overheard cops talking about the losers and faggots of the Occupy movement in Zuccotti. nice. #OWS"

#OWS is meeting this morning to determine how to respond.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"We'll Occupy the Offices of YOU!"

Two musical posts in a row: the above is the extraordinary song "We Are The Many" by Hawaiian singer/songwriter/slack key guitar master Makana. It's a beautiful and relevant song about the #OWS message and movement. The slideshow interspersed with Makana's song is brilliant, and as harsh to a certain party currently in the White House as that other one.

"So take heed of our notice to redress
We have little to lose we must confess
Your empty words do leave us unimpressed
The growing number join us in protest
We occupy the streets
We occupy the courts
We occupy the offices of you
Til you do
The bidding of the many not the few."

What a beautiful song, redolent of Dylan, protest folk music, even Latin American Nueva Trova. Crazily, Makana, was able to perform his song at the APEC economic summit in Hawaii in front of President Obama, who apparently didn't take note of the lyric. Not that it would have mattered if he did.

The words on Makana's website read, There is love. All else is propaganda." Occupy Together!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anti-War Anthems: Gimme Shelter

Here's one of my favorite Rolling Stone covers, from the forgotten funk-soul group Maxayn, fronted by Maxayn Lewis. It's "Gimme Shelter," from 1972. The Stones original is terrific, as is the version expanded by original backup singer Merry Clayton, and the more recent Patti Smith cover.

How close is danger.

"Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin'
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

The floods is threat'ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away"

Previous Anti-War Anthems here on The Cahokian.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"The vilest thing in the world"

It's been taking me quite a while, but I've finally been reading Leo Tolstoy's epic novel "War and Peace." It turns out that as thick and forbidding a volume as it is, it's witty, funny, moving, brilliant, worthy of its century-and-a-half of praise. I'm constantly surprised at how biting and passionate a polemicist Tolstoy turns out to be. The setting might be Russia during the Napoleonic wars, but his subject is the human condition.

I'm currently reading about the massive 1812 battle of Borodino at the gates of Moscow. On the eve of the battle the world-weary aristocrat Prince Andrei gives an absolutely bitter rant about war. It's worth calling out:

"If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we'd go to it only when it was worth going to certain death, as now.... War isn't courtesy, it's the vilest thing in the world, and we must understand that and not play at war. We must take this terrible necessity sternly and seriously. That's the whole point: to cast off the lie, and if it's war it's war, and not a game. As it is, war is the favorite pastime of idle and light-minded people. The military estate is the most honored. But what is war, what is needed for success in military affairs, and what are the morals of military society? The aim of war is killing, the instruments of war are espionage, treason and the encouragement of it, the ruin of the inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to supply the army; deception and lying are called military stratagems; the morals of the military estate are the absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, depravity, and drunkenness. And in spite of that, it is the highest estate, respected by all. All kings except the Chinese wear military uniforms, and the one who has killed the most people gets the greatest reward. They come together, like tomorrow, to kill each other, they slaughter and maim tens of thousands of men, and then they say prayers of thanksgiving for having slaughtered so many people (inflating the numbers), and proclaim victory, supposing that the more people slaughtered, the greater the merit. How does God look down and listen to them!" (Volume 3, Book 2, Chapter 25)

How impossibly sad and relevant and insightful.

The illustration is 'No More War' from the German artist Käthe Kollwitz, ca. 1924.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sabre-rattling on Iran Starting Up Again

The details are as sordid and questionable as they always are, but once again the news is filled with politicians, media outlets and various government propagandists advocating for an attack on Iran.

It's all very simple: Iran is virtually encircled by the American military. The nuclear arsenals of two nations, both proven aggressors, are pointing straight at Teheran. Israel is trying very hard to dominate a losing conversation about the Middle East. War is a guaranteed distraction, and the sabre-rattling should be recognized for being something quite different than actual concern about weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and Israel are freaked out because they don't want to lose their bullying leverage over countries with less sophisticated arsenals than they have.

It doesn't matter how repressive or allegedly undemocratic the Iranian government is, it has the right to defend its country against attack.

If there is a nuclear proliferation problem in the Middle East, the problem starts in Israel and ends in the U.S.A.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mojuba Olodumare, Mojuba Obatala

Hard to believe that it was fifteen years ago that I began the week-long ceremony that marked my initiation into the religion of Santeria as a priest of Obatala. I was crowned fifteen years ago tomorrow in the Bronx: it was a moment I will never forget, frozen in time. Even those elders who were there in that moment who have since passed on (ibaye) remain sharp in my memory.

As things worked out the Santeria community wasn't to be a great fit for me as a home, but I still have this sense of cosmic gears turning in that moment that blessed me, that changed me, that altered the trajectory and path of my life, and mostly in ways I had no way of anticipating. I gave up a lot: some good, some bad, some things I miss, some things I don't, but as I felt the spiritual mantle I had assumed deepen and internalize I have felt greater inner peace and balance I wouldn't trade for anything. Maybe it's the mellowing of age, or maybe the mysterious gravity of Obatala Himself, but I've found so many of the desperate empty places in my earlier life filled with centered calmness. While I can surely report both good and bad life experiences in the past 15 years, joy and happiness mixed with pain and loss in random succession — such is anyone's life — I feel grateful for a moment of cosmic communion that had so much profound and lasting effect. Even as I find myself less and less a participant in my religion, I can still connect my spiritual being with a sort of dizzying inner bridge to the sacred. I wouldn't have predicted what I would be doing fifteen years later: I know I wouldn't have come even close to a good guess. But I knew I wouldn't be filled with regret and that was about as prescient as one could be.

And I am eternally grateful to my spiritual path for the sharpening and deepening of my creativity as I strive for clarity of expression. This blog, even when I'm writing about subjects seemingly far removed from an obscure religion carried to this continent in the infernal bellies of slave ships, is I hope witness and testament to the power of eternal spiritual truths manifesting themselves in the physical world. To my less spiritually-inclined friends and readers, I don't mean that as magic or superstition or supposed favor from invisible beings, but as a hearty endorsement of connecting with the life force that animates us, a little suspension of disbelief, and a reminder that patterns and symbolism tap the human psyche with good reason.

Anyway I'll conclude with what is an apt lesson for many of life's transformations, courtesy of those high priests of quite a different religion, The Rolling Stones. Because indeed you can't always get what you want but you do get just what you need.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Red October, 1917-2011

Today is the 94th anniversary of the Russian October Revolution of 1917. If only the calendar modernization which put Red October a week into November was the last ignominy history would inflict on what was actually an amazing, transformative event. Now, twenty years after the Soviet Union birthed by that revolution bit the dust under its own corrupt, repressive weight, it might seem even less relevant to today's world. But the Russian Revolution, however wide the waters passing under the bridge of the last century, is still the story of a bunch of brave regular people bringing down one of the world's major corrupt empires under the banner of social justice, egalitarianism, human liberation, and people working together to determine our own future.

There's plenty of hairs that can be split over what happened next: I'm not even gonna try to condense the story of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and their heirs into a neat little summary. Like all human achievement, there's plenty of good and plenty of bad in that story. But to dismiss it all as a mistake, or merely the opening of some kind of totalitarian pandora's box, is to miss out on some really important stuff. The bathwater might be low and lukewarm, but there's still a baby in there worth saving. One day we'll make good on that momentous occasion's promise.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Tony Soprano for President?

Chances are, if we have friends who consistently lie to us, we tend to wall off that relationship, finding minimal space for remnants of friendship that won't lead to danger or disappointment. A friend who steals things from us is soon to be disinvited from visiting, and one who openly commits violence against others is soon apt to be held at arm's distance lest their gaze and physicality be turned to us. We like to surround ourselves with people who make us laugh, who share the bounties of open hearts or engaged minds. We respect people who make achievement seem easy, and are glad for useful advice that is the fruit of sagely earned or learned wisdom and experience.

Isn't it amazing that so many people cast aside these logical behaviors when deciding whom to listen to in the public square? How we tell ourselves that it's okay to put time-honored strategies for self-preservation out of our heads? That we must submit to betraying our every instinct to choose not what we want but what we dislike less? And truthfully this is only half the story. For a great many people, a political system based on poisonous exploitation and oppression transforms the values that we would recognize as normal, empathetic and humane into a corrupt sociopathology dominated by heartlessness, selfishness, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and rationalization.

Last year at the White House correspondents' Association dinner, President Obama joked about teen idols the Jonas Brothers: "Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don't be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones." A friend pointed me to this cartoon from

This refers to a story mentioned on the OpEd Page of the NY Times about a community meeting in Pakistan: "During the meal, I met a boy named Tariq Aziz. He was 16. As we ate, the stern, bearded faces all around me slowly melted into smiles. Tariq smiled much sooner; he was too young to boast much facial hair, and too young to have learned to hate.... When it was my turn to speak, I mentioned the official American position: that these were precision strikes and no innocent civilian had been killed in 15 months. My comment was met with snorts of derision. ...At the end of the day, Tariq stepped forward. He volunteered to gather proof if it would help to protect his family from future harm. ... [But on] Monday, he was killed by a C.I.A. drone strike, along with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. The two of them had been dispatched, with Tariq driving, to pick up their aunt and bring her home to the village of Norak, when their short lives were ended by a Hellfire missile."

Obama's joke isn't so funny now, is it? I voted for him: I advocated voting for him, and I thought I was keeping my eyes open. And sadly, there was never any chance that the 2008 election would lead to a less horrible moral conundrum than the one it lead to. It is probable that the election of John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been even worse. Not that it mattered so much to Tariq.

Consider Herman Cain, the right-wing Republican businessman with the unlikely honor of being somewhere near the top of the heap of the Republican presidential primary. It's been revealed that he was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment, that is, of being a sexual predator using his power as a rich businessman to make life uncomfortable for women working under him. While all the facts of this story have not yet been aired, the evidence strongly suggests not the story of a philandering politician consensually consorting with someone randomly extracurricular to the embarrassment of his spouse, but a man engaged in non-consensual harassment of his employees. Cheating on your spouse is not against the law. But sexual harassment is. And yet a portion of the Republican electorate is not shunning Cain like normal people would do, but actually rallying around him.

Or there's the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, also running in the primary. A couple months ago he accused his fellow candidates of being heartless for his policy of offering some social benefits to the children of undocumented immigrants. "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart." This small modicum of human decency was too much for the Republican electorate, and Perry was forced to apologize. "I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate."

There's pseudo-intellectual Newt Gingrich who, as we've discussed before, has twice ditched ailing wives for healthier mistresses and told outrageous racist lies about Obama. There's Michele Bachmann who has told nothing but fantastic lies in her entire political career and makes government money off the discredited fake-therapy of trying to convert unhappy gay men to heterosexuality. There's Rick Santorum and his unhealthy obsession that the small percentage of gay people in society are at the cause of everything "wrong" with it. And there's poor pathetic Mitt Romney who Republicans are desperate to avoid voting for because even they can see his utter moral emptiness and total vacuity of principle.

These are people I would not invite across the threshold of my front door. Why are we in the position of thinking our only choice is to vote for one of them? Even the ones we convince ourselves are the "good guys" are narcissistic sociopaths. Earlier this year I wrote a defense of lesser-evil voting. I wrestle with this constantly. At this moment I still imagine myself voting for Obama again next year...if only because I fear how much more damage the Republicans could do to civil rights laws. This, knowing that his second term is as likely to be as full of betrayals and disappointments, and of lost children named Tariq, as his first was. Knowing it was a mistake to trust him to be different than his predecessors at the helm of the American state.

But it's why I feel such hope in #OWS: finally here is a flicker that it doesn't have to be that way. Politics isn't all about elections, and elections don't always have to be the way they are today. What if people stopped being willing to vote for sociopaths? Or for would-be child murderers or aspiring rapists? Or valued smart people instead of bigoted morons and village idiots? Or together organized and took for ourselves what is rightfully, morally, our own. The elections — the choice between evil and more evil — become less important, when we create alternatives, when we're actively engaged in changing the fundamental problems and social relations not just hoping they'll get better in time.

Because we really are all in this together. We don't have to pretend Democrats or Republicans represent us, because they obviously don't. We can find our own voice.

We know how a fairytale marriage to Kim Kardashian ends. We know what happens when you place your trust in Tony Soprano. So how come here, back in the real world, we don't know how to change the channel?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Graphic Democracy

Found on facebook. I love how much these graphics that spread like wildfire around teh internets communicate. Above, a suitably totalitarian "Message from the Ministry of Homeland Security." Below, "The Tea Party vs. #occupywallstreet."

And below, new meaning to the phrase "trickle-down theory." From Unrepentant Marxist.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Déjà Vu or, Better Late than Never

"[C]ivilized society is split into antagonistic, and, moreover, irreconcilably antagonistic classes. ...

In a democratic republic, Engels continues,"wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely", first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); secondly, by means of an “alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange" (France and America). At present, imperialism and the domination of the banks have “developed” into an exceptional art both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all descriptions. ...

The exploiting classes need political rule to maintain exploitation, i.e., in the selfish interests of an insignificant minority against the vast majority of all people. The exploited classes need political rule in order to completely abolish all exploitation, i.e., in the interests of the vast majority of the people, and against the insignificant minority consisting of the modern slave-owners — the landowners and capitalists."

—V.I. Lenin, 1917, "The State and Revolution"

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Today: Liberate Oakland!

Occupy Oakland, part of the Occupy Together/Occupy Wall Street/#OWS movement, in the aftermath of last week's outrageous repression, has taken the unprecedented step of organizing a General Strike for today in Oakland. I can't predict at this distance what will happen, but I've seen reports that labor activists — that means working people like you and me — are taking this very seriously and that a number of one-day wildcat protest strikes are likely. So much for a bunch of privileged spoiled hippies, eh?

See the inspired collection of organizing materials at Occupy Oakland's website. If I worked in Oakland I know I sure wouldn't be heading in to the office. If successful, and I define that as having a noticeable effect on the city and the news, this could be one of the most significant actions of the Occupy Together movement so far, and in fact one of the most significant actions of mass protest in years.

Some official chants for the strike action:
“Strike, Occupy, Shut it Down! Oakland is the People’s Town”
“Every Hour, Every Day! The occupation is here to stay!”
“Occupy Everything! Liberate Oakland”
“Politicians & Bankers, Liars & Thieves, We’re taking it back! We’re not saying please!”
“No more cops, we don’t need ‘em! All we want is total freedom”

Kasama has provided a post for reports of the day's action as they come in. #OWS puts the strike in the context of a month of global action.

It's all about sticking together. Shut down the 1%...even for a day! Occupy Everywhere!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Palestine and UNESCO: Two Videos

The video above actually made me tear up as Palestine is voted full state membership in the United Nations agency UNESCO. Note that, as Jews sans Frontieres blog points out, the whole world laughs at Israel as it casts its "no" vote. (Sorry about the advertisement; it's worth sitting through). The joy of the Palestinian delegation, indeed the vast majority of the room, is awesome to behold.

On the other hand, the video below is nausea-provoking as an American official defends the United States' "no" vote. (First noted on AngryArab). Note the journalist Matt Lee who doesn't let the soul-dead American bureaucrat get away with her nonsensical rationalizations and hypocrisy:

Transcript here, thanks to Mondoweiss.

It took about five minutes for the Republic of South Sudan's application for U.N. membership to be approved by the U.N. What ever could the hold-up be with the Palestinian application made a month ago?