About my Blog

I am writing this blog from a radical political point of view. To be a political radical is to examine everything critically. It is about taking today's news, today's unmentioned news, history, or even just the way we think about ideas, and adding a totally new perspective to them. If you are a radical, and a socialist, like me, you will agree with a lot of what I have to say. If not, I hope I at least make you think about things that you previously took for granted. Most of all, I hope everyone enjoys this blog.

About Me

I have just graduated from college, where I wrote opinion pieces for my school newspaper. Though I started out a liberal, I have moved far to the left since then. Despite my politics being different from most people, many people found a lot of what I had to say interesting and insightful. I hope to continue challenging people to think here on my blog.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why I Oppose the Rally to Restore Sanity: The Insanity of Moderation

Tomorrow people are going to march on Washington as part of Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity."  People may show up to support Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, to oppose the Tea Party, or to support the Democrats.  But Jon Stewart's definition of "sanity" is something that is problematic.  As he put it when announcing the march on his show, he wants a "million moderate march," a group that represents "70 to 80% of our population" vs the "other 15 to 20%."  He goes on to describe the "other 15 to 20%."  To paraphrase him, they are the "extremists." The problem is, based on the clip that Jon Stewart shows, the tea party is basically the same as the activist group Code Pink.  You can watch the full announcement here:  http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-16-2010/rally-to-restore-sanity.  And I seriously doubt Colbert will add anything good to this idea, since he is there to "restore fear," as a joke of course, and therefore implying that the choice is either moderation or fear.

I've argued against this framework before, but its worth repeating. "Extremism" is not inherently wrong.  Nor is it inherently insane.  Copernicus was an "extremist" for suggesting that the Earth actually revolves around the sun.  Gallileo was so vocal about this "extreme" idea, the Church went after him.  Also, they were both sane in an insane world.  And, as Orwell might have put it, I suppose if "70 to 80% of our population" thinks that 2+2=5, then it is, the truth be damned.

Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of Code Pink, described Jon Stewart's position as "slacktivism" which absolutely describes what this rally is about.  After all, Jon Stewart suggested that the people at the rally might "need to go home at 6" and aren't usually out there because they have "actual lives."  Medea Benjamin was put in a skit last night, grouping her with an anarchist, a tea partier, and a guy wearing a giant Ahmadinejad head.  Her article can be found here:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/27-6.  Code Pink, its worth noting, is a prime example of sane extremism, because, at least in this country, its viewed as insane to demand an end to war.

We need a little more sanity regarding the issue of "extremism," and what it really means.  This rally is intended to replace real sanity with centrism.  With a "centrist" government moving government policy further to the right every day despite the insanity of the previous administration, this is not what we need right now.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Problem with Burning the Koran, Part II

Pastor Terry Jones is being told that burning Korans is offensive by the likes of Sarah Palin.  Everyone from military officials to President Obama are telling him, and us, that burning Korans represents a threat to national security.

I think we've already established that Muslims will find the book burning in Florida very, very, offensive.  But would we normally assume that a group of people will act with violence just because someone decided to hurt their feelings?  Or are we being told to assume that one particular religious, or in the eyes of the ignorant, racial group, can't handle being insulted?  

The implication by almost everyone in the establishment is that one particular group of people, Muslims, are fundamentally different than everyone else.  One particular group has an anger management problem.  If you offend us our feelings are hurt, but if you offend them you die.

It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to see that this is racist.  If some other group assumed that they had better not offend Christians because they will react with violence, shouldn't Christians be offended?  Of course, to make this an equivalent analogy, when these people said "Christians, they would mean all Americans, including those who are not Christian or even White Anglo Saxon Protestant.  How should we feel about that?

You might object that those who believe that the burning of the Koran will lead to violence are only talking about extremists.  This ignores the fact that a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda that views itself as being "at war" with the United States isn't going to act or not act depending on what a pastor in Florida does.  Such a statement also ignores the fact that insurgents are not going to stop opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan just because a pastor in Florida decides to not burn Korans.  To the extent that we're talking about the security threat to troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the real threat to their security is the fact that they are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and the people in those countries don't want them there.

The problem is that the establishment as a whole, both the Democrats and the Republicans, the generals and the politicians, want us to believe that Islam is a violent religion.  For 9 years, this has set the grounds for the second perpetual war, since the Cold War did what perpetual wars are not supposed to do, it came to an end.  Back then, the supposed enemy that made people in the U.S. become patriotic and forget about what the government was doing to them, was Communism.  Today, it is terrorism, which the government has decided stems from Islam, despite the fact that there are many non Muslim terrorists, and that the state shouldn't have any more of a right to kill people than non-state actors.  The establishment has learned that if it wants to justify curtailing civil liberties forever or create a permanent imaginary enemy than it had better take something more permanent than the Soviet Union.  Unfortunately, Islam, with over a billion followers around the world, fits this bill perfectly.  If we don't want to become a nation driven by racism, we had better reject this propaganda, whether it comes from Bush, Palin, or Obama.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Problem with Burning the Koran, Part I

Since I wrote my post about being offended, a lunatic pastor in Florida, has made plans to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.  And everyone has decided that this must be condemned.  However, some people, have decided that the problem with burning Korans is not that it is hateful, but rather that it is offensive.

The notion that it is offensive is implied everywhere, but this argument that what matters is how many feelings are hurt is made explicit by Sarah Palin.  Sarah Palin made a statement, which, according to the Huffington Post, ended with this line:

"Our nation was founded in part by those fleeing religious persecution. Freedom of religion is integral to our charters of liberty. We don't need to agree with each other on theological matters, but tolerating each other without unnecessarily provoking strife is how we ensure a civil society. In this as in all things, we should remember the Golden Rule. Isn't that what the Ground Zero mosque debate has been about?" 
The easy interpretation is that this is gibberish since nothing Sarah Palin says ever makes sense.  Unfortunately, its not.  It's a fairly explicit mention of the implicit principle that we should not offend each other.  If we should "do onto others as you would have others do onto you" then, according to this argument we should not offend people, since we would not like to be offended.  Aside from my previous comment on this matter (namely that if you're offended by justice, you deserve to be offended) I would like to add a few things.  First of all, I can claim that I am offended by just about anything, and according to this rule, we must censor it.  If I am offended by vanilla ice cream, everyone should stop eating it, according to this principle.  Obviously, this makes no sense.

Therefore we must place the onus on words and actions themselves, not how others feel about it.  In this example, the pastor in Florida, Terry Jones, has decided to burn Korans.  The act is inherently a statement of hate.  How people feel does not change the fact that this act is intended to paint over a billion of the world's people as evil.  I would say that this is simply because of their religion, but Islamophobia typically takes on a racist dimension, where it becomes more relevant that you look "Middle Eastern" than it does that you follow the Koran.

Building a community center at ground zero (or even a mosque, which this isn't) is entirely the opposite.  It's only taken as a statement of hate if people who want to take ground zero and turn it into a "no Muslims allowed zone" choose to be offended.

Unfortunately, racism isn't limited to lunatic pastors or even Sarah Palin.  In part II, I will show why the establishment's argument that burning Korans is "dangerous," is also racist.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's Just Too Bad if You're Offended by the "Ground Zero Community Center"

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the "controversy" involving the community center two blocks away from ground zero.  I'm not going to rehash all of the arguments being made.  Instead, I'm going to focus on the main point those who oppose the community center are making.

The position is this:  The Constitution guarentees the right to build the community center, but we shouldn't do it, because it is offensive to the victims of 9/11.  Some people have argued that the community center should be built because it is a right under the constitution.  This argument is a circular argument, although I think its based on the implicit notion that freedom of religion is a principle, not just a right.  This is ultimately correct, and should be made more explicit.  It's all fine and good that the government is not supposed to be able to deny this right, but if people who are not the government can trample on your freedom of religion, you don't really have that freedom at all.  The same applies for speech and anything else, provided we actually buy the principle.  

There is however, an even more absurd principle being advanced by opponents of the community center.  Just as freedom of religion is a principle, so, we are being told, is the principle that no one should be offended.  While not offending people is undoubtably a good principle for getting along with other people, it is downright immoral as a political principle.

Justice offends people who oppose it.  The racist will always be offended by racial equality.  Sexists are offended by feminism.  This is logical and obvious.  No one would argue that the civil rights movement was wrong because it hurt the feelings of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Likewise, I'm sure Muslims are offended by the notion that this community center is offensive.  They should be.  To suggest that a religious group that consists of 1 billion people represents terrorism or 9/11 in some way is a statement of discrimination against that group.

Not all offense is created equal.  To pretend that bigots deserve the same respect for their feelings that people  who are being discriminated against do puts all logic on its head.  If you find the notion of equality offensive, than you deserve to be offended.

Monday, July 19, 2010

There are No Weapons of Mass Destruction: Iraq's Old Story and Iran's New One

We already knew that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction in 2003. We are now getting more and more evidence that there simply is no weapons program in Iran either.

Let's start with Iraq. Most people think that the U.S. found out there were no WMD when it invaded Iraq. This is false. The truth appears in this excellent article on how economic sanctions wreaked havoc on Iraq (http://www.counterpunch.org/andrew07162010.html).

Here is what Andrew Cockburn wrote on what we knew:

"The economic strangulation of Iraq was justified on the basis of Saddam’s supposed possession of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Year after year, UN inspectors combed Iraq in search of evidence that these WMD existed. But after 1991, the first year of inspections, when the infrastructure of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme was detected and destroyed, along with missiles and an extensive arsenal of chemical weapons, nothing more was ever found. Given Saddam’s record of denying the existence of his nuclear project (his chemical arsenal was well known; he had used it extensively in the Iran-Iraq war, with US approval) the inspectors had strong grounds for suspicion, at least until August 1995. That was when Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law and the former overseer of his weapons programmes, suddenly defected to Jordan, where he was debriefed by the CIA, MI6 and Unscom. In those interviews he made it perfectly clear that the entire stock of WMD had been destroyed in 1991, a confession that his interlocutors, including the UN inspectors, took great pains to conceal from the outside world."

In other words, Saddam Hussein had no WMD since 1991, which we knew as of 1995. During that time, Clinton repeatedly bombed Iraq, and the U.N. put crippling sanctions on Iraq. When Clinton lied, people really did die.
Now, a new story has come out. An Iranian defector Shahram Amiri, apparently told the CIA that there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program. While Amiri was supposedly a low level informant who never had access to the same kind of information that Kamel did, this information squares with the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate and its recent reaffirmation that Iran hasn't been working on a nuclear weapons program since 2003 (if we assume it was working on one then). Here is the full article link to this story:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/19-5.

I have asked the question: "Why should we declare countries "threats" and declare war on them if they have WMD when the U.S. has the largest stockpile of such weapons in the world?" But it turns out, this notion of "secret weapons programs" in countries that do not currently have WMD is a lie the U.S. government knows its false. It's easy to sit here and say that a certain regime is dishonest and therefore how do we trust they are not building WMD? But the truth is that 1. U.N. inspection regimes work and 2. Never trust our government, which has the worst record when it comes to honesty.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Health Care Fiasco

Here is what you'll rarely find, an accurate rundown of the healthcare bill. Here is a Fact Sheet created by Jane Hamsher of FDL Action: http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2010/03/19/fact-sheet-the-truth-about-the-health-care-bill/

To this I only have a few comments to add. They are claiming this bill covers 30 million Americans. What part of "mandate" do they want us not to understand? It'd be exactly like if the government forced us all to buy Toyota's due to their accelerator problems, and then told us that they'd "given" every American a Toyota.

Secondly, many liberals (though not all, such as the organization I sent) have fallen completely in line. Commenters on the Huffington Post are declaring victory (and they're usually to the left of the posters). The argument of supporters basically goes like this: "healthcare" has been passed. Obama has had a "victory." The Teabaggers are dead! Let's all celebrate! There is no argument being made in this, other than loyalty to the Democratic Party. No liberal would have supported the same bill if Bush had tried to pass it. And lest we pretend that no conservative would have tried to pass it, this bill is similar to the "universal coverage" Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Earthquake in Haiti, A Man-Made Disaster with No End in Sight

This is the First Article of a three part series.

Many of us feel terribly sorry about what is happening in Haiti. Of course, we try to give aid in this situation, hoping to do our part to help Haitians survive.

But we should feel more than pity, and sorrow, and sadness. We should be furious.

The results of this earthquake are more of a man-made disaster than a natural disaster. It goes without saying that the failure of the U.S. government and NGO's to deliver aid is a man-made disaster.

But how can there be a lack of aid, with all the giving that has been going on?

Andy Gallagher of the BBC reports that aid groups complain that it is difficult to get aid where it is needed because of the inherent difficulty in organizing such aid, and the lack of infrastructure in Haiti. These alibis seem to work fairly well, until we realize that giving aid usually involves crises in places with weak infrastructure.

A more telling comment comes from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who, according to Andy Gallagher's BBC report said that the U.S. is not dropping aid from the air because it could lead to riots. Imagine that your community was in dire straits, and someone who had the capability of delivering aid rapidly did not do so because "you might riot if we did?" You might respond "How dare you suggest that we are not 'civilized' enough for you to give us the help we need!"

Nelson Valdez, writing for Counterpunch, describes more of this racist attitude. He states that clearly, aid to Haitians is not the first priority. He quotes a Scottish reporter as saying that "aid workers in Haiti today called for more security amid fears of attacks by increasing desperate earthquake survivors." Valdez also cites a report stating that "security squads" have moved aid providers to "secure locations."

There is just one problem with this concern for security. The rioting and looting that lies beyond these concerns isn't happening. The people aren't rioting, they are begging for help.

Jesse Hagopian, writing for the Socialist Worker, has his own observations regarding this crisis. When asked "What role has the U.N. been playing?" He replied "I really didn't see them at all, even though the hotel I was staying at became a center where hundreds of people came for relief." This is more significant than it appears, since the U.N. has a large presence there. In fact, they have been occupying the country since 2004.

Of course, the U.S. marines have also arrived. Why are they there if not to help? Reading between the lines, we can conclude that they are part of the plan for "security" in Haiti. The U.S. government fears unrest. (I will get into more about U.S. imperialism later, but the U.S. would not want a new regime implementing progressive policies due to this disaster).

In addition to "aid" involving a racist fear of Haitians instead of a rapid delivery of aid, we have the U.S. government putting on a show every bit as ridiculous as Bush's disappearance during Hurricane Katrina. Hagopian explains that the airport at Port-au-Prince was shut down for three hours, preventing aid from arriving during that time. Why? So that Hillary Clinton could arrive there to show support! In addition, former presidents Bush Jr. and Clinton have been asked by Obama to help support the relief effort. Of course, this is the same George Bush that led the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. In short, this isn't about helping Haiti, it's about politicians pretending to care.

I would say that the U.S. doesn't care about what is happening in Haiti, except that U.S. actions over the last century reveal that it cares a lot. However, the U.S. cares about its own imperialist interests, not about the people of Haiti.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A world without risk is a world that doesn't exist

The terrorist attack on Christmas got me thinking. When it happened, I thought that it might be a random person. Of course, there has been a lot more evidence since then, evidence that the government should have known something, considering that the intelligence stated that a person referred to as "the Nigerian" was going to be involved in an attack planned in Yemen. But I digress...

When I was thinking that it was some lone nut, I asked myself, what would we do if it was? Indeed, what if it wasn't on a plane? And what is the story when horrible incidents don't involve terrorism but still involve death, like the shooting up of a school? Or, as far as we know, the shooting in Fort Hood?

My point is this, we cannot create a world where there is no danger. Consider this simple fact, when the passengers got on the plane, their was a higher probability of them dying in a plane crash caused by a malfunction than a plane crash caused by a terrorist. And then, there was still an even greater chance of them dying in a car crash on the way to the airport.

Of course, our ideas about security did not start after 9/11. If a person who committed a crime is placed "out on the streets" and then commits another crime, the problem is that we let him out on the streets too soon.

In short, our society wants no risk, at least not from other people. Even if we really did weaken crime by dealing with the causes instead of the symptoms, even if we had the perfect society, does anyone really think that there wouldn't be one person who murders someone else in a world of over 6 billion people?

Not only are we foolish enough to believe that we would be more protected if only the government is tough enough, we also believe that our government can completely protect us (or wants to, but that's another post). It's nonsense.

I think its a psychological trick. We rightly choose to take risks in order to enjoy life to the fullest. However, to deal with the discomfort of doing so, we imagine that we live in a world without risk. The media, of course, scares us all the time, every time we hear a crime story, we're supposed to imagine that it could happen to us. Of course, it could, but that doesn't mean it will, or that its remotely likely.

With a terrorist attack on American soil, its even worse. We're supposed to imagine that not only could it happen to us, but that it did happen to us. It doesn't matter that it didn't happen to you or I. "Us" means any American. Of course, if you have the misfortune to be the victim of an American bombing instead, well, the media makes sure we didn't think that happened to anyone, let alone us.

I would argue that if America were to end imperialism, there would be little motivation for terrorists to attack America. I would also argue that "crime" in America is a result of an unjust society. However, I think some people hope that the government is this super protective being that can provide us with absolute security. Under capitalism, the government does not even serve the people it claims to protect. But even an ideal government can't play God, and protect everyone at all times. It's a good thing too, since who would ever want a government with that much power?