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Just Don’t Call Her Che

Published: January 28, 2012

Santiago, Chile

LATE last month the British newspaper The Guardian asked readers to vote for its person of the year. The candidates included household names like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Egyptian techno-revolutionary Wael Ghonim and the Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. All placed far behind a striking, nose-ringed student from Chile named Camila Vallejo.

Though far from a familiar face in the United States, the 23-year-old Ms. Vallejo has gained rock-star status among the global activist class. Since June she has led regular street marches of up to 200,000 people through Santiago’s broad avenues — the largest demonstrations since the waning days of the Pinochet regime in the late 1980s. Under her leadership, the mobilization, known as the Chilean Winter, has gained nationwide support; one of its slogans, “We are the 90 percent,” referred to its approval rating in late September.

Ms. Vallejo’s charismatic leadership has led commentators to make the obligatory comparisons to other Latin American leftist icons like Subcomandante Marcos and Che Guevara. Yet “Commander Camila,” as her followers call her, has become a personality in her own regard. She skewers senators in prime-time TV debates and stays on message with daytime talk-show hosts hungry for lurid details about her personal life, while her eloquence gives her a preternatural ability to connect with an audience far beyond her left-wing base.

In perhaps the most poignant set piece in the year of the protester, Ms. Vallejo addressed a dense ring of photographers and reporters in August while kneeling within a peace sign made of spent tear-gas shells, where she calmly mused about how many educational improvements could have been bought with the $100,000 worth of munitions at her feet.

remainder: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/opinion/sunday/student-protests-rile-chile.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&hp?hp

Remembering Howard Zinn

The historian and activist dedicated his life to "the countless small actions of unknown people".

Last Modified: 27 Jan 2012 10:35

Editor's note: Today, January 27, is the second anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn. An active participant in the Civil Rights movement, he was dismissed in 1963 from his position as a tenured professor at Spelman College in Atlanta after siding with black women students in the struggle against segregation. In 1967, he wrote one of the first, and most influential, books calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. A veteran of the US Army Air Force, he edited The Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and was later designated a "high security risk" by the FBI.

His best-selling A People's History of the United States spawned a new field of historical study: People's Histories. This approach countered the traditional triumphalist examination of "history as written by the victors", instead concentrating on the poor and seemingly powerless; those who resisted imperial, cultural and corporate hegemony. Zinn was an award-winning social activist, writer and historian - and so who better to share his memory than his close friend and fellow intellectual giant, Noam Chomsky?

Cambridge, Mass - It is not easy for me to write a few words about Howard Zinn, the great American activist and historian. He was a very close friend for 45 years. The families were very close too. His wife Roz, who died of cancer not long before, was also a marvellous person and close friend. Also sombre is the realisation that a whole generation seems to be disappearing, including several other old friends: Edward Said, Eqbal Ahmed and others, who were not only astute and productive scholars, but also dedicated and courageous militants, always on call when needed - which was constant. A combination that is essential if there is to be hope of decent survival.

Howard's remarkable life and work are summarised best in his own words. His primary concern, he explained, was "the countless small actions of unknown people" that lie at the roots of "those great moments" that enter the historical record - a record that will be profoundly misleading, and seriously disempowering, if it is torn from these roots as it passes through the filters of doctrine and dogma. His life was always closely intertwined with his writings and innumerable talks and interviews. It was devoted, selflessly, to empowerment of the unknown people who brought about great moments. That was true when he was an industrial worker and labour activist, and from the days, 50 years ago, when he was teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, a black college that was open mostly to the small black elite.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201212382259755885.html

Interrogating the NY Times' Anthony Shadid

The two-time Pulitzer winner on sneaking into Syria, being kidnapped in Libya, and the high cost of getting the story in a war zone.

—By Aaron Ross

Thu Jan. 26, 2012 3:00 AM PST

Anthony Shadid may have a hard time topping his last year's adventures. The New York Times' Beirut bureau chief and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting spent 2011 tracing the path of the Arab Spring. He traveled west from Egypt, where he covered the 18-day uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak, to Libya, where demonstrations against dictator Moammar Qaddafi morphed into armed rebellion. During a battle last March in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, Shadid and three Times colleagues were captured by Libyan government forces. Over the course of a harrowing week, they were blindfolded, beaten, and threatened with execution before finally being released. Returning to Lebanon in August to report on the Assad regime's intensifying crackdown on Syria's protest movement, Shadid audaciously snuck across the Syrian border sans visa. For days he shuttled on motorcycle from one safe house to the next alongside some of the country's most wanted dissidents, emerging with a rare firsthand glimpse of a nation cascading toward civil war.

Despite his renown for daredevil reporting—in 2002, Shadid was wounded by sniper fire in Ramallah—it's his knack for penetrating the surface of rough-and-tumble conflict zones that makes him one of his generation's preeminent foreign correspondents. In his more than six years covering the Iraq War, he routinely unearthed the conflict's human faces with a lyricism that seemed to belie his prolificacy.

Shadid's third book, House of Stone, due out in late March, demonstrates his uncanny ability to reclaim humanity from wreckage. It recounts Shadid's return to his ancestral village in southern Lebanon from 2007 to 2008 to rebuild his great-grandfather's abandoned home—and perhaps piece back together his own wayward life in the process. In an account infused with introspection, the Oklahoma-raised Shadid narrates a rich personal odyssey for community amid a war-torn region's struggle to reclaim a modicum of its former identity. I spoke to Shadid about the Arab Spring, the perils of his profession, and the path forward in Syria.

Mother Jones: What was it like growing up Lebanese in Oklahoma City?

Anthony Shadid: I had a great childhood. I think writers are always better off when they have more twisted childhoods, but I didn't. There's always a sense of community, of belonging to the Lebanese community, in Oklahoma. It's remarkable, when I talk to other Arab-Americans, how closed and tight-knit the community was, everything from the church that everyone shared—they all came from the same town in Lebanon—to the food that was served on every holiday and almost every day. There was a sense of coming from someplace else and having to make it in the place they ended up, and there was a lot of pride in that. The one thing that shaped my life was when I was 15 or 16: I knew I wanted to be a journalist. And not just a journalist, but a journalist in the Middle East, and to go back to the Arab world and try to understand what it meant to be Lebanese.

in full: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/anthony-shadid-libya-syria-house-of-stone

on edit to remove advertisement.

The US-GCC fatal attraction

By Pepe Escobar

There's no way to understand the larger-than-life United States-Iran psychodrama, the Western push for regime change in both Syria and Iran, and the trials and tribulations of the Arab Spring(s) - now mired in perpetual winter - without a close look at the fatal attraction between Washington and the GCC. [1]

GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of six wealthy Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - UAE), founded in 1981 and which in no time configured as the prime strategic US backyard for the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, for the long-drawn battle in the New Great Game in Eurasia, and also as the headquarters for "containing" Iran.

The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and Central Command's forward headquarters is based in Qatar; Centcom polices no less than 27 countries from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia - what the Pentagon until recently defined as "the arc of instability". In sum: the GCC is like a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf magnified to Star Trek proportions.

I prefer to refer to the GCC as the Gulf Counter-revolution Club - due to its sterling performance in suppressing democracy in the Arab world, even before Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia over a year ago.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA20Ak02.html

The Operators: Six Questions for Michael Hastings by Scott Horton

Harper's Magazine.

Michael Hastings’s Polk Award–winning Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” brought the career of General Stanley McChrystal, America’s commander in Afghanistan, to an abrupt end. Now Hastings has developed the material from that article, and the storm that broke in its wake, into an equally explosive book, The Operators, which includes a merciless examination of relations between major media and the American military establishment. I put six questions to Hastings about his book and his experiences as a war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan:

1. Your book presents a Barack Obama who behaves uncomfortably and perhaps too deferentially around his generals, but who is also the first president since Harry S. Truman to have sacked a theater commander during wartime—and moreover, who did it twice (first, General David McKiernan, then McChrystal). How do you reconcile these observations?

I actually think the two observations reveal an evolution in the president’s relationship to the military. During my reporting, one of the conclusions I came to was that President Obama’s mistake wasn’t firing General McChrystal—it was hiring him in the first place. General McKiernan wouldn’t have been a political headache for the president; McKiernan wouldn’t have waged a media campaign to undermine the White House, nor have demanded 130,000 troops.

The president didn’t come up with the idea to fire McKiernan on his own. He was convinced to do so by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral David Mullen, and General David Petraeus. He took their advice without questioning it, really. That, I believe, was his original sin in dealing with the military. The rap on McKiernan was that he was a loser who just didn’t get it. I never bought that narrative—nor did a number of military officials I spoke to. McKiernan understood perfectly well what counterinsurgency was, and he’d started enacting it. (There were fewer civilian deaths under McKiernan than McChrystal.) But McKiernan was on the wrong team—he was the victim, essentially, of bureaucratic infighting. At the time, the president had put a lot of trust in Gates and Mullen (misplaced, in my opinion) and didn’t have the confidence to say, “Hey, wait a second, maybe McKiernan should stay.”

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008406

Noam Chomsky chooses Obama over GOPs as 2012 President

Noam Chomsky has said, "I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world." He stated that the 2012 candidates are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior."

The extended view by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman with Noam Chomsky --- world-renowned activist, linguist, public intellectual and Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author and one of the most influential political analysts of our day and age --- represents what American GOP middle-class voters are lamenting, "If only we had another candidate to pick from."
This is even made more evident in Amy Goodman's latest article, "Republicans Divided, Citizens United," saying that "the Republicans are not enthusiastic about any of their candidates." In her article, Goodman forecasts that the 2012 presidential election promises to be long, contentious, extremely expensive and perhaps more negative than any in history.

Goodman asked Professor Chomsky what he thought the big difference was between President Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. She also asked if he thought there would be a "drastic change in policy if a Republican were to win in 2012 and if it were Perry or Romney?" As seen in the above video, his reply was, "Politics in this country now is in a state that I think has no analogue in American history and maybe nowhere in the parliamentary system. It's astonishing."

One of things he referred to is the fact major Republican candidates deny climate change, except for Michele Bachmann when she was still in the running. "I heard a statement of hers in which she said, 'Well, yes, maybe it's happening. It's God's punishment for allowing gay marriage,' or some comment like that. I mean, this --- what's going on there is just off the international spectrum of sane behavior." He added, "The positions they're taking [the candidates] are utterly outlandish."

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/317710#ixzz1kEaBO2B7

The perils of 2012 by Joseph Stiglitz

In 2012, global economic rebalancing will accelerate, inevitably leading to political tensions.

Last Modified: 21 Jan 2012 12:07

Kolkata, India - The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic US citizens began to give up hope. President John F Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, those in the US are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts have been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.

In that brief moment when the rising tide was indeed rising, millions of people believed that they might have a fair chance of realising the "American Dream". Now those dreams, too, are receding. By 2011, the savings of those who had lost their jobs in 2008 or 2009 had been spent. Unemployment cheques had run out. Headlines announcing new hiring - still not enough to keep pace with the number of those who would normally have entered the labour force - meant little to the 50-year-olds with little hope of ever holding a job again.

Indeed, middle-aged people who thought that they would be unemployed for a few months have now realised that they were, in fact, forcibly retired. Young people who graduated from college with tens of thousands of dollars of education debt cannot find any jobs at all. People who moved in with friends and relatives have become homeless. Houses bought during the property boom are still on the market or have been sold at a loss. More than seven million families in the US have lost their homes.

The dark underbelly of the previous decade's financial boom has been fully exposed in Europe as well. Dithering over Greece and key national governments' devotion to austerity began to exact a heavy toll last year. Contagion spread to Italy. Spain's unemployment, which had been near 20 per cent since the beginning of the recession, crept even higher. The unthinkable - the end of the euro - began to seem like a real possibility.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201211416122556461.html

Clinton revives charge of 'covert' site

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's charge on Tuesday that Iran had intended to keep its nuclear facility at Fordow secret until it was revealed by Western intelligence revived a claim the Barack Obama administration made in September 2009.

Clinton said Iran "only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction". She also charged that there was no "plausible reason" for Iran to enrich to a 20% level at the Fordow plant, implying that the only explanation was an intent to make nuclear weapons.

Clinton's charges were part of a coordinated US-British attack on Iran's enrichment at Fordow. British Foreign Minister William
Hague also argued that Fordow was too small to support a civilian power program. Hague also referred to its "location and clandestine nature", saying they "raise serious questions about its ultimate purpose".

The Clinton-Hague suggestions that the Fordow site must be related to an effort to obtain nuclear weapons appear to be aimed at counter-balancing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's statement only two days earlier that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA13Ak02.html

The shame of Guantanamo Bay by Anthony Romero

All branches of the US government must act to end one of the most shameful episodes in American history.

January 11, 2012

New York, New York - This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoner arriving at Guantanamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in US history. Guantanamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It has long been past the time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close.

President Obama has failed to shutter Guantanamo, even though on his second day in office he signed an executive order to close the prison and restore "core constitutional values". In fact, the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act that Obama signed on New Year's Eve contains a sweeping provision that makes indefinite military detention, including of people captured far from any battlefield, a permanent part of American law for the first time in this country's history. This is not just unconstitutional - it's just plain wrong.

Guantanamo was fashioned as an "island outside the law" where terrorism suspects could be held without charge and interrogated without restraint. Almost 800 men have passed through its cells. Today, 171 remain.

As documents secured by the ACLU demonstrate, Guantanamo became a perverse laboratory for brutal interrogation methods. Prisoners were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, extreme temperatures and prolonged isolation. It started with two false premises: Those who were sent there were all terrorists picked up on the battlefield and that, as "unlawful enemy combatants", they had no legal rights. In reality, a tiny percentage was captured by US forces; most were seized by Pakistani and Afghan militias, tribesmen, and officials, and then sold to the US for large bounties.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201211193555298292.html

Hobbes’s Mortal Gods: Six Questions for Ted H. Miller by Scott Horton

January 9, 2012

The last decade was clearly something of a Hobbesian moment in American history. Now, political philosopher and Hobbes scholar Ted H. Miller has written a book entitled Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes, in which he examines the English philosopher’s work and its relationship to court politics, absolutist rule, and the seventeenth-century fascination with practical mathematics. I put six questions to Miller about his new book:

1. If the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes can be separated from that of John Locke on a single practical point, it is probably the notion of accountability of senior political figures. Locke teaches us that no man can be above the law. But for Hobbes, as you note, the sovereign is personified as a law-giver who operates outside the limitations of law. Many in America today believe we are witnessing a resurgence of notions of immunity and unaccountability that benefit the powerful and the wealthy. Is this the legacy of Thomas Hobbes?

It’s a very troubling resurgence. As a proponent of absolutist sovereignty, Hobbes plays a part, but he isn’t alone. Moreover, he might aid more than one perspective on this question. Like absolutists before and after, he taught that sovereign powers ought not to be held to law by their subjects. For some, including Locke, Hobbes’s sovereign is an untamed beast who roams his domain, a threat to subjects rather than a legitimate authority. For Hobbes himself, an unquestionable sovereign is the very condition of an ordered and lawful state. With no last word on the law, chaos results. A sovereign held accountable within the state could not do what a sovereign must: “overawe” subjects and hold them accountable. This unusual status of his sovereign as the exempt keeper of law made Hobbes a kind of beacon to critics of rule-of-law liberals in the twentieth century. They noted that Hobbes’s sovereign might suspend, or destroy and reconstitute, basic law in crisis moments.

Hobbes, however, might offer his own solution to the problem of wealthy and powerful people who stand immune and unaccountable: if they claim this immunity without sovereign warrant, then sovereign powers should exercise their force to hold them to account. Unfortunately, much of the immunity you’ve referenced gets the nod from those who claim sovereign power. Some have described the vast increases in executive power after 9/11 as a form of neo-absolutism. The creeping immunity granted those who do the state’s bidding can be seen in the same light.

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008381
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