Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everything you need to know about the Burmese Protests

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Q&A: Protests in Burma

As demonstrations in Burma turn violent, Mark Tran looks at the background to the most significant challenge to the junta in decades

How serious are the protests?
After days of largely peaceful demonstrations, the military government is taking a tougher approach. It has imposed curfews and banned gatherings of more than five people. But the monks have continued to march in the streets. Burmese police have responded with baton charges and by firing tear gas and warning shots. Reports say some 7,000 demonstrators, led by 3,000 monks, turned out in Rangoon, Burma's biggest city in today's protests.

Q&A: Protests in Burma

As demonstrations in Burma turn violent, Mark Tran looks at the background to the most significant challenge to the junta in decades

Wednesday September 26, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

How serious are the protests?
After days of largely peaceful demonstrations, the military government is taking a tougher approach. It has imposed curfews and banned gatherings of more than five people. But the monks have continued to march in the streets. Burmese police have responded with baton charges and by firing tear gas and warning shots. Reports say some 7,000 demonstrators, led by 3,000 monks, turned out in Rangoon, Burma's biggest city in today's protests.

Article continues
What are the demonstrations about?
The protests began late last month after the government sharply raised fuel prices - an added hardship for people in one of Asia's poorest and most economically isolated countries.

Arrests and intimidation kept the demonstrations small and scattered until the monks entered the fray. On Sunday, around 20,000 people - including thousands of monks - filled the streets of Rangoon, stepping up their defiance by chanting support for the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi has been under almost continuous house arrest since 1990, when the military refused to recognise a landslide victory by her National League for Democracy party.

Why are the monks protesting?
Monks have played an important role in protests, first against British colonialism and later against the military junta, taking a big part in the failed 1988 pro-democracy rebellion. In the latest protests, the monks have formally refused to accept the alms they traditionally take from the military and the regime. In refusing offerings from those they brand "pitiless soldier kings", they are excommunicating them - an act only undertaken in the most compelling moral circumstances, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

What status do monks hold in Burma?
Up until now, the generals' hesitation to crack down on the monks is explained partly by their special status. Nearly all males in Burma spend some time in their youth as monks or novices and the families of soldiers are likely to have members in a monastic order.

How has the junta responded?
Until today, the government has held fire - unlike in 1988, when troops shot at demonstrators, killing 3,000 people. Today police fired shots in the air rather than at protesters. Nevertheless, the junta has arrested a dozen leaders of the so-called 88 Generation Students group and more than 100 others. Among the best known are Zaganar, a comedian famed for his anti-government jibes, and U Win Naing, a veteran government opponent. Zaganar, along with the actor Kyaw Thu and the poet Aung Way, led a committee that provided food and other supplies to the monks.

Why the soft response?
There have been reports that China is pressuring Burma to avoid a crackdown. China wants to be seen as a moderating influence ahead of next year's Beijing Olympics.

Human rights groups have criticised Beijing for its support of unsavoury regimes such as Burma and Sudan. China's booming economy relies on Burmese oil and gas reserves, and Beijing prefers quiet diplomacy.

In January, China blocked a UN security council resolution criticising Burma's human rights record, saying it was not the appropriate forum.

At the UN general assembly this week the US president, George Bush, announced new sanctions directed at key members of the junta and their financial supporters.

Intense international attention, fuelled by the efforts of Burmese bloggers in defiance of censors, is also a restraining factor.

Who is in charge of Burma?
The military has ruled since 1962, with General Than Shwe the current strongman. The most powerful of the three-man junta, the 74-year-old has been acting as head of state since 1992.

He seemed more liberal than his predecessor, General Saw Maung, freeing some political prisoners and allowing human rights groups to visit. However, he remains resolutely opposed to any role for Ms Suu Kyi.

His career included a stint in the department of psychological warfare. Said to be superstitious, he reportedly consults astrologers. Generals Maung Aye and Soe Win, both hardliners, complete the triumvirate.

The junta reinforced its reputation for paranoia by moving the capital deep into the mountainous jungle at Naypyidaw, outside Pyinmana town, 230 miles north of Rangoon. Activists say the move is designed to insulate the generals from decades of misrule.

What is the state of the economy?
Under British rule, Burma was one of south-east Asia's wealthiest countries, and was once the world's largest rice exporter. However, the military-dominated government programme, called Burmese Way to Socialism, ensured economic isolation and increasing impoverishment in the first 25 years.

By 1987, Burma became one of the UN's least-developed countries, and it is now among the world's lowest-income countries. There have been half-hearted attempts to open up the economy, and tourism has been encouraged, but inflation - at 40% - is a problem, and infrastructure remains poor. The military, unsurprisingly, dominates the economy.

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Junta tries to shut down internet and phone links

The Burmese junta was last night desperately trying to shut down internet and telephone links to the outside world after a stream of blogs and mobile phone videos began capturing the dramatic events on the streets.

In the past 24 hours observers monitoring the flow of information have noticed a marked downturn, with the reported closure of cybercafes and the disconnection of mobile telephones.

"I was getting emails three days ago but now I seem to have lost contact," said Vincent Brussels, head of the Asian section of Reporters Without Borders. "Those who can still access the internet are finding it very slow and hard to send pictures."

Although less than 1% of the population has access to the internet, and only 25,000 people have email addresses, witnesses have been finding loopholes.

Skilled bloggers evaded the official firewalls and, according to knowledgable sources, people with videos sought access to embassies, foreign businesses or non-governmental organisations whose internet access is not so strictly controlled.

The London-based blogger Ko Htike told the BBC: "I have about 10 people inside, in different locations. All my people are among the Buddhists; they are walking along with the march and as soon as they get any images or news they pop into internet cafes and send it to me."

The main websites providing up-to-the-minute information are run by Burmese exiles. The Democratic Voice of Burma, originally just an opposition shortwave radio station, operates out of Norway. Its news editor said from Oslo last night: "We had been getting information through mobile phones but these have been cut off. Then our reporters used cybercafes but the traffic has really slowed down in the last few hours. Some of the landlines we used have also been closed, so we cannot get in touch with our people."

Mizzima News, established in 1998 by a group of Burmese journalists, is based in Delhi, with a news bureau in Thailand. From humble beginnings, three journalists started an online news service with a laptop and no telephone. It now runs an email news service and an online video site with half-hourly updates on its main news site, often from eyewitnesses.

A third source is the online Irrawaddy magazine run by Burmese exiles in Thailand, with hourly reports from all over the country. It has heralded the emergence of the new "citizen reporters". And from the Asia-Pacific People's Partnership on Burma come daily exhortations: "Tomorrow will be the BIG DAY as the monks have called on the people from all walks of life to join them the protest movement ... Dear friends, please continue to be vigilant and be prepared to take solidarity actions that we will post for you very soon."

According to Reporters Without Borders, Burma ranks 164 out of 168 states on press freedom. The group says: "The Burmese government's internet policies are even more repressive than those of its Chinese and Vietnamese neighbours ... It keeps a very close eye on internet cafes, in which the computers automatically execute screen captures every five minutes, in order to monitor user activity."

A detailed study of the internet in Burma by the OpenNetInitiative - run by Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Toronto universities - reported: "Internet access is costly and the state uses software-based filtering techniques to limit significantly the materials Burma's citizens can access online. Most dial-up internet accounts provide access only to the limited Myanmar internet, not to the global network."


Dawn, a young woman living in Rangoon, has been blogging on Yahoo. Here are extracts from her journal on Tuesday.

A lot of rumours are flying around Yangon. I am getting awfully paranoid. What I heard:

The military has been ordered to shoot ... The hospital has been ordered to be cleared, and that they are going to shoot today ... I'll let you know when I've been shot. (I'll ask someone before I die to blog about it. If it was an instant death, I'll come to my sister in my dream and tell her to blog about it, or I won't rest in peace)

The actress and singer Htun Aindra Bo has been captured last night, along with the comedian Zar Ga Nar, and the actor Kyaw Thu for participating in the demonstration.

The recent raining in Yangon have been because of the fake rain bombs dropped by the military.

Internet connections in Myanmar will be shut down tonight.

What I saw: some shops downtown closed down early, and some companies released their employees early. Internet connection was down from 11:20am to 3:40pm. I don't know if it's an isolated case, or just in my office.

Protesters of a large number gathered in front of City Hall, carrying posters, and banners. Holding their party's Peacock flag, NLD [National League for Democracy] members also joined the protest, along with university students.

I am just reporting the current events in Yangon. I doubt that I will be captured and questioned just for writing this, but then.. you never know.

Monday, September 24, 2007

4 questions the media needs to start asking

Why Iraq?

First a shout out to Greenspan's loose lips, without them journalists would have continued their indefensible silence on the giant turd in the room namely our manifest energy interests in the cradle of civilization. Even with big Al's feeble back-peddling his initial candor should be acknowledged. However, oil isn't the only reason we chose to unseat Saddam. The answer to "Why Iraq" is a confluence of factors. Greed. Ignorance. Racism. Oh, how people squirm when someone utters the "R" word. But I submit for your consideration: Would we have as quickly invaded a white, Christian nation? Or would we allow over 1 million European civilians die during an American military occupation? Be it Korea, Vietnam, Panama or Nicaragua, the current war is just an extension of an egregiously racist foreign policy. We feel Western lives hold more value than everyone else. And this approach has more than once doublebacked and hit us where the good Lord split us.

What is the best way to end the occupation?

If you only listen to the two options presented by the mainstream media it looks like we're jolly well fucked. We've got two choices: 1) stay in Iraq until the second coming of Christ or 2) leave Iraq and watch the inevitable genocide ensue. What we need to do is make friends with the neighboring countries like Syria and Iran, who are creeps to be sure, but has that ever stopped us before? Suharto of Indonesia was an unsavory character and we supplied him with arms, or Davalier of Haiti wasn't exactly a saint but we spirited him away to France when the peasants came for his head. These men were the worst our species can offer who so happened to be BFFs with our country. So why not recruit Ahmadinejad and al-Assad? They're willing to lend a helping hand. Think about it, none of the surrounding states want to see a renegade Iraq next door endangering their stability. If there's any trepidation to whether or not we can trust Ahmadinejad, the head of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, came out as a closeted freedom hater by stating the obvious, that there's no evidence supporting a "weaponized" Iranian nuclear program. But what does he know, he only heads the International Atomic Energy Agency. He doesn't realize diplomacy is for wimps, momma's boys and the French.

What is the best way of defending ourselves?

Thanks to the imprudent policies of Reagan and every president thereafter militant Islamists rose from the margins of Arab society into an influential sect. Legitimized as a defense against American imposition, our incessant bullying makes bin Laden's message attractive to antagonized, young Muslims. That's why we need to kiss our military palaces goodbye and exit Iraq immediately. This threat cannot be confronted with a bludgeon, we need to implement laser-like delicacy with police, not military, tactics, punish those who attacked us, not non-combatants. With our spying technology - which can be used lawfully under third party supervision - soft targets could be secured, and the criminals apprehended. The only person I know of on T.V. who's saying any of this is my president, Mike Gravel. He even broke the taboo and called for a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Which is smart because what do people like bin Laden say in every third video they release? Free Palestine. Holocaust denial is energized by the conflict as well. If there were to be a tenable, two-state solution extremists around the world would lose a lot of their purchase.

Can America really do that?

American Exceptionalism. This one is untouchable. Ironically, most of our entanglements could be avoided if the press applied this question more often. Fact - America is just another country like Estonian. We shouldn't be granted entitlements on an international level just because we're a graceless giant. Does the U.S. have the right to demand a military base in Turkey or Russia? No! Can we dictate who should or shouldn't have the bomb? No! Should we be able to violate a nation's sovereignty? No! A little humility goes a long way. While the car bombs we detonate, the democratically elected leaders we depose and the ethnic cleansing we support may go unnoticed or is readily forgotten by us, the victims left in our wake are rarely as forgiving as we are to ourselves.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

America in Crisis: The Liberal Challenge and the Prospects for Socialism

America in Crisis: The Liberal Challenge and the Prospects for Socialism
by Susan Rosenthal

America is deeply divided. For one thing, most Americans want an end to the war against Iraq and some form of universal health care, while the ruling class is committed to the war and to sacrificing social services to pay for it.

This conflict between the rulers and the ruled reflects a deeper, structural rift. In a series of three articles (Z Magazine, February, April, May, 2007), Jack Rasmus reveals how,

“From the early 1980s on, income inequality widened, deepened, and accelerated until today well over $1 trillion in income is being transferred every year from the roughly 90 million working class families in the U.S. to corporations and the wealthiest non-working class households.”

Thirty-five years of pro-business policies have hurtled class inequality back to the level of the 1920s. One percent of Americans now owns half the nation’s wealth. By 2005, U.S. millionaires owned $30 trillion in assets, more than the annual wealth produced in China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the European Union combined!

The extent of inequality is angering the working class and alarming sections of the establishment. In “the land of opportunity,” inequality is typically blamed on the have-nots for lacking the skills and determination to succeed. Now that the majority has been left behind, this excuse has lost credibility. Consider the following editorial from the New York Times (August 29, 2007),

“The median household income last year was still about $1,000 less than in 2000, before the onset of the last recession… When household incomes rose, it was because more members of the household went to work, not because anybody got a bigger paycheck…The earnings of men and women working full time actually fell more than 1 percent last year…The spoils of the nation’s economic growth have flowed almost exclusively to the wealthy and the extremely wealthy, leaving little for everybody else.”

Americans are seething with discontent over falling living standards, the environmental crisis, the war and the abysmal state of the medical system. In the spring of 2006, this anger exploded in the largest demonstrations in the nation’s history. Protesting anti-immigrant policies and chanting “We are America,” the working class rose up and punched the capitalist class in the face. That fall, the Republican majority was swept from office by voters who were sick of government lies, incompetence and corruption.

Reform or revolution

A section of the ruling class is concerned that popular discontent could coalesce into a generalized rebellion against the system. This happened after World War I, in the 1930s and again in the 1960s.

There are only two solutions to such crises: reform from above to restore confidence in the system or revolution from below to replace it. Let’s examine the first option.

Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are committed to the American Empire and to the conquest of Iraq. To counter widespread anti-war sentiment, Washington has repackaged the war as military support for the Iraqi government, with Iraqi incompetence being blamed for “delaying” troop withdrawal. Regular announcements of “signs of progress” imply that the war is winding down when it is actually escalating. This stalling tactic seems to be working, for now.

Reducing class inequality presents a greater challenge. The New York Times concludes, “What are needed are policies to help spread benefits broadly — be it more progressive taxation, or policies to strengthen public education and increase access to affordable health care.”

The elite immediately cry “socialism!” at the suggestion that any portion of the social pie should be returned to the working class. Capitalists want a State that enacts policies just for them and rescues only them. And that’s what they get. In countless ways, capitalism functions as a kind of socialism for the rich.

America’s tax laws free the largest corporations from paying any tax whatsoever. Federal judges have allowed ailing industries to abandon billions of dollars in “burdensome” pension obligations. The multi-billion-dollar federal bailout of mortgage lenders has not been matched by any money for working-class home owners facing foreclosure. And while the Bush administration allows Medicare-funded insurance companies to keep millions of dollars that should have been returned to beneficiaries, it vigorously pursues beneficiaries to recover money that it says is owed to insurance companies.

While the New York Times complains about such injustices, it doesn’t want socialism. It wants a lesser-evil capitalism directed by the Democratic Party.

Liberals and liberal institutions condemn the worst aspects of capitalism in order to preserve the system as a whole. Most Americans want more investment in the nation’s infrastructure. They want universal healthcare and more funding for schools. They want New Orleans rebuilt and their bridges secure. Liberals fear that if the system fails to deliver, the majority will reject the system.

Wiser capitalists remember the French Revolution. Those who take too much can lose their heads. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett prefer to return a small piece of the pie than forfeit the entire bakery.

Gates criticizes the “inequality gap” and devotes a tiny portion of his fortune to charity. Buffett says it’s unfair that he pays less than 18 per cent of his income in taxes, when his secretary pays 30 per cent of hers. Gates and Buffett aren’t socialists. Like the robber-baron philanthropists of the previous century, they understand that their class must appear generous to preserve its system of organized thievery.

President Roosevelt faced a similar choice when he fought for the New Deal despite opposition from business interests. In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn explains,

“The Roosevelt reforms…had to meet two pressing needs: to reorganize capitalism in such a way as to overcome the crisis and stabilize the system; also to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion…— organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self-help and general strikes in several cities.”

Reining in a 35-year wealth-grabbing binge won’t be easy. Despite liberal demands that Democrats in Congress develop a spine, the Democratic Party serves the business class. Returning any wealth to the working class would undermine Corporate America’s ability to dominate the global economy.

Unless it is forced to use the carrot to quell discontent, the ruling class prefers to use the stick. The war on terror, with its attack on civil liberties, is the capitalists’ response to inequality and injustice. They seize the wealth; they do not share it. They crush their victims; they do not rescue them. And they don’t feel threatened by a labor movement that is currently too weak to mount a sustained rebellion. At the same time, their confidence has been shaken by their failures to win the war, create a workable immigration policy and resolve the health-care crisis.

Channeling discontent

Liberals argue that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The capitalist class is a tiny minority that needs majority consent to rule. That consent could be lost if social problems are allowed to deepen. Liberals prefer to align with social discontent in order to contain it within established channels.

When the President defended insurance industry profits over the needs of sick children, the New York Times shared the nation’s outrage. In “An Immoral Philosophy” (August 1, 2007), Paul Krugman writes,

“What kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?…9 in 10 Americans – including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans – support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program…There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.”

The liberal media are running to get ahead of a growing number of dissidents, like Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, who are fueling discontent. Klein’s best-selling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, has joined Moore’s documentary film, SiCKO, to punch holes in the lies that prop up the system. When Oprah and Moore agree on national television that America needs some form of socialized medicine, the wind is definitely shifting.

Suddenly, “socialism” is not such a dirty word. In “A Socialist Plot” (August 27, 2007), Krugman writes, “The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care.”

Liberals must convince the capitalist class that a lesser-evil-capitalism, even when it calls itself socialism, is preferable to the threat of real socialism. However, conservatives argue that granting reforms will be the start of a slippery slope. If Americans think they have a right to health care, what else will they think they deserve?

Conservatives remember the 1960s, when Americans gained the confidence to demand racial equality, women’s liberation, aboriginal rights, gay liberation, more social support, higher wages, safer working conditions, more affordable housing, better schools and more access to medical care. There was organized opposition to the arms race, nuclear power, the death penalty, American foreign policy and the Vietnam War. It took a concerted effort and many years to beat back that rebellion.

Is America ready for socialism?

The social crisis and the conflict at the top have opened a space to discuss genuine socialism, a worker-run democracy where ordinary people take collective control of the economy and direct it to meet human needs. The material conditions already exist for such a society.

Because socialism is based on sharing, there must be more than enough to go around. That is no longer a problem. If the yearly production of American workers was transformed into dollars and equally shared among the population, it would provide $45,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation, or $180,000 for every family of four. This sum would be many times larger if everyone who wanted to work was employed and if the wealth produced in previous years was included.

The same is true on a world scale. Between 1800 and 2000, the amount of wealth produced grew eight times faster than the global population. Only a few have benefited. By 2001, 497 billionaires enjoyed assets of $1.54 trillion, more than the combined incomes of half of humanity.

The second criterion for socialism is a matter of choice. Human beings create the societies in which they live and they can choose to change them.

Most Americans do not choose socialism because they are bamboozled into thinking that it would not be in their interest. Our rulers insist that there is no alternative to capitalism, as they intensify their barbaric tactics of blame-the-victim and divide-and-rule. By dazzling us with their power, they hope that we will not discover our own, much greater power.

Capitalism isn’t threatened by talk of cooperation and sharing. However, it cannot tolerate demands for a society based on these principles. That’s why the elite have made “socialism” a dirty word. If people knew they could meet their needs and solve their problems without a ruling class, they would have no need for capitalism.

Socialist organizations bring ordinary people together to discover and use their collective power. Where capitalism divides and fragments, socialists link individuals, struggles, past events and future dreams into a unified struggle for human survival.

The battle for ideas is critical. To isolate workers and re-enforce their feelings of powerlessness, the capitalist class infects them with fear and pessimism. In contrast, socialists connect workers’ experience of individual suffering with their collective power to eliminate that suffering. It’s easy to believe in those who believe in themselves. Socialists believe in the working class even when it does not believe in itself.

The anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s raised the hope of change. So did the massive anti-war demonstrations that preceded America’s invasion of the Middle East. When the U.S. began bombing Baghdad, many became discouraged and retreated from activism.

Today, rising discontent is not matched by a corresponding rise in struggle. While millions of Americans are enraged by the deterioration of their lives and society, decades of defeat have deepened the belief that real change is not possible. But beliefs change.

The working class is obedient, not stupid. It has rejected the war despite a steady stream of pro-war propaganda. Workers are also exceedingly patient, but there is a limit to how much unfairness they will tolerate.

With the economy sliding into recession, the New York Times warns, “It seems that ordinary working families are going to have to wait — at the very minimum — until the next cycle to make up the losses they suffered in this one. There’s no guarantee they will.”

No one can know when the next struggle will erupt or what its outcome will be. Only one thing is certain. The needs of the capitalist class will continue to clash with the needs of humanity. If we can organize ourselves in sufficient numbers to end the war and win universal health care, we need not stop there. We could proceed to build a very different world based on peace and security for all.

Carl Sagan - Episode 1: "Wanderers"

Friday, September 21, 2007

We need to start fighting like girls

Oh! isn't it a pity, such a pretty girl as I
Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?
Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,
For I'm so fond of liberty,
That I cannot be a slave

spinnersThis was sung by the Lowell "Mill Girls" during their 1836 strike. Most worked for textile mills in order to send a single family member through school, usually a brother or son. Girls as young as ten were stuffed into sweltering rooms for up to 16 hours a day. Large, noisy machines spilled particles of fabric into the unventilated air, and the workers lived in factory-owned boardinghouses, paying their rent to the textile mill they labored under. When the factory raised the price of lodging the girls organized. They published literature bursting with poems and articles about their abhorrent working conditions, shared life stories and planned strikes. The first was in 1834 and ended messily. Some of the girls, after their defeat, were fired for agitating against the factory, the rest saw a reduction in wage. Instead of acquiescing the girls proved indefatigable. One of the girls delivered a brassy speech - the first time a woman spoke publicly in Lowell - on the humiliating treatment of the factory workers exciting the revolutionary spirit of much of the community and sickening the rest. But her ideas connected and two years after the first strike the mill girls won their battle against the factories and received better wages and shorter work days.

The moral of the story is obvious: there is power in the union. It's really only a game of numbers. Today, the story of the Lowell "Mill Girls" seems like a half-remembered dream from a past life. We're taught the labor movement is antiquated, a cluster of old stories that have been rendered obsolete like the Old Testament. Nobody is educated in school on the Mill Girls or the Homestead Strike or the Flint Sit-Down Strike or about what pinkertons were or anything Woody Guthrie sang about. It is a crime of omission.

nc4For some reason, girls just do it better, not only in the 19th century and not only in America. Women street vendors in India endured constant harassment from local police. Their produce would be confiscated then returned days later after it had spoiled. The vendors couldn't obtain health care or social security. A lack of child care limited their work day giving them a glaring disadvantage to male vendors and a lack of education prevented them from working elsewhere. The solution wasn't novel. It was the same government/corporate-bucking recipe that's worked for generations. The street vendors published their thoughts in newsletters, consolidated their trades under one, catch-all non-governmental organization. They fought local municipalities in court, struggled to gain access to social security and health care, and established daycare for their children.

In America, only 8% of workers are members of a trade union and thanks to the long-standing Taft-Hartley Act many of the incentives and protections granted to unions have been suspended. Plenty of restructuring is required in order to catch up to the women vendors of India or the Lowell "Mill Girls". First we need a vibrant labor press expressing working and middle class issues, perhaps best implemented through the internet, and second we can't divide ourselves by trade but unify all workers into a single federation.

Remember, the labor struggles of the past aren't irrelevant. No company out of the kindness of its heart ever gave their workers 8 hour work days or a livable wage as a gift, and no government was ever so generous as to grant its citizens more freedom than they demand. Corporations and governments are enemies of progress. Everything we enjoy today was won in battle after blood-spattered battle. But it is my sincerest hope that when the next great thrust forward comes the last thing our bloated plutocrats will hear is "Girl Power!"

Friday Flashback: Small Faces - "Itchychoo Park"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Student Tasered for Asking Sen. Kerry About Voter Suppression Sept. 17

Further evidence that the authoritarian Police State isn't about justice. The true function of the police is to maintain order and to protect property. Any justice they provide is incidental. When keeping in mind the 190 arrests at D.C. on Saturday and this event in front of Senator Kerry, "To serve and protect" is woefully correct, however, the police aren't protecting you and I, they're protecting private power and the government from us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Who was Emma Goldman?

"Idealists foolish enough to throw caution to the winds have advanced mankind and have enriched the world."

-- Emma Goldman


IF I WERE to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere, destroying quality. Our entire life--production, politics, and education--rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding to life's comforts and peace, has merely increased man's burden.

In politics, naught but quantity counts. In proportion to its increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and uprightness are completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery, deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is the only god,--Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof to verify this sad fact.

Never before did the corruption, the complete rottenness of our government stand so thoroughly exposed; never before were the American people brought face to face with the Judas nature of that political body, which has claimed for years to be absolutely beyond reproach, as the mainstay of our institutions, the true protector of the rights and liberties of the people.

Yet when the crimes of that party became so brazen that even the blind could see them, it needed but to muster up its minions, and its supremacy was assured. Thus the very victims, duped, betrayed, outraged a hundred times, decided, not against, but in favor of the victor. Bewildered, the few asked how could the majority betray the traditions of American liberty? Where was its judgment, its reasoning capacity? That is just it, the majority cannot reason; it has no judgment. Lacking utterly in originality and moral courage, the majority has always placed its destiny in the hands of others. Incapable of standing responsibilities, it has followed its leaders even unto destruction. Dr. Stockman was right: "The most dangerous enemies of truth and justice in our midst are the compact majorities, the damned compact majority." Without ambition or initiative, the compact mass hates nothing so much as innovation. It has always opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new truth.

The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the Socialists included, that ours is an era of individualism, of the minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass. The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As to individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy manner.

The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age.

Educators of Ferrer's type are nowhere tolerated, while the dietitians of predigested food, à la Professors Eliot and Butler, are the successful perpetuators of an age of nonentities, of automatons. In the literary and dramatic world, the Humphrey Wards and Clyde Fitches are the idols of the mass, while but few know or appreciate the beauty and genius of an Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman; an Ibsen, a Hauptmann, a Butler Yeats, or a Stephen Phillips. They are like solitary stars, far beyond the horizon of the multitude.

Publishers, theatrical managers, and critics ask not for the quality inherent in creative art, but will it meet with a good sale, will it suit the palate of the people? Alas, this palate is like a dumping ground; it relishes anything that needs no mental mastication. As a result, the mediocre, the ordinary, the commonplace represents the chief literary output.

Need I say that in art we are confronted with the same sad facts? One has but to inspect our parks and thoroughfares to realize the hideousness and vulgarity of the art manufacture. Certainly, none but a majority taste would tolerate such an outrage on art. False in conception and barbarous in execution, the statuary that infests American cities has as much relation to true art, as a totem to a Michael Angelo. Yet that is the only art that succeeds. The true artistic genius, who will not cater to accepted notions, who exercises originality, and strives to be true to life, leads an obscure and wretched existence. His work may some day become the fad of the mob, but not until his heart's blood had been exhausted; not until the pathfinder has ceased to be, and a throng of an idealles and visionless mob has done to death the heritage of the master.

It is said that the artist of today cannot create because Prometheuslike he is bound to the rock of economic necessity. This, however, is true of art in all ages. Michael Angelo was dependent on his patron saint, no less than the sculptor or painter of today, except that the art connoisseurs of those days were far away from the madding crowd. They felt honored to be permitted to worship at the shrine of the master.

The art protector of our time knows but one criterion, one value,--the dollar. He is not concerned about the quality of any great work, but in the quantity of dollars his purchase implies. Thus the financier in Mirbeau's Les Affaires sont les Affaires points to some blurred arrangement in colors, saying: "See how great it is; it cost 50,000 francs." Just like our own parvenus. The fabulous figures paid for their great art discoveries must make up for the poverty of their taste.

The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought. That this should be so terribly apparent in a country whose symbol is democracy, is very significant of the tremendous power of the majority.

Wendell Phillips said fifty years ago: "In our country of absolute, democratic equality, public opinion is not only omnipotent, it is omnipresent. There is no refuge from its tyranny, there is no hiding from its reach, and the result is that if you take the old Greek lantern and go about to seek among a hundred, you will not find a single American who has not, or who does not fancy at least he has, something to gain or lose in his ambition, his social life, or business, from the good opinion and the votes of those around him. And the consequence is that instead of being a mass of individuals, each one fearlessly blurting out his own conviction, as a nation compared to other nations we are a mass of cowards. More than any other people we are afraid of each other." Evidently we have not advanced very far from the condition that confronted Wendell Phillips.

Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty. That accounts for the unprecedented rise of a man like Roosevelt. He embodies the very worst element of mob psychology. A politician, he knows that the majority cares little for ideals or integrity. What it craves is display. It matters not whether that be a dog show, a prize fight, the lynching of a "nigger," the rounding up of some petty offender, the marriage exposition of an heiress, or the acrobatic stunts of an ex-president. The more hideous the mental contortions, the greater the delight and bravos of the mass. Thus, poor in ideals and vulgar of soul, Roosevelt continues to be the man of the hour.

On the other hand, men towering high above such political pygmies, men of refinement, of culture, of ability, are jeered into silence as mollycoddles. It is absurd to claim that ours is the era of individualism. Ours is merely a more poignant repetition of the phenomenon of all history: every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass. Today, as ever, the few are misunderstood, hounded, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

The principle of brotherhood expounded by the agitator of Nazareth preserved the germ of life, of truth and justice, so long as it was the beacon light of the few. The moment the majority seized upon it, that great principle became a shibboleth and harbinger of blood and fire, spreading suffering and disaster. The attack on the omnipotence of Rome, led by the colossal figures of Huss, Calvin, and Luther, was like a sunrise amid the darkness of the night. But so soon as Luther and Calvin turned politicians and began catering to the small potentates, the nobility, and the mob spirit, they jeopardized the great possibilities of the Reformation. They won success and the majority, but that majority proved no less cruel and bloodthirsty in the persecution of thought and reason than was the Catholic monster. Woe to the heretics, to the minority, who would not bow to its dicta. After infinite zeal, endurance, and sacrifice, the human mind is at last free from the religious phantom; the minority has gone on in pursuit of new conquests, and the majority is lagging behind, handicapped by truth grown false with age.

Politically the human race would still be in the most absolute slavery, were it not for the John Balls, the Wat Tylers, the Tells, the innumerable individual giants who fought inch by inch against the power of kings and tyrants. But for individual pioneers the world would have never been shaken to its very roots by that tremendous wave, the French Revolution. Great events are usually preceded by apparently small things. Thus the eloquence and fire of Camille Desmoulins was like the trumpet before Jericho, razing to the ground that emblem of torture, of abuse, of horror, the Bastille.

Always, at every period, the few were the banner bearers of a great idea, of liberating effort. Not so the mass, the leaden weight of which does not let it move. The truth of this is borne out in Russia with greater force than elsewhere. Thousands of lives have already been consumed by that bloody régime, yet the monster on the throne is not appeased. How is such a thing possible when ideas, culture, literature, when the deepest and finest emotions groan under the iron yoke? The majority, that compact, immobile, drowsy mass, the Russian peasant, after a century of struggle, of sacrifice, of untold misery, still believes that the rope which strangles "the man with the white hands" * brings luck.

In the American struggle for liberty, the majority was no less of a stumbling block. Until this very day the ideas of Jefferson, of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Paine, are denied and sold by their posterity. The mass wants none of them. The greatness and courage worshipped in Lincoln have been forgotten in the men who created the background for the panorama of that time. The true patron saints of the black men were represented in that handful of fighters in Boston, Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Theodore Parker, whose great courage and sturdiness culminated in that somber giant John Brown. Their untiring zeal, their eloquence and perseverance undermined the stronghold of the Southern lords. Lincoln and his minions followed only when abolition had become a practical issue, recognized as such by all.

About fifty years ago, a meteorlike idea made its appearance on the social horizon of the world, an idea so far-reaching, so revolutionary, so all-embracing as to spread terror in the hearts of tyrants everywhere. On the other hand, that idea was a harbinger of joy, of cheer, of hope to the millions. The pioneers knew the difficulties in their way, they knew the opposition, the persecution, the hardships that would meet them, but proud and unafraid they started on their march onward, ever onward. Now that idea has become a popular slogan. Almost everyone is a Socialist today: the rich man, as well as his poor victim; the upholders of law and authority, as well as their unfortunate culprits; the freethinker, as well as the perpetuator of religious falsehoods; the fashionable lady, as well as the shirtwaist girl. Why not? Now that the truth of fifty years ago has become a lie, now that it has been clipped of all its youthful imagination, and been robbed of its vigor, its strength, its revolutionary ideal--why not? Now that it is no longer a beautiful vision, but a "practical, workable scheme," resting on the will of the majority, why not? Political cunning ever sings the praise of the mass: the poor majority, the outraged, the abused, the giant majority, if only it would follow us.

Who has not heard this litany before? Who does not know this never-varying refrain of all politicians? That the mass bleeds, that it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters. But I insist that not the handful of parasites, but the mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs. It clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify! the moment a protesting voice is raised against the sacredness of capitalistic authority or any other decayed institution. Yet how long would authority and private property exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen. The Socialist demagogues know that as well as I, but they maintain the myth of the virtues of the majority, because their very scheme of life means the perpetuation of power. And how could the latter be acquired without numbers? Yes, authority, coercion, and dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom or the free unfoldment of the individual, never the birth of a free society.

Not because I do not feel with the oppressed, the disinherited of the earth; not because I do not know the shame, the horror, the indignity of the lives the people lead, do I repudiate the majority as a creative force for good. Oh, no, no! But because I know so well that as a compact mass it has never stood for justice or equality. It has suppressed the human voice, subdued the human spirit, chained the human body. As a mass its aim has always been to make life uniform, gray, and monotonous as the desert. As a mass it will always be the annihilator of individuality, of free initiative, of originality. I therefore believe with Emerson that "the masses are crude, lame, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything to them, but to drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them. Masses! The calamity are the masses. I do not wish any mass at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet, accomplished women only."

In other words, the living, vital truth of social and economic well-being will become a reality only through the zeal, courage, the non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not through the mass.

* The intellectuals.

Emma's Collected Essays


Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Like Mike

The reason Kucinich doesn't have the cult following of a Ron Paul isn't because he's inconsistent or a babbler, but due to his lack of "media moments". Those explosive applause-worthy exchanges like the now classic Ron/Rudy horn lock. Mike Gravel is capable of these types of "moments". Take, for example, Gravel's performance at the Democratic Presidential debates when he stated bluntly that nobody who voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq is Presidential material (Hillary, Edwards he's looking at you). The 77-year-old, former Alaskan Senator comes across as a lovable old codger, grizzled with a sense of justice yet sweetly approachable. A few days ago I called for the Republicans to nominate Ron Paul, well, today I'm imploring the Democrats to greet Gravel with their nomination. Otherwise, the two should eschew the corporate system and run on the same ticket.

Paul/Gravel in '08!

Visit Gravel's website


contribute to his campaign

Sen. Mike Gravel at SC Debates 04/26/07

Senator Mike Gravel Visits My Dorm Room

Mike Gravel Meets Ron Paul Supporters, Requests a One-On-One Debate

Friday, September 14, 2007

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Hover Around 1 Million - And Nobody Knows

Poll: Civilian Death Toll in Iraq May Top 1 Million
A British survey offers the highest estimate to date. At least 4 die in a Sadr City car bombing.
by Tina Susman

BAGHDAD - A car bomb blew up in the capital’s Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City on Thursday, killing at least four people, as a new survey suggested that the civilian death toll from the war could be more than 1 million.

The figure from ORB, a British polling agency that has conducted several surveys in Iraq, followed statements this week from the U.S. military defending itself against accusations it was trying to play down Iraqi deaths to make its strategy appear successful.

Civilian Death TollThe military has said civilian deaths from sectarian violence have fallen more than 55% since President Bush sent an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq this year, but it does not provide specific numbers.

According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million.

ORB said it drew its conclusion from responses to the question about those living under one roof: “How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003?”

Based on Iraq’s estimated number of households — 4,050,597 — it said the 1.2 million figure was reasonable.

There was no way to verify the number, because the government does not provide a full count of civilian deaths. Neither does the U.S. military.

Both, however, say that independent organizations greatly exaggerate estimates of civilian casualties.

ORB said its poll had a margin of error of 2.4%. According to its findings, nearly one in two households in Baghdad had lost at least one member to war- related violence, and 22% of households nationwide had suffered at least one death. It said 48% of the victims were shot to death and 20% died as a result of car bombs, with other explosions and military bombardments blamed for most of the other fatalities.

The survey was conducted last month.

It was the highest estimate given so far of civilian deaths in Iraq. Last year, a study in the medical journal Lancet put the number at 654,965, which Iraq’s government has dismissed as “ridiculous.”

The car bomb in Sadr City injured at least 10 people and set fire to several shops. Also Thursday, police said they had found the bodies of nine people believed to be victims of sectarian killings across the capital.

In its latest salvo at Iran, the U.S. military accused the Islamic Republic of providing the 240-millimeter rocket that earlier this week slammed into Camp Victory, the sprawling base that houses the U.S. Army headquarters. The attack on the base near Baghdad’s airport injured 11 soldiers and killed one “third-country national.”

At a news conference, a military spokesman, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, displayed a chunk of metal that he said had come from the rocket. Asked how he could be sure it was of Iranian origin, Bergner said its color and markings were unique to rockets from Iran.

The United States accuses Iran’s Shiite leaders of providing weapons, training and other assistance to Shiite militias fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Iran denies the accusation.

© 2007 Los Angeles Times

Friday Flashback: The Tubes - "White Punks On Dope" Live (1983)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ron Paul could save the GOP

Ron Paul Straw PollIn the interest of full disclosure I'd first like to state that I am a socialist (not State socialist mind you, but that's a different blog post entirely). Although I agree with Ron Paul on a few issues, namely his stance on American militarism, we part ways on social issues. His opposition to Roe v. Wade, his naive faith in Capitalism, his resistance to Universal Health Care and his inflexible adoration of Ronald Reagan has turned my stomach on more than one occasion.

But if I were Republican I'd hoist Ron Paul on my shoulders and herald him as the chosen one. That's because Ron Paul has accomplished something that few politicians, let alone REPUBLICANS, have managed - appealing to the young. At this critical point Bush has uncontroversially decimated the G.O.P. No amount of burnt offerings to Yahweh or Krishna or the Wizard of Oz will resurrect the party from the premature death this administration has wrought.

At the turn of the century, liberals, the past-their-prime Dems, lumbered along the political landscape like a bevy of Clintonoid zombies. That's when a folksy Marlboro Man stole a couple of elections resulting in a ghoulish national nightmare. We're living through the unremarkable denouement of that frightening tale: the death of our privacy, $9 trillion dollar deficit (I don't even know how many zeros that is) and self-authorized torture. Suddenly, the Democrats almost look attractive by comparison. Well, almost.

Enter Ron Paul with a glorious on-stage fencing match with Rudy Guillani about 9/11 and blowback, which most likely caused a collective gasp from the FOX News home audience. It was real truth followed by real anger countered with more real truth. Perhaps the first and only time FOX aired anything resembling "reality" T.V.

This launched an internet firestorm for Paul, giving every major television network ample opportunity to ignore him. He chugged along, winning over progressives and conservatives alike with his knowledge of "hidden" American history and a sound bite-ready delivery. Even those stealing wholesale from Republican talking points couldn't enunciate their position better. Bill Maher invited the Congressman on his show twice going so far as to call Ron Paul his "hero". The New York Times wrote a glowing retrospective of Paul's political career and he even appeared on the G4 tech show, Attack of the Show, to speak about Net Neutrality.

Why, I believe, Ron Paul has risen above the level of just another politician into a rallying cry is his unique third way. While Democrats want to take taxes and spend them on social programs like education and health care and Republicans want to pump more funds into an ever expanding military and police state Paul diverges from the two positions completely and calls for less spending, less government and less infringement upon personal liberty, a stance some might call conservative. If given a chance to submit his views into the marketplace of ideas the Republicans just might find themselves with a large number of converts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hitch defends Mother Teresa's atheism

Bill Donohue gets in over his head on Hardball when debating that smarmy polemicist, Christopher Hitchens. Poor guy. Hitch eviscerates Bill who degenerates into screaming "You must be quiet when an Irishman is speaking." Hitchens, as per usual, wins the day.

How to Spin a Military Occupation as “Self-Defense”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

China claims regulatory power over reincarnation

Dalai Lama with Monks

The Next Lama: The Dalai Lama says he won't reincarnate in Tibet

By Matthew Philips

Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue - In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control. Assuming he's able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks. "It will be a very hot issue," says Paul Harrison, a Buddhism scholar at Stanford. "The Dalai Lama has been the prime symbol of unity and national identity in Tibet, and so it's quite likely the battle for his incarnation will be a lot more important than the others."

So where in the world will the next Dalai Lama be born? Harrison and other Buddhism scholars agree that it will likely be from within the 130,000 Tibetan exiles spread throughout India, Europe and North America. With an estimated 8,000 Tibetans living in the United States, could the next Dalai Lama be American-born? "You'll have to ask him," says Harrison. If so, he'll likely be welcomed into a culture that has increasingly embraced reincarnation over the years. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 20 percent of all U.S. adults believe in reincarnation. Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit, have found that a quarter of U.S. Christians, including 10 percent of all born-again Christians, embrace it as their favored end-of-life view. A non-Tibetan Dalai Lama, experts say, is probably out of the question.
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Iraq: A Neoconservative Paradise


Democracy Now! - Noami Klein on the Privatization of War


A Film by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein, directed by Jonás Cuarón.
"When I finished The Shock Doctrine, I sent it to Alfonso Cuarón because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists -- including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited -- to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated." - Naomi Klein

Oil Kiss

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Velvet Revolution

The Plastic People of the Universe

The most popular song of 1968 was "Hey Jude" and to the ears of the Czechs and Slovaks it must have sounded deliciously meddlesome. McCartney's shrill yelps. The thump-clang percussion. Its orgasmic coda. "Hey Jude" was seven minutes of subversion openly broadcast over the radio in a Soviet satellite. This was the Prague Spring. A time when a progressive leader, Alexander Dubcek, took power and reformed the draconian restrictions of Mother Russia. Censorship of the state press was lifted so dissidents could express their views free of harassment, new independent political parties challenged the one-party system, bands performed without the impediment of state registration, and radio exhibited a distinctly Western rebirth. It was only a matter of time before Czechoslovakia was liberated from the Soviet Union's manacles.

Then it ended. In August of that year Soviets rolled their tanks into Prague killing dozens and squashing the reforms enacted during the Prague Spring. They reasserted their control, "normalizing" the media of Western influence. These changes extended into the artistic sphere, limiting the range of content of writers and forcing musicians to once again earn state approval before gaining professional status. Many bands complied and softened their material to fit cleanly inside Soviet parameters, but a small underground movement refused to compromise. The most important of these groups was The Plastic People of the Universe.

Taking their name from the Frank Zappa song, "Plastic People", the Plastics channeled the kaleidoscopic silliness of early Zappa and the Mothers of Invention as well as the dark caterwauling of the Velvet Underground. The music was too challenging, and they were labeled "morbid" and denied professional status by the state, prohibiting them from making money off their music.

But they didn't stop, instead the Plastics found chinks in the Soviet armor. For example, a friend of the band, a professor, would deliver a ten minute lecture about the music of the Velvet Underground or the Fugs then invite the Plastics to demonstrate the songs for the last few hours of the presentation. They performed at weddings, a couple even remarried in order to give the Plastic People a venue. Information about these events was spread in secret by word of mouth and shows were set in secluded locations such as farms and forests. Despite this forethought the police often discovered and shut down the events at times beating and arresting audience members. This pattern continued culminating into what became known as "Magor's Wedding", a festival helmed by the Plastics who wanted to launch the "Second Culture" and refurbish their society through rock music. In attitude, this was to be the Czech Woodstock, the police responded by arresting the band and confiscating their equipment.

Vaclav HavelIn attendance at the Plastic People's trial was a playwright and poet who witnessed the birth and death of the Prague Spring. His name is Vaclav Havel and the misconduct of the court so incensed the young firebrand that he penned a petition entitled "Charter 77". In short, Charter 77 was "ask[ing], simply, that the Czechoslovak government adhere to the Final Act of the 1975 Helsinki Agreement -- specifically its covenants on civil, political, and economic rights -- to which it had recently become a signatory." (source) This act was indeed revolutionary. The government jailed Havel for his "crime" but the deed was done. Charter 77 lent guidance and hope not only to his own countrymen but to the neighboring European countries who also wished to slide free of the Soviet stranglehold.

At the tail end of the Soviet Union Charter 77 evolved into an outright revolution. Appropriately enough it was named the Velvet Revolution after one of the Plastic People of the Universe and Havel's favorite groups - the Velvet Underground. The Plastics still perform under the name Pulnoc, and Havel lead the revolution, and the country, after the Communist empire crumbled as well as becoming the first president of the Czech Republic.

Somehow artisans have been stereotyped as a flighty lot whose product should only benignly entertain. Too often people dismiss the potency of words or notes or images and those who arrange them. The idea that a rock group or poet could provoke authentic change is derided as immature daydreaming. But if these goalless punks never rise above the level of street magicians then why are they muzzled and jailed? Art is dangerous. Art is transformative. It explores the geography of our minds and illuminates the interiors of the human heart. It satisfies our hunger for a shared experience of interpersonal progress and because of that fact it is impossible to know when those books and albums might go nova and ignite the next revolution.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Senator Feingold Responds

USAOne thing that's nice about Feingold is that he responds to his constituents such as my letter I wrote him about the impeachment of the President. I'll let his letter speak for itself. Unfortunately, Russ has decided not to be a leader on this matter even though he knows it's right which makes his middle-of-the-road position even sadder.

Dear Mr. Basche,

Thank you for contacting me regarding my recent introduction of
two censure resolutions condemning the President, Vice President
and Attorney General for misconduct relating to the war in Iraq
and for repeated assaults on the rule of law. I appreciate hearing
from you.

One resolution, cosponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA),
censures the President and Attorney General for undermining the
rule of law with respect to the following: (1) the illegal NSA
warrantless wiretapping program, (2) extreme policies on torture,
the Geneva Conventions, and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, (3)
the refusal to recognize legitimate congressional oversight into the
improper firings of U.S. Attorneys, (4) misleading the American
public about the Patriot Act, and (5) the issuance of signing
statements suggesting the President does not believe he has to
follow the laws Congress passes.

The other resolution, cosponsored by Senator Harkin and Senator
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), censures the President and Vice President
for misconduct relating to the war in Iraq. This misconduct
includes the following: (1) overstating the case that Saddam
Hussein had WMD, particularly nuclear weapons, and falsely
implying he had a relationship with al Qaeda and links to 9/11, (2)
failing to plan for the civil conflict and humanitarian problems that
the intelligence community predicted, (3) over-stretching the
Army, Marine Corps and Guard with prolonged deployments, and
(4) seeking to justify our military involvement in Iraq by distorting
the situation on the ground there.

I have attached for your review a copy of each of the resolutions. I
hope you find this information useful.

Introducing these resolutions of censure is an appropriate and
necessary step that allows Congress to rebuke an administration
that is responsible for such egregious misconduct. When future
generations look back at the actions of this administration, they
need to see that a co-equal branch of government stood up and held
to account those who violated the principles on which this nation
was founded. I am pleased to be working with Representative
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), who has introduced companion
legislation in the House with 19 cosponsors.

I appreciate your support for impeachment, and I respect the anger
many Americans feel at the outrageous actions of this
administration. I believe that the President and Vice President may
well have committed impeachable offenses, but with so many
important issues facing this country and so much work to be done,
I am concerned about the great deal of time impeachment would
take. Because censure does not require multiple impeachments in
the House and trials in the Senate, or the support of two-thirds of
Senators, it is far less cumbersome than impeachment. However,
if the House of Representatives does decide to move forward with
impeachment, I will take seriously my role as a sworn impartial
juror in any impeachment trial.

Thank you again for contacting me. I look forward to hearing
from you again.


Russell D. Feingold
United States Senator

If you wish to contact me again, please visit

censure- Iraq.pdf

censure- Rule of Law.pdf