February 15, 2015

On predetermined parameters of debate

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

—Noam Chomsky. The Common Good. Interview by David Barsamian. Tucson, AZ: Odonian Press, 1998.

February 6, 2015

No such thing as a bad jew! It’s just impossible!

It seems that being jewish means never being wrong, let alone incompetent or even evil. And only someone who hates jews would note that someone who happens to be jewish does in fact appear to be wrong, incompetent, or evil.

That seems to be the premise behind a recent Agence France Presse (AFP) story misleadingly titled “Ukraine run by ‘miserable’ Jews: rebel chief”.

One has to scroll down to the second paragraph, however, for the complete quote, which shows how nefariously the title presents it: “Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were ‘miserable representatives of the great Jewish people’.”

Now he may be deluded about the “jewishness” of the Kiev government and/or their facilitators and cheerleaders, but his statement clearly suggests a respect for “the great jewish people”, the greatness of which is betrayed, not exemplified, by those running Kiev.

But AFP reported it otherwise with not only the headline, but also the first paragraph: “Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country’s leaders ‘miserable’ Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.”

That paragraph already displays its bias/propaganda in how it describes Alexander Zakharchenko. Yes he is a rebel against Kiev, but the government in Kiev is the result of a coup against a democratically elected government (whose crime was not so much signing a trade deal with Russia before one with the EU was finalized (and obviously intended to be exclusive somehow), but rather its willingness to renew Russia’s lease on the Sevastopol naval base – it has been a goal of Turkey and Europe for 200 years to get Russia out of the Black Sea; Putin knew what the coup was really about and acted swiftly to secure not only the base but all of Crimea, much to the embarrassment of Nato and the US).

And Zakharchenko is not “pro-Russian” but simply a Ukrainian speaker of Russian, like most of the people of the Donbass region of the east. One of the first decrees of the Kiev coup was to outlaw the Russian language. It was shortly revoked, but the spirit of the coup was made clear (in case the crucial involvement of neo-Nazi groups hadn’t been enough).

Finally, Zakharchenko is called “chief”, evoking something less civilized than western society. In fact, he is the elected prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Our thanks to Moon of Alabama for first writing about this.

February 4, 2015

Don’t Blame Third-Party Voters

To the Editor [Valley News, Feb. 4]:

If the choice between the two major parties is as clear as a letter of Jan. 8 claims (“Vote for Nader Caused Much Harm”), then why is every presidential election so close? Like Coke and Pepsi, they are both fighting for the same market, and the only difference becomes one of ever-shifting style.

As for substance, however, Gore’s run followed Bill Clinton, whose consistent betrayals of liberal principles included welfare “reform,” NAFTA, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, promotion of 401(k) accounts over pensions, the Defense of Marriage Act and the antidemocratic Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, as well as neocon pursuits overseas such as sanctions against and continuous bombing of Iraq (where the death of half a million children was “worth it,” according to his Secretary of State Madeline Albright), the deadly fiascos of Kosovo and Rwanda, bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, etc. And to clinch the “new” direction of the Democratic Party, Gore picked the sanctimonious and reactionary Joe Lieberman as running mate. There was no doubt that Gore was to the right of Clinton — pretty much right where George W. Bush was. Just as Gore would have, Bush extended Clinton’s legacy, as Clinton extended Reagan’s and the first Bush’s. And as Obama has extended and expanded Bush’s, putting Wall Street and war first. And who is assumed to be up next, but another Clinton versus another Bush? This is not a choice, but a mockery of democracy and the opposite of progress.

Regarding the Supreme Court, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer were almost unanimously confirmed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Thomas and Alito squeaked in with the help of Democrats, who also strongly supported Roberts. And it should be noted that under Obama, access to abortion in much of the country has all but disappeared. The facts belie the rhetoric.

In the 2000 election, in almost every state where Nader did well, so did Gore. It should not be forgotten that organized mobs disrupted vote counting in Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to have your vote counted, and Al Gore couldn’t be bothered to worry about it.

It is simply offensive to blame third-party voters as if they have betrayed the duopoly candidates and not the other way around.

Eric Rosenbloom
Joanna Lake

February 1, 2015

The left and the right, the past and the future

The tidal flux of human history (Vico’s Providence) tends towards forcing those who defend privilege to share more of the common wealth with more people. Those who support this movement are characterized as the left, progressive, those who resist it as the right, conservative. Psychologically, therefore, the right looks to the past, the left to the future. (Liberals try to have it both ways: to help the less fortunate while protecting their own advantage; thus they are ultimately conservative.)

Totalitarianism arises when either left or right attempts to purge their vision of the other – an idealized past that denies the future, an idealized future that denies the past – while also denying the present, because it must always be in between, in flux. It is the establishment of a dream-world that defies the real.