"Feminist" or "Profeminist"   
  • Taken from our Facebook page...

    Richard Twine
    Not a Profeminist but a feminist...

    what do you think of the distinction?

    i think the argument that men should identify as pro-feminist rather than feminist stems from the notion of what academics call epistemic privilege i.e. in this case, men ought not identify as feminists as they cannot know how it is to experience oppression 'as a woman'.

    however i think this is problematic because it
    a) ignores the way in which patriarchy is also a system that includes relations of power between men, most obviously in the oppression of 'feminised' men.
    b) overstates the assumption that 'men' cannot empathise and learn about the experiential knowledge of 'women' (even though to homogenise this would be to ignore 30 years of feminist scholarship)
    c) overstates the value of separatism as a means to radical coalition building
    d) risks homogenising 'men'
    March 23 at 2:43pm · Mark as Irrelevant · Report · Delete Post
  • London Profeminist Hi! As you may already know there are many and different opinions on the issue of this distinction. If we wanted to give a reason for our choice, we would say that the LPMG chooses to identify itself as ‘pro-feminist’ instead of ‘feminist’ cause ‘we don’t need and we don’t want to steal the word from the feminist movement’. This is the opinion of many feminists also and we respect that. Of course, the feminist (or anti-sexist, anti-patriarchist) struggle aims to liberate men also from patriarchy and this is very much where our words and actions tend to contribute. However, it is always good to remind people that the structural inequalities and hierarchies still exist and that being a man in a patriarchal society is in no way the same with being a woman (most of all, in terms of experiences). Men can empathize with let’s say the victims of patriarchy, however we should not ever forget that this empathy is a choice (while oppression isn’t) that is made by men who nevertheless still preserve their privileges in this society.

    Truly, you see a methodological problem there (eg. homogenizing men) since 30 years of feminist scholarship (and most importantly feminist struggles) were enough to change the way some men think about their masculinities. However let’s not forget the previous 2,000 years or so of massive gender oppression… To empathize, after all, does not mean to say that we have the same experiences as women have. It does not mean to try to eliminate the difference among us and women. It is not a matter of competition of victimhood; it is a matter of respect and giving space to the ‘other’.

    And a last thing: the risk of homogenizing all (wo)men is visible in all kinds of gender politics, however many times this is a risk someone must take in order to ‘do politics’ and – let’s say – make a specific demand, no matter how much the academics dislike it. Generalization and homogenization are often strategic steps of this kind of politics and as far as I am concerned they are not false since patriarchy itself is a great, big, awful and violent generalization.

    From LPMG
    4 minutes ago · Edit Post · Delete Post
  • London Profeminist FROM DAVE in the LPMG (but not necessarily representing the views of LPMG!!!)...

    "We are certainly not a 'separatist' group: in the context of gender politics, separatism means primarily women's groups who literally try to have nothing whatever to do with men in their lives. That would make no sense whatever for a pro-feminist men's group.

    Although there is nowadays a greater emphasis in gender politics on men and women working together and on try to abolish gender roles, collapsing the distinctions too quickly is not helpful, and any decision to do so must rest with women. In my view the postmodern and queer emphasis on dismantling gender identities runs many risks. One is that if the people concerned have not done the work on themselves (and that work is big) it all becomes a pretence. A second risk, which I have often observed happening is that these politics collapse into well-meaning (radical) liberalism."


    Please feel free to join in the discussion here or on our Facebook page, or both!

Here is an earlier comment by Mike Hurford and my response:

I have read your blogger with interest, but I appear to view our society in a way that none of you do. There are some very sexist and offensive men in our society. I agree. You seem to treat these men as an enemy, challenging their behaviour, and if you find yourselves acting in this way, you attempt to change your behaviour. My problem with your comments is this. Don’t think that a lot of women are equally sexist and offensive to men? There are many sexist women around today. Why don’t you challenge their behaviour in the same way? Feminism would be acceptable to me if it wasn’t so sexist, and didn’t keep generalising about the entire male sex.( Something that they claim to be fighting against, only about women). It seems to me that they, like you, are hypocrites. I have met many sexist people, men and women, but it is only the men who are challenged. The women are supported in their behaviour, by groups such as yours, and society in general. This is my view on feminism, and I would like one of you to discuss with me in an adult way where I’m going wrong. I look forward to a chat with you re the above. Regards M Hurford

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your post, and for raising an issue which seems to confuse a lot of people.

In my view, and I would guess most feminists would agree with me, the issue is not about making wrong generalisations. The feminist claim is there exists a system of oppression of women by men, called patriarchy. This system has existed in all societies we know about for the last few thousand years. In patriarchal societies women, women’s work, women’s values etc are systematically undervalued. Women are forced into a very narrow set of roles and possibilities for their lives. Women’s lives are ruled by men. Men abuse women sexually and with violence. There are too many examples to list, because patriarchy and sexism pervade everything in society. Although in Western liberal democracies some of the rough edges of this system have been knocked off in the last 40 years it is still very much in operation.

What this means is that contrary to what you seem to be assuming, there is no parity between men’s negative ideas about women, and women’s negative ideas about men. Men’s negative ideas about women are part of the system of oppression, and have a great deal of power associated with them. By contrast, women are comparatively much less powerful, and much of their hostility towards men is an understandable reaction to oppression. That does not excuse a general hostility to men, but we should be putting much more attention and energy into trying to deal with the oppression of women. Actually, I do not think that it is appropriate to use the term “sexism” to describe women’s hostility to men, because that word denotes not just a set of attitudes, but the fact that they occur within a system of massive inequality of power in favour of men. I don’t know what word we should use, there doesn’t seems to be one in English, but the key point is that sexism is not just about attitudes.

By the way, just in case you’re getting the wrong idea about where the group and I are coming from, the point of our group is not to beat ourselves up as bad guys. In agreeing with the feminist claim that women are oppressed under the system of patriarchy, we are also claiming that although men benefit from that, there are many aspects of the roles that men are forced into in that system that are harmful to men as well as women. Just one example would be the fact that men are supposed to be invulnerable and never seek support if they are feeling hurt or weak. So, in supporting feminism, we are working for the liberation of men as well.

Best Wishes
David King
          Post-Brexit Blues? Schwachsinn!   

Also ganz ehrlich, mir geht das ganze Gejeiere rund um den Brexit und was man jetzt tun könnte, um das Vereinigte Königreich für die EU zu retten, ziemlich auf den Geist. Die Berichte über Leute, die angeblich nicht wussten, was sie da ankreuzen. Und dass die Mehrheit der Briten eigentlich eh für die EU wäre, wenn sie sich rechtzeitig informiert hätten.

Oder Robert Misik, der überhaupt meint, die Labour Party sollte das jetzt ausnutzen, um mit dem Slogan, das Referendums-Ergebnis nicht zu befolgen, eine Wahl zu gewinnen.

Gehts noch?


Erstens: Es war ein Volksentscheid, und ein solcher ist in einer Demokratie nun mal einzuhalten und umzusetzen, auch wenn dabei etwas herausgekommen ist, das ich für einen Fehler halte. Eine Abstimmung so oft zu wiederholen, bis herauskommt, was eine bestimmte gesellschaftliche Schicht will, halte ich für gefährlich und undemokratisch. In einer Demokratie hat nun mal das Volk das Recht und die Macht, Dinge zu beschließen, die schlecht für das Land sind (übrigens auch inklusive der Auflassung der Demokratie). Im Nachhinein zu behaupten, die hätten sich nicht ausgekannt oder wären sogar zu blöd zum Wählen, zählt nicht, denn erstens ist das eine unzulässige Pauschaldiskreditierung, zweitens hatten sie Monate Zeit, um sich zu informieren (und ich nehme an, dass sie das in dem Ausmaß getan haben, das sie für nötig befunden haben), und drittens sind die Leute nur so blöd, wie es das Bildungssystem eines Landes zulässt.

Wenn jetzt manche Politiker dumm dreinschauen, weil sie mit der Entscheidung der Bürger, die sie sich mit jahrzehntelangen Einsparungen im Bildungs- und Sozialsektor herangezogen haben, nicht zufrieden sind, dann habe ich mit diesen Politikern wenig Mitleid. Schon gar nicht, wenn es sich dabei um Politiker handelt, die mit Lügengebäuden mit dem Schicksal von Millionen spielten, um ihre eigenen Eitelkeiten zu pflegen.

Ebensowenig Mitleid habe ich übrigens mit den Journalisten, die jetzt Entsetzen heucheln, nachdem sie ebendiese Leute ebenso jahrzehntelang gegen die EU, gegen die Zuwanderer und gegen die Politik insgesamt aufgehetzt haben. Darüber, dass die Gier nach hohen Verkaufszahlen nun mal gesellschaftspolitische Auswirkungen hat, hätten sie vielleicht nachdenken sollen, bevor sie ihre Blödmaschinen angeworfen haben.

Zweitens: Seit der Grexit-Drohung interessiert mich, was wirklich passiert, wenn ein Land die EU verlässt. Das war nämlich bisher immer graue Theorie, eingehüllt in den Nimbus des Grenzkatastrophalen. Zusammenbruch der Wirtschaft, Weltuntergang, irgend so etwas wurde da immer ausgemalt, ohne dass klar war, was nun wirklich passiert. Jetzt bietet sich die Chance, das herauszufinden.

Beim Grexit waren wir ja kurz davor, dass ein Land in diese Situation gezwungen wird. Nun hingegen hat sich die Mehrheit der Bevölkerung des Vereinigten Königreichs in einer Abstimmung freiwillig und mit zum Teil ziemlichem Enthusiasmus dafür entschieden, sich selbst gewissermaßen als Versuchskaninchen für dieses Langzeitexperiment mit unsicherem Ausgang zu Verfügung zu stellen. Das kann zwar schlecht ausgehen, sollte aber auch als Chance gesehen werden.

Denn: geht das Experiment schief, dann wird den diversen Exit-Strategien der europäischen Rechtspopulisten und -extremen der Wind aus den Segeln genommen. Für die Zukunft der EU kann, so hart das klingt, ein Scheitern Großbritanniens außerhalb der EU durchaus von Vorteil sein. Zugegeben, das kann (zumindest vorübergehend) für die Briten bitter werden, aber die rechtliche Möglichkeit eines Wiederbeitritts oder einer EWR-Mitgliedschaft ist ja gegeben.

Geht das Experiment nicht schief, dann hat Großbritannien ja auch keinen Nachteil. Blöd wäre das aber insofern, als dann nicht nur die ganzen rechten Parteien Europas auch diverse Austrittsreferenden abhalten und möglicherweise gewinnen würden, sondern auch, weil das ja auch hieße, dass die EU einen wesentlichen Teil ihrer Daseinsberechtigung ganz einfach nicht hat. Die Frage, wozu man eine EU in der derzeitigen Form braucht, wenn es anders auch problemlos geht, ist ja nicht unwesentlich.

In diesem Fall könnte der Brexit dazu dienen, einen Denkanstoß zu geben, um herauszufinden, wofür wir die EU brauchen. Das Vereinigte Königreich hat die EU immer nur als Freihandelszone verstanden. Wenn es ohne eine solche auch geht oder wenn der EWR alleine ausreichend ist, wie kann die EU dann zum Nutzen Europas beitragen? Vielleicht mit etwas weniger Bürokratie und Regelungswut? Etwas weniger Neoliberalismus? Dafür mehr gemeinsame Sozialpolitik, Bildungspolitik, Umweltpolitik und Friedensinitiativen?

Das ist eigentlich das, worin der eigentliche Mehrwert des Brexit besteht - dass wir eine Antwort auf die Frage bekommen, ob es die EU in der derzeitigen Form braucht, und wenn nein, dann wie wir sie umgestalten müssten, damit wir mehr Nutzen von ihr haben. Zugegeben, dass das au Kosten von 64 Millionen britischer Staatsbürger herausgefunden wird, ist mehr als nur hart, aber deren demokratische Mehrheit wollte eben genau das herausfinden, und die Antwort ist ganz wesentlich für den Fortbestand und die anzustrebende künftige Entwicklung der EU.

          Haben die Grünen in Neubau wegen der Mariahilfer Straße Stimmen verloren?   

Bildschirmfoto 2015-10-12 um 19.57.56.png

Nein. Viel schwerwiegender dürften das erstmalige Antreten der Neos und die steigenden Mietpreise im Bezirk sein.

Arithmetisch gesehen scheint es so auszusehen, als ob die 4,4% Stimmenverluste der Grünen vor allem zu den Neos gegangen sind, die die deutlichsten Zugewinne aller Parteien hat, nämlich über 8%.

In absoluten Zahlen haben die Grünen allerdings in Neubau keine Stimmen verloren, sondern 419 Stimmen dazu gewonnen; da allerdings über 2600 Stimmen mehr im Bezirk abgegeben wurde als bei der letzten Wahl, kommt in Prozentzahlen ein Minus heraus. Die grünen Stimmen wurden also gehalten, nur der Stimmanteil nicht. Die Neos haben hingegen von null über 1400 Stimmen erreicht.

SPÖ und FPÖ haben ebenso dazugewonnen, nämlich 537 bzw. 776 Stimmen. Wirklich Stimmen verloren hat nur die ÖVP (-281).

Hatte die Mariahilfer Straße eine Auswirkung auf den Verlust der Stimmanteile der Grünen? Wohl kaum, da die Gegner des Umbaus (ÖVP, FPÖ) nur 495 Stimmen dazugewonnen haben, die Befürworter (Grüne, SPÖ, Neos) hingegen 2366. Die Mariahilfer Straße scheidet als wahlentscheidende Ursache somit aus.

Die Ursache, warum die Grünen Stimmanteile verloren haben, lässt sich eher auf zwei Ursachen zurückführen: erstens dürften viele bürgerliche Liberale bisher zähneknirschend grün gewählt haben, weil ihnen die ÖVP einfach zu katholisch oder zu starr war; diese Wähler haben jetzt mit den Neos eine passendere Partei.

Zweitens findet aufgrund der stark steigenden Mieten und Wohnungspreise im 7. Bezirk ein (sehr langsamer) Bevölkerungswandel statt: traditionelle Grünwähler (Studenten und Kreative) können sich das Wohnen im Bezirk nicht mehr so einfach leisten wie früher. Die 1568 seit der letzten Wahl neu in den Bezirk zugezogenen Wahlberechtigten (immerhin 6%) sind mit Durchschnittsmieten zwischen €14 und €19/m² (ohne Betriebskosten und MWSt) konfrontiert; man kann bei diesen also eine gewisse Schichtzugehörigkeit, die möglicherweise nicht traditionelles Grünwählertum ist, konstatieren. Auffällig ist auf jeden Fall, dass gerade die jüngeren Bewohner des Bezirks heute deutlich mehr Geld zu haben scheinen als noch vor 10 Jahren, und auch die Geschäfte und Lokale durchwegs ein kaufkräftigeres Publikum ansprechen, also eher Neos- als Grünwähler.

Die Mariahilfer Straße als Faktor für Stimmenanteilsverluste scheint dagegen mehr als nebensächlich.

Das beweist auch der Blick ins angrenzende Mariahilf, das von der Fußgängerzone und Verkehrsumorganisation ja genauso betroffen war:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-10-13 um 12.59.51.png

Hier haben die Grünen nicht nur über 1200 Stimmen, sondern auch 3,7% an Stimmanteilen dazubekommen, was absolut nicht so wirkt, als wären die Mariahilfer mit der Haltung der Grünen in Bezug auf die Mariahilfer Straße unzufrieden. Auch die mit viel medialem Donner begleitete Umleitung des 13A durch die Windmühlgasse scheint keine bezirksweiten Auswirkungen gehabt zu haben.

Zählt man die Stimmen von Neubau und Mariahilf zusammen, so hatten die Parteien, die für die Umgestaltung der Mariahilfer Straße waren, zusammen 74% der Stimmen, die Gegner 26%. Bei der Wahl 2010 waren diese Stimmen im Verhältnis 71%:29% verteilt. Auch diese Entwicklung lässt darauf schließen, dass der Umbau der Mariahilfer Straße den Befürwortern nicht geschadet hat.

          The GOP's 'Heidi Game'   

ORLANDO—The South Florida Sun-Sentinel buried this nugget Sunday in a story about the late delivery of 2,500 absentee ballots in Broward County: WPLG-Channel 10, an ABC affiliate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, aired a half-hour chunk of Stolen Honor, the 43-minute anti-Kerry documentary, on Saturday. The time was purchased by Newton Media, a Virginia-based media placement company that says it was founded "on biblical principles" and that includes a number of "media ministries" among its clients.

Angry callers "flooded the customer service phone lines" at the station for airing the program, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A liberal backlash? No, just sports fans upset that the Michigan-Michigan State football game, "tied, 37-37, and about to go into overtime," was pre-empted. Doesn't anyone at Newton Media know the story of the "Heidi game"? Could this be the Republicans' "Lambert Field moment"?

Will the election really be close? On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, journalists and campaign staffers sat in the bar at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and talked about what an exciting, unpredictable, four-way race for the Democratic nomination was about to unfold. The polls were tied. No one professed to have any idea what was about to happen. The unknown factor was an influx of new caucus participants. Many experts predicted that we would be up all night before we could discern the winner. But John Kerry was pronounced the decisive winner as soon as the caucuses ended. (Likewise, few expected a nail-biter in the 2000 general election.)

Florida3: If Kerry loses in Florida and the rest of the map goes as expected (meaning no upsets in Arkansas, New Jersey, or elsewhere), he'll need to carry Hawaii, Michigan, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, and two of the "Little Three": Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, to get to 270 electoral votes. With Florida, Kerry coasts to victory. Without Florida, he pretty much needs to run the table to win.

At least he's not traveling with Maurice Chevalier. Bruce Springsteen and John Kerry will appear together again on Monday. But is Springsteen the wrong symbol for a Democratic candidate? The Boss and his fan base, after all, are reminiscent of the caricature of limousine liberals: aging yuppies in BMWs who are either hopelessly trying to recapture their past glory or desperately trying to show that they're in touch with the working man. It's akin to Bush traveling with Hank Williams Jr. But in the unlikely event that the Springsteen does resonate politically, Kerry will owe another debt to his former campaign manager Jim Jordan, who chose "No Surrender" as Kerry's theme song. (Jordan also lobbied for Kerry to use his successful "Bring it on" mantra early in the primaries, but the idea was nixed by Bob Shrum.)

For those scoring at home: Here's where the candidates and their wives will be on the last day of campaigning before Election Day. Both Bush and Kerry have abandoned their typically lightly scheduled campaign days for a last-day whirlwind:

Kerry begins the day here in Orlando, then heads to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio (twice), then back to Wisconsin. On Tuesday, he'll do a morning event in Wisconsin—"Because Wisconsin is a same-day registration state, we'll be doing a turnout event," Mike McCurry told reporters—then head home to Massachusetts.

Edwards visits Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Florida, then spends all day Tuesday in Florida before heading to Massachusetts for Kerry's Election Night rally.

President Bush spends Monday in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa (twice), New Mexico, and Texas, while the Cheneys take the red-eye back from Hawaii and do events in Colorado, Nevada (twice), then head home to Wyoming.

Teresa Heinz Kerry stays in her home state of Pennylvania, while Elizabeth Edwards travels to Wisconsin, Ohio (twice), and Iowa. Laura Bush starts the day with the president in Ohio, then she has separate events in Ohio and Michigan before joining up again with the president in Iowa.

The best news of the weekend: The Packers-Redskins game could have ended in a tie. It didn't.

          What Would John Paul Do?   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Al Gore couldn't carry Tennessee. But will John Kerry lose his home faith? Among Catholic voters in this state, a recent poll done by Ohio University showed Kerry trailing Bush 50 percent to 44 percent, while the race among Protestants was closer, with 50 percent backing Kerry and 49 percent behind Bush. (Though both results are within the margin of error.) The question isn't just a matter of trivia: In Sunday's New York Times, Adam Nagourney raised the question of whether a Kerry defeat would "make it more difficult for another Catholic to capture the Democratic nomination any time soon." Kerry's opposition to Church teaching on abortion (at least in public policy) led to several controversies, including the one where some bishops announced they would not give Kerry Communion if he were in their congregations. Losing a bishop or two is one thing; if Kerry can't carry the Catholic vote comfortably in swing states, electability-driven primary voters may look more skeptically at future Catholic candidates.

Nationally, the polls have been mixed, and some recent polls have shown Kerry gaining ground among the flock. Last week's Zogby Poll showed Kerry leading among Catholics, and at Beliefnet, Slate's "Faith-Based" columnist Steven Waldman noted that undecided white Catholics broke for Kerry in two polls after the first debate. But despite that support, the debates over whether Kerry is a "real Catholic" have put liberal Catholics on the defensive and made them feel like an embattled minority. A convention of political journalism has added to the feeling: the unfortunate tendency to pronounce that "white men" or "married women with children" or "churchgoers" believe certain things, even when as many as 45 percent of the members of the demographic disagree. Journalism has no reservations about the tyranny of the majority.

So, when several hundred Columbus-area Catholics, including a nun and several priests, gathered Sunday afternoon for a "Catholics for Kerry" rally, the event had the air of a coming-out party. The speakers on stage embraced each other as each one finished addressing the audience. "It feels good, doesn't it?" said Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. A member of the Columbus City Council, Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, sounded a we're-here-get-used-to-it note. "We won't be afraid to speak out on whom we support," she said. "We will not be cowed by some extremists who would have us be quiet."

At times, the speakers at the event seemed more interested in rebuking the leaders of the Church who have criticized Kerry than in praising the candidate himself. It wasn't a sober gathering filled with theological and canonical explanations of where Kerry's politics fit in with Church teaching. Too often, the rally was an angry, if understandable, rant. Father James Colopy read a letter written by his aunt to the New York Times and a local newspaper after the Republican convention. Her brother was burned to death in Vietnam, and she was outraged at the Purple Heart band-aids worn by delegates. The Purple Heart "should be honored as the flag is honored," she wrote. "And [Bush] calls himself a pro-life president," Colopy said. "Lies, all lies." Father Greg Jones agreed that Bush was not pro-life in the Catholic sense—because he prosecuted an unjust war, because he executed more than 150 people as Texas governor, because his abortion policy "is full of asterisks"—and alluded to the Church's pedophilia scandal when he said, "Tainted leadership has promoted the lie." The pope and the Catholic Church demand respect for all life, "from conception to natural death, not death in the Texas deathhouse," Jones said. "You see, life doesn't end at birth." And minority groups are alive, too, Jones said. You're supposed to nurture the lives of all of them, "not just one lesbian in the White House." (Jones did have a funny riff on Lynne Cheney's outrage over her daughter's "outing": "Hello? She's a professional lesbian," who worked for Coors doing gay outreach. "She actually traveled the country with Mr. International Leather. That's pretty lesbian.")

The speakers were smart men and women of faith, but they sometimes came across as imbued with the same self-righteousness as their political opponents. Eric McFadden, the man who organized the event through his Web site (and who was interviewed by Nightline beforehand), said he doesn't like it when the Bush campaign shows photos of the president with members of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. As a fourth degree Knight, "That's an affront to me, because he does not walk with Christ," McFadden said. Father John Ardis, Kerry's pastor from the Paulist Center in Boston, explained that Kerry's Catholic faith dictated his support for Democratic slogans like "closing the gun show loophole" and "extending the assault weapons ban."

The quieter, less political moments were more effective. "God is real in John and Teresa's lives," Ardis said. "While they could undoubtedly choose to sit back and enjoy lives of relaxed leisure, they do not." By the time Sen. Durbin mentioned the Gospel story of the self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee and the humble prayer of the tax collector, his question—"How can those on the other side be so convinced of their righteousness?"—came as a rebuke not just to the religious right but, unintentionally, to the assembled religious left.

On Monday, I went to McFadden's house to talk about the rally with him. He agreed that parts of the rally may have come across as self-righteous, but added, "What was said yesterday had to be said. My organization shouldn't have to exist." They started it, he said. "They drug my religion into it, my faith. We didn't ask for this." For example, the Bush campaign shows pictures of the president meeting with the pope. "At that meeting, Pope John Paul II scolded him and condemned his war." The pope supports a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism, he continued. "Pope John Paul hasn't said a word in these last two months about abortion. But Pope John Paul has condemned the war twice. … To me, the pope has endorsed the platform that John Kerry is running on with regards to the war on terror."

McFadden, who is anti-abortion, concedes that some of Kerry's positions, such as his support for federal funding for abortion, are "tough," but says Catholics shouldn't be single-issue voters. And rallies like the one here on Sunday make him feel better. "I kind of felt like I was alone at the beginning."

If John Kerry becomes president, the long-simmering divide between conservative and liberal Catholics will probably widen. But whether Kerry becomes president—and whether the Democrats wait four more decades before nominating another Catholic—may depend on just how not-alone McFadden is.

          I Want My GOTV   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With only nine days until this election is over (or so everyone hopes), we've reached the stage of the campaign when the political press evaluates each side's ground game. The media's track record on this is not encouraging. Almost exactly nine months ago, reporters were wandering around Iowa judging the merits of everyone's "organization, organization, organization." The verdict: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were the men to beat. We were dazzled by Gephardt's union support and by Dean's "Perfect Storm" of door-knocking, orange-hatted, out-of-state volunteers. They both got creamed.

In hindsight, Dean's Perfect Storm has been judged a debacle on two levels: It annoyed Iowans, who don't like outsiders, and it tied up Dean's staff with organizational headaches—where should we house the Stormers? How can we keep them busy?—when the staff's time would have been better spent figuring out how to get Iowans to the caucuses. But at the time, it got great press.

So, perhaps it's a bad omen for Kerry's ground game in Ohio when I discover that Christy Setzer, the woman who handled press for the Perfect Storm, has been assigned to deal with national reporters who parachute into Columbus to watch America Coming Together, the New New Thing of the general election, in action. That's not meant as a slap at Setzer—she's a terrific person who's good at her job (see the aforementioned glowing press)—but the parallels are irresistible. Like the Storm was for the caucuses, the George Soros-funded ACT is the Big Question Mark of the general election: How many of the new voters it registered in the past year are authentic? How many of them will show up to vote? Can this unconventional strategy win Kerry the presidency?

ACT's army of red-coated canvassers are Kerry's Afghan warlords: He's outsourced his base campaign, his voter-registration drives, and a healthy chunk of his get-out-the-vote operation to them. Much of the rest of the operation will be handled by the groups (including ACT) that make up America Votes, another 527 that coordinates the voter-contact and voter-turnout operations of a host of interest groups, from the AFL-CIO to Planned Parenthood, to ensure that everyone's on the same page. In a sense, America Votes does for the liberal ground game what Grover Norquist's weekly meeting does for conservative talking points.

When I ask Setzer to compare ACT to Dean's Storm, she says it differs in important ways. For one, the canvassers are paid workers and not volunteers, and the organization tries to hire locals instead of out-of-towners. More important, perhaps, the canvassers are supposed to identify voters and get them to the polls, not tell voters their personal stories of how far they've traveled and why they're committed to Howard Dean (or John Kerry). But the real key is that they don't work for just one weekend.

The secret to turnout is frequent face-to-face contact with voters. That's a lesson Steve Rosenthal, the national head of America Coming Together, learned during his years as the political director of the AFL-CIO. Many people attribute Al Gore's victory in the popular vote in 2000—and his wins in every close state except Florida—to Rosenthal's turnout operation for the unions in 2000. Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal "the last great hope of the Democratic Party" and has compared him to Michael Whouley and Karl Rove. ACT is a national version of what Rosenthal did for Philadelphia Mayor John Street in 2003. In that race, 38,000, or 44 percent, of the 86,000 new voters Rosenthal registered came to the polls, he told National Journal earlier this year, compared to 28 or 29 percent of what the magazine called "voters from the same neighborhoods and similar socio-economic backgrounds who had registered on their own."

In Ohio, ACT sends out between 200 and 250 paid canvassers each day. They get paid between $8 and $10 an hour. Setzer reels off impressive numbers: We've knocked on 3.7 million doors in Ohio, had more than 1 million conversations. On Election Day, ACT will send out 12,000 volunteers, each paid a stipend of $75 for travel and expenses, to make sure voters get to the polls. ACT and the partner organizations that make up America Votes have registered about 300,000 new voters in Ohio, and they'll consider it a success to turn out just half of them. Those voters alone, though, wouldn't swing the election. Four years ago, Bush's margin of victory was nearly 180,000 votes. In all, Ohio has between 700,000 and 800,000 new voters for this election, though Setzer points out that some of that could just be churn from voters who moved.

My trip to watch two ACT canvassers in action wasn't very impressive, but that's because it was a Potemkin canvass, organized for the benefit of an MSNBC reporter and his camera. Malik Hubbard, 26, and Julian Johannesen, 32, walked up and down a few blocks in a largely African-American neighborhood in Columbus on a Saturday afternoon. As ACT's field directors for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Hubbard and Johannesen don't usually canvass themselves. Each man carried a Palm Tungsten T2, which contained the addresses of the voters they were supposed to contact. It's Saturday afternoon on the day of the Ohio State homecoming game, so it's not optimal door-knocking time, but they do their best to put on a good show. When a voter answers the door, the canvasser gives him or her a flyer that has the address of the local polling place stamped on it. He explains that the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., advises the voter to bring some form of identification to the polls in case their registration is challenged, and asks if there are any questions. On two separate occasions, a voter worries about a false rumor that the neighborhood's voting machines have been replaced with punch-card ballots. After talking to each voter, Hubbard and Johannesen input the data into their Tungsten T2s.

Over the next nine days, canvassers will follow up with voters, continuing the personal contacts. For what it's worth, the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state is following a similar strategy, though it doesn't partly rely on an outside organization to carry it out. "I'm not saying we're gonna outperform the other side, because they have the potential to be spectacular," says Dave Beckwith, a Bush-Cheney spokesman in Ohio. "I'd just rather be where we are, with a real solid model." The model is the Republican "72 Hour Program," Karl Rove's get-out-the-vote operation from 2002, which helped the Republicans gain House and Senate seats in the midterm elections. Like ACT, the 72 Hour Program relies on frequent face-to-face contact with voters, what Bush's Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik calls "the volunteer-to-voter interface."

"By and large, it is an effort to move closer to the Democrat knock-and-drag vote drive," Beckwith says. Republicans have traditionally relied on things like direct mail to get out the vote, but this time, "We are going to the personal contact system." The Bush-Cheney campaign has printed up small pamphlets that contain a list of each committed Bush voter in a neighborhood, along with voters' phone numbers and a map of the area. On Election Day, a volunteer takes the book and checks off each voter after they go to the polls.

Beckwith admits that the Democrats have registered more new voters than the Republicans, but he says that their work was done by "mercenaries"—and they have "people signed up by crack addicts"—while his side employs volunteers, or "liberty-loving free men." Beckwith then drifts into a reverie about the Battle of San Jacinto and explains how Sam Houston knew that "conscripts" and the forces of "despotism" couldn't defeat free men. The enemy was saying, "Me no Alamo," Beckwith says with a laugh. (At another moment in the interview, Beckwith observes of the Kerry-Edwards campaign offices, "I think they're on Gay Street, which is interesting, because we're on Rich Street.")

At the Bush-Cheney headquarters, I mention to Paduchik, Bush's Ohio campaign manager, how the media overestimated the effectiveness of Dean's Perfect Storm. Paduchik says the evidence of Bush's organization in Ohio is the size of his crowds, because the campaign distributes its tickets through its volunteers. When you see 22,000 people in Troy, Ohio, or 50,000 people in Westchester, Ohio, you know you're looking at "a real organization," he says. "It's not because we had tickets you could download from the Internet. It's not because we had put them on car windows, or had people pick them up at a 7-Eleven, like the other side does."

On the way out, I'm reminded that all this work on both sides isn't necessarily a sign of confidence. As we walk to the door, Beckwith points to an empty portion of the Bush-Cheney offices. That's where the staff for Sen. George Voinovich works, he says. "These cocksuckers are up 30 points and they're never in here."

          The Foreign Wives Club   

WASHINGTON—Teresa Heinz Kerry acknowledged Monday that she understands at least one of the reasons that many Americans aren't comfortable with the idea of her as first lady, or at least she came very close to acknowledging it: Many Americans are wary of her because they suspect she's not quite American—not un-American, just not exactly American either—and certainly not American enough to be first lady. In front of a luncheon sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Heinz Kerry said that some critics—she called them "my husband's critics"—have challenged her for talking about her experience as an immigrant who came to America from Africa "via Europe, where I studied." Critics say "my immigrant experience isn't representative," Heinz Kerry said. "That is such a revealing comment, because what it suggests is that they should get to decide who shares in the American dream and who doesn't. What it suggests is that the American dream doesn't belong to all of us, but only to some of us."

Heinz Kerry ought to repeat that message everywhere she goes. She's one-fourth of what may be the most heavily accented ticket in American history (though Kennedy-Johnson could give them a run for their money), and fair or not, accents matter, especially in the mass-media age. George W. Bush speaks Spanish like an American, like Peggy Hill in King of the Hill. Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks English like a foreigner. Even her admirers are influenced by her accent. In the New York Observer last week, a Manhattan writer said Heinz Kerry was "a bit Zsa Zsa—you could see her slapping a cop." More important, you could hear her doing it, dahling.

I've always thought that John Edwards' thick Southern accent was one reason he did so poorly in New Hampshire. Northeastern liberals are predisposed to believe that anyone with a drawl is an uneducated rube, and some will even confess their prejudice. Sure, Bill Clinton was Southern, too, but he was also familiar with Northern culture. He attended Georgetown and went to Oxford. Clinton could navigate between the two worlds, and he spoke differently below the Mason-Dixon line than he did above it (or on television). Edwards sounds the same way all the time.

Heinz Kerry's accent isn't likely to put off Northern liberals, and even the ones that don't like it are likely to vote for her husband anyway. The problem could come in the rural areas of Ohio and Florida that are likely to determine the outcome of the election. President Bush slaughtered Al Gore in rural areas across the country four years ago. Kerry hopes to narrow that margin, which is why he rarely mentions abortion rights, emphasizes his status as a veteran, and distributes photos of himself hunting.

Those attributes may help Kerry some, but are they enough to offset a funny-talking wife? Even the pronunciation of her name—ter-AY-za—seems strange to people from certain parts of the country (not goofier than young John Kerry's pronunciation of "Genghis Khan," though). That's why it was so foolish of her to open her speech at the Democratic convention by speaking all five of her languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and English. To a certain brand of American, the stunt seemed either show-offy or vaguely seditious.

Everywhere he goes, President Bush says that "perhaps the most important reason to give us four more years is so that Laura will be first lady for four more years." In most presidential races, the remark would be interpreted as the self-deprecating affection of a doting husband. But in 2004, it comes across as a subtle shot at Teresa Heinz Kerry's fitness for (unofficial) office. Bill Clinton likes to say that people have to be able to imagine a candidate as the president before they can cast a ballot for him (or someday her). Right now, a lot of Americans have trouble imagining a world in which Teresa Heinz Kerry is first lady. It's not because she's opinionated, or a loose cannon, or perceived as an ice queen. It's because they haven't been convinced she's authentically American.

Outrageous? Nativist? Fine. That doesn't make it false. The best way for Teresa Heinz Kerry to overcome the prejudice against her is to recognize the doubts about her and confront them persuasively, like she did today. Her husband has already learned that ignoring something unfair, or pretending that it doesn't exist, doesn't make it go away.

          Shrum Strikes Back?   

ALLENTOWN, PA.—The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich profiled Kerry adviser Bob Shrum in a piece Friday that focused on the so-called "Shrum Curse," the idea that Shrum is the losingest great political strategist of modern times. Leibovich didn't bring up William Jennings Bryan or the Buffalo Bills, but he does compare Shrum to Kerry's favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Ten speechwriters at the Democratic convention, Leibovich writes, considered wearing "Reverse the Curse" T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Shrum. The article's headline: "Loss Leader: At 0-7, Adviser Bob Shrum Is Well Acquainted With the Concession Speech."

Ouch. It gets worse. Here are some of the piece's highlights: "Shrum's career-long slump in presidential campaigns, a well-catalogued losing streak that runs from George McGovern to Al Gore. … the ["Reverse the Curse"] slogan endures as a joke among Kerry staffers. … Shrum's 0-7 win-loss record in presidential elections has become ensconced in the psyches of the campaigns he orchestrates. …. Kerry is sputtering … His campaign has been called listless and unfocused, words that were also applied to Shrum's last presidential enterprise, the Gore campaign (a forbidden comparison within Kerry headquarters). … But curses sometimes have prosaic explanations. … critics started to rehash old complaints about Shrum. They say he relies too heavily on populist rhetoric, … that his aggressiveness led to backbiting within the campaign. ... James Carville harpooned Shrum relentlessly to reporters at the Republican convention last week. Clinton himself was critical of the campaign's reluctance to attack Bush—a position Shrum had advocated—in a phone call to Kerry … Shrum's brand of old-style liberalism—steeped in the tradition of his political patron, Ted Kennedy—is anathema to the centrist, New Democrat ethic that got Clinton elected twice. … 'You tend to listen extra hard to Clinton people,' says a mid-level Kerry aide who didn't want to be identified because he's not an official spokesman. 'They've actually won one of these.' "

The one thing Leibovich couldn't nail down was Shrum's role in the Kerry campaign after the elevation of John Sasso and Michael Whouley and the infusion of Clinton operatives like Joe Lockhart. How much power does Shrum have now? Does he still have the candidate's ear? "Shrum is either in Kerry's doghouse, or his influence has been diffused by the high-level additions. Ultimately, though, campaign sources say, Shrum is a survivor" who has "worked strenuously to cultivate Lockhart." Leibovich also writes that Kerry feels loyal to Shrum for helping him to defeat William Weld in 1996.

So, Shrumologists take note: During a rally here on Friday, the same day Leibovich's critical profile appeared, Kerry inserted a Shrumian flourish into his standard stump speech. For a few minutes, Kerry sounded an awful lot like Al Gore during his much-criticized—and Shrum-penned—"people vs. the powerful" acceptance speech at the 2000 Democratic convention. The business-friendly Kerry  of Labor Day vanished, replaced by a Wall Street-bashing economic populist.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry's remarks weren't significant. "It didn't strike me as anything unusual," she said. "It's not a 'people vs. the powerful.' " Judge for yourself: There's a theme that runs through "everything I just talked about," Kerry explained. "Why aren't we importing drugs from Canada? Why did they take that out? Why did we refuse to allow Medicare to be able to negotiate [bulk drug prices] so you would lower your taxes? Why has the tax burden of the average American family gone up while the tax burden of the richest people in America has gone down? Why is it that when we're fighting to have alternative and renewable energy, we wind up with an energy bill that's written for the oil and gas companies? Why is it that when American citizens are losing their health care by the millions, it's the HMOs and the companies that keep getting fed?" Kerry mentions all of these things frequently on the stump, but this time he punctuated his critique with an allusion to the rhetoric of Al Gore's "forbidden" campaign: "I'll tell you why: because this administration exists for the purpose of serving the powerful and the moneyed, and we need to restore … the voices of America, the real Americans who built this country and make it strong. We need to step up and fight."

Was Kerry paying a final tribute to the dear, departed Shrum? Or was Shrum serving notice to the Clinton faction that he won't disappear without a fight? Both? Neither? Was it just a coincidence? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a Shrum falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

          Playing to Strength   

NEW YORK—Inside Madison Square Garden, Tuesday's schedule promised another day of moderation, with Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger following Monday's tag-team of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. But outside the hall, among the protesters, Tuesday is the day marked off for the hard-core left, for the anarchists and communists and the man at Union Square who is calling for American soldiers to rise up in mutiny and frag their commanding officers. Except at this convention, even the anarchists are moderates.

At Union Square, where Tuesday's "day of action" begins at 4 p.m., a small crowd gathers to block off the entrance to the park in defiance of police orders. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have to remove yourselves from the entrance," says a cop in front of a phalanx of shield-bearing officers. The crowd, which had been chanting, "Go arrest Bush! Go arrest Bush!" decides to adjust its message. The new chant: "The police deserve a raise! The police deserve a raise!" Who says anarchists aren't politically savvy? When trying to win over an audience, abandon the red-meat rhetoric and instead reach out to independent swing cops.

The protesters and convention speakers have a lot in common, in fact, including a preference for empty slogans and false choices. But more important, they both believe that showing resolve is the most important political act. The protesters believe that if enough of them are willing to lie down in the streets and get arrested—and if they do it over and over and over again—the American people will be persuaded to consider their point of view. The convention speakers agree that doing something over and over and over again, being unwavering and unchangeable, is the best way to pull Americans to your side.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Tuesday speaker with the most, er, movie-star appeal, says that "perseverance" is the quality he admires most about President Bush: "He's a man of inner strength. He is a leader who doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, and does not back down." Sure, the president led the country into an unpopular war, Schwarzenegger says, but that's a good thing! "The president didn't go into Iraq because the polls told him it was popular. In fact, the polls said just the opposite. But leadership isn't about polls. It's about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." Schwarzenegger echoes what Monday night's final speaker, Rudy Giuliani, said: "There are many qualities that make a great leader but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader."

Now, that can't possibly be right. Surely Giuliani and Schwarzenegger believe that having the correct beliefs is more important than sticking by your beliefs, no matter how wrong you are. Sticking by your beliefs is probably the most overrated leadership trait. All great politicians are flip-floppers, including President Bush.

The biggest fib the president says on the stump is, "When I say something, I mean it." Did he mean it when he said that no matter what the whip count, he would ask for a second vote at the Security Council before going to war with Iraq? Did he mean it when he was against a Department of Homeland Security? Did he mean it when he opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission? Did he mean it when he opposed McCain-Feingold? Did he mean it when he said troops shouldn't be used for nation-building? Did he mean it when he said he planned to use his presidency to strengthen international alliances? Does he mean it when he says, "It's the people's money, not the government's money"? If so, then why does he spend so much of it?

Up to now, the Kerry campaign has elected not to use this inconsistent record to undermine the Republican claim that President Bush is a man of great resolve. Instead, they've decided to buttress the idea. The president is stubborn, unyielding, Kerry says. He's not flexible enough.

Kerry's approach plays into liberals' fantasies about themselves. Liberals think they're smarter, more thoughtful, more nuanced than conservatives. They think they're more aware of the complexities and ambiguities in life. They're not inconsistent; they're Emersonian. Kerry tried to take advantage of this at the Democratic Convention when he said that he understands that some things are complicated. Bush's response has been to say, as he does often, "There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops."

Howard Dean got it right when he said that people don't like President Bush because they agree with his policies. They like him because they think he's a strong leader. Unless Democrats can undermine that belief, they don't have a chance of regaining the presidency. The Kerry campaign may finally be learning this. When Bush said that he now believes the nation actually can win the war on terror (despite saying otherwise previously), the Kerry campaign e-mailed a press release with the headline, "Bush: Against Winning the War on Terror Before He Was for It." Maybe they've learned that Kerry can't blunt Bush's strength on national security without making at least some people think the president is a flip-flopping "politician." You don't beat your opponent by listening to his message, nodding, and saying, I agree.

          Their Kind of Town   

NEW YORK—Zell Miller will be the most notable apostate at the Republican National Convention, but Ed Koch gets to be the first. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, the first speaker after the opening remarks by Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner is the former mayor, a Democrat. "Why am I here?" the jovial Koch asks the smattering of assembled delegates at the sparsely attended Monday morning session. "I'm here to convert you. But that's for the next election. This year, I'm voting for the re-election of President George W. Bush." The small crowd gives Koch a huge cheer.

Koch is followed by another New York mayor, the current one. At the first GOP convention ever held in New York City, Republican Michael Bloomberg declares, "Welcome to America's New York." It's a strange choice of words, one that makes it sound as if the Republican delegates suspect they somehow landed in Russia's New York. (Perhaps that was the New York that Koch presided over.) But Bloomberg's choice of words is telling. The picture of New York painted during the convention's morning session is a city in tune with the rest of the country, the South, Middle, and West that most Republicans hail from. Maybe Bloomberg should have said, "Welcome to Red America's New York."

After Bloomberg speaks, a video produced by the History Channel tells the political history of the capital of Blue America, but it's really the history of the Republican Party in New York. We hear about the birth of Teddy Roosevelt, for example, but not, say, the Stonewall riots. (The video also contains the first bit of disinformation at the convention: It calls TR "our second-youngest president" when in fact he was the youngest president, taking office as a 42-year-old after the assassination of President McKinley. JFK, at 43, was the youngest man elected to the presidency.) "America's New York" is where the Bill of Rights was written, not where the gay rights movement began. It's where Abraham Lincoln, the most beloved Republican, denounced the spread of slavery at Cooper Union. It's also home to the machinery of global capitalism: the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of more major corporations than any other city.

Long before we get to Rudy Giuliani, New York Mayor No. 3 of the day, the message of Day 1 couldn't be clearer: Don't worry, nervous visitors. Despite what you may have heard from your friends (or seen from the protestors), this is your town!

But the Big Apple love-in doesn't last all that long. No one denounces the city, of course, but the disconnect between the majority of New Yorkers and the majority of Republicans comes across during the succession of speeches by GOP congressional candidates. In the most Jewish city in America, Mississippi congressional candidate Clinton LeSueur strays from President Bush's carefully inclusive religious rhetoric. Instead of making the nonsectarian statement in his prepared text—"The very foundation of this country is faith"—LeSueur says, "The very foundation of this country is Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ."

Ted Poe, a congressional candidate from Texas, goes even further. He compares Upper West Side liberals, at least implicitly, to the nation's enemies in the war on terror. The country is currently fighting for freedom abroad in Iraq, Poe says. But it's also fighting for "basic American principles" at home. "This threat is real," he continues. Don't "complain and criticize as the French did in the war in Iraq." No, this dangerous "threat" must be stopped with a fierce barrage of smaller government and lower taxes. "Sitting on the sidelines is not an option," says Poe, sticking with his hilariously inappropriate analogy. "Now is not the time to be a French Republican" (or, as the official transcript of his piece has it, an all-caps "FRENCH REPUBLICAN").

Who screened Poe's speech? Sure, it's not prime time, but certainly someone pointed out (or someone should have pointed out) that it wasn't a good idea to compare Democrats, by far the majority in New York, to Baathists.

Maybe Poe was more shocked by the scale of the anti-Bush protests in the streets than he should have been. He expected the Republicans to be greeted in Manhattan as liberators.

          Dubya Dubya Two   

NEW YORK—There's an old rule of thumb in high school and college debating: The first side that is forced to bring up Hitler to defend its case automatically loses. (Sorry, MoveOn.org.) Referring to Der Fuhrer is a desperate act, the crotch-kick of rhetorical devices. It may get you out of a streetfight, but it is cause for disqualification in more formal settings, like political conventions.

But if you expand the Hitler rule to include all references to World War II, President Bush would have lost this election on a technicality several years ago. After all, if reflecting the glory of the Good War upon yourself is the only way you can make the case for combat, your case isn't very good. Whenever the president is backed into a corner, he relies on a specious historical analogy to defend his policies. Iran, North Korea, and Iraq = Axis. Reconstructing Iraq = Reconstructing Japan. The analogies made by the president and his allies aren't always clear—why is Saddam, for example, compared to Hitler instead of Tojo or Hirohito?—but no one seems to notice.

This administration's embrace of Dubya Dubya Two to defend its foreign policy is as tiresome as the tendency among liberals to believe that the phrase "another Vietnam" is always sufficient proof that the antiwar side is right. So, I was going to challenge the Republican Party at this convention to make the case for its policies without referring to World War II, but it appears that I'm too late. On Sunday evening, excerpts of Rudy Giuliani's Monday night speech were e-mailed to the press. Here's Giuliani on why Bush is a good president: "There are many qualities that make a great leader, but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader." Rudy's first example: "Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a war-mongering gadfly." Come on, guys. You lost the bet, and the convention hasn't even started yet.

The hoariest cliché in politics (other than "hoariest cliché") is that elections are about the future. But it may be proven wrong this year. The Democrats held the all-Vietnam-all-the-time convention in Boston, and the Republicans look like they will flip the calendar back a few years further in New York. When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth moved on to John Kerry's activities as an antiwar protester during Vietnam, the presidential campaign seemed to be creakily lurching toward the present, but with only two months to go, we may not have enough time to get there. And now that the GOP wants to talk about the '40s, we don't have a chance.

"We have seen these kind of times in the past. We have seen a former enemy of America, Japan, become an ally in peace," President Bush told USA Today last week. The administration strenuously objected when people tried, on the eve of war in February 2003, to compare Iraq to postwar Japan. Before the war, the Bushies got into a tizzy when anyone suggested there would be a seven-year military occupation. More like 30 days, or six months, or at the absolute maximum two years, they insisted. Now the president trots out the MacArthur comparison every chance he gets.

Earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio, I saw Bush talk about "having Kobe beef" with the prime minister of Japan. "And here we are talking about peace," he said. "Someday, an American President will be talking to a duly-elected leader of Iraq, talking about the peace, and America will be better for it." Here was Bush on Sunday in Wheeling, W.Va., combining two of the most-overused historical analogies in politics, World War II and Harry Truman: "We've done this kind of work before. One of my closest collaborators in peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. It wasn't all that long ago in the march of history that my dad and your dads were fighting the Japanese. And yet here we are, because we insisted upon the transforming qualities of liberty, we insisted that Japan be given a chance to self-govern and be a democratic nation.  We believe that even an enemy could accept liberty as a way of life. Fortunately, my predecessor, Harry Truman, stuck with that point of view." If Bush could have squeezed in a "party of Lincoln" reference and a Cold War riff, he would have hit the historical analogy Grand Slam. (For Democrats, replace "party of Lincoln" with Selma.)

George W. Bush is not FDR, and war opponents are not Neville Chamberlains. I'm tempted to engage the GOP in the historical debate to point out, for example, that one of the lessons of World War II was that international institutions like the United Nations and NATO would help keep the peace in a dangerous world. (That's something Bush claimed to believe in 1999 when he was campaigning for the presidency for the first time. "My goal, should I become the president, is to keep the peace," Bush said in his first debate in New Hampshire, according to Frank Bruni's Ambling Into History. "I intend to do so by strengthening alliances, which says, 'America cannot go alone.' ") Or to point out that the reconstruction of Japan—no sovereignty, no flag, no national anthem, no diplomatic relations—was very different from the Bush policy in Iraq. Or, for those who prefer the Cold War analogy, that President Kennedy agreed during the Cuban Missile Crisis to remove missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev's removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

But that makes it sound like we should be negotiating with Osama Bin Laden over Turkey, which obviously isn't the case. So let's just say that historical analogies are, on their own, insufficient to prove much of anything. I say Saddam, you say Hitler. Let's call the whole thing off.

          Looking Backward   

MANKATO, Minn.—After watching President Bush speak for only a couple of hours on the 2004 stump, it's easy to see the main tenets of his re-election campaign: My opponent is un-American, or at least less American than me and you. My opponent, much like Al Gore, doesn't know who he is. My opponent is a tax-hiking, big-government liberal. Worse, he wants to ask other countries for permission for America to defend itself against its enemies. Last, and most important, my wife is better than his wife.

What you don't hear from President Bush's stump speech, or from his surrogates, is what he plans to do were he given another four years as president. The problem is particularly glaring on matters of foreign policy. There are glimmers of a domestic agenda in the president's two campaign events Wednesday: He wants to reform America's high schools, increase math and science education, and increase the use of the Internet in schools. He wants more ethanol subsidies. He wants to make health care more available and affordable. He wants less regulation. He likes community colleges. He wants workers to be able to acquire flex time and comp time in lieu of overtime pay.

Bush also gives his audiences a rehash of the greatest hits from his 2000 campaign mantras. He likes tort reform and dislikes "frivolous lawsuits." (A favorite line of Bush crowds: "You cannot be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. You have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket.") He wants private Social Security accounts for younger workers. He likes marriage and the family, which always gets him a big cheer, because what it really means is he's against gay marriage. He's for a "culture of life," "judges who faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench," and a "culture of responsibility." Not to mention the responsibility society and the ownership society. He's still against the soft bigotry of low expectations. And of course, he wants everyone to love their neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

Bush doesn't talk much about the future. He talks about the past. The biggest portions of Bush's speech are spent mounting a vigorous defense of his presidency. When Bush's campaign foundered in New Hampshire four years ago, he retooled his strategy in response to John McCain and began billing himself as a "reformer with results." He's not using that slogan yet, but the rhetoric is similar. "It's not enough to advocate reform," he says. "You have to be able to get it done." The closing section of his speech ends with the mantra, "Results matter." On education, health care, the economy, farms, and security, Bush concludes by saying, "Results matter." Of his Medicare prescription drug benefit, Bush says, "Leaders in both political parties had promised prescription drug coverage for years. We got the job done."

Bush spends the longest amount of time defending his policies after Sept. 11. He takes credit for the creation of the Homeland Security Department (one of those things that Bush voted against before he voted for it), and he takes pride in the Patriot Act. Afghanistan has gone from being the "home base of al-Qaida" to being a "rising democracy." Pakistan, once a "safe transit point for terrorists," is now an ally. Saudi Arabia, he says, "is taking the fight to al-Qaida." Libya has given up its quest for weapons of mass destruction.

Most of all, Bush defends the war in Iraq. He repeats the litany of reasons for going to war: Saddam was defying the will of the United Nations, he harbored terrorists, he funded suicide bombers, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. "In other words, we saw a threat," Bush says. "Members of the United States Congress from both political parties, including my opponent, looked at the intelligence and came to the same conclusion."

What Bush doesn't acknowledge is what went wrong: The WMD were never found. We weren't welcomed as liberators. Oil revenues haven't paid for the war. It wasn't a cakewalk. What went wrong? Why? Given four more years, what does Bush plan to do about it? He hasn't told us yet, other than suggesting "more of the same."

"Every incumbent who asks for your vote has got to answer one central question, and that's 'Why?'" Bush says. "Why should the American people give me the high privilege of serving as your president for four more years?" The answer Bush gives to that question is his record. He says he deserves re-election because of what he has already done. At Wednesday's first event, in Davenport, Iowa, U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle embodies this attitude when he introduces Bush to the crowd. "There is no one I would have wanted to be at the helm of this country these last four years than you," Nussle says.

Bush and Nussle are asking the wrong question. The real question an incumbent faces is, what now? What's next? So far, Bush isn't telling. A president's record matters, but the reason it matters is because it has predictive value. Bush's defenders say he is a transformational figure, that he's willing to take on big problems and challenges. Wouldn't you like to know what Bush believes those big problems and challenges would be in foreign policy over the next four years? Are there gathering threats that, like Iraq, he thinks need to be tackled "before they materialize"? The president says that is the lesson of Sept. 11, that the nation must confront its security problems pre-emptively. Where else does he plan to apply that lesson? Does he plan to tell us?

After the 2002 midterm elections, when Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill objected to another round of tax cuts for the rich, Vice President Cheney told O'Neill to discard his worries. We won the midterm elections, Cheney said. "This is our due." As much as liberals dislike President Bush's record over the past four years, it's the prospect of another four years that terrifies them. What they want to know—what keeps them awake at night—is what President Bush hasn't answered yet: What are you going to do next? This time, what will be your due?

          The Composite Candidate   

BOSTON—The early portions of John Kerry's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president of the United States resembled a typical Kerry for President campaign event. It was variety hour, with Kerry as emcee, introducing and thanking his special guests: his running mate, John Edwards; his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry; his children and stepchildren, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry and Andre, Chris, and John Heinz; and of course Max Cleland and Kerry's Vietnam "band of brothers." In a new twist, Kerry also took a moment to thank each of his primary opponents by name—Carol Moseley Braun, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, and Al Sharpton. He thanked them for "teaching me and testing me—but mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country and for giving us the unity to move America forward." But Kerry forgot to thank them for one other thing: writing his acceptance speech.

When he began his run for the presidency, Kerry possessed the biography, the résumé, the presence, and even the height required for a successful campaign. But initially he struggled to provide a compelling rationale, beyond those assets, for why he should assume the highest office in the land. Sure, he kind of looked like a president, and yes, he seemed to think he deserved it, but that wasn't enough to convince voters in 2003. Later, the rise of Howard Dean and John Edwards sharpened Kerry as a candidate—perhaps because he becomes more focused on deadline, but also because he co-opted their messages, sometimes verbatim.

Kerry turned himself into the Democratic composite candidate, and with the addition of his biography, the one component no other candidate could borrow, he steamrolled the field. So, it was appropriate for him to thank the eight candidates who, in large or small part, provided the content that catapulted Kerry to the nomination and that now, he hopes, will carry him to the presidency.

To be fair, there were healthy chunks of Kerry's message from the primaries in the address. His line that, after Vietnam, "every day is extra" was used in an Iowa TV commercial that helped power him to his surprise victory in the caucuses there. Kerry didn't talk a lot about cutting middle-class taxes during the primaries, but his message that Howard Dean was going to raise taxes on the middle class helped spike Dean's candidacy. The attacks on outsourcing and corporate welfare were familiar to anyone who's watched Kerry campaign, and so was the sense of entitlement—or for those who want to view it charitably, destiny—that came across when he told Americans that as a child in a Colorado hospital, "I was born in the West Wing."

But Kerry also sounded a lot like his running mate, John Edwards. He talked to voters directly about their struggles to pay the bills: "You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof." He mentioned the rise in the number of families living in poverty, a pet Edwards issue. His "we're the optimists" line was pure Edwards, and when he noted, "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side," he was pilfering the quote from the guy he chose for the ticket, who used it during their final primary debate.

Kerry sprinkled some of the best stuff from the rest of the field into the speech, too. Dean loved to attack Republicans for trying to appropriate the American flag for their own private use, when in fact it was the flag of all Americans, even—gasp—Democrats. Tonight, Kerry added a similar riff to his repertoire. He also adapted Dean's line about a president's most solemn duty being to tell the truth before taking a nation to war, when he promised to "be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war." There was also a dash of Wesley Clark's "new patriotism," Clark's affirmation of dissent as patriotism's highest form, when Kerry said, "We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism." Clark also had a riff about family values that Kerry adapted tonight, saying, "It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

And, could it be? Was that a tiny drop of Bob Graham I heard when Kerry criticized America's dependence on the Saudi royal family for oil? The speech even contained a hint of Carol Moseley Braun, who liked to say, "It doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island or across the Rio Grande, we're all in the same boat now." What kind of America did Kerry say he wanted to lead? "An America where we are all in the same boat." There were only the tiniest hints, if any at all, of the rhetoric of Gephardt, Kucinich, Lieberman, or Sharpton that I could discern (though I feared before the speech began that its delivery would be pure Joementum), but that was for the best. There's no use burglarizing the poorest houses in your neighborhood.

Kerry shouldn't be criticized for adopting his competitors' rhetoric, especially now that the race is long over. Good politicians borrow, after all, while great politicians steal. And the candidate of a unified party might was well be the sum of all its candidates.

There are two questions, though, about Kerry's use of this political strategy. For one, there's a limit to how much longer he can use it. The zeal of the Democrats to retake the White House grants Kerry a fair amount of leeway to co-opt Bush's message and appeal to the center for the next three months, but he can't exactly get up and declare himself the candidate of compassionate conservatism. (Or can he?)

Perhaps more important is the extent to which Kerry's remarkable ability to be all things to all Democrats has convinced nearly every faction of the party, from paleoliberals to New Democrats, that he is their candidate. Should Kerry actually take office in January, won't his grand coalition splinter once he starts disappointing certain elements within it? My guess is yes, and that Kerry doesn't particularly care at the moment. It's a problem he'd be happy to grapple with for four more years.

          Trading Places   

LOS ANGELES—John Kerry did something I thought was impossible tonight. He turned himself into John Edwards. This may be the secret of Kerry's success in the Democratic primaries: What Bill Clinton did to infuriate the Republican Congress during his presidency, Kerry does to his fellow candidates. He co-opts their issues, their message, even their language. When Howard Dean was the obstacle in Kerry's path, the Massachusetts senator talked about throwing the special interests out of Washington and putting the people back in charge. Now that Edwards is the lone serious contender, Kerry pitches himself as the positive, optimistic candidate with "real solutions."

"I've offered a positive vision of what we ought to be doing in America," Kerry declared in the opening moments of Thursday's debate. "Once we have a nominee, this country will have an opportunity to hear a positive vision of how we can offer hope to Americans, optimism about the possibilities of the future, not divide America but bring it together to find real solutions. And that's what I'm offering: real solutions." Edwards must have felt like a sitcom character, the candidate for student council president watching his classmate deliver a stolen version of his speech. The "Real Solutions Express" is the name of Edwards' campaign bus. "Real Solutions for America" is the name of Edwards' 60-page policy booklet. It's also the phrase plastered across the top of Edwards' campaign Web site.

But unlike the sitcom character, who takes the podium and falls flat on his face, Edwards dominated the early portion of the debate. He throttled Kerry—with an assist from an aggressive Ron Brownstein—after Kerry couldn't explain why he thought the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in 1996 but that a constitutional amendment isn't needed now to ensure that states are not forced to recognize gay marriages from other states. After Kerry's long-winded and unsatisfactory answer to whether he would vote for the Defense of Marriage Act today, Edwards jabbed, "I'm not sure what he said about that. But I would not vote for it." Then Edwards deftly moved to Kerry's left on the issue, saying he believes the federal government ought to be required to recognize gay marriages if they are recognized by a state. Edwards also looked strong when he confronted Al Sharpton to defend his support of the death penalty.

Despite the inclusion of Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, they weren't much of a factor. They sat on the far end of the table away from the TV camera, and they were confined mostly to interjecting asides to the main debate between Kerry and Edwards. They seemed like the political debate version of the two grumpy old men who issue catcalls from the balcony during The Muppet Show.

But despite Edwards' strong start, by the end of the debate a second impossible transformation had occurred. John Edwards turned into John Kerry. Kerry answered a difficult question from Larry King about his opposition to the death penalty—"A person who kills a 5-year-old should live?"—clearly and directly. "Larry, my instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands," he said. But the system is flawed, it's applied unjustly, and as a matter of principle, "the state should not engage in killing." That's the best answer you can give to that unpopular position. Edwards, by contrast, sounded like the Kerry of old when he tried to explain why he supports a system that King said "nearly executed over 100 people who didn't do it." He talked about how "serious" the issue was, and how "serious steps" need to be taken, such as "making the court system work." Finally, King bailed him out: But why do you favor capital punishment? Oh yeah, Edwards seemed to think, that's what I should be talking about, and he brought up some liberal red meat: "Those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty."

On another occasion, Brownstein had to repeatedly query Edwards to get him to explain whether there were any substantive differences between him and Kerry on the issue of reforming the way Washington works. "Do you view Sen. Kerry as part of the solution or part of the problem?" Brownstein asked. Edwards dodged the question. "Is there a difference in your commitment to this cause and what you see from Sen. Kerry?" Brownstein tried again. "Yes," Edwards said, because I'm an outsider. But that's not substantive, Brownstein objected. "He is saying many of the same things. Are you saying that he is less committed?" Edwards demurred.

Then Kerry swooped in to damn Edwards with praise. "I don't think there fundamentally is a difference," he said. "I mean, John has raised almost 50 percent of his money from one group of people in the United States"—"Is that the trial lawyers?" King interrupted—"That's correct. And I don't ever suggest that he is beholden to them," Kerry continued magnanimously. "Because I know he stood up on the patients' bill of rights."

The real Kerry returned a few moments later, with a preposterously unclear statement on his first executive order: "Reverse the Mexico City policy on the gag rule so that we take a responsible position globally on family planning." But then Edwards picked up the Kerry torch when Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Janet Clayton asked him how he can criticize the president for a war that he voted for. Edwards tried to appear thoughtful and serious, saying he gave "an awful lot of thought and study to it." Not only that, "I was worried about it. All of us were. I took this responsibility seriously." But why did you vote for it? "What we did is we voted on a resolution," Edwards stammered. And Bush didn't conduct the war properly. "So are you saying you were suckered?" Clayton asked.

King asked Edwards if he regrets his vote for the war. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards said. "Do you regret it?" King asked again. "I did what I believed was right at the time," Edwards repeated. "Do you regret it?" King asked again, this time to laughter. "We don't get to go back, Larry," Edwards insisted. "Well, you can regret something," King said.

Kerry pounced on his chance to play Edwards to Edwards' Kerry. "Let me return a favor from the last debate to John," he said. "You asked a yes-or-no answer: 'Do you regret your vote?' The answer is: No. I do not regret my vote. I regret that we have a president of the United States who misled America and broke every promise he made the United States Congress." Substantively, this is the same answer Edwards gave, but it was clear instead of evasive and concise instead of tortuous.

It couldn't have been clearer: Edwards had become Kerry and Kerry had become Edwards. Kerry's critics will likely see this as more evidence of flip-flopping opportunism. Kerry will likely see it as victory.

          The Final Days   

MILWAUKEE—We're at the point in the movie where you know how it's going to end, but you stay up late to watch anyway, no matter how painful it gets. The only reason we're here is to watch the beheading of Howard Dean, one reporter declares in the press room after Sunday night's debate. But didn't we see that part already? The end of Dean's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is winding up with the leisurely pace of the interminable conclusion of The Return of the King. After New Hampshire, there's been nothing but denouement.

Wisconsin was supposed to be Dean's dramatic last stand. Instead, it has all the excitement of the Missouri primary, but at least Missouri had the excuse that there weren't any candidates there. Members of the Dean campaign staff used Saturday to tour the Miller brewery—some are now sporting Miller High Life lapel pins—and I mentioned that I thought that was a pretty smart use of their free day, since Dean was in Vermont that night watching his son's final high-school hockey game. "They're pretty much all free days now," a campaign staffer replied.

But Dean isn't the only candidate facing a death watch. I hear rumors before the debate that both John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are dropping out. I don't believe either rumor, but I can't decide whether it's more shocking that people believe Edwards is leaving or that Kucinich is.

Kucinich will never drop out. He's said so several times, and he's the one candidate who I believe means everything that comes out of his mouth. He really means it when he talks about the "militarization of thought," about being a "peace president," and about wanting to "change the metaphor of our society from war to peace." He was serious when he said in the spin room after Sunday's debate that unless we pull out of Iraq, "we're going to have a draft." Irony is not the long suit of the man who extended his wingspan Saturday night in front of a few hundred Democrats and helicoptered silently for several long seconds before shouting "No strings! No strings! No strings! No strings! I'll take you to the White House with no strings attached!" (Mean joke: Sure, he's got no strings to hold him down, but he still needs to be turned into a real candidate.) I feel bad about that joke—not bad enough not to print it—because, as Christopher Hitchens wrote last week, "Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics." My wife thinks Kucinich is great, except for his crazy positions. I think that's about right.

As for Edwards, what's the point of winning the battle to be the last man standing against Kerry if you're not going to follow through on your long-shot strategy? Edwards did better than expected in Iowa after being endorsed by the state's largest newspaper, followed by a superior performance in the state's final debate. Well, Edwards did pretty well Sunday night—it's fairer to say that Kerry did poorly—and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just endorsed him.

How bad was Kerry's night? It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them.

Edwards fired off the night's best line in response to Kerry's tortuous answer to a question about whether he feels "any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties": "That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes or no question. The answer to your question is: of course; we all accept responsibility for what we did." (The Dean campaign followed up with a press release stating only, "Memo to John Edwards: You are so right.")

But I don't think that moment offsets the fact that Edwards is torching his centrist reputation with his antitrade rhetoric. Granted, it's not only him. Alleged liberal Howard Dean was the only candidate on stage willing to unabashedly defend the passage of free trade agreements such as NAFTA ("I think the free trade agreements were justified"), though he does want to change them now. Kerry seemed evasive when he defended his votes for NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China by citing side agreements that dealt with labor and environmental standards.

But Edwards goes much further than Dean and Kerry. His campaign issued a press release trumpeting his votes against "fast track" and against trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Africa, and the Caribbean. And on stage, he criticized Dean and Kerry for supporting "free trade, as they always have." The anti-NAFTA consensus was the most striking thing to me about Sunday's debate. Was it really more than 10 years ago that Al Gore handed that picture of Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley to Ross Perot on CNN?

Later in the debate, Edwards toned down his rhetoric. "The truth is, some of these jobs are gone," he said. "We're not going to get them back." And I was grateful that no candidate elected to bash Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (as Kerry did in a speech Saturday night), for suggesting that the outsourcing of some jobs is good for the American economy in the long run. Bush administration economists have told enough lies—Mankiw's predecessor asserted that there was no connection between the deficit and interest rates, despite writing about the connection in his own textbook—that they deserve some applause when they tell an unpopular truth.

          Closing Arguments   

NASHUA, N.H.—I'm feeling sorry for Dennis Kucinich. And the feeling just makes me feel even sorrier, because pity isn't the emotion he's trying to evoke. Kucinich is standing in front of more than 1,000 Democrats at a fund-raiser Saturday night for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, at which every candidate in the New Hampshire primary except Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak. Kucinich must know that he's not going to win Tuesday night, but at the same time he surely fantasizes that this is his moment, this is his chance to make a winning, last-ditch appeal for his unlikely candidacy.

I am the only candidate who voted against the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, Kucinich proclaims to fervent applause. I am the only candidate "who insists on an immediate end to the occupation." Imagine a presidential debate between President Bush and my opponents (other than Al Sharpton), he says. They supported the war, they voted for the invasion, or they support the occupation. "Where's the debate with President Bush?" he asks.

And it's not just the war. Kucinich wants not-for-profit single-payer health care, and his opponents don't. "This is the time," Kucinich is saying, but I can't hear the rest. He's being drowned out, at least in the back of the room where I stand, by cries of "How-ard! How-ard! How-ard! How-ard!" coming from the hallway, where Howard Dean must have just arrived. Nearly a year of campaigning by the Ohio congressman for the highest office in the land is summed up in this moment. What must it be like to imagine yourself as the leader of an incipient movement for progressivism and then to have that movement led by another man, one that you view as a charlatan?

The night's other tragic figure is Joe Lieberman. He's begging for scraps of support by appealing to state pride, the last refuge of a second-tier candidate. "Hey, let me tell you this, I love New Hampshire," he says. "Did you see me at the debate the other day? I swore to God to fight to the death to protect the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire Democratic primary." Lieberman knows he's not popular, but he's hoping against hope, too. "Looking around this room, I see there are some people supporting some other candidates for president, and I respect that diversity," he says.

See, Lieberman's not a conservative Democrat. He's diverse! "I have never wavered for a moment" on the need to remove Saddam Hussein, he says, and it sounds like three people clap. I'm more electable than the others, he says, because there are "a surprising number of Republicans who are disappointed with George W. Bush and ready to go for an acceptable alternative." There's a winning Democratic primary message: The candidate whom Republicans kinda like!

Lieberman can't get it right even when he's shoring up his liberal bona fides by talking about his plan to fight poverty. "Is it right for George W. Bush to have turned his back on 35 Americans in poverty?" he asks, omitting the crucial word, "million." But he's not discouraged. "I feel something happening in this campaign for me," he says. "My staff says that in New Hampshire today, there is an outbreak of 'Joe-mentum,' and I hope so." That's only the latest painful "Joe" pun in a Lieberman campaign list that includes the "Joe-vember to remember" and the campaign vehicle, the "WinnebaJoe."

As he's wrapping up, thanking "the people of New Hampshire for the warmth and respect" they have given him, Lieberman's speech has the feeling of a farewell, very much like a speech I saw Dick Gephardt give the night before the Iowa caucuses. Miracles do happen, and the Lieberman campaign is circulating a poll that shows him in a fight for third place (most polls show him mired in fifth), but inside this room it feels as if Lieberman, like Kucinich, is clinging to a fantasy.

Of the other candidates, Wesley Clark comes across the worst. "I haven't been a member of this party for very long," he says, and the crowd grumbles. "I know," shouts one man, while another calls out, "No shit!" Now that Dean has turned down his volume, Clark is the race's screamer, and he sounds a little unhinged. "We Democrats have got to take out that president," he says, in an unfortunate turn of phrase for one of the two candidates that has actually killed people. The crowd's applause is polite but tepid, and the race feels like it's slipping away from Clark, too.

The chair of the Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan, introduces Dean as if he's a figure from the distant past, praising him for energizing the party "at a time when we were tired and unsure of ourselves." Dean draws big cheers, but they mostly come from the people in the back rows and in standing-room-only. A woman calls out to him, "Howard, don't ever give up." A man yells, "Give 'em hope, Howard!" Dean's eyebrows rise as he smiles his wicked grin. "I'm going to resist the temptation," he says.

Nearly a year ago, Dean appeared before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting and declared, "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq." He pricked the post-9/11 bubble surrounding Bush and in the process transformed himself from a curiosity into a contender. But his speech Saturday barely touches on Iraq. He also says something I don't think I've ever heard him say before: "I ask for your vote."

John Edwards captivates the crowd. Edwards doesn't transfix me the way he does other members of the press. His way of merely describing his message as "positive" and "optimistic" and "uplifting" rather than, you know, actually having a message that embodies those qualities grates on me. What's the difference between Edwards' rhetoric and the awkward "Message: I care" rhetoric of George H.W. Bush? Edwards also has this new gesture he's using, where he puts a finger to his lips to appear thoughtful, that makes him look like Austin Powers.

But his message undoubtedly connects. He enters to enthusiastic applause, though it's not Dean-level. His speech about two Americas, about the importance of fighting poverty, and the borrowed Deanisms about restoring American democracy and taking it away from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and the "I believe in you" conclusion wins nearly everyone over. Edwards has become Howard Dean in the body of a good-looking, smooth-talking Southerner, and as he did in Iowa, he feels hot, hot, hot.

Of course, they're all Dean now. (Or, as The Nation'sDavid Corn put it, they're "the Angry Populist, the Calm Populist, the Polite Populist, the Executive Populist, and the Radical Populist.") John Kerry, who I think has the support of the majority of the crowd, says he wants to "break the grip of the powerful interests in this country and put the people in charge."

If Kerry, or whoever is the party's nominee, becomes president in 2005, he'll have Howard Dean to thank. Dean won. That's why he's losing.

          Who's No. 1?   

DES MOINES, IOWA—To give you an idea of how crowded Iowa is with presidential candidates and those who follow them, here's what happened in the first hour and a half after I landed here Wednesday night: At baggage claim, I encountered two Kerry campaign workers in need of a lift, so I dropped them off at Kerry HQ, which is downtown in what used to be a car dealership. Moments later, when I pulled up in front of my hotel, the "Real Solutions Express"—the big, blue, star-spangled Edwards bus—was sitting outside. After I checked in, I rode up the elevator with Juan Williams. Ten minutes later, my next elevator ride was with Aaron Pickerel, the Iowa political director for the Edwards campaign. In 20 minutes of TV viewing, I saw ads for Dean, Kerry, Kucinich ("Did I approve this commercial? You bet"), Edwards, Dean again, and Kucinich again.

Two days ago, the Iowa storyline seemed pretty clear: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt would duke it out for first place, and John Kerry and John Edwards would compete for third. But now, if the latest Zogby poll is to be believed, it's a four-way run for the finish. No one seems to have any idea how things are going to go down on Monday, but at the moment, the race feels so close that the results won't winnow a single candidate from the race.

Right now, the biggest mystery of the campaign to me is what's gotten into John Edwards? After his spectacular performance at the Des Moines Register debate earlier this month, I thought to myself, "Too little, too late." After the Register endorsed him, I yawned. But a campaign rally this afternoon at the Renaissance Savery Hotel is the first Edwards event I've witnessed where an enthusiastic crowd gave him the aura of a winner. Before today, I'd only seen Howard Dean and Wesley Clark perform this well. (I'll weigh in with a judgment on John Kerry after I see him tonight.)

North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley introduces Edwards with the best introduction speech I've heard for any candidate this campaign. He praises Edwards' opponents, saying: "They've all served our country well. I don't have anything negative to say about any of them, and neither does Sen. Edwards." Then he says something artfully negative about them anyway. "I'm running [for re-election] this time, and I want to run with someone I can run with, not from." Easley prepares the crowd for Edwards' theme: The North Carolina senator has dropped his aw-shucks, son of a mill worker, I've-done-this-my-whole-life campaign, and now presents himself as a fighter who has defeated powerful interests and powerful Republicans. "When he decided to run [for U.S. senator], he took on the toughest Republican establishment in the history of this country," Easley says.

Edwards has expanded one of the most effective portions of his stump speech, the part about "two school systems, one for the haves, and one for the have-nots," and turned it into the campaign theme. There are "two Americas," he says: two school systems, two tax systems, two economies, even "two governments in Washington, D.C." America also has "two images all around the world," the shining City on a Hill versus a new, less flattering image that's been created by President Bush.

Edwards has always gone after lobbyists, but now he's more strident about it. "We ought to cut these lobbyists off at the knees," he says. "We ought to ban them from making political contributions." He rails against the "revolving door" between lobbying and government, and he condemns "war profiteering." "We ought to ban these companies from making political contributions at the same time they're bidding on Iraq."

Of the corporate lawyers who underestimated him in the courtroom, Edwards yells: "I beat 'em. And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again." Ditto for "the Jesse Helms political machine," which underestimated him during his race for the U.S. Senate, he says. "And now I'm the senior senator from North Carolina, not Jesse Helms! And that is good for America!" (This fires up the crowd, but won't John Edwards not be the senior senator from North Carolina next year, because he decided to run for president instead of re-election? Is that bad for America?)

By the end of his speech, Edwards is sounding more and more like the man he's been chasing, Howard Dean. Up to now, most of the non-Deans have been trying to copy Dean's message by mimicking his anger, but Edwards zeroes in on another part of Dean's pitch, the part about empowering "you." Edwards promises to take away Washington from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and restore it to you. He can't do it alone, he says: "You and I are going to do it together." And the last line of his speech is no longer about himself, about an America in which the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president. Instead, the son of a mill worker sounds like the son of a stockbroker: "I believe in you."

On the subject of speaking precisely: I've been inundated with complaints about my recent piece that listed six statements made by Wesley Clark in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I lumped statements that are objectively inaccurate (there were no terrorists in Iraq before the war) with statements that are demagogic (we could find Osama Bin Laden "if we wanted to") with statements that are imprecise (the statement that Bush "never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden" can be defended logically, but so can Howard Dean's statement about the "Saudi tip-off" conspiracy theory that a secretive administration breeds conspiracy theories; neither are smart politics) with statements that are merely provocative and controversial and could be used to tar Clark unfairly (for example, I think it's unwise for Clark to focus on whether 9/11 was preventable). And I didn't outline which statement I believe falls in which category.

The point of the piece, which was admittedly not clear, was to suggest that Clark may not be the "electable Dean" that his supporters believe he is. Both candidates have a propensity to make statements that range from impolitic to provocative to simply inaccurate. If you like Clark or Dean, you're predisposed to excuse these statements or to see them as courageous truth-telling. If you don't like them, you have a different reaction. I wanted to highlight this similarity between the two candidates, which belies the consensus that Clark is supported by careful centrists and Dean by angry liberals. I wish I had been more precise.

          The Second-Place Candidate   

BEDFORD, N.H.—When I last saw Wesley Clark, I called him "Howard Dean with flags." Since then, he's reinvented his candidacy and made himself an even bigger threat to the former Vermont governor. He's now Howard Dean with flags and tax cuts.

Clark seems pretty close to emerging as the consensus pick for the only realistic non-Dean candidate. By sitting on the sidelines during the various Dean-Kerry, Dean-Gephardt, Dean-Lieberman, and Dean-"Insert Democratic candidate here" scraps, it appears that Clark's benefited from the "Dean vs. the Washington Democrats" infighting. He's in a statistical tie with Dean in a national poll. And by camping out in New Hampshire while everyone else makes a two-week sprint toward Iowa, Clark hopes to rise even further in the Granite State polls, too. (To be fair, not everyone is in Iowa. Joe Lieberman is spending a good deal of time in New Hampshire. But Clark strategist Chris Lehane rightly says that Lieberman is like "Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense: He's dead and doesn't know it yet.")

For Dean, Clark poses a slight problem because the general can't be painted with the same brush as Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman. He's not a "Washington Democrat." He didn't vote for No Child Left Behind. He didn't vote for the Iraq resolution. The question for Clark is whether he will emulate Bill Clinton as the Comeback Kid, turning a potential second-place New Hampshire finish into an expectations victory, or whether he's just the voters' Fallback Guy. After all, the usual sad lot of the first runner-up is to sit around and vainly hope that the reigning Miss America won't be able to fulfill her duties. (Of course, there is always that chance that Howard Dean posed naked somewhere … never mind.)

As a candidate, Clark has improved his skills dramatically since I watched him speak in September. He's smoother, more coherent, and more concise. He's also willing to give voters at least mildly unpopular answers. At a "house party" on Tuesday (the first of several days that I'm going to be following Clark in New Hampshire), Clark tells a man concerned about job losses, "We'll probably never bring back the specific manufacturing jobs that have left." He doesn't rule out means-testing Medicare, though he does say that he's predisposed against it. (My favorite fudge on the subject: "I'm against means-testing as a matter of principle, insofar as it's at all practical.") The house is filled with physicians worried about medical malpractice suits, but Clark states his opposition to "arbitrary caps" on legal damages. "The court system really is important for ordinary Americans," he says. "The truth is if you're a poor person in this country or a person of modest means, the only way you can get legal advice is on a contingent-fee basis."

Despite the widely held belief that Clark is the candidate of Clintonian moderates while Dean is the candidate of the so-called "angry left," I don't see much evidence that voters at Clark events are more centrist or less liberal than voters I've seen elsewhere. (Exhibit A: A reporter walks up to a man in scrubs at the house party. "You're a doctor?" he asks. "An abortion provider!" is the cheery response.) At a town-hall meeting Tuesday night, one of Clark's biggest applause lines is his pledge to raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000 a year: "We're gonna ask them to be patriotic. We're gonna take back the Bush tax cuts."

But what really endears him to the crowd is his indictment of President Bush during the run-up to war. After outlining the Clark plan for Iraq—1) withdraw Paul Bremer; 2) put a non-American in charge; 3) place U.S. forces under NATO; 4) allow a rapid turnover of the country to Iraqis, "long before this July 1 date"; 5) don't let the Kurds keep their weapons, and don't give them an autonomous region—Clark mentions his Monday night appearance on MSNBC's Hardball. Chris Matthews was obsessed with Clinton's impeachment, Clark says. It's all he would ask him about. "We wasted millions of dollars and years in this country trying to find something that Bill and Hillary Clinton did wrong. And it was a waste of money and effort," Clark says. "I'd like to know why the United States Congress and this party is not demanding, every single day, an investigation into why the president of the United States misused the intelligence community, took us to a war we didn't have to fight, and still won't tell the American people the truth! That's what should be investigated! That's the truth!"

The candidate is angry, his voice rises, and the crowd leaps to its feet. It's Clark's best moment of a pretty good day. He's got them, I think, as the crowd presses around him for autographs and picture-taking. But I also can't help but think that Howard Dean would have had them on their feet from the start.

          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004   

Here's a quick guide to the good parts of Winning Back America, Howard Dean's campaign book to be published Dec. 3 (complete with a cover picture of the candidate trying his damnedest to look sunny):

Chapter 1: "I'm a Regular Guy." Dean touches on his family's roots and his childhood in New York City, and he makes passing mention of his Rhode Island prep school, but he says he "really grew up in East Hampton on eastern Long Island." His "idyllic childhood" involved being outdoors, riding bikes, a duck pond, fishing, sailing, and baseball. His dad wouldn't buy him a uniform for his baseball team because he thought it was a waste of money. The chapter concludes, "At heart, I'm a country person."

Chapter 2: Howard Dean, Farmer. Devoted to Dean's summer jobs as a teenager. Dean writes two sentences about working as a sailing-camp counselor but an entire page about his work on a cattle ranch in Florida. There he earned "agricultural minimum wage," cleared land, dusted crops, and in a yearning-macho voice worthy of Apocalypse Now's Col. Kilgore, he remembers "feeling the cool mist of the herbicide on my bare chest as the plane went over."

Chapter 3: "Unlike George W. Bush, I Had Black Roommates at Yale." Bush went to Yale, too, but his senior year was Dean's freshman year, 1968. "The gulf between our experiences was much larger, though; it was as if we were a generation apart," Dean writes, referring to the changes wreaked both by "the phenomenon of the sixties" and the increasing diversity of the Yale student body, including more Jews, more public school students, and in 1969, women.

Chapter 4: Howard Dean, Ski Bum. Dean's post-college years before medical school. He skis in Colorado (living in a cabin "in a little place called Ashcroft"), where he pours concrete and washes dishes to pay the bills. He becomes a teacher by virtue of a strange snap judgment after missing a plane to Bogotá, Colombia: "I've taken many hundreds of flights in my life, and this is the only time that's ever happened. I realized that there was a reason I missed the plane. I cut short my intended trip, went home, and decided to get to work." After teaching for a year, he takes a job on Wall Street. He decides he's too careful with other people's money to be a good broker, and that he doesn't really like New York City.

Chapter 5: Med School and Judy. Contains one of the more intriguing sentences in the book: "I didn't really get to be a happy person until I went to medical school." Dean's explanation for this is that he didn't work hard enough at Yale, and "If I'm directionless and coasting, I'm not happy." He meets his future wife, Judy Steinberg. He doesn't get into any of his top three choices for his medical residency. The University of Vermont was choice No. 4, and he moves to Burlington in May 1978.

Chapter 6: Dean Enters Politics. Is Dean a moderate Republican in disguise? He compares himself to his Republican father, a "fiscal conservative" who was "not particularly liberal on social issues, but he wasn't particularly conservative either. Today he would be considered a moderate, business-oriented Republican; he wanted the budget run properly. In that way, I am very much my father's son." Dean on why he's a "pragmatic Democrat": "I was friendly with the younger, more liberal Democrats because they were my age, but I didn't vote with them. I didn't relate to their political sensibilities."

Chapter 7: The Vermont Statehouse. A woman tells him, "You're going to do really well here, but you've got to get over this chip on your shoulder that tells you to fix somebody's wagon if they cross you."

Chapter 8: Governor. "Our telephone number remained in the book." Dean cuts marginal tax rates to improve Vermont's economy, but he insists he didn't engage in the "outrageous tax cutting that went on in some of the states." He also cuts spending programs over the objections of liberal Democrats. On one occasion, he visits Congress to talk about health care: "Bob Michel, the House minority leader, was there. He was a wonderful person. Newt Gingrich was there. He's not a wonderful person."

Chapter 9: More of the Vermont Miracle. Here's Dean's illustration of the "striking difference" between Republicans and Democrats: "When the Democrats controlled the National Governors Association (I was chair of the NGA from 1994 to 1995), we used to fight against our own party when it passed legislation that harmed the states. When the Republicans took over, however, they took orders from the G.O.P. in Washington, with few standing up for the people they represented. … Most Republican governors caved to the right-wing Republican White House because they were fearful; the folks in the White House are more than willing to threaten them."

Chapter 10: Pre-President Dean. He defends the Bush daughters: "I know that several thousand kids every year get caught with fake IDs." And he defends his wife's decision not to participate in his presidential campaign: "The notion that the wife is going to be dragged along in the wake of her husband's career is something that should have been left behind decades ago." Six sentences on religion, including "I'm a fairly religious person though I don't regularly attend church or temple," "I pray just about every day," and "I also believe that good and evil exist in the world, and I thoroughly disapprove of people who use religion to inflict pain on others."

Dean's favorite books: All the King's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion; also Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and David McCullough's Truman ("It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years").

Dean ranks the presidents: 1) Washington; 2) Lincoln; 3) FDR; 4) a four-way tie between Jefferson, Truman, TR, and LBJ, despite Vietnam. We also learn Dean's weight, about 167 pounds. And don't tell Arianna, but he drives a Ford Explorer.

Chapter 11: The Chapter Most Worth Reading. Dean on the execution of his brother Charlie by communists in Laos in 1975 and on the death of his father in 2001. His parents thought Charlie was CIA: "There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don't think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we'll probably never know the answer to that question." Dean admits that he has spoken to counselors about his brother's death, and the chapter ends, "I'm sure that, had he lived, he'd be the one running for president and not me."

The second half of the book is campaign boilerplate: True believers will nod in approval, but you've heard this stuff before.

          Liberal hypocrites bailing on inaugural gigs conveniently forget about "Bake That Cake!"   

          Visiting Wonderland   
Katherine Hayles

One of the more distressing experiences you can have in academia is for someone to criticize you for making the erroneous argument X when you should have been arguing Y, when in fact you have been arguing for Y and against X. This Alice-in-Wonderland scenario confronted me when reading Diana Lobb’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes or Who’s Afraid of N. Katherine Hayles?” The allusion to Albee’s play is more appropriate than Lobb realizes, for the crisis comes when the characters can no longer escape the realization that a supposed reality is only a fantasmatic object of desire. Lobb’s desire is expressed in her wish to find an analysis that “breaks its back genuflecting to the Truth as revealed by the `master’ scientific discourse.” The object becomes fantasmatic when she decides that my book Chaos Bound exemplifies this position. Lobb finds Chaos Bound typical of “a deliberate refusal in areas of the humanities to recognize that the discourse of the sciences and the discourse of the humanities are equally valuable, mutually interactive parts of a bigger picture - be that bigger picture called discursive field, episteme or world view.” The idea that the sciences and humanities are part of a “larger picture” is precisely the argument I have been making for twenty years, insisting the convergences that emerge between literature and science should be understood not primarily as science influencing literature but rather as an indication that both are rooted in an underlying cultural matrix. Here is a typical sentence from Chaos Bound, taken from the Preface: “Especially notable is the increased emphasis in Chaos Bound on locating science and literature within contemporary culture,” (xiii), which is only one of many places in the book where I develop and expand this central claim.

The ironies multiply when Lobb claims that I “suggest that an act of translation across disciplinary knowledge bases is not necessary when considering the relationship of complexity sciences to the humanities.” Here is a passage, again taken from the Preface and elaborated more fully in the chapters that follow, that states exactly the opposite to what Lobb claims I say: “These similarities notwithstanding, different disciplinary traditions can impute strikingly different values to isomorphic paradigms. In the physical sciences, for example, nonlinear dynamics is seen as a way to bring complex behavior within the scope of rational analysis. Analogous theories in literary studies, by contrast, are often embraced because they are seen as resisting totalizing theories” (xiv). She further claims that I argue “the convergence of interests must be evidence of a singular event which shifts the singular epistemic structure from which both disciplines are produced.” Although she then goes go to use two phrases central to my argument - “cultural context” and “feedback loop” - she apparently does not know what these terms imply. The very idea of a feedback loop, which I use to show that developments in different fields cycle through the cultural matrix to affect change across time and between different sites, implies that no event should be understood as singular and no episteme as homogeneous. Indeed, my book that follows Chaos Bound, How We Became Posthuman, devotes several chapters to tracing in detail the microstructures that necessarily always come between epistemes that are erroneously seen as sharply differentiated from one another and homogeneous within themselves.

The following paragraphs of her review take us deeper into Wonderland. Somehow she thinks that I “conceive of the advent of the complexity sciences as an opportunity to revel in the progressive dissolution of any humane, or even human, text.” I am simply at a loss to understand how this reading could come from anything I wrote in Chaos Bound. The representative literary figures about whom I wrote - Stanislaw Lem, Henry Adams, and Doris Lessing - are deeply concerned precisely with recovering a sense of the human from what they perceive as crises in which their contemporary cultures are descending into chaos. Here is a sample sentence from the conclusion of the Lessing chapter: “In being able to distinguish her authentic voice from a parody, Anna retains a sense of the reality of subjectivity and consequently of its potential as a source of her art. Thus the ending can be read as a resincription of the values that underlie the realistic novel, and more generally of the assumptions that make modernist representation possible” (264). I go on to point out that Lessing’s novel “can also be read as signaling the transformation of the text into a postmodern collage of information, in which parody does not exist because the center did not hold. This ambiguity points toward a profound duality within the new paradigms - whether they imply the renewal of human subjectivity as it has traditionally been constituted or its demise” (264). Perhaps Lobb, without making the move explicit, has drifted from Chaos Bound to How We Became Posthuman. If so, she has entirely missed the major point of that book - namely that there are different varieties of posthumanism. The more “humane” version for which I argue passionately is a kind of posthumanism that can move past the erroneous assumptions of liberal humanism while still recognizing the centrality and importance of the embodied human subject.

Finally, in several places Lobb alleges that I propose the sciences convey directly to us an “ontology.” This is a serious error that no one who has read my work carefully could possibly think I advocate. In “Constrained Constructivism: Locating Scientific Inquiry in the Theater of Representation” (New Orleans Review, 18 (1991); 76-85), an essay that was seminal to my thinking and whose ideas deeply informed Chaos Bound, I make explicit that science is always embedded in linguistic, cultural, and historical contexts. One of my most emphatic conclusions is that the sciences cannot speak the Truth, because that would presume an objective viewpoint unattainable for anyone - what Donna Haraway calls the God’s-eye view and which I identify as a theoretical position that can in actuality never be occupied.

In conclusion, with apologies in advance to Lobb, I offer the following playful Wonderland interpretation of her review: she bemoans the fact that the humanities are hubristic enough to think they can contribute on an equal basis to the sciences and she thinks we should all recognize that only the sciences can speak the Truth. Now there is a position with which I could have a serious argument!

          India and the Balance of Power   

India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multireligious democracy outside of the geographic West. As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades. Whether it will, and how soon, depends above all on the readiness of the Western powers to engage India on its own terms.


India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.

Three things have historically prevented India from realizing these grand strategic goals. First, the partition of the South Asian subcontinent along religious lines (first into India and Pakistan, in 1947, then into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in 1971) left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide. It also physically separated India from historically linked states such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the nations of Southeast Asia. The creation of an avowedly Islamic state in Pakistan caused especially profound problems for India's engagement with the Middle East. Such tensions intertwined with regional and global great-power rivalries to severely constrict India's room for maneuver in all three concentric circles.

The second obstacle was the Indian socialist system, which caused a steady relative economic decline and a consequent loss of influence in the years after independence. The state-socialist model led India to shun commercial engagement with the outside world. As a result, India was disconnected from its natural markets and culturally akin areas in the extended neighborhood.

Finally, the Cold War, the onset of which quickly followed India's independence, pushed India into the arms of the Soviet Union in response to Washington's support for Pakistan and China -- and thus put the country on the losing side of the great political contest of the second half of the twentieth century. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India ended up siding with the opposite camp on most global issues.

The last decade of the twentieth century liberated India from at least two of these constraints; state socialism gave way to economic liberalization and openness to globalization, and the Cold War ended. Suddenly, New Delhi was free to reinvent its foreign policy -- positioning itself to face the rise of China, shifting its strategic approach to its other neighbors, and beginning to work closely with the world's existing great powers.


India's recent embrace of openness and globalization has had an especially dramatic effect on the country's role in the region. As the nations of the subcontinent jettison their old socialist agendas, India is well positioned to promote economic integration. Although the pace has been relatively slow, the process has begun to gain traction. The planned implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement this summer signals the coming reintegration of the subcontinent's markets, which constituted a single economic space until 1947.

At the same time, optimism on the economic front must be tempered by an awareness of the problematic political developments in India's smaller neighbors. The struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal, interminable political violence and the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, and the simmering civil war in Sri Lanka underscore the potential dangers of failing states on the subcontinent. There are also the uncertain futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan: defeating religious extremism and creating modern and moderate states in both countries is of paramount importance to India. A successful Indian strategy for promoting peace and prosperity within the region would require preventing internal conflicts from undermining regional security, as well as resolving India's own conflicts with its neighbors.

In the past, great-power rivalries, as well as India's own tensions with Pakistan and China, have complicated New Delhi's effort to maintain order in the region. Today, all of the great powers, including the United States and China, support the Indian objective of promoting regional economic integration. The Bush administration has also started to defer to Indian leadership on regional security issues. Given the new convergence of U.S. and Indian interests in promoting democracy and countering extremism and terrorism, New Delhi no longer suspects Washington of trying to undercut its influence in the region. As a result, it is more prepared than ever to work with the United States and other Western powers to pursue regional goals.

Meanwhile, the external environment has never been as conducive as it is today to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. The conflict has become less and less relevant to India's relations with the great powers, which has meant a corresponding willingness on New Delhi's part to work toward a solution. Of particular importance has been the steady evolution of the U.S. position on Kashmir since the late 1990s. The support extended by President Bill Clinton to India in its limited war with Pakistan in 1999 removed the perception that Washington would inevitably align with Islamabad in regional conflicts. But India remained distrustful of the Clinton administration's hyperactive, prescriptive approach to Kashmir. It has been more comfortable with the low-key methods of the Bush administration, which has avoided injecting itself directly into the conflict. The Bush administration has also publicly held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism and has extracted the first-ever assurances from Pakistan to put an end to the attacks. New Delhi does not entirely believe these promises, but it has nonetheless come to trust Washington as a source of positive of influence on Islamabad.

These developments have opened the way for a peace process between the two governments. With the growing awareness that the normalization of relations with Pakistan would end a debilitating conflict and help India's regional and global standing, New Delhi has begun to negotiate seriously for the first time in decades. Although the pace of talks has not satisfied Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on a range of confidence-building measures. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected the idea of giving up territory, but he has often called for innovative solutions that would improve living conditions and for common institutions that would connect Kashmiris across the Line of Control. Singh has made clear that the Indian leadership is ready to risk political capital on finding a diplomatic solution to Kashmir.

India's recent effort to resolve its long-standing border dispute with China has been just as bold. New Delhi decided in 2003 to seek a settlement with Beijing on a political basis, rather than on the basis of legal or historical claims. As a result, during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, India and China agreed on a set of principles to guide the final settlement. The two governments are now exploring the contours of mutually satisfactory territorial compromises.

India's search for practical solutions to the disputes over Kashmir and its border with China suggests that the country has finally begun to overcome the obsession with territoriality that has consumed it since its formation. Ironically, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan in 1998 may have helped in this regard: although nuclearization initially sharpened New Delhi's conflicts with both Islamabad and Beijing, it also allowed India to approach its territorial problems with greater self-assurance and pragmatism.


Progress on the resolution of either of these conflicts, especially the one over Kashmir, would liberate India's political and diplomatic energies so that the country could play a larger role in the world. It would also finally release India's armed forces from the constraining mission of territorial defense, allowing them to get more involved in peace and stability operations around the Indian Ocean. Even with all the tensions on the subcontinent, the armies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been among the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The normalization of Indo-Pakistani relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Even as the Kashmir and China questions have remained unsettled, India's profile in its extended neighborhood has grown considerably since the early 1990s. India's outward economic orientation has allowed it to reestablish trade and investment linkages with much of its near abroad. New Delhi is negotiating a slew of free- and preferential-trade agreements with individual countries as well as multilateral bodies including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Southern African Development Community. Just as China has become the motor of economic growth in East Asia, a rising India could become the engine of economic integration in the Indian Ocean region.

After decades of being marginalized from regional institutions in different parts of Asia, India is also now a preferred political partner for ASEAN, the East Asian Summit, the GCC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the African Union. Moreover, it has emerged as a major aid donor; having been an aid recipient for so long, India is now actively leveraging its own external assistance to promote trade as well as political objectives. For example, India has given $650 million in aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the search for oil has encouraged Indian energy companies to tail their Western and Chinese counterparts throughout the world, from Central Asia and Siberia and to western Africa and Venezuela.

On the security side, India has been actively engaged in defense diplomacy. Thanks to the strength of its armed forces, India is well positioned to assist in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region. It helps that there has been a convergence of U.S. and Indian political interests: countering terrorism, pacifying Islamic radicalism, promoting democracy, and ensuring the security of sea-lanes, to name a few. The Indian navy in particular has been at the cutting edge of India's engagement with the region -- as was evident from its ability to deploy quickly to areas hit by the tsunami at the end of 2004. The Indian navy today is also ready to participate in multinational military operations.


The end of the Cold War freed India to pursue engagement with all the great powers -- but especially the United States. At the start of the 1990s, finding that its relations with the United States, China, Japan, and Europe were all underdeveloped, India moved quickly to repair the situation. Discarding old socialist shibboleths, it began to search for markets for its products and capital to fuel its long-constrained domestic growth. Economic partnerships were easy to construct, and increasing trade flows provided a new basis for stability in India's relations with other major powers. India's emergence as an outsourcing destination and its new prowess in information technology also give it a niche in the world economy -- along with the confidence that it can benefit from economic globalization.

Barely 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India's omnidirectional engagement with the great powers has paid off handsomely. Never before has India had such expansive relations with all the major powers at the same time -- a result not only of India's increasing weight in the global economy and its growing power potential, but also of New Delhi's savvy and persistent diplomacy.

The evolution of Sino-Indian ties since the 1990s has been especially important and intriguing. Many see violent conflict between the two rising Asian powers as inevitable. But thanks to New Delhi's policy of actively engaging China since the late 1980s, the tensions that characterized relations between them from the late 1950s through the 1970s have become receding memories. Bilateral trade has boomed, growing from less than $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $20 billion in 2005. In fact, China is set to overtake the European Union and the United States as India's largest trading partner within a few years. The 3,500-kilometer Sino-Indian border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962, is now tranquil. And during Wen's visit to India in April 2005, India and China announced a "strategic partnership" -- even though just seven years earlier New Delhi had cited concerns over China as a reason for performing nuclear tests, prompting a vicious reaction from Beijing.

India has also cooperated with China in order to neutralize it in conflicts with Pakistan and other smaller neighbors. In the past, China tended to be a free rider on regional security issues, proclaiming noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations while opportunistically befriending regimes in pursuit of its long-term strategic interests. This allowed India's subcontinental neighbors to play the China card against New Delhi when they wanted to resist India's attempts to nudge them toward conflict resolution. But now, Beijing has increasingly avoided taking sides in India's disputes, even as its economic and security profile in the region has grown.

China is not the only Asian power that India is aiming to engage and befriend. Japan has also emerged as an important partner for India, especially since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has transformed Japanese politics in the last few years. During a visit to New Delhi just a couple of weeks after Wen's in April 2005, Koizumi announced Japan's own "strategic partnership" with India. (This came despite Japan's harsh reaction to India's nuclear test in 1998, which prompted Japanese sanctions and an effort by Tokyo to censure India in the United Nations and other multilateral forums.) Amid growing fears of a rising China and the incipient U.S.-Indian alliance, Japan has elevated India to a key player in its long-term plans for Asian security.

Recognizing the need to diversify its Asian economic portfolio, Tokyo has also, for political reasons, begun to direct some of its foreign investment to India (which has overtaken China as the largest recipient of Japanese development assistance). Since the start of the Bush administration, Japan has also shown increasing interest in expanding military cooperation with India, especially in the maritime domain. India, too, has recognized that it shares with Japan an interest in energy security and in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Japan actively supported India's participation in the inaugural East Asian Summit, in December 2005, despite China's reluctance to include New Delhi. Neither India nor Japan wants to base their political relationship exclusively on a potential threat from China, but both know that deepening their own security cooperation will open up new strategic options and that greater coordination between Asian democracies could limit China's impact.

India's relations with Europe have been limited by the fact that New Delhi is fairly unimpressed with Europe's role in global politics. It senses that Europe and India have traded places in terms of their attitudes toward the United States: while Europe seethes with resentment of U.S. policies, India is giving up on habitually being the first, and most trenchant, critic of Washington. As pessimism overtakes Europe, growing Indian optimism allows New Delhi to support unpopular U.S. policies. Indians consistently give both the United States and the Bush administration very favorable marks; according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes poll, for example, the percentage of Indians with a positive view of the United States rose from 54 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2005. And whereas a declining Europe has tended to be skeptical of India's rise, the Bush administration has been fully sympathetic to India's great-power aspirations.

Still, India does have growing economic and political ties with some European powers. Although many smaller European countries have been critical of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, the continent's two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, have been supportive. Paris, in particular, bet long ago (well before Washington did, in fact) that a rising India would provide a good market for high-tech goods; with this in mind, it shielded New Delhi from the ire of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. In the last several years, the United Kingdom has also started to seize economic opportunities in India and has been generally accommodating of New Delhi's regional and global aspirations.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, India also worked to maintain a relationship with Russia. The two states resolved residual issues relating to their old semi-barter rupee-ruble trading arrangements, recast their 1971 peace and friendship treaty, and maintained military cooperation. When President Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, in 2000, India's waiting game paid off. A newly assertive Moscow was determined to revive and expand its strategic cooperation with India. New Delhi's only problems with Moscow today are the weakening bilateral trade relationship and the risk of Russia's doing too much to strengthen China's military capabilities.


At the end of the Cold War, the prospect of India's building a new political relationship with the United States seemed remote. Washington had long favored Pakistan and China in the region, India had in turn aligned itself with the Soviet Union, and a number of global issues seemed to pit the two countries against each other. Yet after the Cold War, India set about wooing the United States. For most of the Clinton administration, this sweet-talking fell on deaf ears, in part because Clinton officials were so focused on the Kashmir dispute and nonproliferation. Clinton, driven by the unshakable assumption that Kashmir was one of the world's most dangerous "nuclear flashpoints" and so needed to be defused, emphasized "preventive diplomacy" and was determined to "cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate" India's nuclear capabilities. Of course, Clinton's approach ran headlong into India's core national security concerns -- territorial integrity and preserving its nuclear option. Pressed by Washington to circumscribe its strategic capabilities, New Delhi reacted by testing nuclear weapons.

But even as it faced U.S. sanctions, New Delhi also began to proclaim that India was a natural ally of the United States. Although the Clinton administration was not interested in an alliance, the nuclear tests forced the United States to engage India seriously for the first time in five decades. That engagement did not resolve the nuclear differences, but it did bring Clinton to India in March 2000 -- the first American presidential visit to India in 22 years. Clinton's personal charm, his genuine empathy for India, and his unexpected support of India in the 1999 war with Pakistan succeeded in improving the atmospherics of the relations and in putting New Delhi on Washington's radar screen in a new way.

It took Bush, however, to transform the strategic context of U.S.-Indian relations. Convinced that India's influence will stretch far beyond its immediate neighborhood, Bush has reconceived the framework of U.S. engagement with New Delhi. He has removed many of the sanctions, opened the door for high-tech cooperation, lent political support to India's own war on terrorism, ended the historical U.S. tilt toward Pakistan on Kashmir, and repositioned the United States in the Sino-Indian equation by drawing closer to New Delhi.

India has responded to these sweeping changes by backing the Bush administration on missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and finding alternative approaches to confronting global warming. It lent active support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by protecting U.S. assets in transit through the Strait of Malacca in 2002, agreed to work with the United States on multinational military operations outside of the UN framework, and, in 2005 and 2006, voted twice with Washington against Iran -- an erstwhile Indian ally -- at the International Atomic Energy Agency. India also came close to sending a division of troops to Iraq in the summer of 2003 before pulling back at the last moment. Every one of these actions marked a big departure in Indian foreign policy. And although disappointed by India's decision to stay out of Iraq, the Bush administration recognized that India was in the midst of a historic transformation of its foreign policy -- and kept faith that India's own strategic interests would continue to lead it toward deeper political cooperation with Washington. New Delhi's persistence in reaching out to Washington since 1991 has been driven by the belief that only by fundamentally changing its relationship with the world's sole superpower could it achieve its larger strategic objectives: improving its global position and gaining leverage in its relations with other great powers.

But India's ability to engage everyone at the same time might soon come to an end. As U.S.-Chinese tensions grow and Washington looks for ways to manage China's influence, questions about India's attitude toward the new power politics will arise: Can India choose to remain "nonaligned" between the United States and China, or does India's current grand strategy show a clear bias toward the United States?

The nuclear pact unveiled by Bush and Singh in July 2005 -- and consolidated when Bush went to New Delhi in March 2006 -- was an effort by Washington to influence the ultimate answer to that question. Bush offered to modify U.S. nonproliferation laws (subject to approval by Congress, of course) and revise the global nuclear order to facilitate full cooperation with India on civilian nuclear energy. New Delhi, in return, has promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, place its civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards, and abide by a range of nonproliferation obligations. India's interest in such a deal has been apparent for a long time. Having failed to test weapons before the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was drafted, in 1968, India was trapped in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the nuclear order: it was not willing to give up the nuclear option, but it could not be formally accommodated by the nonproliferation regime as a nuclear weapons state.

India's motives for wanting a change in the nuclear regime are thus obvious. But for the Bush administration, the deal is less about nuclear issues than it is about creating the basis for a true alliance between the United States and India -- about encouraging India to work in the United States' favor as the global balance of power shifts. Ironically, it was the lack of a history of mutual trust and cooperation -- stemming in part from past nuclear disputes -- that convinced the Bush administration that a nuclear deal was necessary.


Many critics argue that the Bush administration's hopes for an alliance are misplaced. They insist that the traditionally nonaligned India will never be a true ally of the United States. But such critics misunderstand India's nonalignment, as well as the nature of its realpolitik over the past 60 years. Contrary to a belief that is especially pervasive in India itself, New Delhi has not had difficulty entering into alliances when its interests so demanded. Its relationship with the Soviet Union, built around a 1971 peace and friendship treaty, had many features of an alliance (notwithstanding India's claim that such ties were consistent with nonalignment); the compact was in many ways a classic response to the alignment of Washington, Beijing, and Islamabad. India has also had treaty-based security relationships with two of its smaller neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal, that date back to 1949-50 -- protectorate arrangements that were a reaction to China's entry into Tibet.

In fact, there is no contradiction between India's alleged preference for "moralpolitik" (in opposition to pure power politics, or Machtpolitik) and the Bush administration's expectation of an alliance with India. New Delhi is increasingly replacing the idea of "autonomy," so dear to Indian traditionalists, with the notion of India's becoming a "responsible power." (Autonomy is thought appropriate for weak states trying to protect themselves from great-power competition but not for a rising force such as India.) As India starts to recognize that its political choices have global consequences, it will become less averse to choosing sides on specific issues. Alliance formation and balancing are tools in the kits of all great powers -- and so they are likely to be in India's as well.

That India is capable of forming alliances does not, however, mean that it will necessarily form a long-term one with the United States. Whether it does will depend on the extent of the countries' shared interests and their political capacity to act on them together. The Bush administration expects that such shared interests -- for example, in balancing China and countering radical Islam in the Middle East -- will provide the basis for long-term strategic cooperation. This outcome is broadly credible, but it is by no means inevitable, especially given the United States' seeming inability to build partnerships based on equality.

When it comes to facing a rising China, India's tendency to engage in regional balancing with Beijing has not come to an end with the proclamation of a strategic partnership between the two nations. Indeed, preventing China from gaining excessive influence in India's immediate neighborhood and competing with Beijing in Southeast Asia are still among the more enduring elements of India's foreign policy. Despite Western concerns about the military regime in Myanmar, New Delhi has vigorously worked to prevent Yangon from falling completely under Beijing's influence, and India's military ties with the Southeast Asian nations are expanding rapidly. In 2005, when Pakistan pushed for giving China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India acted quickly to bring Japan, South Korea, and the United States in as well. Given India's deep-seated reluctance to play second fiddle to China in Asia and the Indian Ocean region -- and the relative comfort of working with a distant superpower -- there is a structural reason for New Delhi to favor greater security cooperation with Washington.

In the Middle East, too, India has a common interest with the United States in preventing the rise of radical Islam, which poses an existential threat to India. Given its large Muslim population -- at nearly 150 million, the third largest in the world -- and the ongoing tensions stemming from the subcontinent's partition, India has in the past acted on its own to avert the spread of radical Islam. When Washington aligned with conservative Islamic forces in the Middle East during the Cold War, India's preference was for secular nationalist forces in the region. When the United States acted ambivalently toward the Taliban in the mid-1990s, India worked with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian states to counter the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance. Now, although some in India are concerned that alignment with the United States might make India a prime target for Islamist extremists, there is no way India can compromise with radical Islam, which threatens its very unity.

But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.

While New Delhi has acknowledged that U.S. support is necessary for India's rise to be successful, Washington has recognized India's potentially critical role in managing emerging challenges to global order and security. As a major beneficiary of accelerating globalization, India could play a crucial role in ensuring that other developing countries manage their transitions as successfully as it has, that is, by taking advantage of opportunities while working to reduce the pain of disruption. Given the pace of its expansion and the scale of its economy, India will also become an important force in ensuring that the unfolding global redistribution of economic power occurs in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, India could become a key player in the effort to modernize the politics of the Middle East. If nothing else, India's success in ensuring the rights and the integration of its own Muslim minority and in reaching peace with Pakistan would have a powerful demonstration effect.

To secure a long-term partnership with India, Washington must build on the argument of "Indian exceptionalism" that it has advanced in defense of the recent nuclear pact, devising a range of India-specific policies to deepen cooperation. India is unlikely, however, to become a mere subsidiary partner of the United States, ready to sign on to every U.S. adventure and misadventure around the world. It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance.

Given the magnitude of the global security challenges today, the United States needs more than meek allies. It should instead be looking to win capable and compatible partners. A rising India may be difficult at times, but it will act broadly to defend and promote the many interests it shares with Washington. Assisting India's rise, then, is in the United States' own long-term interest.

          Cambodia stands out among CLMV [... for Thai investments]   
January 20, 2012
The Nation

Among Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam, widely abbreviated as CLMV, Cambodia is the most outstanding investment destination for Thai companies thanks to the country's free-trade policy and abundant natural resources, according to the Trade Negotiations Department.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the department, said that though Cambodia was the last to join Asean in 2009, its trade policy is the most liberalised among the four countries under the government’s policy to draw foreign investment and reduce poverty.

"Cambodia sets its sight on infrastructure investment, particularly road connection with neighbouring countries and hydro power plants. Beside, it possesses a competitive edge, over natural resources. Offshore oil and gas reserves were discovered. This could help eradicate poverty, but it depends on the efficiency and transparency of revenue to be derived from the resources," she said.

In 2010, Cambodia attracted FDI worth US$782.6 million (including $349 million from other Asean countries), up 45.2 per cent from the previous year. Among 10 Asean nations, in terms of FDI, it was ranked the 7th. Cambodia is also a member of key international organisations like the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

Srirat noted that the Asean community paves way for Thai investment. Low labour cost would also be on the plus side. Attractive investment areas are in parawood processing, hotel, food and spa, aside from construction.

          IWW Picket outside of Dupont Circle Starbucks   

On Friday, December 21st, around a dozen area IWW members, overwhelmingly Starbucks Baristas, gathered outside of 1 of around 4 Dupont Circle Starbucks, braving the harsh winter elements in favor of abolishing the wage system. Their mission: reveal the Starbucks PR facade for what it is. Starbucks talks the social responsibility talk but they employ fewer with healthcare than even Walmart, so often the target of liberal scorn. A union members words are pertinent:

"I'm a mother of four and my Starbucks wage puts me well below the poverty line,"

read more

          Homemade Pizzas - Three ways   
I subscribe to Cooking Light magazine and whenever I can make something at home that can be more healthful and tasty, I'm up for the challenge.  This month's issue had summer pizzas featured and with the summer approaching, the school year winding down and a house guest, Christina, my girlfriend's sister staying with us, it all came together.  Off to Fairway we went and with magazine in hand, we gathered the ingredients for three types of pizzas.  A spinach and mozzarella/ricotta cheese (part skim), a vegetarian pizza made with whole wheat dough and a white clam, garlic, shredded pecorino cheese and herb pizza, inspired by the pizzas I've had at Frank Pepe's in Connecticut.  Whenever I am near a Pepe's, hopefully the one in Mohegan Sun, I have to order this pizza.  The pizza preparations took place over two evenings, after school this week and we were all pleased.  Cynthia brought home the tools that ensured my successful foray into the world of homemade pizza making. 

Three Cheese White Pizza
  • 1 pound refrigerated fresh pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
  • 6 cups fresh baby spinach 
  • 1 container marinated artichokes
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese 
  • 4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about a cup) 
  • 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal 
  1. Remove the dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats).
  3. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and sliced garlic in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat 1 1/2 minutes or until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add 6 cups spinach; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Set aside.
  4. Combine cheeses, milk, and minced garlic in a bowl.
  5. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, and pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Sprinkle cornmeal over pizza stone; place dough on pizza stone. Spread cheese mixture over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Bake at 500° for 10 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is lightly browned. Top with spinach; bake an additional 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from oven; brush outer crust with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Cut into 6 large slices.
Inspired by Ann Taylor Pittman, but not truly followed.  I placed everything on the pizza together and let it cook for 15 minutes (at 10 minutes I broiled it under low broil for two minutes and then turned it back to bake for three minutes).

The other two pizzas followed the same techniques.  The White Clam Pizza was inspired by this site.

 Step by mostly step for all three pizzas...

The basics, thought the pizza stone produced a much better final product. A firm, crispy and chewy pizza!

Rolling out the refrigerated dough, remember that flour is your friend.

Preferably use a pizza stone, sprinkled with course cornmeal.  We used a metal pan for this one.

Sliced mozzarella and some olive oil.

Add ricotta, baby spinach and marinated artichokes.

Our fist pizza is assembled.

It was in the oven for about 15 minutes at 500 degrees, with a two minute period on low broil to brown crust.

The finished product.

Two slices please.

Christina was pleased.
Looks good, right?

On to the veggies version.  Slice them up nicely.
Like this.

I added some ricotta dots and sliced kalamata olives.

Whole Wheat pizza with zucchini, squash, red peppers, black olives and ricotta.

And now the mother of them all, the white clam pizza!

Chopped clams, minced garlic, sprinkled dried oregano, basil, pecorino romano and drizzled olive oil.

Into the oven on the pizza stone, with corn meal sprinkled on the preheated stone.

It was divine!

Sans one slice.  This pizza, cooked on the stone was crispy and firm.  Truly an excellent pizza.  Good Luck!

          Bundesregierung weist Kritik aus Türkei und Ägypten zurück   
In Ägypten und der Türkei wird Stimmung gegen die liberale Moschee von Seyran Ates gemacht - von der Bundesregierung erhält sie nun Rückendeckung. Angriffe auf die Religionsfreiheit würden in Deutschland nicht geduldet.
          Türkei verschärft Ton gegen Berliner Moschee   
Die Türkei wettert gegen die liberale Moschee in Berlin: Nachdem türkische Medien sie als ein Gülen-Projekt diskreditiert hatten, erhebt nun die Religionsbehörde denselben Vorwurf.
          „Unsere Religion nicht den Rückständigen überlassen“   
Mit dem Islam gegen den Islamismus: Seyran Ates eröffnet in Berlin eine liberale Moschee. Im Interview erklärt die Berliner Anwältin, wie sie mit Toleranz, Aufklärung und Demonstrationen gegen Radikale wirken will.
          sexo em grupo swinger con parejas de todas las edades   
gangbang, orgy, couples, grupal, fiesta, swinger, parejas, liberal
          fiesta swinger en el club liberal parte 2   
party, orgy, grupal, swinger, orgia, parejas, liberales
          safadeza em grupo entre parejas senhoras y jovenes parte iii   
groupsex, party, orgy, swinger, esposa, madura, joven, liberales
          Social inequality worsening in European Union   
A new comprehensive study launched on 5 March by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) confirms growing forms of social inequality in all EU member states. This worrying trend is the result of long-term policy choices for market liberalism and the prioritisation of harsh austerity programmes as a result of the financial and fiscal crisis post-2008.
          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.

And I was right.

Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.

What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.

I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 

Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact.


We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. 

One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change: 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats. 
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats. 
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year.

Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. 

It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people.


One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately: 
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises. 
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.

The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? 

Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:

WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.  
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.  
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.  
 According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. 
Oh, that's reassuring. Speaking of control systems, apparently pimps are controlling prostitutes with RFID chips:
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. 
 “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.” 
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this: 
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple 
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords. 
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.

Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.

According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march.

Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.

Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March). 
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate. 
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity". 
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete". 
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.

Like McCain, China continues to sound a similar note of support for globalization, on which its very economic survival so desperately depends:
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance. 
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability. 
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors.

I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.

UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous.

* Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). 

† The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors. 
          Allen Ginsberg: Naked Poet   
...all before the mind wakes, behind shades and closed doors in a darkened house
where the inhabitants roam unsatisfied in the night,
nude ghosts seeking each other out in the silence.
Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman, Allen Ginsberg

Never heckle a nonconformist.
A drunk started to heckle Allen Ginsberg during a reading of his poem Howlin Los Angeles in 1956.
“Allen politely asked him to hear out the reading and said he would be pleased to hear his opinions afterward,” biographer Barry Miles noted. “That stopped the heckler for a bit, but when Gregory (Corso) got up to read, the drunk interrupted. ‘What are you guys trying to prove?’ he demanded.
“Allen immediately yelled out, ‘Nakedness!’
“ ‘What do you mean, nakedness?” asked the drunk.
“ ‘I meant spiritual nakedness,’ Ginsberg explained later. ‘Poetic nakedness — candor. Then I suddenly realized what I had said. Inspired, I started taking off my clothes.’
“‘All right,’ Allen challenged the drunk. ‘You want to do something brave, don’t you? Something brave? Well, go on, do something really brave. Take off your clothes!’
The man was speechless. Allen advanced on him, tearing off his shirt. ‘Come on and stand here, stand naked before the people. I dare you! The poet always stands naked before the world.’ Allen threw his shirt and undershirt at the man’s feet, and he began to back away. ‘You’re scared, aren’t you?’ asked Allen. ‘You’re afraid.’ Allen kicked off his shoes and socks and pulled down his pants. Doing a little hopping dance, he kicked them off... He was now completely naked. The drunk had by now retreated to the back of the room. The audience sat in stunned silence.
“Suddenly the room exploded in cheers, jeers, applause and angry argument. The drunk was booed and hissed until he left. Anaïs Nin was impressed and wrote in her journal; ‘The way he did it was so violent and direct, it had so much meaning in terms of all our fears of unveiling ourselves.’”
Miles’ bio of the poet and his fellow Beat musketeers documents their intellectual insights and/or pretensions, drugs and more drugs, petty crime, sex of all sorts, doomed love affairs, cross-country wanderings, abandoned wives, automobile and mental breakdowns, jails, colleges, psychiatric hospitals, poetry, novels, a murder and various other accidental, if predictable, deaths: one when a drunk happily leaned out a train window, and another when a guy decided to “William Tell” a water glass off his wife’s head with a Star .380 automatic.
All the panoramic stupidity of young midcentury Americans, as fascinating as the rhythmic sway of a cobra.
Over all, I found Ginsberg and his self-absorbed comrades to be at least as exasperating as they were intriguing. People who’ve had experience with mental illness, as I have, may fail to see the charm in drug-induced psychosis.
And yet Ginsberg shares my birthday, June 3, and the insights it took him decades to discover — an appreciation of the deep psychological well of Buddhism, a suspicion of the tyranny of self — were the same ones I found, after a long search. My feelings about him are almost as complex as my feelings about myself.
On the plus side of the ledger, Ginsberg became a courageous voice against the deep-rooted hypocrisies of his time, a gay pioneer and a reflexively honest man who did much to popularize Buddhist thought in America.
The 17-year-old Allen Ginsberg had fallen for an 18-year-old cerebral charmer, his fellow Columbia University student Lucien Carr, at once.
Ginsberg’s infatuation with 21-year-old Jack Kerouac, a sensitive and articulate merchant seaman, was equally instant.
All three were also in the giddy early stages of a love affair with intellectual enlightenment. Carr later called it the rebellious students’ search for valid values.
“Their walk had taken them to the Union Theological Seminary; they stood on the corner of West 122ndStreet and Broadway and looked down the hill to the gray spread of Harlem,” wrote Miles. “Allen was moving out of the seminary and still had a few things to collect. He and Jack had discussed their admiration of Lucien, so there was a mutual understanding when Allen pointed out the door where he had first heard the Brahms Quintet (that had introduced him to Carr) six months earlier.”
“Allen collected the few books and belongings he had come for, and as he turned from the dormitory suite he bowed to it, made a gesture of farewell, and said, ‘Goodbye, door.’ He continued down the stairs, saying goodbye to each step as he went. He bade farewell to the seventh-floor landing, the sixth-floor landing and all the rest, like a poem, all the way down.
“Kerouac was struck by this: ‘Ah, I do that when I say goodbye to a place.’ They had a long, excited conversation about the recognition of each of the stairs as the final stair and about Allen’s realization of the changes in himself since he first climbed them six months before.
“‘That struck him as an awareness of a soul in space and time, which was his nature,’ Ginsberg said later. Jack asked him if he knew any other people with the same awareness. Was it awareness? Was it poetry? They decided that everyone had it who was in any way conscious or sensitive.
‘Everyone has the same soul. We’re all here together at once in the same place. Temporarily, with a totally poignant tearful awareness that we’re together,’ they decided. This recognition became the basis of their deep and lasting understanding of each other.”
Ginsberg was a tireless promoter of his fellow beat writers — Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso and others. “I wasn’t just plugging and promoting my friends,” he explained. “I had a larger agenda.”
He saw the literary establishment — Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, and so forth — as finally reactionary. “They were liberal but in the long run they would go along with a police state if it happened — they wouldn’t go to jail.”
Ginsberg wanted to promote writers made of sterner stuff, namely “philosophical anarchism.”
In 1965, jazz musician Jack Martin was arrested for marijuana possession in New York, and four narcotics agents had a little talk with him.
“(T)hey told him that his bail would be raised from five to ten thousand dollars and that additional charges would be added to his indictment unless he helped them out,” Miles wrote.
“Agent Bruce Jensen acted as their spokesman. ‘We want Ginsberg,’ he said. ‘How would you like to see your wife in jail? … We don’t want you, we want the guy you get it from … Do you know Ginsberg? … Can you get him for us? … Can you set up Allen Ginsberg?’
“To the enforcers, it was inconceivable that Ginsberg would advocate for marijuana (legalization) unless he was somehow involved in its sale and trafficking.”
In fact, Martin had never met Ginsberg, who was in California and knew nothing of these events.
Later, at a benefit for a friend, Martin rose and made a speech describing how Jensen had tried to force him to entrap Ginsberg. Three undercover agents in the crowd jumped him, and others — thinking the agents were mere thugs — scuffled with them.
It all ended up in court later, and by then Ginsberg had learned of the matter and appeared there, telling the New York Times: “I feel like the noose of the police state is closing in on me. I’ve had experience of police states in Prague and it’s very similar here.”
The accomplishment of which Ginsberg became proudest was helping to spread the knowledge of Buddhism in America.
About taking his Bodhisattva Vows, Ginsberg said he admired, “…the notion of relating to any situation and not boycotting any situations. Not avoiding, but trying to alchemize every situation, by skillful means to turn to advantage … To turn it from shit to roses.”
“It is easy to see why Ginsberg should be attracted to the Bodhisattva ideal, since one of his great strengths was always his willingness to take a difficult or painful situation and try to salvage something from it, whether it was dealing with his mother’s madness, becoming involved with the lepers and dying beggars in India, or taking amiably with street people and bag ladies,” Miles wrote.
“He would intervene in street arguments, talk to belligerent drunks and spaced-out junkies. If someone had a bad skin condition or disfigurement, Ginsberg would immediately ask about rather than pretend it was not there. His enormous inquisitiveness and almost complete lack of embarrassment sometimes led him to quiz complete strangers about their income or sex life and volunteer the same, uncalled-for information about himself.”
I can understand and appreciate that kind of honesty. Ginsberg once pointed toward the need for it in talking to the Washington Post: “The condition of society is one of homogeneity and hyper-industrialism, so the individual perceptions of body and mind are not valued. Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.”

          Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect   
 By the dawn of the 20thcentury, architect Frank Lloyd Wright had discovered something I didn’t learn until the 21st century — that kleptocapitalism must finally and necessarily destroy the standards of every profession with which it comes into contact.
In his 1900 speech to the Architectural League of America in Chicago, titled The Architect, Wright “…reminded his colleagues that in this country commerce had triumphed over art,” wrote Robert C. Twombly in his book Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture. “The lust for money had reduced the architect to a servant of the business community.”
Wright charged that the American architect “…panders to silly women his silly artistic sweets,” trading experimentation and individuality for financial security. Wright called typical turn-of-the-century Chicago homes for the well-to-do “fantastic abortions” and said they “lied about everything.”
“(The architect) now modeled commercial buildings after Greek temples and luxury homes after Louis XIV palaces, all because the businessman and his wife ‘knew what they wanted,’” Twombly wrote. “No longer an independent spirit, the architect had become a salesman, peddling prepackaged ‘styles’ from the files of huge ‘plan-factories.’
“At the height of the industrial revolution in America, Wright was painfully aware that the new corporate elite had usurped the status of the professional, reducing him to an employee at its beck and call.”
In 21st century capitalism-gone-wild America, that sad state of professional degradation applies not just to architects but to physicians, professors, military officers, police officers, attorneys, journalists, you name it.
For pity’s sake, judges have been caught framing innocent American children because they’ve been bribed by private prison corporations to provide warm bodies in order to increase the corporation’s lucrative taxpayer subsidy.
Wright employed stylistic innovations to achieve an inobvious family privacy in his prairie houses. The windows were easy to see out of but, because of overhanging features, difficult to see into. Shielded by broad eaves, windows could stay open even in rain. Exterior doorways were hidden in recesses, behind walls or around corners.
“A house that has character stands a good chance of growing more valuable as it grows older, while a house in the prevailing mode, whatever that mode may be, is soon out of fashion, stale and unprofitable,” Wright said.
The McMansions that now litter our landscape, with their bludging, tumorous protrusions, are an example of the latter.
Twombly noted that with five children by 1901, Wright, in his home designs, “…took greater pains to provide for group solidarity than for individual interests. Whether it was a symbolic inglenook, a formal entryway, a playroom for his children or his many exquisite dining and living rooms, his most elaborate efforts were areas of group activity.”
“Wright understood the family to be a tightly knit group within a larger community from which it withdrew occasionally (but did not reject) for its own sustenance. More concerned at this stage of his life with family unity than personal freedom, he assumed the former made the latter possible.”
Twombly suggests that Wright’s turn-of-the-century prairie houses offered a combination of innovation and protection that appealed to their forward-looking but finally insecure upper middle class owners.
“As independent businessmen likely to own their own moderate-sized manufacturing concerns, and as conservative Protestant Republicans, they frowned on eccentric social behavior, liberal causes and protest literature,” he wrote. “In a period of ‘progressive’ reform, they clung to 19th century values and like others in the rapidly growing metropolis felt themselves engulfed by sweeping changes not entirely to their liking…
“Wright’s designs satisfied needs and wishes murkily understood but deeply felt by large numbers of city dwellers and satisfied them more fully, in fact, than conventional styles. The prairie house appealed to an apprehensive upper middle class by emphasizing in literal and symbolic ways the security, privacy, shelter, family mutuality and other values people found increasingly important in a period of urban dislocation and conflict.
“Rapid industrialization and urbanization in late 19th century America created a disorienting situation. Armies of working class immigrants from Europe and from American farms and small towns helped escalate social tensions and instabilities in the cities. Newcomers of all classes, having lost their roots, found their places of residence determined not by family tradition or landholding but by unpredictable and insecure market situations. Vast impersonal corporations assumed control over the lives of laboring people, over white collar workers and executives, and over self-employed businessmen and professionals whose livelihoods depended upon the whims of an incomprehensible and seemingly capricious economic system. The depression of the 1890s, the most devastating in American history to that point, exacerbated the general uneasiness as even more people began to sense their helplessness.
“Few individuals could count on uninterrupted upward mobility, permanent employment or a secure future for their children. Even the upper middle class, especially people like Wright’s clients who did not possess inherited wealth, faced the specter of possible downward mobility and the loss of everything.”
As an inspiration for Ayn Rand’s architect hero Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, Frank Lloyd Wright had, in a sense, helped her write her fiction by overdramatizing his career.
In a 1914 Architectural Record article, Wright presented “…his first proclamation of the ‘persecuted genius’ legend, an interpretation of his life as a continuous battle against overwhelming odds, as a struggle for principle despite social ostracism, personal indifference, financial hardship, public ridicule and personal rejection,” Twombly wrote.
“Publicly begun by Wright in 1914 and perpetuated by his closest admirers until the present day, the ‘persecuted genius’ legend became a major component of his self-image.”
In fact, Wright had notable professional support and public acclaim at the beginning of his career.
“Even Hollywood paid its respects,” Twombly noted. “Warner Brothers asked him to design sets for The Fountainhead (1949), based on Ayn Rand’s novel by the same name, but when Wright demanded $250,000 for the job — he did not want it — negotiations ended.”
Wright died in 1959, just before his 92nd birthday, a venerable, outspoken sage whom some called a crackpot. But we’d have recognized many of his concerns easily enough.
“Continued growth of the military establishment and the mushrooming of governmental bureaucracy and of corporate hegemony made him despair for the future of democracy,” Twombly noted. “Fearing that centralized authority manipulating a mass society would crush individual liberties, he interpreted American foreign policy as a cover to advance overseas corporate interests and attacked internal anticommunism as a ‘smoke screen’ for political consolidation to further selfish partisan gain.”

Too bad we didn’t listen to the architect. We might have built something better than the shabby, ramshackle structure this country has become.

          Walt Whitman: Singer of the Body Electric   
The fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.
— Walt Whitman
“By the time he was 12 years old, an apprentice printer in Brooklyn, Walt had lived in about a dozen different houses, each one more cramped than the last. Of the eight Whitman children who survived infancy, one was a mental defective and three were psychic disasters; three were normal, and one became the chief celebrant of what William James called ‘the religion of healthy-mindedness,’” wrote Justin Kaplan in Walt Whitman: A Life.
“Walt’s father … owned a copy of The Ruins, a celebrated attack on Christianity and supernaturalism by the French savant Count Constantin de Volney. Like others who grew up on such literature, Walt believed that a long, dark tyranny over man’s mind and body was at last coming to an end; the Children of Adam would be able to walk in their parents’ garden. Leaves of Grass borrowed the insurgent and questioning spirit of these mentors along with literal quotations from their writings.”
“Words, when he acquired language, became life itself, links to the external world and to his unconscious,” Kaplan wrote, quoting Whitman: “ ‘A perfect writer would make words sing, dance, kiss, do the male and female act, bear children, weep, bleed, rage, stab, steal, fire cannon, steer ships, sack cities, charge with cavalry or infantry, or do any thing that man or woman or the natural powers can do.’ Words were instruments of command and of relationship to a world waiting to be named for the first time.”
Whitman had the dubious benefit of a “…thrifty and national scheme of education devised by an English Quaker, Joseph Lancaster,” Kaplan noted. “Assisted by hierarchies of student monitors, one teacher was able to distribute rote learning, together with fundamental social values and strict notions of the good and the useful, to 200 and more pupils.
“Sometimes he invoked muscular Christianity and resorted to the birch rod, the cowhide strap and, in Whitman’s words, ‘other ingenious methods of child torture,’ mental as well as physical. He demanded unison, unquestioning obedience to regulations, undivided attention and a physical discipline that dictated the precise way to hold and close a book during recitations and the position of hands when students stood at parade rest.
“The Lancaster method was designed to separate children from their ignorance as cleanly and impersonally as Eli Whitney’s cotton gin separated fibers from seeds. It proved to be stupefying even for pupils less jealous of their emotional freedom than Walt.”
Whitman said that the first time he wanted to write anything was “…when I saw a ship under full sail, and had the desire to describe it exactly as it seemed to me.”
Whitman loved swimming with other young men, nude in the fashion of the 19th century, their bodies electric.

Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out…

“The young men ran dancing and laughing along the sand, bathed in the surf, fished, dug clams, speared messes of fat, sweet-meated eel,” wrote biographer Kaplan. “He loved swimming, of a passive sort — ‘I was a first-rate aquatic loafer,’ he recalled. ‘I possessed almost unlimited capacity for floating on my back.’ Cradled, rocked and drowsing, his body rolling ‘silently to and fro in the heave of the water,’ he lay suspended between the depths and the light, between the unconscious and the world of necessity.”
As a young man, Whitman wrote a bad didactic novel about the evils of drink, and edited a newspaper attacking Catholics and the Irish. For solutions, like other Americans, he looked West.
“Continentalism and Union were to shape Whitman’s poetic vision (‘I am large. I contain multitudes’),” Kaplan wrote. “ ‘California’s shores’ were not only the western boundaries of the Union — they were the boundaries of the found and the ‘yet unfound,’ the measure of his psychic growth. (‘Eastward I go only by force,’ Thoreau said, ‘but westward I go free.’)”
Unfortunately, Whitman’s enthusiasm for freedom only went so far. While sympathetic to the plight of individual black people, Whitman regarded their race as unfit for freedom and decried the “ranting” and “abominable fanaticism” of the abolitionists.
“Sylvester Graham, temperance reformer, physiological guru and eponym of the delicious cracker, joined in the battle against dyspepsia, or indigestion, a malady of epidemic proportions for Americans,” wrote Kaplan. “The “Peristaltic Persuader,” as he was called, favored internal and external applications of cold water and repasts of boiled vegetables and bread made from unsifted whole-wheat flour. Alcohol, tea, coffee and red meat were proscribed, on the grounds that they stimulated the lower nature.
“In a celebrated lecture on chastity, Graham argued that there had to be something amiss with any organ that sent priority messages to the brain — an erect penis was no more wholesome than a bloated stomach or an infected finger. According to him and other popular theorists of the day, the seminal loss for a man in one act of sexual intercourse was the equivalent of 40 ounces of blood, a fifth of the body’s supply. This appalling figure was a warning against sexual overindulgence — meaning more than once a month — could cause tuberculosis, convulsions, indigestion and even imbecilism; sex — especially masturbation — withered the thinking organs of men, just as thinking withered the reproductive organs of women. Sex was a major disorder, even a catastrophe; it was a wonder the species had lasted as long as it had.”
And then came Whitman. “By 1855, when Whitman presented himself coatless and bare-necked, his pelvis thrust forward, in his Leaves of Glass frontispiece, men of fashion were dressed from head to toe like black tubes,” Kaplan wrote. “No other poet of his century wrote about the body with such explicitness and joy, anatomizing it at rest and cataloguing its parts, celebrating it as an instrument of love:

“Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
“Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

“No other poet of his century paid such a continuing high price for his boldness, ostracism, ostentatious neglect, ridicule, censorship, suppression.”
“…Whitman saw few encouraging signs in 1850. Democratic hope was at an ebb tide. Two years earlier, the overthrow of Louis Phillipe in France had touched off a wave of revolutions all over Europe. Americans rejoiced in the expectation that soon no throne would be left standing anywhere.

“‘God, ‘twas delicious,’ Whitman wrote,
‘That brief, tight, glorious grip
‘Upon the throats of kings.

“But the forces of liberal nationalism — Emerson’s ‘party of the Future,’ ‘the Movement’ — were crushed with appalling ferocity. The revolutionaries of 1848 died on the battlefields, at the barricades and before firing squads, or they fled into exile. Karl Marx spent the rest of his life in London writing Das Kapital in the reading room of the British Museum. Mazzini and Carl Schurz also took shelter in London; Giuseppe Garibaldi dipped candles on Staten Island. Whitman was to see the Hungarian patriot Louis Kossuth riding up Broadway. Reaction, repression and militarism prevailed once again.”
And then came the Civil War.
Whitman poured his love of young men onto the emotional desert of war, soothing its victims at great cost to himself.
“(H)e dedicated all his resources of physical and emotional strength into service to wounded soldiers, the maimed, the sick and the dying, for well nigh three years — until his strength broke down and he was prostrated for six months, probably the start of his later paralysis,” wrote A.L. Rowse in Homosexuals in History.
“He did an extraordinary job as a nurse-missionary-almoner all on his own; the doctors said that his services in the Washington war-hospitals and camps were more valuable than their own. Today he would be described as a psychotherapist; he was healer, father-confessor, dispenser of consolation and gifts he collected for the men. But his outpouring of love was the most important. A good lady-worker told him that the men were unresponsive. Little did she know: with limbs shattered, sick or dying, they longed to be kissed. Here was one young wounded New Yorker among thousands. ‘He behaved very manly and affectionate. The kiss I gave him as I was about leaving he returned fourfold. I had several such interviews with him. He died just after the one described.
“One cannot go into all that Walt did for these men, writing their letters, always bringing presents, spending all he could collect on them to keep their spirits going, consoling, hearing their prayers, taking their last messages.”
Neil McKenna, in his The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, reported that in his trip to America in 1882, “Oscar desperately wanted to meet Walt Whitman, whom he and many others considered to be America’s living poet… Whitman’s poetry spoke of the potency of friendship and love between men, particularly between working-class men, and positively oozed homoeroticism. Indeed, the Calamus section of Whitman’s great poetic cycle Leaves of Grass was so intensely homoerotic that it gave rise to the short-lived term ‘calamite’ to denote a man who loved men.”
They spent hours together, drinking elderberry wine. “One of the first things I said was that I should call him ‘Oscar,’” Whitman reported. “‘I like that so much,’ he answered, laying his hand on my knee. He seemed to me like a great big, splendid boy. He is so frank, and outspoken, and manly. I don’t see why such mocking things are written of him.”
And Wilde’s reaction? David Friedman wrote that, “A Philadelphian joked that it must have been hard for Wilde to swallow the homemade wine Whitman had offered. For once Wilde rejected an invitation to snobbery. ‘If it had been vinegar, I should have drunk it all the same,’ he said. ‘I have an admiration for that man which I can hardly express.’”
Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, was present when Whitman met Henry David Thoreau in 1856.
“Observing the edgy traffic between them, Alcott was reminded of ‘two beasts, each wondering what the other would do, whether to snap or run,”” Kaplan noted.
“He decided that either Henry was afraid Walt would steal his woods or Walt had recognized that for once he had met his match in Henry, ‘a sagacity potent, penetrating and peerless as his own,; an ego as unbiddable, an eye as hawklike. (Emerson surmised that perhaps Henry’s ‘fancy for Walt Whitman grew out of his taste for wild nature, for an otter, a woodchuck or a loon.’)… Each had his own vector of self-willed resistance to a trade- and conformity-minded society.”
Thoreau became an evangelical booster of Leaves of Grass.
Ralph Waldo Emerson urged Whitman to cut some of the more physically vivid passages from the expanding editions of Leaves of Grass. No more “love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching” or “limitless limpid jets of loves hot and enormous.” And please no more references to…

…The young man that wakes, deep at night, the hot hand seeking to repress what would master him;        
The mystic amorous night — the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats,        
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers — the young man all color’d, red, ashamed, angry;

Whitman asked Emerson if the book would be as good without such passages. Emerson paused, then replied, “I did not say as good a book. I said a good book.”
Years later, Whitman said, “Expurgation is apology — yes, surrender — yes, an admission that something or other was wrong. Emerson said expurgate — I said no, no... I have not lived to regret my Emerson no.”
Whitman’s optimism was hard-pressed during the Civil War. In a single year, 1864, Whitman’s brother George became a prisoner of war and Whitman had his violent brother Jesse committed to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum. His alcoholic, widowed sister-in-law Nancy became a prostitute and gave birth to a son who was run over and killed by a brewery wagon in 1868. And Whitman’s nursing of all those shattered and dying soldiers he loved finally brought him to the verge of physical and mental collapse.
Yet, faced with calamity, Whitman determined “…to be self-balanced for contingencies,
“To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.”
Kaplan wrote: “Somehow I seem’d to get identity with each and every thing around me, in its condition,” (Whitman) said at Timber Creek. “Nature was naked, and I was also.” Earth rocks, trees and small living beings were lessons in imperturbability, concreteness and strength. “Being” was superior to “the human trait of mere seeming,” The human habit of “persistent strayings and sickly abstractions.”
Ironically, while Whitman could identify with small living beings, apparently he couldn’t do so with large ones who happened to be black.
Although opposed to slavery, Whitman remained a racist. Watching five black regiments of Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s army march in review, Whitman remarked, “It looked funny to see the president standing with his hat off to them just the same as the rest.”
The following is from a Bill Moyers essay: “American democracy grew a soul, as it were -- given voice by one of our greatest poets, Walt Whitman, with his all-inclusive embrace in Song of Myself:

“Whoever degrades another degrades me,
and whatever is done or said returns at last to me...
I speak the pass-word primeval — I give the sign of democracy;
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms...
(I am large -- I contain multitudes.)”

Author Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has vividly described Whitman seeing himself in whomever he met in America. As he wrote in I Sing the Body Electric:
“-- the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child — the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn --”
…Whitman saw something else in the soul of the country: Americans at work, the laboring people whose toil and sweat built this nation.  Townsend contrasts his attitude with the way politicians and the media today — in their endless debates about wealth creation, capital gains reduction and high corporate taxes — seem to have forgotten working people. “But Whitman wouldn’t have forgotten them.” She writes, “He celebrates a nation where everyone is worthy, not where a few do well.”
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers.
And I become the other dreamers….
Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake.
— Walt Whitman

Whitman was apparently subject to kenshō, that spontaneous mental state described by Dumoulin as “… an insight into the identity of one’s own nature with all of reality in an eternal now, as a vision that removes all distinctions.”
“He had shared the experience of countless people, irreligious by common standards, who had flashes of illumination or ecstasy — even Caliban saw the clouds open and ‘cried to dream again,’” Whiteman biographer Justin Kaplan wrote. “These experiences have a remembered correlative or ‘trigger.’ With Whitman it was the sea, music, the grass, the green world of summer. The rhythm of these experiences is sexual and urgent — tumescence, climax, detumescence — but the ‘afterglow’ may last a lifetime, as it did with him, and he invited it an prolonged it through poetry; the poet was the shaman of modern society — a master of ‘the techniques of ecstasy.’"

          Helen Gahagan Douglas: She Who Must Be Waylaid   
“Helen Gahagan Douglas … had not the slightest interest in politics until the late 1930s. Her conversion was as dramatic as a first-act curtain in the theater.”
  Eleanor Roosevelt

Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former movie star and opera singer, was a principled beacon of liberal light following the death of FDR.
She had once played She Who Must Be Obeyed, and when she ran for Senate in California, Congressman Richard Nixon regarded her as She Who Must Be Waylaid.
Helen Gahagan Douglas
“While sitting in a Viennese coffeehouse with an English music critic who was a friend of several colleagues, the two discussed her new contract,” wrote Sally Denton in The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas. “Suddenly, the man leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, ‘Of course, Miss Gahagan, you are pure Aryan?’
“Helen felt sick to her stomach as the man attempted to recruit her to the Nazi cause. ‘Aryans such as we,’ he told her, ‘(have) a duty to defend the superior race against Jews.’ At first she couldn’t speak. Until that moment the perspective of Jews in the world was a purely abstract notion. Now, as the Englishman spouted the familiar rantings of Hitler and Goebbels while asking her to enlist the support of fellow Nazi sympathizers in America, she felt forever changed. Her ‘Irish blood at the boiling point,’ she tore up the contract and left for home.”
It didn’t help the English critic’s case that her husband, the film actor Melvyn Douglas, was a Jew.
But it was the Dust Bowl that really blew Helen Gahagan Douglas into politics.
Once upon a time, specifically in California during the Dust Bowl 1930s, those much-despised “illegal aliens” were American citizens who’d fled West.
“Confined to filthy camps, thousands of starving families were ‘herded about like animals,’ living without toilet or showers, while local officials and growers fought to keep the federal government from supplying the migrants with food and medical supplies, fearing that they would form permanent communities, join unions and, most significant, interfere with the cheap Mexican laborers they were shuttling across the border and paying slave wages,” wrote Denton.
 “Importing labor was far cheaper than establishing schools and health-care clinics for American migrant workers, so the growers used every method possible, including force, to get the migrants to move on.
“Helen and Melvyn had attended dinner parties at which the subject of the ‘Okies’ was raised and they were frequently appalled at the lack of compassion shown by many of their peers. They ‘listened with astonishment to people making comfortable statements about how the situation was exaggerated or that the migrants should stop being so lazy and dirty.’”
Guided by Eleanor Roosevelt, she became more involved in politics even as she became less involved in her marriage. After Melvyn started a serious affair with a co-star, they separated, but would never divorce.
“I suppose it is commonplace that most long-time couples divide areas of emotional response, even as they share responsibilities and material goods,” Melvyn said years later. “Certainly our friends, the Roosevelts, had done something like that.”
Rising in politics, Helen had few illusions about it. “I was raised in a household of dominating men, and I learned early that men guard their authority over women jealously,” Helen said. “As for politics, they sincerely believe public life to be a male bailiwick. They reason that men have been running the country for the past two hundred years and are meant to do so for centuries to come. In short, men would never share power with women willingly. If we wanted it, we would have to take it.”
Fighting a conservative tide to keep the liberal Henry Wallace vice president in 1944, Douglas gave an eloquent speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“The Democratic party is the true conservative party,” she said. “We have conserved hope and ambition in the hearts of our people. We are the conservative party. We have conserved the skills of their hands. We have husbanded our natural resources. We have saved millions of homes and farms from foreclosure and conserved the family stake in democracy.
“We have rescued banks and trust companies, insured crops and people's savings. We have built schools. We have checked the flooding rivers and turned them into power.
“We have begun a program to free men and women from the constant nagging fear of unemployment, sickness, accident—and the dread of insecure old age. We have turned a once isolated, flood-ravished, poverty-stricken valley, the home of four and a half million people, into what is now a productive, happy place to live—the Tennessee River Valley. We have replanted the forest, re-fertilized the soil. Ours is the conservative party.
“We have guarded children, protected them by labor laws, planned school-lunch programs, provided clinics. Ours is the conservative party. Ours is the party that has created laws which have given dignity and protection to the working men and women of this country. Ours is the party that has made the individual aware of the need for his participation in a true democracy. We are the conservative party.
“We have conserved the people's faith in a people's government—democracy.”
Elected to Congress in 1944, Douglas was often compared to her glamorous right-wing counterpart there, Clare Booth Luce, the playwright and wife of Time Inc. founder Henry Luce.
“Driving cross-country with her secretary Evie Chavoor, and a friend, Jarmila Marton, having decided to make the move to Washington by automobile, the women tuned the radio to a morning news broadcast,” Denton wrote. “They listened with amusement to the announcement that Helen had defeated Luce as one of the 10 best-dressed women in public life.
“The rookie congresswoman had broken a cap on her front tooth, leaving a gap and stump when she opened her mouth to smile. Evie ‘turned around and looked at Helen, and there she was in the back seat with her terrible sloppy pants on … huddled in a blanket, her hair all streaming down.’ The women howled with laughter, wishing a photographer could see her in such a state.”
Douglas understood, though, that the trivial focus on women’s looks was a means of undermining their power. “Congresswomen’s ideas should rate above their clothes and looks,” she said. “Why this emphasis on the sexes anyway, in a serious thing like government?”
“I never felt I left the stage,” Douglas said, and her clipped, powerful, theatrically trained voice was a great asset in politics.
But there was nothing phony about her, nothing fake. She was a proponent of what philosophers call “virtue ethics,” giving a fair summary of it in this quote: “Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains.”
The liberal and idealistic Douglas was waylaid by the rising, conniving and unprincipled Nixon, sounding an ugly theme that has echoed in American politics right into the 21stcentury.
Nixon’s dirty tactics — among them smearing Douglas as a Communist and sponsoring calls to ask voters if they were aware that her movie star husband was “a Jew” — earned him the apt, lifelong nickname Tricky Dick. But Douglas was also hampered by her own lofty idealism and California’s Chinatown-like civic corruption. And the times were against her, the 1950 election coinciding with both the rise of McCarthyism and the height of the Korean war.
“There was the United States fighting communism and I was the person who said we should limit the power of the military and try to disarm the world and get along with Russia,” Douglas said.
“The worst moment, a sight I couldn’t shake, was when children picked up rocks and threw them at my car, at me. I knew that in order to survive I would have to accept the rocks and the Nixon campaign, shrug them off and move on. I wondered if I would be able to do it.”
She was, finding herself exhausted but strangely calm after Nixon’s huge victory. “I was so pleased that I had escaped the terrible burden of hating Richard Nixon that I was almost elated,” she said.
Nixon, in later years, at least feigned regret over his behavior in the campaign. “Years later, asked by British publisher David Astor to explain his campaign tactics, Nixon reportedly ‘cast down his eyes with a look of modest contrition’ and explained, ‘I want you to remember that I was a very young man,’” wrote Anthony Summers in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. “In 1950, (Nixon) was 37 and a veteran of four years in the House of Representatives.”
Douglas summed it up simply: “There’s not much to say about the 1950 campaign, except that a man ran for Senate who wanted to get there, and didn’t care how he did it.”
After Nixon revealed his true character to the world in Watergate, and was driven from office in shame, Douglas had the last laugh. But she didn’t laugh. She mourned.
“If the national security is involved, anything goes,” she said in 1973. “There are no rules. There are people so lacking in roots about what is proper and improper that they don’t know there’s anything wrong in breaking into the headquarters of the opposition party.”
After Nixon’s resignation, a bumper sticker started appearing on vehicles throughout California: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
Her secretary Nan Stevens said, “People rather expected that she would be gloating over Richard Nixon finally being found out, but she was only said. She thought it terrible for the country and for America’s reputation abroad. I know that makes her sound almost too good to be true, but she was good. I’m not saying Helen didn’t have feet of clay. But you had to look awfully hard to find her tiny clay feet.”
Douglas and her husband often led separate lives. She had an affair with, among others, Lyndon Baines Johnson, but became estranged from with him during his presidency over her support for disarmament and opposition to the escalating Vietnam War.
But Douglas and Melvyn were always good friends, and he made an impassioned radio speech for her during her doomed Senate campaign. “It is easier — as a matter of fact it is the easiest thing in the world — to call people of good will dirty names, to call them Communists,” he said.

Melvyn was at her side when she died of cancer in 1980, and he wrote, “She was entranced always by the light. In every house we ever occupied, she wanted the windows to be wider. She always thought no room could have too many windows … She was always saying, ‘Look at the light! Isn’t it beautiful? Shewas the light. And she was beautiful.’”

          Camila Vallejo, líder estudiantil chilena en un discurso memorable   
El Bolsón (M.P).- El siguiente es un discurso de una estudiante chilena, Camila Vallejo, una de las líderes de la F.E.S. (Federación de Estudiantes Secundarios) de Chile, pronunciado en el marco de una larga lucha por la educación libre y gratuita en su país.
21 Julio 2011
Discurso de asunción a la Presidencia Federación de Estudiantes de Chile: Mi nombre es Camila Antonia Amaranta Vallejo Dowling y quisiera, antes que todo, poder expresarle a los presentes el orgullo y el desafío que significa para mí encabezar la Federación de Estudiantes más importante de Chile, es una gran responsabilidad que significa hacerse cargo de 104 años de historia, 104 años de aventuras y desventuras, 104 años de lucha en el seno del movimiento estudiantil.
Y es un orgullo y un gran desafío porque vengo de aquellos lugares que no reciben condecoraciones, de los cuales poco y nada se dice, porque poco y nada se sabe, lugares que a veces incluso se les llega a olvidar.
Mis estudios secundarios los cursé en un pequeño colegio cuyo nombre significa tierra florida; extraña paradoja, ya que en sus patios se respiraba más tierra que flores y en sus salas de madera se acumula el polvo de generaciones de alumnos no emblemáticos, que nunca llegaran a ocupar los puestos de poder más importantes de nuestro país.
Mi carrera, una de las más pequeñas de esta Universidad, casi no se encuentra en el consciente colectivo, se pierde entre los pasillos de la FAU y se confunde con otras disciplinas. La Geografía en esta Universidad casi no tiene tiempo ni espacio, otra paradoja.
Sin embargo, lo más terrible es darse cuenta que de pronto esto no pasa solo en Geografía, sino que también en Administración Pública, que es carrera de ocho a seis, porque después de las seis de la tarde no hay Universidad para ellos, una carrera que debiese ser fundamental para fortalecer el sistema público. Y también ocurre en Educación y de pronto, nos damos cuenta que no son solo unas pocas carreras, sino que es toda una rama del saber, es toda un área del conocimiento la que ha caído en la pobreza universitaria como consecuencia de las lógicas del mercado implementadas ya a lo largo de estos últimos treinta años.
Y de lo pequeño y olvidado de mi lugar de origen, se suma además, mi corto tiempo de vida, con 22 años, vengo a ser la segunda mujer presidenta de la FECH en más de cien años de historia. Y usted rector tendrá el privilegio de ser el segundo en la historia de la Universidad que es acompañado por una mujer en la presidencia de nuestra federación de estudiantes.
Ahora bien, puede que en este momento me toque a mí ejercer el cargo de Presidenta, sin embargo, debo decir que yo sola jamás habría logrado todo esto y que mis manos son tan solo un par más dentro de tantas otras, y en donde todas juntas son las que levantan este proyecto colectivo que se llama Estudiantes de Izquierda, el cual ya se encamina a su tercer período consecutivo al mando de nuestra Federación.
Si me permiten contarles un poco acerca de Estudiantes de Izquierda, debo decirles que como colectivo político estamos presentes en amplios espacios de nuestra Universidad, que en nuestro interior se expresa la máxima diversidad estudiantil, que entendemos que la izquierda debe construirse con participación y democracia y que esta elección en donde hemos aumentado en casi 400 votos respecto de la elección anterior, nos demuestra que como movimiento estamos vinculados orgánicamente con las bases estudiantiles de nuestra Universidad.
Como Estudiantes de Izquierda sentimos la responsabilidad ética de hacer política, porque la administración del poder por los poderosos de siempre nos obliga a entrometernos en sus asuntos, porque estos asuntos son también nuestros asuntos y porque no podemos dejar que unos pocos privilegiados sean quienes eternamente definan las medidas y contornos que debe tener nuestra patria, ajustándola siempre a sus pequeños intereses.
Creemos que la clave del éxito para el movimiento estudiantil está en volver a situar a la Federación en una posición de vanguardia a nivel nacional, en volver a entretejer redes sociales con los pobladores, los trabajadores, las organizaciones sociales y gremiales, los jóvenes que se quedaron fuera de la Universidad pateando piedras, en otras palabras, hablamos de volver nuestra mirada al conjunto de los problemas sociales que hoy rodean a la Universidad y con los cuales estamos íntimamente vinculados y comprometidos.
Debemos romper con aquella burbuja universitaria que instala el individualismo, la competencia y el exitismo personal como patrón de conducta para los estudiantes por sobre ideas y conceptos fundamentales como lo son la solidaridad, la comunidad y la colaboración entre nosotros.
Somos contrarios a la visión de que la Universidad es solo venir, sacarse buenas notas, y abandonar cuanto antes sus aulas para salir pronto a ganar dinero en el mercado laboral, tenemos los ojos lo suficientemente abiertos como para darnos cuenta que afuera hay un mundo entero por conquistar, que este mundo requiere de nuestra entrega, de nuestro esfuerzo y de nuestro sacrificio y que para quienes ya hemos abierto los ojos a las inequidades sociales que asoman por todos los rincones de nuestra ciudad, se nos vuelve imposible volver a cerrar la puerta y hacer como que nada hemos visto o como que nada ha pasado. Nuestro compromiso por la transformación social es irrenunciable.
Porque necesitamos hoy, más que nunca, una profunda discusión respecto del país que queremos construir y a partir de aquello cuál es el tipo de Universidad que se pondrá al centro de dicha construcción.
Porque no creemos en la Universidad como un espacio neutro dentro de la sociedad, la universidad es un agente vivo en su construcción y en el desarrollo del proyecto país que como ciudadanos levantamos día a día. Nuestra responsabilidad está en generar organización al interior de aquella, lo cual nos permita transformar la universidad, para así poder transformar la sociedad.
Nuestro concepto de Universidad nos habla de un espacio abierto, participativo y democrático, con una comunidad universitaria activa, dialogante, una comunidad que se involucra en el diseño y conducción de su casa de estudios.
Nuestra visión es la de una Universidad que se ubique ya no en los primeros rankings de la competencia o el marketing universitario, de los cuales hoy en día mucho se habla, sino que se ubique en el primer lugar de aporte al desarrollo social del país, el primer lugar en el fomento de la equidad en cuanto a la composición social de sus estudiantes, que ocupe el primer lugar en el desarrollo de la ciencia y tecnología al servicio de los intereses de Chile y su pueblo.
Creemos en una Universidad permanentemente vinculada con los problemas que nuestro pueblo le presenta, activa en la búsqueda de soluciones y en la entrega de aportes por medio del conocimiento.
Sin embargo, nuestra realidad actual dista mucho de estos conceptos brevemente aquí esbozados, hoy la Universidad es cada vez más un proyecto sin otro norte que no sea el que le señala el mercado, a la educación superior se le ha puesto precio y nuestras Universidades son medidas por criterios industriales de producción como si fueran una empresa más dentro del esquema productivo de la nación, una empresa especial con muchas comodidades en su proceso productivo, pero empresa al fin y al cabo.
En este esquema, un rol fundamental lo jugó el desfinanciamiento sistemático que vivió la Universidad Pública al momento de implementarse las políticas neoliberales. El autofinanciamiento, establecido como doctrina, fue un golpe seco que dio en la esencia misma de lo que constituía el quehacer universitario hasta ese momento, condicionando y sometiendo a la Universidad a lógicas y esquemas mercantiles que le eran desconocidos. La Universidad Pública tuvo que verse obligada a competir en situaciones desfavorables en lo que se llamó âel nuevo mercado de la educación superiorâ, se le puso precio, tuvo que venderse a sí misma para poder captar mayores recursos y continuar así con su proyecto educativo, perdió su brillo y su color, perdió su esencia transformadora y quedó botada en un rincón, ya incapaz de reconocerse a sí misma.
Estamos hablando que se operó un cambio estratégico en el desarrollo de la Universidad, el cual ha sido irremontable hasta este momento. Con ello hubo sectores importantes del quehacer universitario que producto de su no rentabilidad económica fueron cayendo rápidamente en la desgracia y el abandono, las Universidades Públicas se volcaron a sí mismas, viviendo casi un chauvinismo institucional, donde cada una se preocupaba de su propia sobrevivencia, perdiéndose la visión de conjunto que poseía nuestro antiguo sistema de educación superior pública.
Este procedimiento operado en plena dictadura, siguió su curso con los gobiernos de la Concertación, la cual no operó mayores cambios, más bien, se dedicó a administrar con comodidad el modelo heredado y en algunas líneas, incluso, lo profundizó. No obstante lo anterior, pasaron los años y el control del gobierno volvió a las manos de quienes tiempo atrás habían gobernado con trajes de civiles detrás de los uniformes de soldado.
Según nuestra mirada, esto representa un peligro fatal para la Universidad Pública hoy día, creemos que el gobierno de los empresarios busca poner el broche de oro a la privatización total de la educación superior, sellando definitivamente la obra que iniciaron desde las sombras en los años ochenta. La designación de Harald Beyer y Álvaro Saieh en nuestro Consejo Universitario, dos grandes defensores del modelo de mercado y el actual presupuesto nacional en el área de la educación superior son dos grandes indicativos de aquello. Son medidas que nos muestran nítidamente que el gobierno se apresta a poner en marcha una agenda privatizadora a gran escala y que, por lo tanto, el año 2011 será estratégico en su implementación.
Esta será una batalla importante que enfrentará nuestro sector el próximo año, para dar respuesta a este desafío debemos desplegar un movimiento que escape a tan solo los estudiantes, necesitaremos de los académicos, los trabajadores, las autoridades universitarias, todos juntos en las calles exigiendo que el Estado cumpla con sus Universidades, que el Estado cumpla con la educación superior pública de nuestro país.
Pero el problema no pasa tan solo por exigirle al Estado lo que a nuestras Universidades le debe, sino que también debemos mirarnos con visión autocritica y preguntarnos qué es lo que como Universidad le estamos entregando a nuestro pueblo. Necesitamos un nuevo trato del Estado para con la educación superior pública de nuestro país y, a la vez, necesitamos un nuevo compromiso de las Universidades Públicas para con el pueblo de Chile y sus intereses, esta Universidad tiene que ser la Universidad de todos los chilenos y no solo la de unos pocos.
A nadie le es indiferente que en nuestra casa de estudios se perpetúen desigualdades fundamentales que determinan, por ejemplo, que el 20% más rico de la población tenga más del 50% de las matrículas, en cualquier sociedad que se precie de ser justa y democrática esta desigualdad fundamental es inaceptable.
¿Seguiremos educando solo a las élites socioeconómicas?, o, ¿nos aseguraremos de implementar un sistema de acceso que permita que todos los jóvenes con talentos y habilidades, independiente de su origen y capacidad de pago, puedan permanecer en la Universidad?
¿Seguiremos dejando que solo aquellas disciplinas que son rentables en el mercado alcancen niveles de desarrollo armónicos y de excelencia?, o, ¿aseguraremos de manera efectiva que todas las áreas del conocimiento tengan un trato justo y así puedan contribuir a consolidar la sociedad que anhelamos, ya no solo en términos económicos, sino que en términos culturales, intelectuales, cívicos, valóricos, es decir, con seres humanos íntegros?
Por más que quieran hacernos creer lo contrario, para nosotros la Universidad no puede ser un negocio ni mucho menos la educación puede ser una mercancía.
La pelea será dura, pero está el futuro de la Universidad en juego y en esta batalla nosotros no bajaremos los brazos.
No quiero terminar mis palabras sin antes aludir a un hecho que para mí reviste gran notoriedad, algo señalaba más arriba pero quisiera ahora poder extenderme un poco más en aquello, me refiero a mi condición de mujer.
Como mujer puedo ver y vivenciar en carne propia las actuales formas de opresión de la que somos víctimas en la actual configuración machista de la sociedad. En Chile nos decimos un país desarrollado y nos llenamos de orgullo por nuestro reciente ingreso a la OCDE, no obstante, detrás de la cortina del progreso económico y del optimismo del jaguar latinoamericano se esconde una historia de opresión y sexismo que aún perdura hasta nuestros días. Las mujeres seguimos sufriendo hoy día todo tipo de discriminaciones, a la hora de buscar trabajo, en los planes de cobertura para nuestra salud, en la escala de sueldos, incluso a la hora de participar en política.
Tan solo ayer leía unas ideas que quisiera poder trasladarles en este momento ya que me parecen esclarecedoras respecto de lo que les quiero decir, abro comillas ârespecto de las mujeres, cuando buscan trabajo, además de calificación se le pide presencia y no basta con que sean amables y generosas, sino que deben además ser graciosas, simpáticas y coquetas, pero no mucho. Se les exige estar presentables y cuando juzgan que se ha pasado un milímetro, se les critica por presuntuosas. Se les elogia por ser madres y se les excluye por tener hijos.
De la mujer se sospecha cuando es joven porque desestabiliza a la manada y se le rechaza cuando los años pasan porque ha perdido competitividad. Es excomulgada por fea y también cuando es bella. En el primer caso se dice que es repulsiva, en el segundo provocadora. Cuando no es lo uno ni lo otro la tildan de mediocreâ, cierre de comillas.
Estas son las condiciones en las cuales las mujeres nos desarrollamos actualmente, estas son las condiciones que desde mi Presidencia también buscaré transformar.

Pernahkah kita berfikir, apakah yang dilakukan dan apakah yang difikirkan oleh Anwar ibrahim ketika ini? Adakah dia dalam keadaan selesa setelah kegagalannya untuk menukar kerajaan semasa PRU13. Pernahkah kita tahu apa yang ada di dalam hatinya? adakah dia berdiam diri setelah gagal... adakah dia sekarang sedang membelai rambut Wan Azizah dan bersenang lenang di ruang tamu rumahnya. Atau menonton cerita Hindi di televisyen.

Pernahkah kita tahu apa yang sedang difikirkan oleh Lim Kit Siang? Apakah disembangkan oleh Lim Guan Eng bersama penasihat-penasihatnya? Doa apakah yang dibacakan oleh Nik Aziz selepas solat hajatnya? Apakah yang ada di dalam pemikiran Karpal Singh semasa berada di atas kerusi roda sembil ditolak oleh Gobind Deo. Apakah yang sedang bermain dalam fikiran Haji Hadi selepas makan hidangan makan malamnya? Adakah fikiran mereka semua ini sama? Adakah mereka ini sebenar-benar pakatan yang sepakat?

Yang pasti matlamat mereka sama.... mahu menumbangkan kerajaan Barisan Nasional. Namun tahukah kita adakah jika ditakdirkan mereka berjaya, adakah mereka akan menjadi satu kumpulan yang bekerjasama atau sebaliknya? Pernahkah kita tahu tentang matlamat sebenar mereka. Anwar dengan Liberal dan Pluralismnya. Lim Guan Eng dan Kit Siang dengan Sosialisnya. Hadi dan Nik Aziz dengan Hudud PAS yang tak pernah menjadinya..... adakah ini namanya pakatan?
Apakah ini yang digelar kerjasama? Apakah ini yang di panggil Kumpulan? 

Sampai bila agaknya mereka akan terus menipu? memperdaya dan akhirnya memperbodohkan pengikut fanatiknya. Mungkin ramai pengikutnya sedar dan tahu penipuan dan sedar mereka sedang diperbodohkan.... Namun atas rasa tidak berpuas hati dan rasa memberontak mereka masih bersama dengan si penipu dan terus berada di dalam lingkungan kebodohan yang nyata. Sampai bila sampai bila dan sampai bilakah??????


Nik Aziz takut dengan Anwar, takut dengan Karpal Singh dan terbaru TAKUT dengan Ustaz Nasharuddin Mat Isa..... kenapa???? isu kalimah Allah dan jadi sejuk bila isu pemecatan keanggotaan Ustaz Nasharuddin sebagai ahli MAJLIS SYURA mengambil alih list berita panas. kenapa aku kata Nik Aziz penakut? jawapannya kalau Nik Aziz berani PECAT KEAHLIAN PAS terus lah dan bukannya pecat sebagai ahli majlis syura jer. aparaaaa.....

Persoalannya kenapa Dr Hassan Ali pas bukan main mudah memecat tanpa memikirkan kesannya? atau PAS tahu tentang PENGARUH dan PENGIKUT SETIA Ustaz Nasha..... mungkin kesilapan lalu mengajar Nik Aziz cara membuat keputusan..... yang nyata Nik Aziz memang manusia BACUL! nyanyuk dan mulai kurang waras.....

Kepada Ustaz Nasha.... teruslah berjuang demi maruah dan demi nama Islam sebenar. Walau tanpa mengunakan platform PAS, tindakan dan usaha Ustaz bekerja untuk Islam tetap disokong oleh jutaan umat Islam di Malaysia. Hanya yang sudah khayal dan sudah disogok ideologi PLURALISM Anwar sahaja yg akan menentang.... FAKTA - PAS menuju ke arah ISLAM LIBERAL sama seperti Anwar Ibrahim.

- jangan marah ek.... aku cuit2 bontot Nik Aziz sikit jer.... hahahahahahha
          How the Liberal Arts Help Veterans Thrive   
Balanced on the edge of an armchair in the basement of Vassar College’s student center, Eduardo de la Torre is explaining his senior thesis: an exploration of the social construction of technology.
          Comentario en Hace apenas diez años por CARLOS BENAVIDES   
          "DIA DAH LEFT..."   

Akh B memberitahu seorang ikhwah yang lain bahawa dia sudah nekad. Dia tidak mahu berfikir panjang lagi. Setelah begitu lama memendam perasaan, akhirnya beliau tewas dengan emosi dirinya lalu mengambi keputusan untuk tidak bersama tarbiyah lagi

“Dia dah left group pagi tadi”

“Innalillah. Kenapa tiba-tiba sangat?”

“Multi factors” Sambut ikhwah itu. “Katanya akan bawa keluar semua barang-barang dari Rumah Islam tak lama lagi..sudah nekad. Ini serius akhi”

“Isnya Allah, kita bagi ruang sikit. Moga Allah lembutkan hati kita dan dia supaya sentiasa berada atas kebenaran..”

Begitulah masalah timbul. One after another. Bertalu-talu. Belum sempat masalah-masalah yang sudah sekian banyak diselesaikan, masalah lain pula timbul.

Sudah banyak yang kecewa dengan keberhasilan lantas memilih untuk terus berhenti beramal. Yang kuat beramal tetapi tidak mendapat sokongan dari ikhwah yang lain. Yang banyak memberi. Yang semangat mengejar mad’u siang dan malam. Sehingga amal-amal yang banyak ini menyebabkan dia menghitung-hitung dan termakan bisikan syaitan.

Betapa hebatnya syaitan meniupkan perasaan-perasaan tidak sihat ini.

Kekecewaan adalah perkara biasa. Bahkan dakwah ini dicetuskan kerana kecewanya Imam Hassan al-Banna dengan reaksi para ulamak di zamannya yang sudah lesu dan luntur ruh jihad untuk menyelamatkan keadaan islam dan umatnya pada waktu itu.

Kisah ini telah beliau titipkan sendiri. Sebagaimana berikut;

"Wahai Sheikh, saya berbeza pendapat dengan anda dalam persoalan ini. Saya menyakini bahawa persoalannya tidak semata-mata kerana kelemahan, kerana sikap berpangku tangan atau lari dari tanggungjawab. Lagi pula, apa yang anda takuti?  Pemerintah,  Al-Azhar?

Penghidupan anda sudah mencukupi. Duduklah sahaja di rumah dan bekerjalah untuk islam. Sbenarnya umat ada di pihak anda jika anda memberi perhatian kepada mereka kerana mereka semua Muslim. Saya telah mengenal mereka di kedai kedai kopi,  di masjid-masjid dan di jala-jalan raya. Saya lihat mereka bersimbah iman.  Namun ia menjadi kekuatan yang terabaikan oleh kaum atheist dan liberalis. Koran koran mereka tidak akan bererti kecuali pada saat saat kalian lemah.

Seandainya kalian peringatkan tentu mereka akan segera kembali ke lubang mereka. Wahai ustaz, jika anda tidak ingin bekerja untuk Allah, bekerjalah sahaja untuk dunia dan untuk roti yang anda makan..

Ingatlah jika islam lenyap dari tengah tengah umat, Al-Azhar pun akan akan lenyap dan punah pula para ulama'nya sehingga anda tidak akan mendapatkan apa yang akan anda makan mahupun yang akan anda dermakan. Perjuangankan kepentingan anda saja jika anda tidak mahu perjuangkan eksistensi islam.  Bekerjalah untuk dunia sahaja jika anda tidak ingin bekerja untuk akhirat. Kerana jika tidak demikian dunia dan akhirat anda akan lenyap secara bersama-sama"

Ucapan Hasan al-Banna kepada sekumpulan ulama di suatu pertemuan membicarakan kondisi umat islam di Mesir.

Petikan dari Memoar Hassan Al-Banna.

Begitulah kekecawan telah mencetuskan satu kebangkitan. Cuma kekecewaan yang menimpa akh yang kita sanjungi ini ternyata tidak membawa kesan positif. Beginilah perjalan amilin dakwah saban hari. Bermain dengan emosi dan perasaan. Sebab itu qudama, yang terlebih dahulu menapaki jalan ini daripada kita semua sering menasihati bahawa semangat ini jika tidak dituntun dengan kefahaman akan marak seketika. Kelak akan padam dan langsung mati.

Bahkan Abu Ammar telah menulis makna yang hampir sama. Kesan kuatnya beramal, tanpa ada penerusan tarbiyah dan ilmu dan ibadah akan menyebabkan ruh semakin pudar, timbullah pula masalah ukhuwah. Kemanisan di awal perjuangan tidak akan bertahan lama.

“Salam akhi..”


“Bila kita bole jumpa untuk discuss..”

“Entah lah..”

“Esok jom puasa, berbuka sama..?”

Semoga ibadah ini mengikat kita kembali di jalan yang indah ini.
Selamat berjuang buat akh murabbi!

          Here's What is Cooking for This Week   
Week Two of the Vegetarian Lifestyle:
Hubby and I have enjoyed our first week of the vegetarian lifestyle. We both feel healthier and more aware of what we are putting into our bodies. I am amazed at the hightened energy level - without the meat.

I am curious how my other bloggers and bloggistas are faring with their New Years resolutions.
Eggplant Parmigiana

1 Medium Eggplant sliced thick
1c. Panko Breadcrubs
1/2 Cup Parmigiana Cheese Grated
1/2 Cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
2 eggs - beaten

Dip the sliced of eggplant in the egg wash, then into the panko/cheeese/breadcrumb mixture
Saute them in a non-stick frying pan sprayed with a small amount of vegetable spray until they are nicely browned on both sides

Arrange them in a baking dish that has a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom. Cover the eggplant with a thin layer of additional sauce. Sprinkle the entire pan with a liberal amount of shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle some oregano, basil, and grated parmigiana cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. ENJOY

Minestrone Soup

Olive Oil
2 cups chopped Onion
5 medium cloves of Garlic - minced
2 tsp salt
1 stalk celerey - minced
1 medium carrot - diced
1 cup eggplant - diced
1tsp oregano
fresh black pepper
1 tsp. basil

Saute all of the above ingredients in a large stock pot (15 minutes)

1 medium bellpepper diced
4 cups water
15 oz can tomato puree
simmer for 15 minutes

2 cups cooked or canned beans (chick peas, kidney beans, etc...)
simmer for 5 minutes

bring soup to a gentle boil
1 cup dry pasta of choice
stir and cool until pasta us tender

top with parmesan cheese. ENJOY.

Marinated Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

3 medium sized sweet potatoes

peel the sweet potatoes, cut in quarters, then into thin slices. Cook or steam potatoes on the stovetop.

1/2 cup walnut or olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp honey
freshly ground pepper

Combine the marinade mixture and add the sweet potatoes to the marinade while they are still hot.

Steam 1 large bunch of broccoli *(cut into small spears)
Cool the broccoli off by running cool water over the spears.
place broccoli on top of marinatd sweet potatoes, cover tightly and marinate for several hours.

Mix broccoli into the sweet potates just before serving.

(optional garnish: slices of green apple and chopped toasted pecans)

Other options for the week:
Waldorf Salad
Baba Ganouj
Lentil-Walnut Burgers
Apple Strudel
          Here's What's Cooking This Week:   
Week one of running vegetarian-style:

Poor man's Caviar:
This one is easy- just mix everything together, let it sit for 24 hours, grab some tortilla chips or other favorite dredging device. I'm adding avacados upon serving. Yummo!!

1 (14 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15.5 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can white corn, drained
1 cup finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or amount to taste
**of course, you can substitute kidney beans or white beans, or any other kind of beans**

This a favorite "go-to-recipe" of my mom's.  She served it at Christmas Eve get-together and even my kids loved it.

1 head cabbage, shredded
8 green onions, sliced
3/4 c. sunflower seeds/chopped walnuts/almond slices/etc...
2 pkgs. Ramen noodles oriental, uncooked

Crush the Ramen noodles and brown them in a skillet with slivered almonds or walnuts (and sunflower seeds). Let them cool slightly and add them to the shredded cabbage. (I might add shredded carrots here, too)  I also added a few handfulls of raisins.  ***I'm all about building from the basis of a recipe**
Mix the following together and pour over the cabbage salad.

1 c. oil of choice

2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
**I also added a generous amount of soy sauce, perhaps as much as 1/4 cup***

Toss it all together and enjoy!!!

Cream of Asparagus Soup  (borrowed from a cookbook I have)
2 lbs. fresh asparagus
1 1/2 tbs. butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp flour
2 cups water
2 cups hot milk (lowfat/soy/etc...)
2 tsp dill
1/2 tsp tarragon
white pepper to taste

saute chopped asparagus and onions in melted butter and salt for about 10 minutes.  Sprinke 2 tbsp flour while stirring constantly over low heat. (5-8 minutes)  Add water, stirring constantly and bring to a boil. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Add remaining flour and cook for another 10 minutes.  Puree the soup with the milk and season with dill, tarragon, and white pepper. 

**I am making this right now and I think that I will add some cooked diced potatoes after it is purreed.**

Other ideas for the week:
I bought some great cilantro/black bean veggie burgers that we tried last night on whole wheat rolls, vegan mayo, onion....they were great.

I have lots of sweet potatoes and plan to use them liberally

I also bought some Tempeh that we love to slice up into small sticks, saute them up, and use as dippers for hummus

I'm going to try the new Acai smoothie packets that I bought with some frozen berries and bananas - just to see how they go.

           Many kind words about Canadian research, but few funding details from federal science minister    
Canada is doing a bang-up job of supporting research, says Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, but it’s still too early for details on what she will do about calls to support “basic” science.In an interview as the House of Commons takes a break, Duncan looked back happily on Liberal deeds so far.“It was a good year for science,” she said.
           Appalachian wrestling's 'Progressive Liberal' might be the most hated man in sports entertainment    
It was a strange sight, even for the "sport" of professional wrestling.
          Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuits – The Hill   

The Hill Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuitsThe HillRepublican lawmakers on Wednesday held a hearing to address what they fear is “excessive litigation” against the Interior Department from green groups and other liberal activists. “In reality, a legal subindustry has thrived from endless environmental … and more » Source link

link: Republicans fear onslaught of green group lawsuits – The Hill

Mother of all Establishments

The ruling class, the creme de la creme, the establishment - the mother of all establishments in fact - what is it like? Its wit tends to be both dry and acerbic. Its city is New York. Its profession is attorney. Its manner cool. Its clothes black. Its heroes Kennedys. Its music is mostly jazz standards I think. Its passion is film, or maybe dating. (Though I doubt their self-conscious coupling deserves the name of passion.) Its ethnicity is mixed, but the Anglo-Saxon and Jewish elements predominate. Its politics are moderate but liberal on certain social issues like abortion.

Many minor-league establishments send their best players to the big leagues. The ultimate establishment draws from corporate CEO's; judges; college presidents; the highest ranks of the military; union bosses; partners in prestigious law firms; titans of finance; media royalty; upper echelons of the ever-spreading government bureaucracies; nabobs from the political world - governors, senators, etc.; successful entertainers of all kinds- talk show hosts, rap artists, journalists. Powers from other nations are included: prime ministers, despots, treasury secretaries, generals, top smugglers and rights activists. The distillation of all these subsidiary elites, everyone from bankers to performance artists, physicists and film stars, mayors who've clawed their way up from the streets alongside the residue of the most aristocratic families - are all blended together to create the mother of all establishments.

Don't confuse the ultimate establishment with the penultimate establishment. The penultimate establishment consists of conservative Republicans picked to play the role of the ultimate establishment. They are the designated target, the Simon Legree at whom we are directed to hiss. They, very visibly, perform the disagreeable but necessary tasks of Power. They are the millionaires who keep the economy moving, the generals who keep the armies moving. They are the father figures who can, eventually, be safely discarded.

If you think these Republicans are in fact the ultimate establishment they are supposed to be you are wrong: 1) Conservative Republicans always lose the bitter battles over social policy - the struggles over segregation, abortion, feminism, gay rights, etc. 2) The supreme establishment would never, at least visibly, ally itself with the rich or the military. The rich are wildly unpopular (They like escaping their tax obligation as much as cutting badly-needed services to working people.) The military commanders may be popular domestically, but they are hated abroad. The supreme establishment instead derives power from pretending to battle these dangerous forces. 3) Businessmen are ruled by the market, by the desires of consumers. The government, in contrast, can do whatever it wants - it can arrest you; jail you; take your house, your children, all your money.

What are the beliefs of the mother of all establishments? While hostile to the world's religions, especially those denigrated as "fundamentalist", the ultimate establishment does possess a faith. They hate any restrictions placed on individuals by churches or clan patriarchs or rural communities - any restrictions placed on individuals by Tradition.

The era of this ultimate establishment is nearly over. Soon they and their urbane vanities will disappear. Then I think people will wonder how so few ruled over so many for so long.

Earlier attempts to build a better world have collapsed. The record is muddy at best - mired in ambiguity: Christians - They have founded schools and hospitals, helped abolish slavery and gladitorial games. Unfortunately they have also fought cruel religious wars. Democrats - The people have established governments, but unfortunately these governments have invaded, massacred, stolen, enslaved (see Andrew Jackson). Liberals - What if we are wicked and foolish? What worth is our freedom then? Scientists - Scientific discoveries have improved our lives, but we have a tendency to employ these discoveries to make weapons. Even medical discoveries, though they have benefited millions, have caused some of our worst problems - like overpopulation. I am afraid neither our godliness nor our goodness can save us.

But eugenics can save us. Lead us to Eden, Arcadia, Shangri-La, The Blessed Isles. The silicon revolution changed the world, but the DNA revolution will remake the world entirely. More can be done in this century to improve the lot of mankind than in all previous centuries combined. This generation, if virtuous enough and if far-sighted enough, can do more to benefit mankind than any other generation.

George Washington resisted the temptation to seize power in a military coup d'etat. Americans look back at him with gratitude and awe. Future generations (how many?) will look back on us with gratitude and awe if we can be as noble, as disinterested.
          Natural Beauty Products   

       People are aware about what they eat and in the same way what they feed to skin. Being aware of the ingredients you apply to your skin is crucial.Nowadays everyone wants to look glamorous but in a natural way. Pure Natural Beauty products is all they are looking for maintaining the health of skin. Its a fact that what we put on our skin is absorbed into body and it has both positive as well as negative consequences. People are confused while selecting their cosmetic products to use on skin. So self education is the key.

       NaturalBeauty Products are ideal for all skin type. These are potent yet gentle products, Natural Beauty deep cleanser have many wonderful healing properties. Unlike synthetic formulations which rely on harsh chemicals, these natural products are derived from botanical extracts and minerals in their purest form. Subsequently, they rarely cause irritation and can be used liberally without inducing unwanted side-effects. They are also ideal for sensitive skin types that react quickly and painfully to the powerful chemicals used in most commercial formulations. Once they are applied regularly, results are typically seen within the first few weeks of product use. Skin that is overly dry, lack shine and aged will become softer, smoother and more radiant.
Using Naturally Beauty Products has become a popular trend over the years, simply because they work and are not associated with any adverse health effects. Maintaining the skin with these incredibly useful formulations will result in dramatic improvements in its texture and clarity. For a refreshing clean, natural products are always best. They remove dirt, impurities and dead skin cells exposing a new more radiant layer. The Natural beauty soaps can be applied easily to the entire body. They will not remove skin's natural oils and are typically less over-drying.

       As these Naturalbeauty products are affordable, safe to use, available and proven to be effective in healing and treating a number of illness and help you to look glamorous. It works effectively to keep your skin looking its best all the time.


Una asociación internacional para asesinar

Entre los que recibieron penas más altas están Santiago Omar Riveros, Reynaldo Bignone y el uruguayo Manuel Cordero. Fue la primera vez que un tribunal juzgó el acuerdo para reprimir además de los secuestros y las desapariciones.
Por Alejandra Dandan
No hubo una definición en la sentencia pero detrás de cada una de las condenas apareció lo que se esperaba desde hace más de 40 años: la enunciación del Operativo Cóndor como una asociación ilícita de las dictaduras del Cono Sur destinada a cometer delitos. Santiago Omar Riveros y Reynaldo Benito Bignone fueron las primeras condenas que leyeron los integrantes del Tribunal Oral Federal 1 en una sala repleta. El primero recibió 25 años de prisión. El jefe de Institutos Militares del campo de exterminio de Campo de Mayo obtuvo de esa manera su condena número 11 en juicios de lesa humanidad. Bignone recibió 20 años. Fue su condena número ocho. También fue condenado a 25 años el único acusado extranjero, el militar del Ejército uruguayo Juan Manuel Cordero Piacentini, entre cuyas víctimas estuvo María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman. De los 17 acusados, 15 fueron recibieron penas de 25 a 8 años y 2 fueron absueltos.
“Es la primera vez que la justicia de un país americano declara que ese Plan de las dictaduras de los países del Cono Sur fue una asociación ilícita para cometer delitos, y las privaciones ilegales e imposición de tormentos fueron considerados dentro de esa asociación”, dijo el presidente del Cels, Horacio Verbitsky.
En esa misma línea se expresó el fiscal Pablo Ouviña al destacar el fallo de los jueces Oscar Ricardo Amirante, Adrián Federico Grünberg, Pablo Gustavo Laufer y Ricardo Ángel Basílico como juez sustituto. Ouviña señaló que es la primera vez que la justicia define al Operativo como una asociación para el crimen, “en un proceso destacable por su respeto las garantías, al derecho a las defensas, el derecho de los testigos y las reglas del procedimiento”.
El fallo comenzó a leerse a las cinco de la tarde. Desde temprano, buscaron espacio en la sala los pañuelos de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Estuvieron Vera Jarach, Laura Conte, Taty Almeida y Nora Cortiñas. También Lita Boitano de Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas. Y logró llegar la abuela Elsa Pavón con la fatiga de los años en el cuerpo mientras su nieta Paula Logares completaba trámites de acreditación. La cara de Macarena Gelman apareció una y otra vez retransmitida por la pantalla que amplificó imágenes en la sala. Estuvo el fiscal Miguel Angel Osorio, uno de los primeros empeñados en ordenar lo que al comienzo eran vestigios de una investigación imposible. Los nombres fueron más porque todos estaban ahí. Horacio Pietragalla, ahora secretario de derechos humanos de Santa Cruz. Carolina Varsky, de la Procuración. Quienes llegaron del exterior, como Federico Jorge Tatte, hijo de un ex marino y dirigente comunista de Paraguay desaparecido en Argentina que integra la Comisión por la Verdad y la Justicia de Paraguay.
Este juicio oral que empezó hace tres años y tres meses, estuvo por caerse cuando murió el dictador Jorge Rafael Videla, uno de los principales imputados de los 32 con el que se elevó esta causa y ayer concluyó con 17 acusados, porque unos murieron y otros fueron separados del juicio por razones de salud. Edgardo Binstock fue parte de la querella por la desaparición de su compañera Mónica Pinus, secuestrada en marzo de 1980 en Brasil. Y ese era uno de los casos que llegaba a Juicio con Videla como único imputado. “Pensar que se caía cuando esto empezó. Pero no pasó. Esto es un caso penal pero al mismo tiempo un caso político, porque lo que unifica las causas es que tuvieron en común una operación y un acuerdo de las dictaduras y del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos para poder operar. Hoy llega esto en un contexto difícil para las democracias latinoamericanas: si bien no tiene la misma característica represiva, somos sujetos de una nueva ofensiva neoliberal y conservadora sobre nuestros países”.
Mientras Binstock recordaba el Cóndor II del que habla Rafael Correa, el único acusado presente en el sala se abrió camino en la planta baja. El tribunal decidió darles la opción a los acusados de no participar en la audiencia final. No estuvieron ni en la sala ni en las trasmisiones vía internet que suelen conectarlos en los lugares de detención. En una larga fila de sillas vacías estuvo el único acusado que asistió: Miguel Angel Furci, que tenía pedidos de condenas por las dos causas que se debatieron en el juicio: Cóndor y un segundo tramo de Automotores Orletti, el centro clandestino donde fueron llevados la mayoría de los prisioneros extranjeros. Furci fue condenado como autor de 67 privaciones ilegales de la libertad y por 62 hechos de tormento, a 25 años de prisión y, como el resto, a una inhabilitación para ejercer cargos públicos por el doble del período. Sus dos ojos protegidos por anteojos no perdieron vista del juez ni siquiera en ese momento. Cuando le cayó encima la sentencia no parpadeó siquiera, sin darse cuenta que las cámaras iban y venían al mismo tiempo mirando la cara de Macarena Gelman, nieta del poeta Juan Gelman, hija de Claudia y Marcelo, hoy diputada en Uruguay. “Las condenas son para mi satisfactorias -dijo ella-, y tienen además la particularidad de que incluye al primer uruguayo condenado por el caso de mi mamá, lo cual me hace pensar en Uruguay. Sentir que se cierra un capítulo es difícil de decirlo o sentirlo por la fragmentación de las causas, pero había una expectativa muy concreta que era sentencia a Cordero”.
La sala no aplaudió ni cantó hasta que el juez Amirante leyó el último punto de la sentencia, que indicó informar a la embajada uruguaya sobre la nueva situación judicial del imputado de ese país. Entonces la sala vivó a los 30 mil desaparecidos.
A Andrés Habegger le salió en ese momento un atragantado “¡Y que se pudran en la cárcel, asesinos!” “Empezamos –dijo– con la querella en 2004, todo esto no tenía forma, la desaparición hace eso, la falta de verdad. Y con esto es como que reencontrás las formas. Y darle la forma y que lo haga el Estado es reparador y un proceso que tardo tanto tiempo es también una alegría, y eso pude decirlo acá, y no en la cancha, ni en un bar, ni en la Plaza. Fuimos querellantes con mi mamá (por su padre Norberto). Dimos testimonios. Y mi sensación es que al hacerse Justicia esto entra en los libros de historia porque el Estado hace eso: que la historia sea una y no otra”.
La periodista Stella Calloni, acosada por las cámaras de televisión extranjeras, repetía una y otra vez por qué el Cóndor fue una “Operación”. Habló de “tácticas” y “estrategias” y del avance de una operación contrainsurgente contra los dirigentes de la región, razón por la cual “esto se pudo conocer desde temprano porque esas víctimas eran nombres tan conocidos que nadie podía soslayar”.
Los fundamentos de la sentencia se darán a conocer en agosto. Los acusados fueron condenados con penas significativas sobre todo por la cantidad de hechos que tienen adjudicados. Hubo tres condenas a 25 años de prisión: Riveros, Cordero y Furci. Hubo 2 a 20 años: Bignone y el general Rodolfo Emilio Feroglio. Una a 18 años de prisión para el coronel Humberto José Román Lobaiza. También 4 a 13 años, entre los que estuvo el vicealmirante Antonio Vañek, segundo en la estructura de la Armada. El TOF condenó a otros 5 imputados a 12 años de prisión. Y al general Federico Antonio Minicucci a ocho años. Hubo dos absoluciones.
Salvo Riveros y Furci, el resto de los acusados obtuvo sentencias en general por uno a cuatro hechos. Una de las explicaciones es que si bien la causa Cóndor tuvo a un número de 109 víctimas en juicio, un universo importante tenía como único imputado a Videla. Con su muerte, esos crímenes salieron de la causa. Pero los casos y sus historias continuaron en juicio, como Binstock, porque querellas y fiscalía solicitaron continuar por el derecho a la Verdad y porque cada hecho permitía probar no sólo una imputación sino la asociación criminal. Como los nombres de cada una de esas víctimas, sin embargo, no aparecieron en la lectura del fallo, ahora se aguardan los fundamentos para saber si este pedido fue considerado por el tribunal. El Cels adelantó que si no fue así pedirá en Casación una revisión de la sentencia. “Reclamamos en esos casos que no se pudo llegar a la condenar porque el responsable ha muerto, que exista una constancia de que fueron víctimas del Cóndor en función del derecho a la verdad”, explicaron.

          Original Blog Entry: Could There Be A Military Coup in America ?   

“Could There Be A Military Coup in America Against the Obama Dictatorship”???????

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
  1. military coup ('m?l?t?r? ku?)




    1. a coup organized and carried out by members of the armed forces

    The definition seems simple enough to understand, then why can’t the Obama administration understand that what happened in Egypt was a ‘military coup’?


The answer is they do understand, but are hoping U.S. Military Commanders are not paying attention and listening.


Could a military coup happen in America, during the reign of Dictator Obama? This would lead to extreme violence in America and I hope it never comes to this, but there are without a doubt U.S. military Generals who are not happy with the Communist run style he is running our government.


Obama is leading our country in the wrong direction. For those who are keeping up with current times and issues, it is no secret Obama and his flunkies do not like America, and I would go as far as saying Obama hates this beautiful country.


What would it be like if U.S. military leaders decided to oust Dictator Obama. Many people believe it would take an enormous amount of money, personnel, and time. In reality it would happen just as fast as it did in Egypt.


Are there U.S. Generals who would take this drastic step to save America. At this time I do not believe there are military leaders who would risk their careers to save America. I do believe there are U.S. Generals who despise Obama and his anti-American leadership methods.


If martial law were ever declared by Dictator Obama, I believe this would be the turning point in the decision making process of American Generals. U.S. military leaders have always acted on what is in the best interest of our country. They would not allow it to be destroyed by self interest mongers such as the Obama administration, the liberal media, and Islamic based terrorist supporters in America.



[ More ]

          Mare Nostrum and migrant deaths: the humanitarian paradox at Europe’s frontiers   

An industry has grown up around migratory routes in which care and control functions alternately clash and merge with each other. Understanding the humanitarian-policing nexus at play is key to moving beyond the current impasse.

The Mediterranean Sea. Screenshot from NASA World Wind The Mediterranean Sea. Screenshot from NASA World WindThis week, it emerged that the UK will not contribute to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, where more than 3,000 people have died so far this year as they seek European shores. The idea, apparently, is to deter others from embarking on the journey – a proposition as absurd as removing seatbelts in cars to make drivers more risk-averse. “Drown an immigrant to save an immigrant” is now the UK policy, as The Telegraph’s Dan Hodges pithily put it. Maritime “migration management” now reeks with the politics of death.

Spool back to a year ago, when the mass drownings outside the Italian island of Lampedusa held out the hope of a new European approach to migration controls. “Never again,” dignitaries promised as they paid their respects in front of the coffins. Italy promptly launched an impressive military sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, which has saved thousands in the past year. Amid conflicting reports on whether this Navy mission will be wound down, the EU border agency Frontex is now readying itself for the launch of a much smaller European patrolling operation at sea. This is the context in which the UK has refused to participate in any rescue efforts because of their supposed “pull” effect on refugees and migrants. More controls and less life-saving is yet again peddled as an answer to the “border crisis”.

A seeming paradox defines Europe’s response to irregular migration. On the one hand, we hear about violence and distress at the borders; on the other, about humanitarianism and human rights. While Italy’s Navy has mounted difficult rescues over the past year, the Spanish government has added razor wire to the fences of its North African enclave of Melilla and allowed violent pushbacks into Morocco, which it is now seeking to legalise. While the European Commission calls for smoother asylum procedures, member states lock refugees up or keep them stranded indefinitely, as happens in Malta and Spain’s enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. While the EU’s incoming home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopolous, has proposed humanitarian visas, Italy’s EU presidency has launched a Europe-wide crackdown on undocumented migrants. Time and again, any liberal advances are cut short by new draconian measures, motivated by a callous quest for “deterrence” despite the lack of any substantial evidence for its efficacy.   

The UK decision to publicly desist from saving lives – a policy filched from Australia in a posturing exercise by a panicky government, as another commentator has noted – has at least allowed some moral outrage to seep back into our sordid migration politics. Echoing earlier calls by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, commentators have in the past days called for more humanitarian action and less callous disregard of human life at sea. Yet in the wake of this important debate, we might now also be able to probe further. If we do so, we will see that liberal and securitarian approaches are by now in fact deeply enmeshed within Europe’s flawed response to unauthorised border crossings, despite politicians’ statements to the contrary.

It is worrying how humanitarian initiatives have increasingly accompanied draconian migration controls in recent years. At Melilla’s land perimeter, for instance, one migrant was beaten unconscious by guards earlier this month before being dragged back through the fence into Moroccan hands – in stark contrast with the care offered by Red Cross staff to any migrants fortunate enough to breach the barrier. Meanwhile, draconian deportations writ large have in the past decade been smoothed by spurious “aid” deals with African states ready to accept deportees, as well as by the participation of humanitarian organisations. In this double-faced border regime, liberal and humanitarian measures are used as a plaster covering the wounds – physical, mental or metaphorical – inflicted by Europe’s authorities and their African collaborators.

Yet the starkest interaction between care and control can be seen at the external maritime borders and beyond. Humanitarianism, more than a plaster, here functions as a key legal, moral and political justification for interceptions. When spotting a boat on their advanced surveillance systems, Spanish border forces call their Moroccan or Algerian colleagues so that the latter can “rescue” the passengers by bringing them back to the coast, regardless of their wishes. Similarly, European-African patrols along West African coasts have for many years now pre-emptively rescued migrants and refugees before they have even made a clandestine crossing or put themselves at risk. As one border guard explained to me, you have to prevent them from leaving so as to avoid them putting themselves in danger – with little regard to the international legal obligation not to expel people into countries where they may face harm (non-refoulement).

In Italy, meanwhile, the previous government tried to justify its Libyan pushbacks as rescue operations in the landmark “Hirsi case” of the European Court of Human Rights. Yet it failed to convince the court, in large part because of public assurances that the operations were in fact crackdowns on “illegal migration”, and so – the court said – fell within the ambit of European migration law, not least as regards prohibitions on collective expulsions. As one legal observer has noted, the potential remains for Europe to follow an exclusively “humanitarian” approach – as long as non-refoulement is adhered to – in diverting boats back to North Africa. With this in mind, the UK’s political posturing on life at sea is not only incredibly callous; it also inadvertently presages less room for legal maneuvre in future operations.

Mare Nostrum, thankfully, has not engaged in “humanitarian” pushbacks. Yet the Navy’s evident good labours still need to be seen within a much larger border regime, as other researchers have argued. In fact, if hardline politicians were genuinely concerned with curbing deaths in the Mediterreanean, they should look at curbing repressive policies at the EU’s fenced-off external land borders, which have diverted migrants towards more dangerous sea routes and into the hands of Europe’s humanitarian apparatus.

We cannot afford to be naive, however. A rescue regime is certainly miles away from the alternative of more neglect at sea. Clearer European regulations for maritime operations and a common asylum system, both in the works, are important steps forward given the far-right advances across the continent. And a limited amount of EU-level accountability for member states is better than none, though Brussels should certainly push for more. However, we also need to look at the larger picture – that is, at the deep enmeshment of liberal and securitarian approaches in which brutal controls on one front combines with good-hearted rescues on another.

This disentangling is becoming an increasingly difficult task, not least thanks to Brussels. Uneasily poised between intransigent member states and its own more liberal inclinations, the European Commission bureaucracy has, as one recent study shows, contributed to framing migration as a threat. We see, time and again, how “border management” concerns are accompanied by human rights reassurances in an attempt to please all sides. For instance, the EU “mobility partnerships” signed with states such as Morocco do include liberal provisions on labour migration and migrant rights yet also promise even tougher migration controls within the signatory country – as well as the prospect of forced readmissions of third-country nationals, already a reality in Turkey. Countries such as Libya have also been encouraged to develop a functioning asylum system for years, since such a system would allow European border guards to expel people back there without falling foul of non-refoulement principles.

Yet such “cooperation”, promoted by the UK and others as an alternative to sea rescues, is counterproductive in the extreme since it has turned migration into a bargaining chip for North African states keen on extracting “geographical rent” from their position vis-à-vis Europe. It has also fuelled xenophobia as migrants become fair game, as seen from Moroccan panics about a “black menace” to Libya’s chaos, where sub-Saharan Africans are now routinely picked off the streets by militias and put in (EU-supported) detention camps, often kept until they pay steep liberation fees. Such harassment produces a perfectly reasonable “incentive” for desperate sea journeys – while oblivious politicians claim that rescues not repression are the main problem.

Europe’s two-faced border response has also created a worrying mechanism for controls to keep on growing indefinitely. As more surveillance, patrols and barriers push migrants towards riskier entry methods, new “dual-use” measures – at once aimed at rescuing and intercepting those in distress – keep being proposed, including more maritime surveillance through the expensive “Eurosur” system. In this way, an industry has grown up around migratory routes in which care and control functions alternately clash and merge with each other.

As one migration advocate recently quipped to me, a “theology” of border control now holds sway across Europe. Its unspoken assumptions dictate what the problem is, which our options are for solving it, and importantly where we should look – that is, towards the common external border, whether with our liberal our nationalist glasses on. Understanding the humanitarian-policing nexus at play here is key to move beyond the current impasse, in which the only two options available are those of more “tough” and more “humanitarian” controls – both blindly taking the borders of Europe as their only reference point, oblivious to the man-made chaos beyond it and the mitigating measures that can be taken there. Among these, for instance, are orderly refugee resettlement and aid to the non-Western countries hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees despite their scant resources. Another key measure is to reduce precisely what the UK and other states want to bolster – the flawed “collaboration” with “transit states”, which has far only increased the desperation among migrants and refugees marooned in a violent limbo at the edges of Europe, with no way out but the sea.

This article draws on some material that originally appeared in Spanish in La doble política de fronteras (El País, 22 October).

Country or region: 
International politics

          Mare Nostrum and migrant deaths: the humanitarian paradox at Europe’s frontiers   

An industry has grown up around migratory routes in which care and control functions alternately clash and merge with each other. Understanding the humanitarian-policing nexus at play is key to move beyond the current impasse.

The Mediterranean Sea. Screenshot from NASA World Wind The Mediterranean Sea. Screenshot from NASA World WindThis week, it emerged that the UK will not contribute to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, where more than 3,000 people have died so far this year as they seek European shores. The idea, apparently, is to deter others from embarking on the journey – a proposition as absurd as removing seatbelts in cars to make drivers more risk-averse. “Drown an immigrant to save an immigrant” is now the UK policy, as The Telegraph’s Dan Hodges pithily put it. Maritime “migration management” now reeks with the politics of death.

Spool back to a year ago, when the mass drownings outside the Italian island of Lampedusa held out the hope of a new European approach to migration controls. “Never again,” dignitaries promised as they paid their respects in front of the coffins. Italy promptly launched an impressive military sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, which has saved thousands in the past year. Amid conflicting reports on whether this Navy mission will be wound down, the EU border agency Frontex is now readying itself for the launch of a much smaller European patrolling operation at sea. This is the context in which the UK has refused to participate in any rescue efforts because of their supposed “pull” effect on refugees and migrants. More controls and less life-saving is yet again peddled as an answer to the “border crisis”.

A seeming paradox defines Europe’s response to irregular migration. On the one hand, we hear about violence and distress at the borders; on the other, about humanitarianism and human rights. While Italy’s Navy has mounted difficult rescues over the past year, the Spanish government has added razor wire to the fences of its North African enclave of Melilla and allowed violent pushbacks into Morocco, which it is now seeking to legalise. While the European Commission calls for smoother asylum procedures, member states lock refugees up or keep them stranded indefinitely, as happens in Malta and Spain’s enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. While the EU’s incoming home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopolous, has proposed humanitarian visas, Italy’s EU presidency has launched a Europe-wide crackdown on undocumented migrants. Time and again, any liberal advances are cut short by new draconian measures, motivated by a callous quest for “deterrence” despite the lack of any substantial evidence for its efficacy.   

The UK decision to publicly desist from saving lives – a policy filched from Australia in a posturing exercise by a panicky government, as another commentator has noted – has at least allowed some moral outrage to seep back into our sordid migration politics. Echoing earlier calls by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, commentators have in the past days called for more humanitarian action and less callous disregard of human life at sea. Yet in the wake of this important debate, we might now also be able to probe further. If we do so, we will see that liberal and securitarian approaches are by now in fact deeply enmeshed within Europe’s flawed response to unauthorised border crossings, despite politicians’ statements to the contrary.

It is worrying how humanitarian initiatives have increasingly accompanied draconian migration controls in recent years. At Melilla’s land perimeter, for instance, one migrant was beaten unconscious by guards earlier this month before being dragged back through the fence into Moroccan hands – in stark contrast with the care offered by Red Cross staff to any migrants fortunate enough to breach the barrier. Meanwhile, draconian deportations writ large have in the past decade been smoothed by spurious “aid” deals with African states ready to accept deportees, as well as by the participation of humanitarian organisations. In this double-faced border regime, liberal and humanitarian measures are used as a plaster covering the wounds – physical, mental or metaphorical – inflicted by Europe’s authorities and their African collaborators.

Yet the starkest interaction between care and control can be seen at the external maritime borders and beyond. Humanitarianism, more than a plaster, here functions as a key legal, moral and political justification for interceptions. When spotting a boat on their advanced surveillance systems, Spanish border forces call their Moroccan or Algerian colleagues so that the latter can “rescue” the passengers by bringing them back to the coast, regardless of their wishes. Similarly, European-African patrols along West African coasts have for many years now pre-emptively rescued migrants and refugees before they have even made a clandestine crossing or put themselves at risk. As one border guard explained to me, you have to prevent them from leaving so as to avoid them putting themselves in danger – with little regard to the international legal obligation not to expel people into countries where they may face harm (non-refoulement).

In Italy, meanwhile, the previous government tried to justify its Libyan pushbacks as rescue operations in the landmark “Hirsi case” of the European Court of Human Rights. Yet it failed to convince the court, in large part because of public assurances that the operations were in fact crackdowns on “illegal migration”, and so – the court said – fell within the ambit of European migration law, not least as regards prohibitions on collective expulsions. As one legal observer has noted, the potential remains for Europe to follow an exclusively “humanitarian” approach – as long as non-refoulement is adhered to – in diverting boats back to North Africa. With this in mind, the UK’s political posturing on life at sea is not only incredibly callous; it also inadvertently presages less room for legal maneuvre in future operations.

Mare Nostrum, thankfully, has not engaged in “humanitarian” pushbacks. Yet the Navy’s evident good labours still need to be seen within a much larger border regime, as other researchers have argued. In fact, if hardline politicians were genuinely concerned with curbing deaths in the Mediterreanean, they should look at curbing repressive policies at the EU’s fenced-off external land borders, which have diverted migrants towards more dangerous sea routes and into the hands of Europe’s humanitarian apparatus.

We cannot afford to be naive, however. A rescue regime is certainly miles away from the alternative of more neglect at sea. Clearer European regulations for maritime operations and a common asylum system, both in the works, are important steps forward given the far-right advances across the continent. And a limited amount of EU-level accountability for member states is better than none, though Brussels should certainly push for more. However, we also need to look at the larger picture – that is, at the deep enmeshment of liberal and securitarian approaches in which brutal controls on one front combines with good-hearted rescues on another.

This disentangling is becoming an increasingly difficult task, not least thanks to Brussels. Uneasily poised between intransigent member states and its own more liberal inclinations, the European Commission bureaucracy has, as one recent study shows, contributed to framing migration as a threat. We see, time and again, how “border management” concerns are accompanied by human rights reassurances in an attempt to please all sides. For instance, the EU “mobility partnerships” signed with states such as Morocco do include liberal provisions on labour migration and migrant rights yet also promise even tougher migration controls within the signatory country – as well as the prospect of forced readmissions of third-country nationals, already a reality in Turkey. Countries such as Libya have also been encouraged to develop a functioning asylum system for years, since such a system would allow European border guards to expel people back there without falling foul of non-refoulement principles.

Yet such “cooperation”, promoted by the UK and others as an alternative to sea rescues, is counterproductive in the extreme since it has turned migration into a bargaining chip for North African states keen on extracting “geographical rent” from their position vis-à-vis Europe. It has also fuelled xenophobia as migrants become fair game, as seen from Moroccan panics about a “black menace” to Libya’s chaos, where sub-Saharan Africans are now routinely picked off the streets by militias and put in (EU-supported) detention camps, often kept until they pay steep liberation fees. Such harassment produces a perfectly reasonable “incentive” for desperate sea journeys – while oblivious politicians claim that rescues not repression are the main problem.

Europe’s two-faced border response has also created a worrying mechanism for controls to keep on growing indefinitely. As more surveillance, patrols and barriers push migrants towards riskier entry methods, new “dual-use” measures – at once aimed at rescuing and intercepting those in distress – keep being proposed, including more maritime surveillance through the expensive “Eurosur” system. In this way, an industry has grown up around migratory routes in which care and control functions alternately clash and merge with each other.

As one migration advocate recently quipped to me, a “theology” of border control now holds sway across Europe. Its unspoken assumptions dictate what the problem is, which our options are for solving it, and importantly where we should look – that is, towards the common external border, whether with our liberal our nationalist glasses on. Understanding the humanitarian-policing nexus at play here is key to move beyond the current impasse, in which the only two options available are those of more “tough” and more “humanitarian” controls – both blindly taking the borders of Europe as their only reference point, oblivious to the man-made chaos beyond it and the mitigating measures that can be taken there. Among these, for instance, are orderly refugee resettlement and aid to the non-Western countries hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees despite their scant resources. Another key measure is to reduce precisely what the UK and other states want to bolster – the flawed “collaboration” with “transit states”, which has far only increased the desperation among migrants and refugees marooned in a violent limbo at the edges of Europe, with no way out but the sea.

Country or region: 
International politics

          Multiculturalism at work   

Charing Cross Road, a heaving mass of punters, tourists and ambling drunkards flows past Samuel's workplace at its usual frenetic, clogged pace, until one of its number dislodges himself. An ambling drunkard. He sports baggy pants, a loose striped jacket and a whiskery, unkempt beard. He shouts at Samuel to the rustle of a plastic Waterstone's bag. "Fuck… eh, you….you… what are you doing?" "What!" Samuel stays back, keeps cool. The abuse runs in thick streams, words can barely be made out. Curious shoppers stare wildly over their issues of Zoo and The Economist. The man is black; Samuel is black too. "Fou!" Is it French? Red-eyed, mouth agape, the man keeps screaming, grabs his bag and plunges back into the crowd. Punters dive back into their torrents of headlines, semi-nudes and Harry Potter blurbs at the Borders storefront. Samuel resumes his lax position at the reception, wistfully contemplating the crowds.

Charing Cross Road is the pulse of multicultural London, an artery of pleasure, strife and boredom, snaking from the imperial grandeur of Trafalgar Square to the heart of Oxford Street. Its pedestrian flow makes a garish display; multicultural, festive and sweaty. Almost half of the UK's ethnic minorities live in the capital, clustered in villages: Jews up Golders Green, Cypriots in Haringey, Arabs at Edgware Road and hip white things in Islington. Charing Cross road is where they meet, shop and scuffle: but it is also a place where cultures are put to work. If the now bitterly contested British model of multiculturalism is falling ill, Charing Cross Road is a good place to take its blood pressure.

The security guard

"We don't get too much abuse. We are trained to handle this," Samuel says laconically. No security guard clichés apply to his five foot eight inch frame: no bouncy muscles, towering torso or chiselled face, and only a small corporate insignia on his plain T-shirt indicates he might be at work. Except, that is, for one distinct marker of those guarding the shopfronts and clubs of central London's incongruous geography these days, a marker by now too clichéd to even be noticed by most Londoners: Samuel is black.

"I have been working as a security guard for three years," he says. "You get a lot of junkies in this area. Sometimes you have to be aggressive." Samuel smiles, pushing out his chest a little. "You have to know how to act depending on the person. It's like science – action and reaction." He chuckles ever so slightly.

Samuel comes from Nigeria, as do many others in his profession. His eyes flick back and forth, scanning the throng of people. "You can't stand like this for too long, talking – somebody might just go in, take a pack of CDs and leave," he says. Samuel excuses himself, adding his name and a furtive handshake as an afterthought. Less than five minutes' talk in all.

The private security sector is expanding, and guards now adorn even the humblest of supermarket checkouts and dingiest of clubs. A "visual deterrent" to crime, security companies claim. And this visual deterrence is increasingly performed by bored-looking black Britons and Africans. The good news may be that black minorities, still two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than white Britons, are now entrusted with security matters, inching a bit higher up London's pecking order. The bad news is that an ethnic furrow is drilled into London's asphalt, channelling black men into badly paid, vulnerable frontline positions.

Politicians, pundits and even the police have often praised the multicultural British model of integration, not without good reason. Nobody will launch into patriotic sing-a-longs or wave a Union Jack in the face of the hookah-smoking, Morris dancing, Qur'an-chanting and sauerkraut-eating masses. But this is all multiculturalism by night. Multiculturalism also works – works hard – up Charing Cross Road, down dingy backstreets, at the back of fusty pubs, deep in the cellars of milk-white Kensington hotels, under the sterile bulbs of NHS surgeries.

It may be insolent to heave another load of real-world grit onto multiculturalism's back at this time of trials by government, racism and terror. But dreary work is the flipside to London's multicultural project. Black bouncers, Asian shopkeepers, African parking attendants, Polish bartenders, Spanish chambermaids, Irish builders, African nurses, Indian doctors – they all come to London and find their place, as if by serendipity, from £4.85 an hour and counting. Europe's financial capital is insatiable, spongy, absorbent. But do people pick jobs according to ability and preference, or is the grid already laid out for them; colourful, deceptive and non-negotiable as a London tube map?

The parking attendant

Like security guards, parking attendants are too busy for a chat. Brisk, outsourced, undaunted, they roam the capital's grimy single yellow lines armed with just an oversized machine to crunch number-plates and a council vest against cold winds and the evil eye. And they are virtually unstoppable, furtive figures.

"I am too busy, don't have time," says my first interview target, a stern black parking attendant. He walks off briskly, escaping the lunging white hack. Luck comes in the voluminous shape of a fast-paced black woman negotiating a Camden sidestreet. Her vest is deceptively branded with a comforting council-green dye that blends with a minuscule NCP insignia – the private, nationwide parking venture that won Camden Council's lucrative enforcement contract in 2001.

Is this one of London's toughest jobs? "No, it's not that hard!" she chuckles, scanning a white van's pay-and-display ticket. She treads along briskly. "Really, it's OK," she assures me. "In the beginning it's harder, but you get used to it. The abuse comes daily, of course. It's not the job for you if you can't handle abuse. But if you know you are doing the right thing, it's OK. You just walk away when they start shouting."

She is matter-of-fact, stout and cheerful, her hair sculpted into a bun. I tag along, barely keeping up. Is she running away from her stalker? What's her name? "You can call me this!" she chuckles again, pointing to her shoulder cuff. It says 1571. "I am not allowed to say my name. Here I am a number – my name doesn't matter." 1571 looks busier and busier. The radio crackles. Where is she from? "Nigeria." Why do so many Africans do this job? "Oh, I don't know," 1571 says, curtly or just briskly. We reach the end of the block, another grey Camden thoroughfare beckons beyond, with a neat stack of pay-and-displays. She is speeding – wait … too late. 1571 chuckles, says goodbye. A colleague approaches – could be her cousin: hair neatly wrapped, fast-paced, African features. Then a male colleague – black, African traits. One, two, three, all heading down the same street, an avalanche of attendants … And my failed source, pacing briskly as ever. But now he smiles. "So, you found somebody?" His accent, too, is African.

No job evokes such hostility as parking enforcement, more so since public-private partnerships and new profit-making incentives began unleashing a ticketing bonanza on the capital's streets. But London's parking business has been doubly outsourced: to private ventures and flak-catching Africans, who have relentlessly populated the payrolls. At the public-private faultline they teeter, armed with silly hats and plastic machinery, come rain or shine or saliva-spattering owners of four-by-fours.

Enforcing London's rules and patrolling private property are tough tasks, but somebody's got to do them. Not to worry: multiculturalism assigns the posts. Please tick the ethnic monitoring form and wait in line. If you tick "black", the chance is you will soon find your place within London's hard-working, visually deterring foot soldier community.

Who's doing what – A rough guide to working Britain

4.3 per cent of Pakistanis work as shopkeepers, wholesale and retail dealers, compared to 0.5 per cent of white Britons

4.2 per cent of Indians work as medical practitioners, compared to 0.5 per cent white Britons

16 per cent of Bangladeshis work as chefs, compared to 0.7 per cent white Britons

11.3 per cent of Bangladeshis work as retail assistants, compared to 6.3 of all Asians and 4.5 of whites

2 per cent of Asians work as cashiers or checkout operators, compared to 1.1 per cent of whites

9.4 per cent of Pakistanis are chauffeurs or cab drivers, compared to 0.5 per cent whites and 0.9 per cent of blacks

8.5 per cent of black Africans are nurses, compared to 1.7 per cent whites, few South Asians and 11.2 per cent of "other Asians"

3.6 per cent of black Africans work as security guards, compared to 0.5 per cent of whites

Approximations based on data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, December 2004 – February 2005. Ethnic minority data is unreliable due to sample size.

The shopkeeper

Aftab huddles behind a desk cluttered with weekly glossies, breath mints, KP nuts and 2p sweets, the radio filling his shop with muted noise. "Violence is not the solution," he sighs, referring both to the still recent 7 July London bombs and Iraq. On a shelf by the open door, a four-year-old copy of The Economist peeks out next to a gaudy selection of lads' mags. "The day the world changed", its front page trumpets, to the dust and fumes of Manhattan. "It reminds me of when it all started," Aftab says softly.

His cornershop is set in the shadow of thronging, roaring Camden Town station. Aftab comes from Pakistan, or rather, Kashmir. "Ever since Pakistan was created out of the British Empire in 1947 by [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah, it has failed to reconcile the different nations within its borders. It's an artificial creation. Actually, there are only two countries in the world created on the basis of religion: Israel and Pakistan," he says, bemused. "Their borders are a colonial legacy."

Since coming to Britain in 1997, Aftab has become the hub of a local community made up of itinerant builders, international students, crackheads, Bangladeshi shopkeepers and working-class families. He knows everybody. "My brother was running the shop when I got here, then he fell ill. I started coming to the shop, reading four-five papers a day: that's how I got to know all the people around here." He has braved shoplifters, stinkbombs and random yobbery, and recently appeared on the BBC after launching a petition against drug-related crime.

Aftab holds a Masters in Sociology from the University of Karachi. "When I came here they told me that if you have a Third World qualification, you need to get a diploma in this country," he says. "The Job Centre is just there to give you your £52 a week in benefit, and then you're off. They don't help you find jobs. I was registered there for two years, and scanned job offers all the time. At one point I said, 'please, just give me anything!' I told them I could study for a diploma to complete my qualifications, but they weren't interested. Then I started to get more involved here." He still wants to study a Masters of Science in Human Rights.

Has he felt discriminated against? "No, it's the same for everyone." He smiles. I ask him why he thinks so many Asians have set up shop. He looks unsure, and eventually produces a bit of sociology. "When migrants first started arriving here, many were uneducated and set up shops and have continued since then. But their children often prefer to go looking for employers. With Sainsbury's and Tesco opening local stores, the cornershop is becoming a thing of the past."

In this "nation of shopkeepers", shopkeeping has been subcontracted to that old imperial safeguard of the nation's values, British Asia. Small-scale entrepreneurs of Indian or Pakistani extraction have absorbed the retail function, running cornerstores as well as staffing supermarkets, high street stores and bank counters. They are not alone, of course: Turkish Cypriots have carved a clothes-and-food niche out of north London. But Asian shopkeepers are the only group with full-spectrum dominance, from Haringey to Hampstead. However their market share is increasingly threatened by supermarkets that wedge their slick Express, Local, Metro and Central chains into minuscule urban spaces. Does that leave you, or your kids, unemployed? Please tick the "Asian" box, and be patient: the chance is you will be handling supermarket tills, sorting ballpoint pens in a stationers, or stacking crates before you know it.

The supermarket assistant

Feronda pauses from stacking tins and dons a sincere, expectant grin worthy of the glossiest of Corporate Social Responsibility reviews. He is happy with his job as a Sainsbury's customer assistant. "I'm from Sri Lanka. I'm a refugee. Only I and one more are from Sri Lanka in this shop – most of the other people here are Pakistani." Actually, all the other customer assistants seem to be Brits of Pakistani background. Even the security guard is Asian. Why does Feronda think this is so? "Oh, this I don't know," he says, tugging his grin along, keen to move on to the next question. "I like it here, I want to stay – I especially enjoy being on the shop floor. Before I worked for four years as a car mechanic up the road," – he waves past pea cans, north – "doing night shifts. That was very hard." Now he works 3-11pm, five days a week, at £6 an hour. "Let's see… about £850 a month for a 39-hour week," he says. He looks thrilled, grateful. Before coming to the UK he studied computers, but struggles to translate his education into British levels. "I didn't apply for any other jobs – just this," he says. But is there anything he doesn't like about the job? "No, no," he says, with the sparkling grin making a lingering plea for mercy. The largely white Chalk Farm clientele scavenges for breakfast bagels and tender-stem broccoli. Feronda's colleagues shuffle past, aisle-wide looks in their eyes.

Whether British supermarkets' workforces are as diverse as their stock of curries, mozzarella and stodgy German bread is hard to ascertain – their statistics slip from your hands like salmon. Fourteen percent of Sainsbury's employees and three to four percent of its managers come from ethnic minorities: more detailed figures are not available from either Sainsbury's or Tesco, despite their equal opportunities policies.

Sainsbury's prohibits discrimination and strives to "move beyond simple legal compliance," according to Cheryl Kuczynski, a spokeswoman. "We actively look to employ colleagues who reflect the diversity of our customers," she says. Tesco, the behemoth of the British food market, says targets have been set to get so-called "ethnic groups" into managerial positions. Flexible work during Ramadan and Diwali and briefings in languages like Hindi, Urdu, and Bangladeshi are two selling points. All according to its Corporate Social Responsibility review.

Katie Jenkins, Tesco's employment spokeswoman, says that diversity "creates a great atmosphere in stores" and makes everybody contribute with different skills and knowledge. "Retail is a fast-paced environment, so we look for people who can adapt well to change, people who are very customer-focused. The stores reflect the demographics of the local area. It is about recruiting local people into local jobs."

In lush white Hampstead, amid the cobblestones, blonde beer, Unitarian churches, window displays of pains au céréales and fragrant Jojoba oils, lurks an unbecoming Tesco Express. Inside, Jayvishal is morosely stacking boxes of vegetables. "I can't do an interview if it's going to take time," he warns. I try an optimistic note. What does he like most about his job?" "I don't like it at all," he says, his slightly pained face sloping down into an unlikely smile. "It's hard work, very hard work. Packing all the time."

Jayvishal is from India. "There are not many Indians here – mainly Sri Lankans and some Europeans," he says. By European he must mean British Asian: all the shop's staff look Asian. How did he find this £6-an-hour job? "Oh, through the Job Centre, and then I had some friends over here," Jayvishal answers, somewhat cryptically. "I have been in the UK since 2003, and couldn't find a job for a while. It was very hard. Legally, international students are only allowed to work 20 hours a week, but during vacations I do overtime. It is difficult economically – I have to pay rent, transport and everything, and only earn £500 a month."

Jayvishal is studying a Masters in Business and Finance at London's Metropolitan University. While not in India he lives in Queensbury, zone four, on the Jubilee line that branches through a parallel part – or galaxy, perhaps – of north London. Skills and knowledge he has: a local he is not. The manager, a short-set, trim-bearded man of South Asian features presses up against us, fingering the stack of plastic boxes. Time to retreat. "And when you're finished…" – the orders fade, giving way to wine bars and American ice cream parlours slanting down the north London hillside.

Hampstead is at the extreme end of the spectrum. But a random Monday afternoon headcount at seventeen West End supermarkets, where workers are least likely to be drawn from a residential pool, confirms the ethnic pattern, albeit with minor variations. One hundred customer assistants were of Asian background, fifty-eight were black, nineteen white, and four "other Asians". The eleven security guards on duty were all black but for one.

The bar tender

It would be a mistake to think that low-paid jobs are the reserve of the Queen's post-colonial subjects. Some minorities have fared quite well: ethnic Indians, for one, are now approaching the employment chances of white Britons. Meanwhile, London's pint-pullers earn even less than its shelf-fillers, and a terrifying ninety-seven percent of pub workers nationwide are white. Why?

Perhaps Al Murray's comedy act the Pub Landlord hinted at the answer when saying that there should be no things foreign in a proper English pub, with the natural exception of peanuts. Peanuts are more nondescript than exotic, a bit like the "white other" box on the ethnic monitoring forms. And so it is that Europeans, Australians and their fellow Antipodeans have been swallowed by the fusty land of minimum wages, ruddy-faced regulars and sticky floors.

Behind the bar, a twenty-something lad moves packets of crisps about. Covent Garden's cobbled streets unfold outside. "Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning all the time," he says, in spotless English. "There's lots of cleaning in this pub." He doesn't look glum at all saying it. The pub is one of a constellation of glinting properties on the online London map of the Spirit Group, one of the UK's biggest pub businesses with over two thousand venues to its name. Boleslaw has worked here since May, and shares the pleasure with a girl from Sweden, another from France, an Irish boss and two other Poles – a friend and the assistant manager. He got his job through the previous manager, also Irish. "That's a traditional English pub for you!" he says.

This is not the first time I come across the Ladder. The Ladder is a peculiar upstairs-downstairs way of ordering the capital's economy. The lower steps of many a London workplace are, predictably enough, dominated by the poor relatives of the world economy: Poles, Colombians and Nigerians abound. But climb one step up, and surprisingly often you will find employees from closer to home: Irish managing continental Europeans, perhaps, or Spaniards managing Colombians. On the top of the Ladder, perch the white English top managers and boardroom staff. The Commission for Racial Equality's (CRE) chairman Trevor Phillips has called it "snow-capping", or white on black: only 1.4 percent of executive management comes from ethnic minorities.

"It's a very hard job and not paid very well. The minimum: £4.85," Boleslaw continues. No big deal. This is his third bout of pub work in London. "At least this is a very nice area, with lots of theatres around." Nice areas make customer flows impressive, and it's hectic, lager-churning madness. "After a while you get used to it – even if it's packed you can listen to the music and chat up a girl. But you work till late and don't have time for yourself. You wake up at nine or ten next morning and start work at 12. It's like a full circle." He smiles. "If you get some days off, you just chill upstairs," he adds, pointing heavenward. Boleslaw and his colleagues sleep upstairs: it's a live-in pub.

Despite paying rent to his landlord-bosses, Boleslaw can save "a few hundreds" each month, he says. He is a graphic designer and photographer, a graduate of Poland's Academy of Fine Arts, and has worked for advertising agencies back home. "It's a dodgy job market in Poland, simple as that," he says, unapologetically. "The UK market is more stable. You can do bar work for a while, then start looking around for what you really want to do."

A man with entourage orders pints of Tetley and pork scratchings. A colleague shows up, and Boleslaw breaks into Polish for a few sentences, cackling until the colleague disappears into the sunshine.

What do his fellow Poles do in the capital these days? "Any job you can get," he says. "Normally, guys who are tough enough go work on building sites, but others go into these jobs. The guy who just left, for example, is a doctor." A doctor? "Yeah – it's easy to find them working in pubs. We got lawyers, we got doctors, graphic designers, actors, the lot. This country has got the most educated bar staff ever," he says cheerily, pouring pints of Guinness for a couple of Koreans. He has only applied for one graphic design job so far, and saves his pounds with determination. "I felt I had too good qualifications. They looked at my portfolio and said 'you're too good, you better go somewhere else'. When the time comes, I'll do it."

Years back, London's fleet of theme pubs, Irish pubs, local pubs and all the other concept and brand name pubs shop-fronting for Japanese investment banks were manned by cheery mates from Down Under. The Anglo-Saxon reaches of empire supplemented London's homegrown working class with much-needed building and boozing skills. Aussies and Kiwis provided the pint-pulling crowd. South Africans joined the Irish on the building sites. The Working Holiday Visa kept the children of the Commonwealth snuggled on old England's beer belly for years.

But in 2000, New Labour sowed the seeds of a revised migration strategy, which has blossomed into today's demand-based, quotas-and-points approach. Working Holiday rules for Commonwealth countries changed in 2003, and Antipodeans have moved into administration, computer work and public services with the easing of job-type restrictions. Poles are entering the pub-and-scaffolding race, quickly filling their predecessors' place. Some 98,500 Poles had applied for Britain's worker registration scheme in May 2005, over half of all new east European hopefuls arriving in the wake of 2004's EU expansion. Eighty percent of them earned up to £5 an hour.

The arrival of Poles is changing the demographic makeup of other parts of London's service economy, too. José Vigo, employment adviser, senses a growing fashion for east European employees at his West End Job Centre, which specialises in low-paid hotel and catering vacancies "that have not been taken through the domestic labour market".

Southern Europeans and Latin Americans, often over-skilled but with poor English, have peopled the lower reaches of London's job market for years, where a dank stereotype of the Latin service worker has grown. A recent Job Centre language survey confirms the lingering Mediterranean makeup of London's catering and hotel trades: Spanish clocked in as first language, followed by Portuguese, French and Italian – but with upstart Polish wedged in at third place.

Statistics are scant and unreliable and the turnover ferocious, but Vigo confirms that employers now head for eastern Europe rather than scavenging the Iberian soils for catering and hotel staff. "There they get better levels of English and people willing to do that kind of job."

The service sector is likely to continue haunting southern European visitors, however. "London is still one of the most popular places in Europe for young Spaniards," says Manuela Martínez, adviser for EU employment network Eures in southern Spain. "People want to master English and make their CVs look better. But if their level of English is low, they will work in places where they don't deal with the public, in 'backstage' jobs. They end up spending a year in London and bring back three or four words related to the hotel trade. Then, naturally, they only tell people about the good things that happened, and the process starts snowballing."

The backstage jobs of London's fickle service economy have a convenient feature: as Portuguese hotel workers, Spanish chambermaids and Latin American kitchen porters mingle in their trade, they speak Spanish instead of English. And the less English they speak, the more likely they will languish in their underpaid niches. London keeps luring job-hunters into its wide nets, its finance-fuelled economy selects and cherrypicks the candidates, and multiculturalism keeps them apart, blissful in their ghettoes.

The state's story

Government departments are blissful in their ghettoes, too, and keep chucking the ball out of their own ponds. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not target specific ethnic groups, says Ben Lloyd, a spokesman, who suggests I try the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), which deals with safeguarding employees' rights. And what does the DTI think? A spokesperson mentions Tony Blair's 2003 cross-departmental Ethnic Minorities Employment Task Force, but little more: the DWP is wrong – "we don't deal with getting people into jobs."

Academia is also suffering from a "paucity of research" on ethnic recruitment according to Dr Sophia Skyers, senior research fellow on the London labour market with the public interest company Office for Public Management (OPM). She explains ethnic niching in relation to London's expanding knowledge economy. "We are seeing a polarisation of the labour force into, on the one hand, high-paid jobs in professional and financial services and, on the other hand, retail, protective services and other personal services like healthcare," she says. "What we get is a pattern of occupational segregation – a lot of people are forced into particular employment groups, often because of discrimination in other sectors. The stereotype goes with the job, and sticks to the people who get these jobs."

Professor Michael Hardt, co-author of the watershed tome Empire about how power has been redistributed in a globalised world, agrees that multiculturalism plays an economic role in the new economy. "Britain's multicultural model can facilitate an ethnic division of labour, a model that has perhaps a longer history in the Americas," he says. "Racialized hierarchies and exploitation do not always function along the old or assumed models of exclusion. But it's worth insisting that recognizing that cultural diversity can be part of a new scheme of exploitation does not mean we should be against cultural diversity as such. What we need to strive for is equality and freedom within this multicultural society."

Trevor Phillips has criticised multiculturalism for keeping people apart, labelling it "a typically British way of dealing with difference". But now the stakes are higher. While London Mayor Ken Livingstone praised multiculturalism in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, Tony Blair announced a crackdown on Britain's permissive liberal consensus to a chorus of tabloid approval. But even multiculturalism's defenders often have little clue of what it really is, or does. Multiculturalism is not only a heap of colours, it is a machine with cogs that whirr. It not only fuses, but keeps apart. It doesn't so much discriminate as direct a choreography of cultures. Much like a latter-day, benign sort of empire, where all races and cultures play a minor part in the symphony of power.

On the ring road again

Your no-frills flight descends among thick nighttime clouds and your bags emerge from the bowels of Stansted airport. Now it's business the British way. Bearded Muslims, lavish Iberian girls and red-nosed Brits clutching Su Doku books mingle in the halls and tow their luggage into the rainy night, stared on by billboards vying for their London fare. Outside, hordes of many-accented hustlers flog £5 one-ways for cheap airbus upstarts. Beyond the Pink Elephant car park waits the National Express. A stream of people crosses the wet asphalt, oblivious to the hustlers' calls. This is how multicultural London commutes, in and out of London, twenty-four hours a day, every fifteen minutes.

Chris descends from his bus and lights a quick fag before his next drive. "The job is not as stressful as it looks," he says. "It's easy, and the pay's quite good. £22,000 a year because I do night shifts." He cuts a stoic figure, tall and bulky, his shaved head pinched by an earring. His colleagues, like him, are overwhelmingly white, bald, and big, emblems of the well-fed English working class. They ferry multiculturalism in and out of the capital. What do the people boarding his coach to the throbbing financial hub of Europe do, then? "Well," Chris puffs on his fag, thinks. "We carry a lot of students, some come over on a gap year, a small portion are on business and the bulk of them are tourists and sightseers."

What about the workers? Where are they? Who notices the shelf-stacker in the business student, the pint-puller in the graduate, the cornershop owner among the businessmen, the sandwich wrappers, cappuccino steamers and doormen among the tourists? Not Chris, not Ken, not Tony, nor Middle England or the City elite. The City: white as a scrubbed cathedral wall, home of offshore dollars and high-value bonds, generator of the service economy and its guards, attendants, retailers, cleaners, drivers. And Chris, where does he live? "I live in Haverhill, outside Cambridge," he says, stubs out his fag, and sets the motor purring towards the M25.

          Flowers for Hillary   
What's with all the metaphorical bouquets being thrown by the media at Hillary's feet as she takes her big exit curtain call? It's a little annoying. Usually, this is the winner's moment in the sun. That would be Obama.

Okay, it's an historic campaign where for the first time a woman was a serious presidential contender, she got more votes than "any previous loser," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And it's weekend coverage, so what's the harm?

One problem is that we don't know for sure that Hillary is in fact bowing out gracefully. While she made a more-or-less gracious concession speech (I think -- I couldn't stand listening to much of it), can she in fact support Obama in some suitable way without making an issue of herself? Will an ugly, self-centered wish that Obama loses so that she can then become the 2012 "candidate of inevitability" sprout up through the cracks in her artificial smile? Only time will tell.

A quick review of the facts: Hillary lost my vote for her presidential campaign when, in 2002, she voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and when she refused forever after to admit she made a mistake. Call me superficial, but I think that a voter's disapproval of a candidate's position on the most important issue of the decade is appropriately signaled by voting for someone else.

Not only was Hillary dead wrong in this position, but she also revealed herself as Bill Clinton redux -- an image-driven, poll-driven centrist pol, who will do or say whatever it takes to get into power and then, once there, forget that the whole point was to use that power to do good.

Ironically, Hillary's desperate effort to repackage herself as a tough, hawkish chief-executive-in-waiting -- again, signaled by that 2002 vote -- probably has not won her a single vote. The public perception of her as a liberal feminista -- a perception driving both the votes for and against her -- was probably immovable all along. Her best strategy would have been to stay true to the ideals of her youth.

And now we learn that her much touted "experience" was also hogwash. Her totally botched campaign was driven repeatedly and ultimately off the rails by a motley crew of (1) foxy, unscrupulous types who were not as smart as they think they are and (2) loyal friends who are incompetent political amateurs. Apparently, there was not one authoritative person among them who could tell Hillary the bad news when she needed to hear it. Her apparently terrible executive style did not bode well for the "candidate of experience" to run the White House.

Hillary's long run also symbolized the Democratic Party's self-destructive streak. This is the "perfect storm" for Republicans, the year they cannot possibly win -- they are responsible for (1) an unpopular and ill-conceived war that (2) has sent the economy hurtling into an impending crisis engineered by (3) a president with 25-28% approval ratings.

But Hillary would have been a weak candidate, for all she tried to spin her self-absorbed refusal to quit as toughness. With her unredeemed Iraq war vote and the stinky cloud of questionable financial dealings that trail her and her husband everywhere, she wouldn't have been able to hit hard enough on McCain's two biggest Achilles heels -- the War and his own involvement in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s (see the Keating Five), which resonates so powerfully with the current mortgage crisis.

Hillary was the one Democratic candidate that cannot win -- if her campaign mismanagement didn't kill us, her unusually high negatives would have. And we came within a hair's breadth of nominating her! I may not be right about her unelectability -- but thank goodness we'll never know for sure.
          Know Thy Enemy   

By Michelle Ray (twitter: @GaltsGirl)

The IRS admitted to targeting Conservative groups. Then, they passed along information to a liberal nonprofit. Why? Thanks to Tj Thompson for putting my thoughts into video format.

The article Know Thy Enemy is original content from Conservative Daily News.

Neil Gorsuch is everything liberals feared—and more.

          Baltimore Book Festival   

Yesterday my wife Lauren and I spent the afternoon at the Baltimore Book Festival. We were there largely for Lauren, because she had the first official signing for her new book Wicked Baltimore. Here she is signing it for one of her new fans:

If you have any interest in Baltimore/Maryland history, or you just like reading about the dark corners you don't normally get in history books, it's a fun read covering everything from Poe to political riots to grave robbing. Check out her own site for more info.

I did a lot of wandering around while Lauren was signing and selling copies. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association had a small tent there that featured readings and sold books by some local members as well as some fun games. The Maryland Writer's Association also had a nice little tent, which featured among other things a nice announcement from the Baltimore Review. They're re-launching their literary journal but as an online-only product.  They seem to hope it will allow them to publish a greater number of authors and highlight them in different ways. I wish them luck with the venture and may even send them something soon. 

I also spent a lot of time at the Radical Books Pavilion. Sponsored by Red Emma's, a Baltimore Bookstore and coffee shop that focuses on "radical politics", I was intrigued even if a lot of the material and other people there made me feel like a crazy right winger. I took in a really interesting talk by Dean Spade, a lawyer and law professor from Seattle who is a big spokesperson and advocate for gender, sexual and transgender politics. I have to admit I came not being at all familiar with Spade, but he's a definite rock star in his world. He spoke largely about the ineffectiveness of focusing on legal aspects like forcing the adoption of hate crime legislation and suggested that more locally-based pressures are required to create real change. It's not a world I know a lot about but I found it pretty eye-opening and couldn't help but wonder what, if anything, I can do in my position as a librarian in a moderate/liberal but fairly comfortable part of the country.


          How the Student Loan Industry Is Helping Trump Destroy American Democracy   
Student loan servicers are engaged in economic terrorism, and DeVos is only making it worse.

Most of the discussion about student debt in the United States has centered on its excessiveness, the negative impact it has on home-buying for the next generation, various refinancing schemes, and (for the grossly uninformed) how borrowers simply need to “pay what they owe.” However, the untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed not only to redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole.

Up until her confirmation as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos had financial ties to a large student loan servicer in contract negotiations with the Department of Education. PRWatch reported in January that one of the firms DeVos divested from, LMF WF Portfolio, helped finance a $147 million loan to a student debt collection agency called Performant, which had more than 346 complaints brought against it with the Better Business Bureau. The student loan industry is said to be worth $1.3 trillion in total debt owed according to Forbes. While some might chalk this up to successful business management, it’s important to evaluate just exactly how the student loan industry works.

Contrary to what most students believe, many loans supposedly from the U.S. Department of Education are actually owned by big private banks. This acquisition of federal student loans by big banks was first introduced by the Federal Reserve in November of 2008, in which student loans, along with other forms of debt, are bundled and re-sold to banks as asset-backed securities (ABS). A few months later, with the blessing of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, this program was dramatically expanded to include more than $1 trillion in collateralized debt. This means that for many borrowers, they're being jerked around by private loans deliberately dressed up in U.S. Department of Education attire.

Student Loan Servicers Are Engaging in Economic Terrorism

In a lecture delivered at Carleton University in Ottawa 2011, famed MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky argued that the American student debt system fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by financial stress, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low-paying jobs, are afraid to question or challenge the system.

"When you trap people in a system of debt, they can't afford the time to think," Chomsky said.

One indebted borrower, Denise, whose fiancee, Kevin, spoke to AlterNet on condition of anonymity, is living proof of the dilemma Chomsky presented.

"I’ve wanted to marry Denise for years now," Kevin said. "But after seeing what she’s been put through with these student loan companies, I honestly don't want to risk having a bunch of crooks stealing my paycheck or my tax refund."

According to Kevin, the student debt Denise acquired for four years of higher education totaled approximately $35,000. Under the management of student loan servicer Navient (which broke off from Sallie Mae), her student loan debt quickly swelled to more than $75,000 in less than 10 years following her graduation from the University of Arizona. According to Kevin, loan fees and high interest rates quickly snowballed as a penalty for Denise not having enough money. (Multiple requests to reach Navient executives by phone or email were not returned.)

“The monthly payment they demanded was three times what Denise paid for her rent. She would send what she could afford, but it would end up being a fraction of the penalty fee they’d add to her loan balance for not having enough money to pay. They would then charge her interest on the penalty fee as though it were money she actually received for school," Kevin said.

Kevin’s account of what happened to Denise could be happening to millions of other distressed borrowers. A March 20 report from Bloomberg detailed how Secretary DeVos is now green-lighting punishing new fees on student borrowers even if they agree to make good on their outstanding debt. In a memo to the student loan industry, DeVos’ agency is allowing companies to charge struggling borrowers as much as 16 percent more of a debtor’s total loan balance in additional fees.

“It’s a con game that caused Denise so much stress that it began affecting her health and even made her fantasize about taking her own life as a means of getting out from crippling debt,” Kevin said. “These companies use the authority of the government to extort money from people who took out loans they thought were from the government and not just some crooked bank.”

In some instances, the tax refunds Denise counted on each year would be confiscated as penalty for not having enough money to pay her loans. According to Kevin, Denise earned a social sciences degree with the specific intent of pursuing a career that involved helping people and supporting positive change in society.

“Instead of doing that good work, she was forced to cling to whatever low-wage position she could find,” Kevin continued. “Even after I used my savings to help pay off the remainder of her student debt, the loan servicer, Navient, kept refusing to credit her account for the payment and continues to damage her credit.”

“It has taken such a huge toll on us,” he added. "I guess now we’ll have to gather more money to file a lawsuit to get them to acknowledge that they received payment in full. In the meantime, they can still take her tax refunds even though she doesn’t owe them money anymore.”

“This should be criminal. They’re just awful, awful human beings,” Kevin said.

Ironically, the Federal Student Loan Program was intended to make higher education affordable for students and families who lack the ability to pursue higher education without funding support. With the insertion of predatory banks and student loan shark servicer companies like Navient, Strada Education Network (formerly known as USA Funds), and others, the soul of the Federal Student Loan Program has shifted from that of opportunity and advancement to profit and subjugation.

Recently, Secretary DeVos announced that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness agreements the Department of Education made with borrowers who agreed to work in the public service field for at least 10 years might not be honored. The New York Times reported in March that students who signed up when the program began in 2007 may now be on the hook for those loans after all. A recent legal filing from the Department of Education argues that FedLoan Servicing's approval letters for the loan forgiveness program are non-binding and can be rescinded at any time.

This means borrowers, who chose professions in public service that are routinely paid less than those with jobs in other sectors, could now not only have forgone a much higher salary for over a decade, but could also find themselves on the hook for loans that the Department of Education agreed to forgive in exchange for their service.

Denise is not alone—the New York Fed reported earlier this year that 44 percent of student loan borrowers are underemployed. This means seemingly benign decisions when it comes to student loan policy ensure that a vast net of stress, fear, and insecurity is cast upon an entire generation. The lasting impact will, by default, stifle and root out any inclinations of challenge to the current political and economic system. In this way, the student loan industry is suppressing resistance to societal change by poor Americans, ensuring that whatever steps are taken in the name of neoliberalism to tighten the corporate grip on American society will be met with little to no resistance.

Who Has the Moral High Ground?

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a provision requiring already cash-strapped student loan borrowers to pay higher monthly fees on income-based repayment plans. While there is no evidence showing how an increase in payment requirements is needed for an already grossly lucrative industry, the Trump budget prioritized steep cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security and Disability Insurance, while also raising monthly payments for student loan borrowers. The combination of these two policies is a crushing blow for underemployed student debtors.

The Republican Party often campaigns on being the morally superior party based on its stance on issues like abortion and contraception. However, the student loan industry’s pillaging of the next generation of Americans has been met with deafening silence by the GOP. One would think that a majority in the House, the Senate and control of the White House would motivate the GOP to address an issue that affects 44 million Americans, but instead, Republicans choose to look the other way.

Democrats aren't entirely blameless in the student loan debacle. While a recent effort to address the greed and usurious practices of the student loan industry was championed by progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), other neoliberal Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have joined the GOP's morality farce by teaming up with the private sector to ransack public schools and gut teacher’s unions in the name of “school choice” and “teacher accountability.”

If Republicans and Democrats alike hope to hold on to any credibility when it comes to ethics, they must take steps to address the student loan industry in favor of the hardworking Americans who put them in office, not their corporate masters.


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           How Privatization Could Spell the End of Democracy   
Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

It’s a hot day in New York City. You’re thirsty, but your water bottle is empty. So you walk into a store and place your bottle in a machine. You activate the machine with an app on your phone, and it fills your bottle with tap water. Now you are no longer thirsty.

This is the future envisioned by the founders of a startup called Reefill. If the premise sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it is: Reefill has reinvented the water fountain as a Bluetooth-enabled subscription service. Customers pay $1.99 a month for the privilege of using its machines, located at participating businesses around Manhattan.

Predictably, the company has already come in for its fair share of ridicule. In Slate, Henry Grabar called it “tap water in a suit”. But while Reefill is a particularly cartoonish example, its basic business model is a popular one within tech. The playbook is simple: take a public service and build a private, app-powered version of it.

he most obvious examples are Uber and Lyft, which aspire not merely to eliminate the taxi industry, but to replace public transportation. They’re slowly succeeding: municipalities around America are now subsidizing ride-hailing fares instead of running public buses. And earlier this year, Lyft began offering a fixed-route, flat-rate service called Lyft Shuttle in Chicago and San Francisco – an aggressive bid to poach more riders from public transit.

These companies wouldn’t have customers if better public alternatives existed. It can be hard to find a water fountain in Manhattan, and public transit in American cities ranges from mediocre to nonexistent. But solving these problems by ceding them to the private sector ensures that public services will continue to deteriorate until they disappear.

Decades of defunding and outsourcing have already pushed public services to the brink. Now, fortified with piles of investor cash and the smartphone, tech companies are trying to finish them off.

Proponents of privatization believe this is a good thing. For years, they have advanced the argument that business will always perform a given task better than government, whether it’s running buses or schools, supplying healthcare or housing. The public sector is sclerotic, wasteful and undisciplined by the profit motive. The private sector is dynamic, innovative and, above all, efficient.

This belief has become common sense in political life. It is widely shared by the country’s elite, and has guided much policymaking over the past several decades. But like most of our governing myths, it collapses on closer inspection.

No word is invoked more frequently or more fervently by apostles of privatization than efficiency. Yet this is a strange basis on which to build their case, given the fact that public services are often more efficient than private ones. Take healthcare. The United States has one of the least efficient systems on the planet: we spend more money on healthcare than anyone else, and in return we receive some of the worst health outcomes in the west. Not coincidentally, we also have the most privatized healthcare system in the advanced world. By contrast, the UK spends a fraction of what we do and achieves far better results. It also happens to provision healthcare as a public service. Somehow, the absence of the profit motive has not produced an epidemic of inefficiency in British healthcare. Meanwhile, we pay nearly $10,000 per capita and a staggering 17% of our GDP to achieve a life expectancy somewhere between that of Costa Rica and Cuba.

A profit-driven system doesn’t mean we get more for our money – it means someone gets to make more money off of us. The healthcare industry posts record profits and rewards its chief executives with the highest salaries in the country. It takes a peculiar frame of mind to see this arrangement as anything resembling efficient.

Attacking public services on the grounds of efficiency isn’t just incorrect, however – it’s beside the point. Decades of neoliberalism have corroded our capacity to think in non-economic terms. We’ve been taught that all fields of human life should be organized as markets, and that government should be run like a business. This ideology has found its perverse culmination in the figure of Donald Trump, a celebrity billionaire with no prior political experience who catapulted himself into the White House by invoking his expertise as an businessman. The premise of Trump’s campaign was that America didn’t need a president – it needed a CEO.

Nowhere is the neoliberal faith embodied by Trump more deeply felt than in Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs work tirelessly to turn more of our lives into markets and devote enormous resources towards “disrupting” government by privatizing its functions. Perhaps this is why, despite Silicon Valley’s veneer of liberal cosmopolitanism, it has a certain affinity for the president. On Monday, Trump met with top executives from Apple, Amazon, Google and other major tech firms to explore how to “unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services”, in the words of Jared Kushner. Between Trump and tech, never before have so many powerful people been so intent on transforming government into a business.

But government isn’t a business; it’s a different kind of machine. At its worst, it can be repressive and corrupt and autocratic. At its best, it can be an invaluable tool for developing and sustaining a democratic society. Among other things, this includes ensuring that everyone receives the resources they need to exercise the freedoms on which democracy depends. When we privatize public services, we don’t just risk replacing them with less efficient alternatives – we risk damaging democracy itself.

If this seems like a stretch, that’s because pundits and politicians have spent decades defining the idea of democracy downwards. It has come to mean little more than holding elections every few years. But this is the absolute minimum of democracy’s meaning. Its Greek root translates to “rule of the people” – not rule by certain people, such as the rich (plutocracy) or the priests (theocracy), but by all people. Democracy describes a way of organizing society in which the whole of the people determine how society should be organized.

What does this have to do with buses or schools or hospitals or houses? In a democracy, everyone gets to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. But that’s impossible if people don’t have access to the goods they need to survive – if they’re hungry or homeless or sick. And the reality is that when goods are rationed by the market, fewer people have access to them. Markets are places of winners and losers. You don’t get what you need – you get what you can afford.

By contrast, public services offer a more equitable way to satisfy basic needs. By taking things off the market, government can democratize access to the resources that people rely on to lead reasonably dignified lives. Those resources can be offered cheap or free, funded by progressive taxation. They can also be managed by publicly accountable institutions led by elected officials, or subject to more direct mechanisms of popular control.

These ideas are considered wildly radical in American politics. Yet other places around the world have implemented them with great success. When Oxfam surveyed more than 100 countries, they discovered that public services significantly reduce economic inequality. They shrink the distance between rich and poor by lowering the cost of living. They empower working people by making their survival less dependent on their bosses and landlords and creditors. Perhaps most importantly, they entitle citizens to a share of society’s wealth and a say over how it’s used.

But where will the money come from? This is the perennial question, posed whenever someone suggests raising the welfare state above a whisper. Fortunately, it has a simple answer. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world. It is so rich, in fact, that its richest people can afford to pour billions of dollars into a company such as Uber, which loses billions of dollars each year, in the hopes of getting just a little bit richer. In the face of such extravagance, diverting a modest portion of the prosperity we produce in common toward services that benefit everyone shouldn’t be controversial. It’s a small price to pay for making democracy mean more than a hollow slogan, or a sick joke.




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          Why It Makes No Sense to Separate the White Working Class from the Black Working Class    
The media consistently radicalizes the white working class as noble; meanwhile the money is going to the top 1%.

This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

“After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”  —Barack Obama, Farewell Address, Chicago, January 2017

After three losses to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a trifecta last accomplished by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, there was much hand-wringing among Democrats about the loss of the South and the vanishing loyalty of Southern whites. William Galston and Elaine Kamarck at the Progressive Policy Institute argued that the electoral math made the South the true presidential battleground; that Democrats could not win by being more liberal or hoping to motivate black and poor voters to increase their voter participation. Thomas Edsall and Mary Edsall similarly warned in the pages of The Atlantic that the South was key, and it was lost because the liberal orthodoxy was too tied to race, and out of touch with white working-class voters.

“Liberal” candidates like Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis were out. Their message was deemed too Northern, elite, and alien to the needed Southern white voter. In was a candidate who could rebrand the Democratic Party and break liberal orthodoxy, proving the party could be tough on crime and defense, and reinvent welfare and the social state. This turned out to be Bill Clinton. Now, the defeat of Hillary Clinton has once again caused Democrats to argue about what is needed to win the white vote.

Countless articles have focused on what Democrats have done wrong. And much of the theme remains the same as in 1989—that there is a noble white worker who has been betrayed. Here is how the Edsalls portrayed one such voter back in 1989:

“You could classify me as a working-class Democrat, a card-carrying union member,” says Dan Donahue, a Chicago carpenter who became active in the campaign of a Republican state senator in 1988. “I’m not a card-carrying Republican—yet. We have four or five generations of welfare mothers. And they [Democrats] say the answer to that is we need more programs. Come on. It’s well and good we should have compassion for these people, but your compassion goes only so far. I don’t mind helping, but somebody has got to help themselves, you’ve got to pull. When you try to pick somebody up, they have to help. Unfortunately, most of the people who need help in this situation are black and most of the people who are doing the helping are white. We [white Cook County voters] are tired of paying for the Chicago Housing Authority, and for public housing and public transportation that we don’t use. They [taxpayers] hate it [the school-board tax] because they are paying for black schools that aren’t even educating kids, and the money is just going into the Board of Education and the teachers’ union.”

As President Barack Obama warned in his farewell address, this depiction of whites as hard-working, noble, and beset (compared with whom?) is nowhere to start a dialogue about an economy in which the real problem is that all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. The language presumes that there are not black workers who lost out to trade deals that sent thousands of auto-parts jobs from Flint, Michigan, to Mexico or shut steel mills in Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, echoed Obama on the risks of reinforcing Trump’s cynical manipulation of race and the white working class:

Anyone who talks about dividing people in the country as a solution is a threat to the country, to democracy, the economy, and to working people, and we take every one of those seriously.

Oddly, much of the hand-wringing comes after victories by Presidents Clinton and Obama, each of whom demonstrated both the complexity of the white vote and the fact that the black vote matters. A core challenge is that many voters misunderstand basic economics, leading them to vote against the interests of working America as a whole. Many Americans still hold the view articulated by the Edsalls’ late-1980s white voter that government is not the solution. And their misunderstanding has been reinforced by actions of recent presidents.

One of those was Bill Clinton. The pursuit of white voters by Clinton led to attacks on the Social Security Act, first on the premise that budget discipline was more important, and second on the assumption that Social Security’s aid to the poor was too generous and too much of a handout to black women. Clinton supported partial privatization of Social Security pensions. Even Obama, pursuing deficit cuts, flirted with cuts in the cost-of-living formula.

The Social Security Act, let’s recall, was intended to protect the income of working-class American families. Yes, it was an entitlement, and proudly so. Social Security was first denied to most black Americans, but then extended. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a core part of Social Security. Clinton’s view that single mothers should be written out of the act—for that is what the end of “welfare as we know it” meant—was not viewed as an attack on working people. But it was. Black women, who have historically had the largest labor force participation rate among all racial groups, and who work more hours than any racial group among women, were stigmatized as being made lazy because they finally had access to that part of the Social Security Act which had initially been denied them when it was passed.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the feeble successor to AFDC, removed a class of workers from Social Security protection. Because of the “Nannygate” scandal surrounding Clinton’s attorney general nominee, protections for domestic workers within the Social Security Act were watered down. Despite the ravaging effect of the Reagan-era downturn on unemployment insurance, the Clinton administration offered little to repair a state-based system that had gone bankrupt and then refinanced itself by cutting access to benefits and benefit levels.

THE HARD REALITY OF TODAY'S level of inequality is this: For an increasing share of the population—black and white—the market no longer works to serve basic needs like housing, health insurance, child care, or college education. As the share of income held by the middle 60 percent declines, the top 10 percent’s share continues to grow, and within that, the top 1 percent.

The effect of heavy concentrations of money in fewer hands means that market-based allocations of resources are dictated by a smaller set of decision-makers. Businesspeople react to where the money is, whether they are home-builders, college presidents, or day-care providers. In the market, price is used as the rationing device, and prices follow where the money is.

When the middle class dominated the economy, it meant that prices for key personal investments followed increases in the incomes of the middle class. The government stepped in with housing, health, and education policies to subsidize those in the bottom 20 percent whose incomes were not keeping pace, and who would be rationed out of housing, health, and education by a market outcome. Worsening income inequality meant rising demands on government programs to ensure fair access to health and education, as prices rose faster than low income. Through the 1990s, the effect of discrimination made blacks synonymous with the bottom 20 percent, as they were overrepresented in the bottom income group.

What has happened to more whites now is that the market has moved past them as well. Pricing for child care and college education, essentials for their children, are outstripping their income growth; instead, prices are tied to the growth in income for the top 1 percent in the case of college tuition. And whites in the bottom 20 percent of income, who hold considerably more wealth than blacks in any part of the income distribution, can no longer self-insure themselves against the bumps in the economy.

As it took almost 40 years to get to this point, in the near term no recipe of policy fixes will sufficiently remedy the effects. Democrats need to focus on reversing those long-term trends, but also must have something to offer workers now. But every year that Trump is in office, that goal becomes more difficult.

Union representation, a key element in reversing those trends, continues to fall. More states are likely to adopt “right to work” laws. It will be increasingly difficult to rebuild workers’ voice in deciding how corporate output will be divided between wages and profits. That is the greatest source of the rising inequality. The hollowing out of the middle is not the result of automation. Rather, it reflects the relative advantage of those workers more closely tied to management, who squeeze down the income share for the middle and below.

What Reagan achieved in the 1980s was the illusion that by letting the floor fall, the middle could be protected. Unfortunately, too many white workers still have a view of the economy fed by the Reagan framework of government’s role. The unabated concentration of income will make after-tax methods of redistribution more vital so that Americans can have access to housing, education, and health. The Affordable Care Act, a market-based approach to health access, is one example where the fix is inadequate to rising income inequality, and made worse because it naïvely assumed that states would expand public access to address the gap in affordability.

UNDER TRUMP, RACE WILL complicate the effort to devise palliatives to rising inequality until more effective remedies can take effect. His dismantling of anti--discrimination offices within the federal government will create new downward pressures on an already stressed black working class. And the decline in union membership is more dangerous to black workers, who have higher union density than white workers and who rely far more than whites on union bargaining power to get higher wages. Further, black union density is more heavily reliant on public-sector bargaining than is true for whites, and public-sector unions are a target of Trump, who will abet the attack on public-sector unions taking place at the state level.

Under Trump, the gap between the experience of black and white workers will grow. Trump has already changed the political discourse. He has revived a strain of Southern populism that allows for asserting white privilege.

For Democrats, the problem with language that emphasizes the white working class as a separate problem from rising inequality of income and wealth is that it will racialize the debate rather than emphasizing the common assault on all who are not rich. It evokes the negative part of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Hillary Clinton had a hard time convincing young black workers that welfare reform and mass incarceration weren’t key to the Clinton legacy. The lack of black enthusiasm for Clinton is as much a part of the story of 2016 as the enthusiasm of white voters for Trump.

Further, progressive forces in the Democratic Party have been too uncritical of Bernie Sanders’s inability to lay the proper foundation with the party’s African American base ahead of the primary season. It was curious during the 2016 primary season to see Republicans all hopped up about the “SEC primary” (so-called because the Southern states involved have flagship universities in the Southeastern Conference), but no mention among the Democrats of the SWAC primary (the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a complementary athletic conference of public historically black universities).

So, while in the fall of 2015 Republicans fawned over attending games between the University of Alabama and Auburn, not a peep was heard on the need for Democrats to be at a game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M. Black voters often determine the victor in the Southern Democratic primaries, but spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire would be a likely outcome of a party worried about white working voters.

Democrats need to spend more time developing a frame to combat inequality. They need to do a better job of explaining that income inequality is a threat to economic growth. They need to be spending time helping Americans take the blinders off and see that workers, of all races, are being given the shaft by a system where corporate greed has become an elite “entitlement.” They need to pull the Band-Aid off a false sense there is some white privilege that can spare some workers the wrath of America’s war on working people. They must fess up to their quiet, and sometimes vocal, support of an agenda that attacked America’s workers. They need to stop believing the problem confronting American workers is that they are uneducated or unskilled. They need to stop defining the white working class as the less-educated. Those are the perennial excuses meted out to black workers. Young black workers reacted angrily in 2016 to a perception that their pain was being ignored. They didn’t vote for Trump, but Clinton lost as much because they didn’t vote for her either as Trump won because white voters voted for him.

The Democrats won’t solve their electability issues repeating the debate about white voters that they had in the late 1980s. They need to focus on the urgency of the effect of income inequality on American democracy. They need to sound the alarm. And they need to wake up and see who they are in bed with. The power elite of the party think they have freed themselves of a dependency on union support. But the Wall Street vision of the economy is poison for workers of all races and for Democrats.

When the Republican Party of the 19th century cut its deal to end Reconstruction and concentrate on winning the white vote, it launched the Gilded Age and the unremittent growth of inequality that collapsed in the Great Depression. It was accompanied by a Southern populism that entrenched a harsh racial code. Trump’s victory puts us within reach of repeating that mistake in history. Democrats need to be wary, and shrewd. How they handle this could entrench the dystopia of more Trumps—or create a new multiracial coalition of class uplift.


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          La operación en trampantojo emprendida por Israel   

Abandonar Gaza para quedarse mejor con Cisjordania

Meron Rapaport
Le Monde diplomatique

Rechazo de un calendario preciso para la retirada de Gaza, amenazas de "un nuevo tipo de represalias" en los territorios ocupados...El primer ministro, Ariel Sharon, no abandona su política de fuerza y de este modo alimenta los proyectos más extremistas tanto israelíes como palestinos. En Cisjordania se acelera el ritmo de las construcciones, que han aumentado un 85% durante el primer trimestre de 2005.

Hace mucho calor en el checkpoint de Bekaot, a medio camino entre el valle del Jordán y Naplus. Un grupo de palestinos vuelve del primero en donde trabajan como obreros agrícolas en unas prósperas colonias israelíes por 50 shekels (9 euros) al día. Su jornada empezó a las 4 de la mañana y ahora vuelven a casa en Naplus y en los pueblos de los alrededores.

Pero los soldados no les dejan pasar y ni siquiera se toman la molestia de explicarles por qué. Ni uno de los soldados habla árabe, excepto para decir tashrikh (permiso) y ruch min hon (adelante). Hace una hora que observamos este punto de paso y los palestinos esperan tranquilamente, bajo un sol de plomo; sin duda esperan desde hace muchísimo más tiempo.

Todos los militares de este checkpoint pertenecen al regimiento ortodoxo (Nahal Haredi) que reagrupa a los colonos más extremistas y a otros jóvenes religiosos venidos de todo el país -incluida una pequeña fracción de judíos ortodoxos nacidos en Estados Unidos. Sobre el mirador que domina el punto de paso ondea al viento una bandera naranja. Es el color oficial del movimiento contra la retirada de Gaza: los colonos y sus partidarios ponen un lazo naranja en la antena de sus coches, llevan camisetas naranjas y comen caramelos naranjas.

Me dirijo a los soldados: "¿Qué hace esta bandera naranja aquí, en un puesto militar?". "Somos un regimiento antirretirada", me responde uno de ellos. "Si se nos pide tomar parte en la evacuación de las implantaciones, un 98% de nosotros se negará, incluido nuestro comandante. Pero yo no me contentaré con negarme, haré mucho más". Se niega a contarme más, pero otros soldados de este regimiento dan a entender que cuando comience la evacuación, ellos abandonarán el ejército, tomaran sus armas y se unirán al combate de los colonos de Gush Katif, en Gaza.

Las razones de Ariel Sharon

¿Desencadenará una guerra civil en Israel esta desconexión, que debería empezar a mediados de agosto?¿Llevarán la evacuación y destrucción del conjunto de las veinte colonias de Gaza y otras cuatro al norte de Cisjordania al desmoronamiento de la sociedad israelí?¿Constituyen el regimiento ortodoxo y otras unidades del ejército que incluyen una fuerte proporción de soldados religiosos y de extrema derecha la base de una organización armada secreta (OAS) a la israelí?

La mayoría de los responsables políticos y comentaristas responden negativamente a estas cuestiones. No, el ejército no se sublevará. No, no habrá una OAS local. No, Israel no conocerá una guerra civil. Sin duda es cierto, pero todo depende de la definición que se dé de una guerra civil -y, sobre todo, del verdadero significado del plan de desconexión.

Este plan nació, por una parte, de la presión interna y externa ejercida sobre el gobierno de Sharon y, por otra, de la voluntad de este último de aferrarse a una gran parte de Cisjordania (de un 45 a un 55%). Dov Weisglass, consejero del primer ministro y que pasa por ser el arquitecto de la operación, explicó lo siguiente en una célebre entrevista [1]: "En otoño de 2003 comprendimos que todo estaba bloqueado (...). Existe una erosión internacional [de la postura de Israel], una erosión interna; todo se viene abajo y la economía se encuentra en una situación infernal. Y cuando aparecen los acuerdos de Ginebra, estos consiguen un amplio apoyo. Después de ello vendrán las cartas de los oficiales, las de los pilotos [negándose a servir en los territorios ocupados]".

Según Weisglass, Sharon decide entregar Gaza, que nunca ha considerado "de interés nacional" para salvar las colonias de Cisjordania y, más importante todavía, impedir todo acuerdo negociado con los palestinos. "El objetivo de lo que hemos hecho es congelar el proceso de negociación. Y congelando el proceso de negociación, , impediros la creación de un Estado palestino e impediros discutir sobre la cuestión de los refugiados. (...) La desconexión comporta la dosis de formol suficiente y necesaria para que no haya proceso de negociación con los palestinos".

He aquí el credo de Sharon y la base sobre la cual ha construido su plan de desconexión. Y por ahora funciona. A pesar de la muerte de Arafat, al que los estadounidenses presentaban como un obstáculo para la paz, y la elección de Mahmud Abbas, su protegido, el primer ministro [israelí] ha logrado evitar que se reinicie cualquier diálogo político con los palestinos. La "hoja de ruta"[2], que se suponía iba a abrir una vía de negociación que llevaría a un Estado palestino, se ha convertido en letra muerta, exactamente como había predicho el consejero Weisglass.

El muro, que el Tribunal Internacional de La Haya había aconsejado desmantelar situando a Israel en una posición poco cómoda, sigue construyéndose rápida y profundamente en el interior de Cisjordania, mientras que el mundo entero desvía la mirada. A finales de 2005 este muro de nueve metros de altura rodeará unos 100 kilómetros de tierras palestinas ocupadas en Jerusalén Este y a los aproximadamente 200.000 palestinos que ahí viven.

Igualmente se están construyendo a una velocidad vertiginosa colonias en Cisjordania, especialmente entre el muro y la "línea verde" de 1967. Según un informe de la Oficina Central de Estadísticas publicado hace unas semanas [3], durante el primer trimestre de 2005 la construcción en Cisjordania ha aumentado un 83% (con 564 casas frente a las 308 de 2004), mientras que en el mismo periodo en Israel descendió un 25%.

Durante su última visita la secretaria de Estado estadounidense, Condoleeza Rice, criticó a Israel por ello, pero tímidamente. Ni siquiera tomó postura públicamente y se contentó con que uno de sus consejeros dijera a los medios de comunicación que había advertido "a funcionarios israelíes" sin, por otra parte, decir sus nombres: Estados Unidos no quiere que la construcción del muro y de las colonias "se convierta en un problema, pero se convertirá en un problema si continúa [4]". No es ésta el tipo de declaración que vaya a inquietar a Sharon y Weisglass...

Esta es la razón por la que los colonos se enfrentan a un auténtico dilema. Tienen que luchar contra el plan de desconexión en la medida en que la evacuación de las colonias judías supone un peligroso precedente, incluido por el tabú que el plan rompe en la sociedad israelí. Al mismo tiempo quieren consolidar su implantación en Cisjordania donde viven la mayor parte de ellos: 240.000 frente a 7.000 en Gaza. Por una parte quieren creer al general Sharon cuando les promete acelerar la construcción de colonias en Cisjordania. Pero, por otra se acuerdan de que el mismo Sharon, que se dispone a enviar al ejército a que vacíe Netzarim, aseguraba justo después de las elecciones de 2005 que "el destino de Netzarim será el destino de Tel Aviv [6]..."

Esta ambigüedad ha llevado a algunos observadores a hablar de un acuerdo secreto o tácito entre Sharon los colonos: estos últimos se manifestarán contra el plan de desconexión pero sin derrocar al gobierno y a cambio el primer ministro seguirá con la construcción del muro y de las colonias. Benny Kashriel, alcalde de Maale Adumin, una enorme colonia a 15 kilómetros al este de Jerusalén, declara públicamente: "Si Sharon se doblega ante los estadounidenses y detiene las obras en Cisjordania verá a los 240.000 colonos de aquí unirse a la lucha contra la desconexión de Gaza". ¿Acuerdo o amenaza apenas velada? Sea como sea por ahora la dirección oficial de los colonos, el Consejo de Yesha, mantiene el perfil bajo.

Esto no impide que la batalla contra la desconexión se haga cada vez más intensa. Todos los días a partir de ahora habrá manifestaciones. En todos los sectores de la comunidad de los colonos se hacen llamamientos a los soldados para que se nieguen a participar en las evacuaciones. El primer soldado insumiso, grabado en directo por la televisión, se ha convertido en un héroe: "Un judío no expulsa a un judío", gritó antes de ser detenido. Pero es demasiado pronto para decir si los colonos se preparan para enfrentarse con el ejército y el aparto de Estado o para una simple demostración de fuerza que les permita si no parar la desconexión de Gaza, en todo caso transformarla en un traumatismo de tal calibre que nadie se arriesgue a repetirlo en un futuro en Cisjordania.

Una de las razones que llevan a los colonos a evitar un verdadero enfrentamiento con el gobierno se debe a su fuerte presencia (y más generalmente a la del sector nacional-religioso [7]) en el seno del aparato de Estado. En realidad, su capacidad para influir en la política de los diferentes órganos del Estado supera ampliamente su representación en el seno del Parlamento, una quincena de diputados de un total de 120. Al más alto nivel son numerosos en los ministerios de Educación, de Justicia, de Construcción. Y ocupan puestos importantes en todos los departamentos que se ocupan de Cisjordania y Gaza.

Por ejemplo, la administración civil, departamento del ejército, se ocupa de los asuntos civiles en los territorios palestinos ocupados. Elige el emplazamiento de las nuevas colonias judías y se encarga de los inmuebles ilegales -tanto israelíes como palestinos. Ahora bien, este departamento, uno de los más "sensibles" puesto que trata de la cuestión decisiva de la tierras, está controlado casi completamente por los colonos, lo que no deja de influir en su actividad.

Así, un oficial de alto rango de la administración civil reveló que de 1998 a 2005 no se habían cumplido 2.500 órdenes de destrucción de casas construidas ilegalmente en las colonias. Pero ese mismo organismo cada año hace destruir realmente 300 casas palestinas. "El departamento de inspección es muy ideológico, muy de derechas, reconoce un ex -funcionario de la administración civil. Su director vive en una colonia próxima a Ramala. Convierten la vida de los palestinos en un infierno, pero cierran los ojos ante la construcciones judías ilegales". De hecho, según el informe de la abogada Talia Sasson presentado el pasado mes de marzo al primer ministro israelí, desde 1998 una red de colonos en el seno de diferentes departamentos y ministerios ha facilitado la construcción de más de 110 "puestos avanzados" ilegales [8].

Colonos infiltrados en el ejército

Lo que da quebraderos de cabeza al ejército es la gran proporción de colonos y nacional-religiosos en sus unidades de elite. Yagil Levi, autor de un libro sobre el ejército israelí [9], calcula que el 15% de los soldados y el 50% de los oficiales de rango inferior o medio de estas unidades son nacional-religiosos. Después de la guerra del Líbano de 1982, recuerda este sociólogo, la juventud asquenazí [10], liberal y surgida de las capas medias y que formaba el grueso de las unidades de elite, dejó de interesarse por el ejército y se compromete mucho menos con él. Su lugar lo han ocupado los jóvenes religiosos y nacionalistas: de creer al profesor Levi, el Estado mayor considera que son leales y fiables, en especial para las misiones en los territorios ocupados...

Pero, ¿cómo apoyarse en ellos actualmente? Por el momento de forma oficiosa muchos soldados han anunciado que se negarán a tomar parte en la evacuación de las colonias. De ahí la decisión de separar de esta operación a dos regimientos muy importantes, el Golani y el Givati, debido al fuerte porcentaje de nacional-religiosos que hay en ellos. El profesor Levi no cree que la desconexión de Gaza provoque un movimiento importante de desobediencia en el seno del ejército, a fortiori un motín generalizado. Le preocupa más el mañana.

Si algunos sectores del ejército se negaran a obedecer y si las relaciones entre los soldados religiosos y sus comandantes pusieran al Estado mayor bajo presión, éste último podría pedir al gobierno "que se olvidara" del ejército en futuras evacuaciones. En este caso las autoridades no tendían fuerzas suficientes para una "desconexión n° 2" -si es que tuviera que haber una. Ahora bien, esta nueva operación podría correr el riesgo de enfrentarse a una resistencia armada en Cisjordania donde algunas unidades sólo se componen de colonos y donde proliferan los ejércitos privados. Ahí y sólo ahí podría nacer una especie de OAS.

Dror Etkes conoce el mundo nacional-religioso desde dentro. Nacido en Jerusalén, estudió en una escuela de esta corriente y militó en el movimiento juvenil Bnei Akiva, un elemento importante de la creación del movimiento de los colonos. Ahora se ha convertido en su peor enemigo. Dirigente de "Paz Ahora", observa cada construcción en Cisjordania e informa de ello a la prensa, a los estadounidenses y a cualquier otra parte interesada. Durante una gira que efectuamos a finales de junio con un joven rabino de Forra, una colonia al norte de Ramala, éste nos dijo que rezaba cada día por la muerte de personas como Etkes porque "espían al pueblo judío".

Evidentemente, el militante pacifista no ignora nada de la infiltración de los colonos en el ejército y en otros órganos del Estado de Israel. Pero ve en su inmenso poder la fuente de su debilidad. "Los colonos están en lo alto de la colina, pero sus días están contados y la desconexión lo demuestra. Ellos mismos han creado unas contradicciones que no consiguen resolver. Si utilizan su poder en el ejército, se niegan a participar en la evacuación y consiguen que fracase la operación, en la opinión pública israelí perderán la legitimidad que con tantas dificultades han conquistado. Por el contrario, si permanecen en el ejército y obedecen las órdenes contribuirán al desmantelamiento de estas colonias que ellos consideran como lo más sagrado".

Según Etkes, el general Sharon es plenamente consciente de estas contradicciones y las utiliza. Hace algunos meses nombró al general Yair Nave, el oficial religioso de mayor grado, comandante del Frente central, que es responsable de Cisjordania. "Obligando a un oficial como Nave a elegir, Sharon ahonda el foso entre los componentes moderados y extremistas del campo nacional-religioso". En resumen, opina Etkes, la retirada sitúa a los colonos en una posición en la que sólo pueden perder. Su movimiento está condenado y la desconexión es solo un primer paso. Pero, ¿tendrá Israel la fuerza necesaria para desmantelar grandes colonias como Ofra, construida hace treinta años?. "Maimónides dice que no se pueden tener pruebas positivas de la presencia de Dios, sólo pruebas negativas: se puede decir lo que no es. Esto vale también para Ofra. No puedo decirle cómo lo erradicará Israel. Sólo sé que Ofra no puede permanecer ahí".

Como el sociólogo Yagil Levi y como el militante pacifista Dror Etkes, Zeev Sternhell, profesor de la universidad hebraica de Jerusalén, no cree que la presencia de una gran cantidad de soldados nacional-religiosos pueda influir en las posibilidades de éxito de la desconexión de Gaza. "Hay diez soldados por cada colono, lo que bastará para que el trabajo tenga éxito", opina este historiador. "El ejército ejecutará la política del gobierno; incluso podría aplicar una política más radical". Pero, ¿y el precedente argelino?. "No estamos en una situación comparable. Entre nosotros no hay un foso entre un ejército profesional y un ejército de reclutamiento. En Argelia los soldados reclutados contribuyeron a romper la sublevación de los generales [en 1961]: se negaron a seguirlos. Si la Legión Extranjera hubiera tenido el poder de decidir, las cosas habrían sido muy diferentes. En Israel no tenemos Legión".

Al historiador le preocupa otra cosa: "Estos colonos en el ejército y el aparato del Estado sólo tendrán una oportunidad si sienten al gobierno insuficientemente resuelto. Harán todo lo posible para desanimar a la opinión pública de apoyar el plan y para ganar tiempo. Si llegan a aplazar la desconexión siquiera unos días todo el proyecto corre el peligro de venirse abajo. Si el ejército siente que el gobierno no trabaja con decisión en la operación, tampoco se dará mucha prisa. Y no tenemos una sociedad civil capaz de tratar con el ejército". Zeev Sternhell observa que unas semanas antes de la evacuación no hay nada preparado para recibir a los 7.500 colonos de Gaza. Y se pregunta si el general Sharon es verdaderamente serio en este asunto. "Hay una posibilidad sobre dos de que la desconexión tenga éxito y esta posibilidad depende de la determinación del primer ministro y de los estadounidenses".

Hace algunos meses, dos israelíes -el periodista Akiva Eldar y la historiadora Idith Zertal- publicaron un libro monumental sobre la historia de la colonización, después de años de investigación [11]. En él describen la increíble expansión de esta política, que ellos consideran criminal y peligrosa. Sin embargo, se muestran más bien optimistas en el prefacio: "la mayoría de las colonias, incluso las más antiguas, parecen frágiles (...) El día en que la sociedad israelí encuentre en sí misma el poder de decidir abandonar los territorios que ella ha ocupado (...) ese día las colonias caerán una tras otra". Este no era el objetivo de Sharon y Weissglas cuando se embarcaron en su plan de desconexión. Pero quizá la historia los lleve ahí donde no querían ir. Entonces, y sólo entonces, Israel sabrá si no corre el riesgo de una aventura a la argelina...

*Meron Rapoport es periodista del diario Ha´aretz, Tel Aviv.


[1] Ha´aretz, Tel Aviv, 8 de octubre de 2004.

[2] N. de la R: Adoptada por el Cuarteto (Naciones Unidas, Estados Unidos, Unión Europea, Rusia) el 20 de diciembre de 2002 la "hoja de ruta" prevé principalmente el fin de toda violencia, la retirada de las fuerza israelíes a las posiciones ocupadas antes de la segunda Intifada, la congelación de toda colonización, la reforma de la Autoridad Palestina y la reanudación de las negociaciones con vistas a la creación de un Estado palestino ...en 2005.

[3] Ha´aretz, 5 de junio de 2005.

[4] Ha´aretz, 26 de junio de 2005.

[5] Colonia judía cercana a la ciudad de Gaza y a cuyas puertas el pequeño Mohamed al-Durra encontró la muerte a principios de la segunda Intifada.

[6] Ha´aretz, 24 de abril de 2002.

[7] Del nombre del Partido Nacional Religioso, un partido religioso y sionista durante mucho tiempo moderado que se radicalizó después de la guerra de 1967 y que desde entonces constituye la espina dorsal de la colonización.

[8] Cf. el informe de Talia Sasson: www.pmo.gov. il

[9] Yagil Levi, Une armée differente pour Israel, Yediot Aharonot-Hemed Books, Tel Aviv, 2003.

[10] N. de la t.: Los asquenazíes son miembros de comunidades judías de países europeos no mediterráneos.

[11] Véase la reseña de Joeph Algazu, "Seigneurs de l´occupation", Le Monde diplomatique, junio de 2005.

Fuertes enfrentamientos en el régimen de Sharon por la retirada de Gaza
Maximiliano Sbarbi Osuna
El ministro de finanzas Benjamín Netanyahu dio un portazo y rompió con el régimen de Sharón, creando una crisis porque la retirada israelí de Gaza daría ventaja al terrorismo palestino. Sin embargo, otras voces acusan a Israel de que el plan de desconexión es una pantalla para conservar gran parte de Cisjordania A cinco meses de una frágil tregua entre palestinos e israelíes, sobrevino lo que la sociedad israelí estaba esperando: las diferencias por la retirada de Gaza se están manifestando públicamente dentro del gabinete del dictador Ariel Sharón.El plan de desconexión unilateral impulsado por este gobierno causó malestar entre la población civil ocupante del territorio palestino de Gaza, la ultraderecha israelí, y los herederos políticos de Sharón que lo acusaron de traidor, siendo él mismo uno de los protagonistas del colonialismo israelí de los últimos 30 años.¿En qué consiste el plan de retirada unilateral?De acuerdo con la resolución 242/67 del Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas, Israel debe abandonar las zonas palestinas ocupadas en la Guerra de 1967. La ley internacional prohibe mantener ocupados sitios en tiempos de paz, aunque lo permita cuando hay disputas. La guerra con Palestina nunca ha sido declarada formalmente y actualmente han transcurrido cinco meses de una relativa paz.Muchos analistas consideran que la retirada de Gaza se está llevando a cabo para fijar los asentamientos en otra región ocupada: Cisjordania. Esta estrategia junto con la construcción de un muro o alambrado separador en este territorio, perimite redefinir las nuevas fronteras israelíes para el futuro.El famoso muro separa varias poblaciones palestinas de Cisjordania entre sí, lo que provoca su aislmiento. Gaza está separada de Cisjordania por el territorio israelí, es decir que de formarse el estado palestino, estaría no sólo partido en dos, sino que se asemejaría a los países ilegales creados por el gobierno sudafricano en la época del Apartheid: asentamientos solos rodeados por el territorio israelí. La Corte Internacional de Justicia dictaminó que el muro es ilegal, el 9 de julio del 2004, y que viola el derecho internacional, y exigió su desmantelamiento.A esto se le agrega la constante creación de poblaciones civiles desde 1967 en los territorios ocupados, lo que dificulta notablemente la retirada. Esta estrategia se ve impedida por el problema de trasladar asentamientos civiles y reubicarlos en territorio israelí.La retirada de Gaza debería comenzar el 18 de agosto, pero podría retrazase de dos a cuatro semanas.Renuncia de NetanyahuEl ex dictador israelí y hasta ahora ministro de Fiananzas, Benjamín Netanyahu, ha presentado la renuncia a su cargo criticando duramente el plan de desconexión por considerarlo contrario a Israel y beneficioso para Palestina y para los grupos terroristas islámicos.Con esta actitud, Netanyahu, de gran peso político, inicia una grave crisis en este gobierno de coalición formado por partidos derechistas (como el Likud) y de centro izquierda (como el Laborismo).Visiblemente enojado, Netanyahu anticipó una catástrofe para el estado de Israel: "Abú Mazen (presidente palestino) dice que la retirada de Gaza se trata sólo de la primera fase y que después llegarán a Jerusalén, mientras las demás organizaciones terroristas afirman que es el comienzo de la liberación de toda Palestina".Este discurso conservador promueve el miedo en la sociedad israelí, lo cuál la endurece más a la hora de votar a sus gobernantes. De esta manera, Netanyahu busca distanciarse de Sharón y ser opositor dentro de su partido.Además, el ex ministro se va del gobierno con una imagen positiva, ya que como impulsor de la economía neoliberal ha traído beneficios macroeconómicos a Israel, sacó al país de una crisis económica y privatizó empresas públicas deficitarias, lo que le permitió bajar los impuestos públicos. Este último logro ensombreció sus desastres con respecto a la distribución de la riqueza. Aparentemente, Netanyahu está su construyendo su propio camino con aspiraciones electorales.Maximiliano Sbarbi Osuna / Rebelión
          Valle de los Caídos: derecho, información y poder.   

Hace unos años escribí sobre la retirada de la estatua de Franco en Madrid, realizada con nocturnidad y alevosía por el Gobierno nacional. Las cosas no parecen haber cambiado mucho. La decisión se tomo entonces recién aprobada Ley de Memoria Historia (LMH) y sin preguntar a los madrileños; asunto que me parecieron mal.

En aquella ocasión relacione el acto con la practica legal romana de dejar a aquel que asaltaba una casa particular en manos de su dueño para que dispusiera como gustase de su vida (desde esclavizarlo a matarlo, pero también dejarlo libre). Hoy día esta solución nos puede parecer excesiva, pues quien no podría aprovechar para fingir o simular dichos asaltos con el fin de vengarse o ajustar cuentas personales (los romanos lo hacían), sin embargo, su fundamento se encontraba en el respeto y delimitación correctas de las esferas publica y privada, de lo común y de lo privativo, en el fondo de los derechos que a cada cual correspondían. Los romanos consiguieron, y he ahí su grandeza, conjugar dos tradiciones opuestas, ambas de origen griego y que en su momento habían dividido a la sociedad ateniense: la “vida cívica” de Solon y Pericles, pero también en las versiones críticas o realistas de Platón o Aristóteles, con aquellas creencias de estoicos o hedonistas en el individualismo y la exhaltación de la vida privada e interior. Fue la traición a dichos ideales lo que acabo con Roma, siendo las otras causas (conversión en Imperio, persecución o asimilación del cristianismo, intervencionismo económico) meras consecuencias del abandono de sus principios, haciendo buena la máxima de que la crisis moral es el primer cáncer de las sociedades políticas, siendo la crisis institucional o la económica su continuación natural. Nada de esto ha dejado de ser cierto.

Volviendo a la Estatua de Franco, que es en realidad a la LMH, a la Guerra Civil española, la Dictadura y finalmente a los fundamentos de nuestro orden político y social democrático, estos días hemos tenido noticia de la apertura de tumbas en el Valle de los Caídos. Familiares de soldados del ejercito republicano durante la Guerra habrían reivindicado la identificación de los restos de sus fallecidos supuestamente allí enterrados. La noticia no esta en este hecho, perfectamente respetable, sino en que el acto habría sido ocultado a la opinión pública deliberadamente (después de anunciarse que no se haría) y realizado sin autorización judicial (autorización a la que obliga la propia LMH). Por otro lado la LMH reconoció, con el apoyo de todas las fuerzas políticas con representación parlamentaria, a este monumento como lugar de culto y apoyaba su despolitización.

John Stuart Mill consideraba a la centralización de la información (es decir resolver el problema de su dispersión natural y el ocultamiento interesado) y la limitación del poder como dos factores esenciales de una sociedad libre. Uno y otro están relacionados, dando lugar a su defensa de la libertad de expresión y Prensa más absolutas. Para Mill, solo los individuos bien y suficientemente informados, pero sin demasiado poder como para que puedan usar dicha información en exclusivo beneficio propio, hacían a una sociedad libre y justa (tal vez pecase de demasiado optimismo, pero eso es otro tema). Desde el principio la actuación del gobierno en relación al Valle… ha significado la búsqueda de todo lo contrarío. El cierre del monumento y su basílica con fines de restauración se hizo casi de tapadillo, apenas mencionado en la Prensa. Conozco de personas, de izquierdas y de derechas, españolas y extranjeras, que se han quedado sin visitarlo por esta razón, lo que supone un daño a un bien que también es una atracción turístico. Hemos echado de menos una comparecencia pública de la Ministra de Cultura y de los responsables de Patrimonio Nacional (ahora será Patrimonio del Gobierno de España) explicando cúal es la situación real del monumento y despejando así las dudas sobre cuales son verdaderos intereses.

Vivimos en un país en que para secuestrar una publicación es necesario el concurso de un juez y en el que se mantiene la ancestral costumbre procesal penal de que sin autorización judicial no pueda levantarse un cadáver. Por el contrario, tenemos que una menor pueda abortar, aplicarse la eutanasia pasiva un enfermo, expropiar propiedades, y en un futuro tal vez hasta cerrar webs, sin que un juez de su visto bueno a priori a tales actuaciones. Curioso e inquietante ¿verdad?, pues tan relevantes para los derechos y libertades de los ciudadanos son unas y otras. En el caso del Valle… el Gobierno abre tumbas, cierra un lugar de culto e impide el disfrute público de un monumento que es Patrimonio Nacional (que recordemos, la Constitución hace gozar de una protección por las leyes penales y no solo las civiles) reclamo turístico, ocultando cual es su autentico estado de conservación.

El gobierno socialista se sitúa, una vez más, en las antípodas del liberalismo de Mill y del respeto al derecho de la Roma clásica, mantiene desinformados a los ciudadanos y hace uso y abuso de su poder, no por democrático menos ilegitimo cuando se actúa así. 

Esta claro que Roma no cayo en un día, pero por algún sitio se empieza.

          8 Emmys para "The Pacific"   

Con 8 Emmys (lástima que no este entre ellos su magnifica banda sonora) ha sido premiada la magnífica miniserie bélica producida por Steven Spielberg y Tom Hanks. Los 10 episodios de The Pacific continuan la narración de los grandes episodios de la Segunda Guerra Mundial iniciada en 2001 con la también miniserie Band o f Brothers (en español titulada Hermanos de Sangre, fue emitida por Telecinco a las tantas de la madrugada de los viernes) solo que ahora le toca el turno a las operaciones en el Pacifico contra le Imperio del Japón. Fue emitida esta primavera por Canal + casi al mismo tiempo que en los USA, y solo puedo decir que ha sido para mi una experiencia impresionante a varios niveles.

Técnicamente impecable, han pasado 9 años de la anterior serie, ya de gran calidad, pero los medios con los que cuenta -un presupuesto de más de 200 millones de dolares- en nada tienen que envidiar a los de muchas películas comerciales (el resultado puede verse en los vídeos que acompañan este texto). Banda sonora y efectos de sonido y sobre todo la fotografía te meten de lleno en el axfixiante escenario bélico de las Islas del Pacífico. En el plano de las interpretaciones estas rozan un alto nivel en todos sus actores tanto principales como secundarios, destacando el carisma de John Seda en su papel del héroe de guerra, John Basilone.

Conceptual y temáticamente se trata de una obra arriesgada, recibiendo algunas criticas menores acusándola de racista y por su exceso de violencia explicita en pantalla, en la linea realista de filmes como Salvar al Soldado Ryan (del propio Spielberg) y posteriores. Basada en la experiencia de tres marines de la 1º División de este cuerpo: Robert Leckie, Eugene B. Sledge y ya mencionado héroe en las batallas de Guadalcanal e Iwo Jima, John Basilone, presenta con toda crudeza la campaña del pacífico por parte de los marines de los EEUU, luchando isla por isla y cuerpo a cuerpo con los soldados japoneses.

La anterior serie, Band of Brothers respondía a la necesidad de recuperar la memoria de la "Guerra en Europa" y su "Generación Perdida" en una época en la que está empezaba a menguar por la muerte de sus últimos supervivientes y la llamada al "Fin de la historia" que fueron los 90 del siglo pasado -con sus guerras televisadas y de ejecución aséptica desde el aire. The Pacific, a parte de continuar dicho memorial con los Marines, -cuerpo cuya supresión se considera hoy por lo caro de su mantenimiento y la ausencia de operaciones militares anfibias- tiene una segunda lectura a nivel más profundo y en clave moderna. Si la de Band of Brothers podía ser una crítica al clásico "aislacionismo" republicano, el de la Old Rigth previo a la era del "consenso liberal", con el que se iniciaba la era Bush -y rápidamente roto por los atentados del 11-S-, la de The Pacific me lleva a relacionar la cruenta lucha a muerte contra el Imperio del Japón con la actual Guerra contra el Terrorismo islámico. La convicción de que la Guerra del Pacífico solo pudo ganarse con un máximo de sufrimiento y manchándose las manos de sangre, puede servir de inspiración ante las dudas que despiertan hoy los teatros de operaciones en Afganistan e Irak.

Los estadounidenses solo pudieron dejar Japón cuando dicha nación fue derrotada militarmente, aceptando sus responsabilidades y siendo asimilada en lo político a los regímenes democráticos coocidentales. No es arriesgado ver en los soldados japones, dispuestos a morir matando y negándose a rendirse al enemigo, a los actuales guerrilleros talibanes, terroristas de Al Qaida o ex-miembros de la Guardia Republicana de Sadam. Como dejo escrito en sus memorias el soldado Sledge:

"There is no 'mellowing' for me - that would be to forgive all the atrocities the Japanese committed against millions of Asians and thousands of Americans. To 'mellow' is to forget."
Sustituyan donde pone "japoneses" por las palabras terroristas y regímenes islámicos radicales. Y donde "asiaticos" y "americanos" pongan musulmanes, estadounidenses, europeos, etc.

En resumen, The Pacific es una serie dramática y bélica de primera categoría, que encierra ciertas lecciones históricas de gran interés, y que seguro no deja indiferente a nadie, por eso recomiendo a todos mis lectores su visionado.

Trailer extendido.

Gran diseño el de los títulos de apertura de cada capitulo, acompañados del emotivo y épico tema central de su BSO.

Making of.

          Facebook se equivoca... ¿o no?   

Me entero por Elmundo.es que los responsables de Facebook han bloqueado una página instalada en esta red social y que permitía a los usuarios eliminar por completo su perfil. La página en cuestión, que recibe el nombre de Suicide Machine 2.0, permitía eso mismo, el “suicidio” de nuestro perfil y su completa desaparición de la red social. Aunque no cuestiono el derecho que asiste a Facebook, en cuanto propietario de la red social, a gestionar sus contenidos (lo que incluye el derecho de admisión y el establecimiento de las normas de estancia), si encuentro algunas objeciones a su proceder en este caso.

No es la primera vez que se bloquea un servicio similar (antes lo fue otra pagina llamada Seppukoo) de “suicidio digital”. La decisión parece ir en la dirección de impedir que existan “facilitadores” en el proceso de dar de baja su perfil. De ser así, Facebook estría cometiendo varios errores graves. El primero sería atentar contra el sagrado principio de autonomía personal y que trasladado al campo que nos ocupa consiste en el derecho que nos asiste a pertenecer o no una red social y según nuestra voluntad a dejar de serlo, cumpliendo, eso si, con las normas básicas que pueda establecer el propietario de la red. Cierto que aceptamos someternos a unas normas de baja cuando nos damos de alta, sin embargo todas esas normas, por muy razonables que a veces sean, no pueden suponer un impedimento total a la baja o causar un grave perjuicio al usuario en el proceso. Dado que los impedimentos no tiene que provenir de la “maldad intrínseca” que solemos atribuir a todo proveedor de servicios de Internet, sino que incluso son consustanciales y necesarios para el propio servicio que se presta, por eso no es raro que surjan “facilitadores” de los procesos de baja (y por qué no, de los de alta). Nada, pues, habría que objetar a la existencia de este tipo de intermediarios en el mercado.

Si bien, resulta difícil aceptar que en tu propio servicio puedan publicitarse y actuar libremente sujetos que promocionan y aportan los medios para una acción que va contra tu interés empresarial, que es tener el mayor numero usuarios posibles. Facebook puede ver en ello una práctica coactiva y contraria a su libertad de empresa, y no va a quedarse sentada sin hacer nada. Pero aquí surge mi segunda gran objeción: es muy discutible que tal practica sea por si sola antiempresarial. El deseo de darse de baja por parte del usuario es previo a los medios disponibles y no incitado por el creador de la página (siempre claro que partamos del paradigma liberal de que la necesidad o demanda es siempre anterior a la existencia de la oferta con la que el operador en el mercado trata de satisfacerla). Además, su represión, aceptando que hay un perjuicio empresarial inmediato (la baja automática de un usuario), podría ir contra uno de los principios fundacionales de esta red. Desde su creación, Facebook permite a sus usuarios desarrollar aplicaciones y funcionalidades varias. Vale, dirán que no es lo mismo crear testes, juegos o aplicaciones para costumizar nuestro perfil, las cuales explotan las posibilidades y beneficios del servicio, que un programa destinado a darnos baja en el mismo servicio. Pero dentro de la gran comunidad de usuarios bien puede demandarse esta opción, que no necesariamente conlleva la perdida de usuarios netos. Por poner solo un ejemplo, puede usarse para eliminar perfiles falsos y anónimos que muchos usurarios crean por pura diversión, para experimentar o para disfrutar de un mayor anonimato, y que de lo contrario con el tiempo quedarían abandonados por las molestias de una baja gestionada personalmente. A medio-largo plazo prescindir de este tipo de paginas podría afectar la eficiencia de la red e incluso evitar la entrada de nuevos usuarios desincentivados por los obstáculos a la baja (“barreras de salida” para el consumidor).

No hay duda de que por razones de principio y racionalidad empresarial Facebook se equivoca persiguiendo este tipo de páginas; pero no querría dejar de analizar algunas razones legítimas que pueden asistirle en su decisión contra Suicide Machine 3.0 o Sepukko. Una de ellas es proteger la integridad del sistema del que es propietario y gestor. Habría que averiguar si estos programas hacen algo que no pueda llevarse a cabo manualmente por el propio usuario, estos es, si se limita a acelerar el proceso ó lo altera de alguna manera que afecte a la configuración de la red. En esta última situación y por razones de seguridad, Facebook estaría sin duda legitimado para bloquear la actividad de estas páginas. Otra razón legítima es proteger los derechos contractuales de sus usuarios, con efectos durante y expost de la baja. Por ejemplo, se me ocurre que Facebook guarda durante un tiempo información de los perfiles eliminados por si el usuario se arrepiente y quiere volver a la situación anterior a su baja. Si estos programas anulan esta garantía u otras (por ejemplo, la protección de los datos del usuario frente a terceros, si la aplicación que gestiona la baja extrajese información a favor de los creadores de este tipo de programas para otros fines distintos del servicio dado), Facebook puede sentirse obligado a actuar en defensa de sus usuarios.

En definitiva los responsables de Facebook deben aclarar cuales son los motivos verdaderos que los llevan a bloquear este tipo de páginas y aplicaciones (proteger la seguridad de la red y los derechos de sus usuarios) y no otras que me parecen estar menos justificadas. De lo contrario puede inducir en la opinión pública la idea de que esta red social nos trata como algunos proveedores de Internet a sus clientes (intente cambiarse de suministrador de conexión a internet) y, en cambio, no persigue, como es debido, otras actividades y paginas en su red que si son cuestionables.

PD: una reacción al bloqueo por parte de Facebook de estas páginas ha sido la inmediata creación de grupos de apoyo dentro de la propia red social como, por ejemplo, No Censure (Seppukoo, Suicide Machine) o Que Facebook Cree Una Aplicacion Como Suicide Machine.

          Middlebury College   

A placid setting for a great school. For an alphabetical index of the New England College series of pieces, click here. One hour due south of Burlington, Vermont, Middlebury College educates 2,500 undergraduates in a placid setting on a beautiful campus. This is a highly rated liberal arts school and, if not the most famous, … Continue reading Middlebury College

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          Oh, to be home.   
'Oh, we don't want to lose you...'
(Paul Reubens)
'I shall go home, alone;
And must try to live life as before,
And hide my grief
For you, my dearest friend,
Who should be with me now,
Not cold, too soon,
And in your grave,
Alone.' (Guy Wilson)
O western wind, when wilt thou blow
    That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
    And I in my bed again!
Does home seep beyond the clothing of our mortal flesh, permeating that hidden heart of the everlasting soul? If ghosts retain their human feelings, would those feelings drive them to try to go home? Would they long for it, as those of us who love our homes and yet must venture far from them, so long to return? So much WWI and WWII war propaganda billed the home as that which one must be prepared to sacrifice in order to maintain it when threatened. The homestead itself became a thing of essential essence, the very threads we contribute to the tapestry of our collective, lived landscapes. The sanctity of home to everyday men and women became the lynchpin for duty; the sacred crux of society. It is hardly surprising that home became a central fantasy for those soldiers, sailors, airmen, doctors, nurses, etc., and the haunting presence of such is liberally scattered through the artefacts they created abroad: letters, diary entries, poetry. The consequences of WWI and WWII was that a large portion of men and women, who ventured bravely from their homes to save them, would never return. And, in turn, those gaping absences would change the homes of those left behind forever.
These thoughts were compounded by the chance discovery of a small entry concerning the ghost of Rupert Brookes (contributed by Dr A.I. Copeland to Marchioness Townshend & Maude Ffoulkes' True Ghost Stories, first published by Hutchinson & Company in 1936). Copeland's experience occurred in 1919, four years after Brookes had died from blood poisoning following an infected mosquito bite in Greece. The story itself is a simply one: Copeland was renting rooms in the Old Vicarage, in Grantchester, where Brookes had formerly lived. One evening, whilst sitting by the fire, Copeland heard the sound of footsteps making their way around the house toward the French windows of his sitting room. Upon inspection, no one was there, and it seemed impossible that anyone could have made those footsteps and found cover before he looked through the windows. When enquiring of this to his landlord, a Mr Neave, he was promptly told that such an occasion was not unusual, and that, since Brookes had died, his footsteps had often been heard making the same journey. 
Brookes seems the ideal candidate for such a haunting. His poetry reveals a deep, romantic affection for England; a sentiment that seems to have resonated in him from early life. While some of Brookes' work has been sucked into nationalist thinking (indeed, a good chunk of his poetry is explicitly patriotic, and compounds the obligation to fight for one's country), I think what he communicates is the tenderness of remembered belonging in a time where place and self have been fractured, of being connected to a sense of home that extends the premise of bricks and mortar and reaches into all the nooks and crannies of the land itself. It is the waiting glue that will fix the wounded traveller when they are able to return, as well as the very beacon that calls them to return. This sense of home becomes an essence, something intangible that is carried in the mind, that stretches a non-corporeal chord to anchor in the familiar. It becomes an icon, to glorify, that gives meaning to the horrendous agonies caused in war. Of course, 'England' and 'home' mean more than their physical manifestations; they mean people, lifestyles, a continuation of history.
In The Soldier, Brookes writes
  If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
Death in war can give rise to a plethora of ghosts, for the dead are not accorded with the burial rites attributed by their society, and so cannot be properly passed over by their living kith and kin. In Brookes' poem, the dead body becomes synonymous with its home, that 'bore [it], shaped [it], made [it] aware'. He recognises the fear and tragedy of dying away from home, of being potentially lost in a 'corner of a foreign field'. Recently, having been attuned to memorials as part of my book's research, I've been touched by the number of beautiful WWI and WWII memorials that exist to commemorate legacy and sacrifice where bodies cannot be lovingly tucked into their native earth. There is a bounty of these memorials, strewn throughout the landscape, each settlement offering up its recognition of all that was given to preserve it. What do we do when we don't have the body to bury? We make memorials, and we encourage our fellows to never forget. Remembrance is the best we can do to give the dead their dues, and to note and reward their sacrifice.  
WWI and WWII created mammoth craters of absence, and during a time when the comforting afterlife suggested by Christianity was a crumbling on its platform as that pedestal began to tip away from certainty, its framework coming increasingly into scientific questioning. I'm a fan of the cosy crime genre, and am particularly fond of three series of books involving young female detectives in the early 20th century. Interestingly, now I think about it, that all three echo that absence. From Daisy Dalrymple in the 1920s, to Maisie Dobbs and Kate Shackleton in the 1930s, these three young women have all lost their fiancées/husbands to WWI. The Dalrymple series, which is lighter in tone, finds the heroine resettled with a widower, but Dobbs (in the early books) and Shackleton are cast adrift, unable to really invest in a new relationship as they are unable to let go of that planned future so cruelly shattered. Shackleton's position is more precarious, as her husband is listed as 'missing, presumed dead'. Again, without that certainty a body provides, time slips into a limbo. Instead of love, they turn to their work, and their desire to help those who have similarly been damaged by the aftermath of WWI.
These wars punched a hole in our history; they consumed a mass of lineages, leaving countless marriages broken, and hundreds and hundreds of children that would never be born. And those who came back did not meet what they had left behind: they were changed and this could not be undone. JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings demonstrates this, with his idyllic Shire a representation of an innocent, green, settled England. For ghosts, however, perhaps things continue as they were. If the 'stone tape' theory of ghost activity is true, then there is an echo of Brookes making his journey home, again and again, over and over. Imagining that, for a moment... and so, if some corner of a foreign field is forever England, then some corner is elevated to home.  
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
(Robert Laurence Binyon)

          Sea of Hope   
Like many internationalist liberals, I have found the last couple of weeks desperately depressing. The tone of the debate has been divisive, and the outcome even more so. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that many more of my fellow citizens than I imagined held the views that shaped the outcome. Then we hear of … Continue reading Sea of Hope
          The lessons of history   
There was a chilling inevitability about the findings of the Chilcot report. I was at a political crossroads in 2003. Today, I rewatched Charles Kennedy’s speech which was seminal in my decision to actively support the Liberal Democrats. It beggared my belief that a British Prime Minister would commit our Armed Forces to the invasion … Continue reading The lessons of history
          Wrestling's hottest heel loves Hillary Clinton and hates Fox News   

While WWE hurtles toward SummerSlam, its annual summer showcase, there's another name in pro wrestling that's pulling the headlines in a time of political turmoil: The Progressive Liberal Dan Richards.

It's not that Richards is a bad guy who just so happens to be a progressive liberal. For fans of the  Appalachian Mountain Wrestling (AMW) promotion, he's a bad guy (or "heel" in wrestling terms) specifically because he's a progressive liberal. He does, though, clearly relish playing up the "condescending liberal angle." 

SEE ALSO: Guy from Kings of Leon learns not to come for pro wrestling fans on Twitter Read more...

More about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Pro Wrestling, Daniel Richards, and Culture
          Meatball Calzones-easy!   
I decided to make Meatball Calzones last night, and kind of winged it as far as recipes go. I wanted easy-to-use, convenient items and I wanted it to be yummy.
Here's how I did it. I mixed up a batch of Pioneer Woman's pizza crust, which you can find here. I did this about 3:30 in the afternoon before the After-School-Witching-Hour began, and to give it a good hour to rise. If you don't want to make crust from scratch, I'm sure a tube of the refrigerated stuff would be fine.
Once the dough is ready, roll it out into a big rectangle on a floured surface and cut into smaller rectangles of your choice. I got about six good-sized Calzone/Pizza Pockets out of this recipe of dough.
I said I was all about convenience, so I used frozen meatballs. I buy the big bag of walmart brand Italian style meatballs to have on hand. Heat however many you need in the microwave, I did about six per Calzone. This is basically to thaw them out.
Place meatballs on one side of each rectangle. Sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle a liberal amount of cheese...mozzarella...colby jack....either is fine. Fold the naked half over onto the topping half and pinch closed all the way around. Place on sprayed cookie sheet.
Once all your calzones are on the cookie sheet, whisk an egg white with some italian seasoning, and brush the tops. This will make them a pretty golden brown. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven until nice and golden brown on top.
Serve with a side of spaghetti sauce (from a jar is fine! That's what I did). Gobble them up.
The easier-to-read version (I don't know how to make a 'printable' on here?! Hmmm).
Pizza dough
Frozen meatballs
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Shredded Cheese
Italian Seasoning
Egg White
Roll dough. Cut into rectangles. Place meatballs, powders, and shredded cheese on half of each rectangle, and then fold over and pinch shut. Brush tops with the egg white/italian seasoning mix. Bake at 450 till golden brown. Serve with marinara.

          The Liver - Super Foods & Supplements    
Liver Super Foods

Published on May 30, 2017
Source - American Liver Foundation Great Lakes Division

In The News
Go Easy on the Avocado Toast: ‘Good Fat’ Can Still Be Bad for You, Research Shows
By on

          Tree Don't Care What A Little Bird Sings   

I have not read much of Robert Fogel's work, not much at all, but I may need to read more of it. A Fine Theorem, one of the more under-appreciated blogs, has a summary of Fogel's Without Consent or Contract. Here's part of it:
... the paradox rests on the widely held assumption that technological efficiency is inherently good. It is this beguiling assumption that is false and, when applied to [American] slavery, insidious.”  

Roughly, it was political change alone, not economic change, which could have led to the end of slavery in America. The plantation system was, in fact, a fairly efficient system in the economic sense, and was not in danger of petering out on its own accord.
Here's the rest.

There are multiple views of the politics of technology. (Technology is, at its core, information aggregation.) One says that technology is liberating. Another says that technology is enslaving. Another says that technology is fueled by the state for purposes of control. (Oddly, skeptics of markets often make the first point of that point without understanding that the second point is the corollary.) Technology can destabilize the political equilibrium (but does that only apply if it goes in one direction? I doubt it). It's worth googling a bit for the views of Farrell, Drezner, and Lynch on this. It's worth noting that modern authoritarian regimes try to get to the technological frontier as rapidly as possible but they tend to have a tough time managing it. Francis Spufford's Red Plenty is on sale at Amazon right now, if you don't mind probably giving some of your metadata to the NSA.

Sarah Jaffe (on Twitter) asked for a political economy of the surveillance state. (Here's a short take, not very good.) I haven't got the time or background knowledge to build a real model, but if I was going to I'd start with Tilly and Scott and Weber at the foundation and ask what purpose this really serves. Knowledge is power, is it not? Power is needed for protection (in the Tillian sense), is it not? After that I'd go to Orwell like everyone already is, but not the dystopian cliches. Remember in 1984 that Winston Smith was pretty much the only one in society bothered by Big Brother. (Probably not, if you've read your Timur Kuran, but as far as Smith could tell he nearly enough was.) Everybody else just got on with it. The proles sang their songs and read their magazines. Sure, Julia was a bit inconvenienced by the whole thing, but it's not like she really had principles.

Now think about Havel. Now think about samizdat. Is information so easily controllable? Can the state not oppress on the basis of allegation, innuendo, or missing data? Can the citizenry not resist simply by living? Does the state need all information to "keep the locals in line" or just a vague threat -- the vaguer the better? Corey Robin addresses this and gives a precis of his book on the politics of fear. Stalin didn't have Bukharin's metadata... just the ability to credibly say "we know where your kids are". That hasn't changed. Yglesias is right: the biggest thing to fear from the surveillance state isn't the state, per se. But that's a micro story, and micro stories can dictate macro policies.

The U.S. public is not concerned about this. To the extent they are it's for partisan reasons, not out of principle. Note that this is not new. Note that, so far, it appears that these programs are legal at least in broad terms. Intellectuals are more concerned that the median pollee, as they should be, since they are much more likely to be targeted than a randomly-selected person. (If I was Glenn Greenwald I'd go back to snail mail and pay phones for a good long while.) But so? Democratic politics does not guarantee puppies and roses. As we debate whether or not this is constitutional we should remember that James Buchanon's insights do not only apply to economic policy. We should also remember that politicians and celebrities have been subject to heavier levels of scrutiny than this for as long as there has been human society.

Data, even metadata, can be used for ill. (Or good, as the case may be, since the 21st century version of Paul Revere is probably someone Healy wouldn't meet for a beer at Ye Olde Tavern. Possibly this isn't what Healy's driving at.) But let's not get carried away. The U.S. government is sophisticated in many ways, but this program has only $20mn in funding. Let's say they spend $5mn of that on high-powered computers (that's probably less than what the supercomputer I ran a bunch of my dissertation on cost), and the rest on twenty-somethings making $200k/year each (as Snowden apparently did). That's 75 guys trying to make sense of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. Good luck with that. (No I don't believe only $20mn was funneled into this. Not for a moment do I believe that. But I'm not sure how much $20bn could really do absent some good old fashioned police work.)

So after you've read the Spufford (or even before) you might want to read some of the discussion at Crooked Timber on the book. See especially this wonderclass by Shalizi which has as much to say about social science theory and methods as it does about historical political systems or the contemporary political economy of the surveillance state or novels. The key question is Shalizi's first one: what is being optimized?

Then recall that Hayek's slippery slope is a logical fallacy to which the historical record is not kind. Should we be less concerned? Probably depends on how concerned you were in the first place... anonymity is a myth.

Remember too that the government oppresses and kills and makes terrible decisions when it doesn't have good intelligence. Given that, is the expected utility of (American or other) society better or worse with PRISM or without it? Apparently this program stopped one or more attacks at the London Olympics. What would the cost of those attacks have been? Was preventing them worth $20mn dollars plus some false positives? (The TSA spends $6.5 billion a year and probably gets almost nothing for it.) Could PRISM have stopped Nidal Hasan had it been better-implemented? If it could have, would it be worth it? We are quite literally behind the veil of ignorance at the moment (just a bit less in the wake of Snowden's leaks), but if we take engaged citzenry to be a desirable normative end in itself we need to put our Bayesian caps on now and start updating our priors.

What tail event has a greater probability: that this program is abused in such a way that it devastates liberal society, or that it prevents a significant attack the fallout from which would devastate the same society?

In the end the biggest repercussions of NSA spying might be felt in the US-EU trade negotiations.

Nevertheless, I oppose PRISM and related programs very strongly. I do so because I am not risk-averse.

I believe this is the most Cowen-esque thing I've ever written. I also believe that every link in this post is worth clicking on.
          The Tiananman Square Protests Weren't Liberal   
One of my favorite blogs is Echoes, subtitle "Dispatches from Economic History", at Bloomberg. There isn't a unifying theme other than contextualizing current events by looking to past episodes. The authors are experts on each topic -- i.e. there aren't just one or several folks writing every day -- and I almost always learn something from the post.

For example, that the Tiananman Square protests weren't exactly liberal. The author of the piece is a sociologist as Kansas State who has studied Chinese development since 1949, and he says that the protesters were "radical reactionaries". This atypical conjunction means that they were anti-authoritarian but also anti-capitalism.

The story goes like so. The early reforms economic reforms in China benefited rural farmers and initially urban consumers as well, but after awhile industrialization efforts and a plateau in farm production increased price inflation. At the same time corruption increased. This hit urbanites particularly hard. They demanded more political access, but mostly so that they could reverse economic reforms. Thus, they urbanites were "radical reactionaries". I guess that means the rural farmers were "conservative revolutionaries".

Deng refused to yield, but had the protests been successful China might've ended up with the opposite of what they've had over the past generation: political reform without economic reform. Ironically this would have hurt urban dwellers in the long run, since the economic reforms Deng undertook eventually benefited them the most.

Anyway, it's certainly not the textbook version of the story. But elements of this still resonate, as this Dissent article about the contemporary anti-reform movement in China illustrates.
          Georgia Special Election Portends What the "Trump Effect" Will Be on GOP-Leaning Congressional Districts in 2018   
Today voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs go to the polls to vote in a special election, the most expensive congressional race in history.  Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel in the battle to replace former congressman and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia House District #6.  Both parties, but especially Democrats, have poured money into the competition for a district that Price won by 23% in 2016, but President Trump only carried by 1%. The national media is focusing on the race as a referendum on Trump.  Republicans have won previous GOP-leaning special districts this year, but in every instance the Republican share of the vote has been substantially down over previous years.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls show Handel with a .2% lead.  Obviously a dead heat.

Karen Handel
Is too much made of this special election as a referendum on President Trump?  Certainly too much is based on who wins or loses.  If Handel, for example, wins by a handful of votes instead of losing by a handful of votes, there shouldn't be too much read into the result. However, the GOP is having to defend this heavily Republican seat is a significant development, apart from the actual result that rolls in tonight.  It should be noted that Georgia HD #6 has a highly education population.  Indeed it is in the top 10 in that measure.  The other nine congressional districts with the most educated populations are represented by Democrats.  There was a time when the more education one had, the more likely a person would be a Republican.  That appears to be changing.

While far from an inspiring candidate, Handel's moderately conservative views better fit the district than the bland Ossoff.  Politically, Ossoff, who is only 30 years old, is a traditional liberal who would be much better suited for a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Massachusetts or California, rather than a Republican-leaning district in Georgia.  Even more importantly than his age and liberal views being a handicap in the district, the biggest negative for Ossoff is that he doesn't actually in House District #6. While not a legal requirement, that issue has proven to be a deal-breaker for challengers who have attempted to convince voters they can properly represent a district in which they don't live. 

What I find most remarkable is that the Democrats, despite recruiting an extremely poor candidate for the district, have a real chance of winning tonight. That speaks volumes about the drag that President Trump will be on the Republicans going into the 2018 congressional elections.  Call it the "Trump Effect."
          Montana Special Election Shows What Is Wrong With Early Voting   
I have never been a fan of early voting, but after last night's debacle in Montana I am dead set against it.

For those who haven't been paying attention, on the eve of a special election Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, "body slammed" Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs who dared to try to ask the candidate about the CBO scoring of the Republican health care plan.  Then to compound matters Gianforte's campaign issued a press release blaming the incident on the reporter. NPR reports:
Gianforte's campaign spokesman claimed in a statement that Jacobs interrupted an interview "without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began
asking badgering questions.

"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said. "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
Unfortunately for Gianforte, Jacobs had an audio recording of the altercation and Fox News reporters were nearby waiting to interview Gianforte.  The recording and the Fox reporters contradicted Gianforte's "alternative facts" his campaign tried to spin, namely that Jacobs and not Gianforte instigated the incident.  Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

As a result of the attack, several Montana newspapers immediately revoked their endorsement of Gianforte.  But the wannabe thug will probably get elected to Congress despite widespread negative publicity the day before the election.  Why?  Because close to 70% of Montanans have already cast their ballot due to the state's liberal early voting laws.

I am not against making voting easier.  In fact, I am a strong supporter of vote centers, which would allow voters to cast ballots at any county voting location on Election Day.  As far as early voting, that reform has not been shown to increase participation, but only changes when people who are going to vote cast their ballots.  But the negative is that early voting results in people casting ballots long before the campaign narrative has played out  It is like allowing jurors to cast votes in a trial before all the evidence is in.  Well, in politics, all the evidence is not in until Election Day.  Sadly 70% of Montana voters are stuck with a choice many of them now regret.

Hopefully, the Gianforte experience will help put the brakes on early voting.
          Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter   
By now many if not most people have heard that "conservative" columnist Ann Coulter's planned speech at the University of California at Berkeley has been cancelled.  Liberals on and off the campus acted to shut down the speech.  Fox News now reports on the latest development, support from a prominent actor:
Rob Schneider attacked UC Berkeley for cancelling conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech, saying the university should "add burning
Ann Coulter
books to the curriculum." 
"UC Berkeley, after you done eliminating speech you don't like & words you don’t like what’s next?" the comedian wrote on Twitter adding, "Maybe add burning books to the curriculum." 
The outspoken star also tweeted, "Freedom of thought, speech, conscience & informed consent to medical risk taking. There's no greater calling for Americans in the 21st Century." 
Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists. 
In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.
I am no fan of Coulter.  I find her to be utterly repulsive, an ideological faud who has hijacked the "conservative" label to promote ideas that are full of hate and not at all conservative.   It is people like her, and President Trump, who are destroying the once great conservative movement that convinced me to become a Republican.

Nonetheless, college campuses should be venues where the open exchange of ideas is welcomed, even when those ideas are an anathema to many who study and work at the school.  One of the most unfortunate trends in recent years is the increasing lack of tolerance for free speech by people on the left, particular at our colleges and universities.  If you want to read a great book on the subject, written by a liberal Democrat no less, pick up The Silencing by Kirsten Powers.

          Indy Star Columnist Praises Broad Ripple "Improvements" While Ignoring Challenges Residents Face   
Generally once a week I make the trip to Broad Ripple to visit my friend and local attorney Mark Small. These occasions often, okay "always", involve tossing back a few beers while we discuss life and politics. Even though Mark is a whacked out liberal, we do share the same opinion on Broad Ripple, where he has lived for several years, i.e.  the new development and resulting congestion in the "Village" has cause it to lose its charm.

Indianapolis Star Matthew Tully doesn't agree.  In today's column he sings the praises of Broad Ripple development.
Broad Ripple looks a little different these days. 
You can perhaps see that best from the patio of Three Sisters Café on Guilford Avenue. As I sat there the other day, I looked north toward the heart of the village, at a strip of colorful bars, restaurants and stores on Broad Ripple Avenue. Behind them stood a brand new development —  a sprawling grocery store and high-end apartment complex that recently opened. That taller development doesn’t just stand behind the heart of the village, it seems to hover over it. 
Matthew Tully
You can see a lot of other change throughout Broad Ripple, from the much-debated parking garage that popped up a few years ago on College Avenue, to so many small businesses that have come or gone, to the bustling area that south Broad Ripple has become. And then there is the change to come: A tortured redevelopment project at College and Kessler and, of course, the red line transit expansion.
Anyone who has followed Tully's writing career knows he has never once written in opposition to corporate welfare. He is perfectly fine with taxpayer money being diverted from such things as roads and schools to the pockets of developers.. Not once did Tully utter a negative word about the Broad Ripple parking garage at the intersection of College and Broad Ripple Avenue, a structure built with tax dollars then simply given away to one of former Mayor Greg Ballard's biggest contributors.

 Of course if you drive by the structure now you discover what was going on.  The building contains a number of business establishments with parking only a secondary thought.  Bottom line is that we taxpayers built a commercial building for a politically-connected developer.  That's what it was about.
And yet to this day Tully cannot bring himself to say a negative word about how taxpayers were mislead and ripped off about the purpose of the structure.

In Tully's column he doesn't make the slightest effort to talk to any of the long time residents of Broad Ripple, people like Mark Small.  If he did, he would find a different story.  People in Broad Ripple are unhappy with the congestion which has added considerable time to any commute.  They are unhappy about the high rise buildings that have caused Broad Ripple to lose its "village" feel.  As far as the red line transit expansion going up congested College Avenue, resulting in the loss of desperately needed traffic lanes, pretty much any Broad Ripple resident will tell you that mistake.

Of course, Tully doesn't live in the Broad Ripple Village area any more.  A few years ago, he moved to Carmel.
          VP Pence Shows Pres. Trump How Conservatives Can Successfully Handle The Liberal Media   
The Indianapolis Star reports:
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence joked Saturday night that the most embarrassing part of the recent news that he used a personal email account while Indiana’s governor is that millions of Americans learned he was one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account. 
Vice President Mike Pence
“My wife said it was good for my image,” Pence said at the Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie dinner of speeches, skits and songs put on by Washington's oldest journalism organization. “She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ‘50s. I’m just stuck in the ‘90s.” 
Pence also read some of the comments made on Twitter after IndyStar broke the story Thursday that raised questions about the security and government transparency of the AOL account, which was hacked last summer.  
Among the social media slams: “Your grandma is hipper than Mike Pence.” Another said: “This is the most I’ve heard about American Online since I last saw the free disks on a counter at Blockbuster. #MakeAOLGreatAgain.” 
Pence was the headline speaker at the dinner, which takes a humorous look at the political scene.  He wore a black tie to the white-tie event, which he said he thought he could get away with until House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked him to refill her coffee.  
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who represented the Republicans, said she’s impressed that Pence never needs a teleprompter. “Maybe that’s because every speech begins with, `Let me explain what the president meant to say,’” Ernst said. “And thank you for that. 
The Mike Pence I remember from law school was an outspoken, unapologetic conservative. But he also had an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that won over even die-hard liberals at that school.  I am not sure where Pence's personality and sense of humor went during his four years as Governor (I blame his advisers who didn't know how to use Pence's greatest assets), but they appear to have returned as Vice President.  It is good that they did.  He will need those tools given the train wreck that the Trump presidency appears to be.

Pence's performance at the Gridiron shows how conservatives should handle the media.  No doubt most journalists have a liberal-bent and want to see conservative politicians fail.  But journalists also have many other things that influence their writing, even more so than political philosophy.  Pence appears to understand that and knows that winning them over as a "nice guy" goes a long way to developing more positive news coverage.

          Beautiful Delusions [McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XVI of an Investigative Report]   
"Today's ever-devolving Western society continues to demonstrate its preference for showmanship over science, celebrity over substance, technology over nature, liberal ideology over radical ideology, human life over all other life, white skin over non-white."
          Department Manager - Princeton University - Princeton, NJ   
The Council serves 46 humanities-related departments, centers, programs, and committees, including its close partner, the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts...
From Princeton University - Fri, 09 Jun 2017 22:44:07 GMT - View all Princeton, NJ jobs

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (Bombay, 30 de diciembre de 1865 – Londres, 18 de enero de 1936) fue un escritor y poeta británico nacido en la India. Autor de relatos, cuentos infantiles, novelista y poeta, se le recuerda por sus relatos y poemas sobre los soldados británicos en la India y la defensa del imperialismo occidental, así como por sus cuentos infantiles.
Algunas de sus obras más populares son la colección de relatos The Jungle Book (1894) (El libro de la selva), la novela de espionaje Kim (1901), el relato corto The Man Who Would Be King (1888) (El hombre que pudo ser rey), publicado originalmente en el volumen The Phantom Rickshaw, o los poemas Gunga Din (1892) e If— (traducido al castellano como Si...) (1895). Además varias de sus obras han sido llevadas al cine.
Fue iniciado en la masonería a los veinte años, en la logia «Esperanza y Perseverancia Nº 782» de Lahore, Punjab, India.
En su época fue respetado como poeta y se le ofreció el premio nacional de poesía Poet Laureateship en 1895 (poeta laureado) la Order of Merit y el título de Sir de la Order of the British Empire (Caballero de la Orden del Imperio Británico) en tres ocasiones, honores que rechazó. Sin embargo aceptó el Premio Nobel de Literatura de 1907 y fue el ganador del premio Nobel más joven hasta la fecha, y el primer escritor británico en recibir este galardón.

Infancia de Kipling

Rudyard Kipling nació el 30 de diciembre de 1865 en la ciudad de Bombay, India,[1] hijo de Alice Kipling y John Lockwood Kipling. Su madre era una mujer vivaz; de ella, el futuro virrey de India diría:
...la flojera y la Sra. Kipling no pueden estar en el mismo lugar.

Lockwood, su padre, era un oficial del ejército británico y además era un experto escultor y alfarero, y enseñó escultura arquitectónica en la recién fundada Escuela Jejeebhoy de Arte e Industria en Bombay.La pareja había viajado a India a comienzos de 1865, se habían conocido en dos años antes en el Lago Rudyard en Staffordshire, Inglaterra. El lugar en donde Rudyard nació está en pie, sobre el campus del instituto Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, aquella casa actualmente es la residencia del Decano.

Cuando Kipling tenía 6 años su padre lo envió a él y a su hermana menor Trix al hogar social conocido como Lorne Lodge en Inglaterra, para que se educaran allí durante los siguientes 6 años. Aquel hogar se encontraba en Southsea (Portsmouth), y estaba a cargo del Capitán Holloway y su señora. Ya que no tenía a sus padres cerca, se sentía solo y abandonado, lo cual recordaría como una triste infancia en su autobiografía Algo de mí mismo, publicado después de su muerte en 1937. Los dos niños, sin embargo, tenían parientes en Inglaterra, a los que podían visitar, pasando así todos los meses de navidad con su tía materna Georgiana, y su marido, el artista Edward Burne-Jones, en su casa «The Grange» en Fulham, Londres, que Kipling llamaba «un paraíso que en verdad creo me salvó». En la primavera de 1877, Alicia Kipling, la madre, volvió de la India y retiró a los niños de Lorne Lodge.
En 1878, ingresa al United Service College, una escuela de Devonshire, creada especialmente con la finalidad de educar a los hijos de aquellos oficiales sin gran pecunio. Durante su tiempo allí, Kipling también conoció a Florencia Garrard, de la cual se enamoró; y en ella se inspiró para el personaje de Maisie en su primera novela, La luz que se apaga (1891). Hacia el final de su estancia en la escuela, estaba seguro que carecía de la capacidad intelectual para conseguir una beca en Oxford, y sus padres no contaban con los recursos para financiar sus estudios;[por ende su padre le consiguió un empleo en Lahore (Pakistán) donde era el Director de la Colección Nacional de Arte de Lahore y guardia del Museo de Lahore. Kipling fue asistente editor de un pequeño periódico local,La Gaceta Civil y Militar. Se dirigió hacia India el 2 de septiembre de 1882 y llegó a Bombay el 20 de octubre del mismo año.

Acercamiento a la literatura

La Gaceta Civil y Militar en Lahore, a la cual Kipling llamaba «Mi primer amante y el amor más verdadero», aparecía seis días por semana durante todo el año, excepto en Navidad y Pascua. Kipling trabajaba mucho y muy duro para el redactor, Stephen Wheeler, pero su necesidad de escribir era imparable. En 1886, él publicó su primera colección de versos, Cantinelas departamentales. Ese año también hubo un cambio de redactor, pues asumió el cargo Kay Robinson, quién permitió una mayor libertad creativa, y además solicitaron que Kipling redactara pequeños cuentos, que serían incluidos en el periódico.
Primera edición: Cuentos de las colinas, 1888
Mientras tanto, en el verano de 1883, por primera vez Kipling visitó Simla (actual Shimla). Posteriormente la familia de Kipling visitó Simla anualmente, en donde le solicitaron a John Lockwood Kipling pintar un fresco en la Iglesia de Cristo de allí. Por otra parte Rudyard continuó visitando Simla todos los años desde 1885 hasta 1888; aquella ciudad significo mucho en el escritor, pues figura en muchas sus historias escritas para la Gaceta.

De regreso en Lahore, aproximadamente treinta y nueve historias aparecieron en la Gaceta entre noviembre de 1886 y el junio de 1887. Una parte importante de esas historias fueron incluidas en Cuentos de las colinas, la primera colección de prosa de Kipling, que fue publicada en Calcuta en enero de 1888, un mes después de que cumpliera los 22 años. En noviembre de 1887, fue transferido a un periódico hermano de la Gaceta, pero más importante: El Pionero, en Allahabad, en las Provincias Unidas. Pero sus ansias por escribir no fueron saciadas y crecían frenéticamente, y durante el siguiente año publicó seis colecciones de historias cortas: Tres soldados, La historia de Gadsbys, En blanco y negro, Bajo el Deodar, El fantasma Jinrikisha, y Wee Willie Winkie, con un total de 41 cuentos. Además, como corresponsal de El Pionero en la región occidental de Rajputana, escribió muchos bosquejos que más tarde fueron recogidos en Letters of Marque y publicados en De un mar a otro.

A principios de 1889, El Pionero relevó a Kipling de su cargo por un conflicto. Por su parte, Kipling había estado pensando cada vez más en su futuro; vendió los derechos de sus seis volúmenes de historias en £200, y Cuentos de las colinas en £50; además, recibió seis meses de sueldo de El Pionero. Decidió utilizar este dinero para volver a Londres, el centro del universo literario en el Imperio Británico.
El 9 de marzo de 1889, Kipling salió de la India, viajando primero a San Francisco vía Yangon, Singapur, Hong Kong y Japón. Viajó a los Estados Unidos escribiendo artículos para El Pionero, que también fueron recogidos en De un mar a otro. Kipling fue un escritor fecundo. Ya en 1890 era considerado como una notabilidad en las letras inglesas.
Comenzó su viaje por América en San Francisco, luego fue al norte de Portland (Oregón), también estuvo en Seattle, Washington; luego viajó a Canadá, visitando Victoria y Vancouver, volvió a Estados Unidos y visitó el Parque Nacional de Yellowstone; bajó a Salt Lake City, luego hacia el este a Omaha, Nebraska y Chicago, Illinois; después se quedó un tiempo en Indian Village, en el río Monongahela; y finalmente fue a Elmira, en Nueva York, donde encontró a Mark Twain, tras lo cual cruzó el Atlántico por sentirse intimidado por la presencia de éste, retornando a Liverpool en octubre de 1889. Después de eso, debutó en el mundo literario londinense, que lo acogió con gran aclamación.

El Imperio


Portada de El libro de la selva.

De regreso a Inglaterra, en septiembre de ese año, Kipling se estableció en la ciudad de Torquay en la costa de Devon. En esta etapa de su vida ya era un hombre famoso, y en los dos o tres años anteriores había estado haciendo cada vez más declaraciones políticas en sus escritos. También había comenzado a trabajar en dos poemas, Recessional en 1897, y su obra La carga del hombre blanco (1899) que crearía gran controversia al publicarse; siendo considerada propaganda a favor del imperialismo y del Imperio británico. Al año siguiente, la familia se trasladó a Rottingdean, Sussex, donde nació su primer hijo varón, John Kipling.

Rudyard fue un prolífico escritor —nunca fue fácil catalogar su trabajo—. Durante su estancia en Torquay, también escribió Stalky y Co., una colección de historias en las que relata sus experiencias colegiales. Según su familia, Kipling gozaba leyendo en voz alta las historias de Stalky y Co. y él mismo se reía a carcajadas de sus propias bromas.

A comienzos de 1898 él y su familia viajaron a Sudáfrica para pasar las vacaciones invernales. Con su reputación como El poeta del imperio fue recibido con gusto por algunos de los políticos más poderosos en la Colonia del Cabo, incluyendo Cecil Rhodes, Sir Alfred Milner, y Leander Starr Jameson. A su vez, Kipling cultivó su amistad y nació su admiración hacia estos hombres y su política. De vuelta a Inglaterra, Kipling escribió poesías en apoyo de la causa británica en la guerra de los Bóer, y en su siguiente visita a Sudáfrica, a principios de 1900, colaboró en la creación del periódico militar The Friend (El amigo) para las tropas británicas en Bloemfontein.

En una visita a Estados Unidos en 1899, Kipling y su primogénita Josephine contrajeron pulmonía, de la cual Josephine murió más tarde.

En 1901, Kipling comenzó a recoger el material para otra obra clásica de niños, Kim, y Just So Stories for little children, publicada el año siguiente.

Hacia 1906 Kipling inicia un nuevo tipo de historias, ya que el ambiente era propicio, por los frondosos bosques que rodeaban la casa y el ambiente de tranquilidad que se respiraba. Inicia esta pequeña etapa con el cuento infantil Puck of Pook's Hill (Puck de la colina de Pook).

Durante toda su vida, Rudyard Kipling había rechazado todas las condecoraciones que merecidamente había ganado, como la Orden a Caballero (que lo nombraría como Sir Rudyard Kipling), o la Orden al Mérito, que es el mayor honor que se le puede entregar a cualquier súbdito inglés. Otro galardón rechazado por Kipling fue el Poet Laureateship (Premio Nacional de Poesía). Pero en 1907 aceptó, gustosamente, la máxima recompensa que se le puede entregar a un escritor: el Premio Nobel de Literatura, pese al repudio de algunos liberales ingleses, que tenían puestas sus esperanzas en que el premio recayera en escritores como Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, o Algernon Swinburne. Pese a las discrepancias inglesas, la Academia Sueca nunca dudó que el premio de ese año quedaba en las mejores manos, como queda de manifiesto en el discurso pronunciado por el secretario general de dicha academia:

La Academia Sueca, al otorgar el Premio Nobel de Literatura este año a Rudyard Kipling, desea rendir homenaje a la literatura de Inglaterra, tan rica en glorias poéticas, y al mayor genio en el reino de la narrativa que ese país ha producido en nuestros tiempos.

En 1909, escribe Acciones y reacciones; en 1910 Rewards and Fairies (Hadas y recompensas) que incluye su poema más famoso, «If». Se dice que Kipling se basó, para escribir este poema, en las cualidades de dos de sus grandes amigos, Cecil Rhodes y Jameson. En colaboración con Elsie Kipling compone una obra de teatro llamada El centinela del puerto, que fue estrenada en Londres, pero sólo tuvo unas pocas puestas en escena.

En los inicios de la primera década del siglo XX, Kipling alertó, primero a su rey, Jorge V, y después a las otras naciones, que se acercaba una gran guerra, y que afectaría a todo el mundo, por lo que había que preparar los ejércitos y estar alerta. Su vaticinio, aunque no era errado, no fue entendido, y sólo fue tomado como una sobreexaltación del patriotismo que caracterizaba a Kipling.

Pero la Primera Guerra Mundial estalló, y su único hijo hombre, John Kipling, tuvo que alistarse en el ejército. John murió a los 18 años, en la primera batalla en la que tomó parte, la Batalla de Loos, en el frente Occidental. La familia estaba consternada, no podían creer que ya habían sepultado a dos de sus tres hijos. Desde la muerte de John, y hasta su propia muerte, Rudyard comienza a desarrollar una úlcera gástrica. Con la rabia en la sangre por la pérdida de su hijo, publica artículos de guerra, recolectados en dos pequeños textos bajo los nombres de El nuevo ejército en formación (The New Army in Training) y Francia en guerra (France at War). Estos textos fueron censurados, por el contenido irónico en contra de los estrategias militares de la Triple Entente.

En el año 1917, y con la muerte de su hijo todavía en la cabeza, se une a la War Graves Commission, comisión establecida en 1917, que se encargaba de tramitar la llegada de cadáveres de los combatientes, de enterrarlos con todos los honores correspondientes y de mantener las tumbas en lo sucesivo. En esta labor conoce personalmente y se hace muy amigo del rey de Gran Bretaña, Jorge V. El mismo año publica Una diversidad de criaturas (A Diversity of Creatures), una colección de historias escritas antes del inicio de la guerra y dos historias del año 1915; una de ellas, Mary Postgate, considerado también como uno de los mejores cuentos de Kipling.

Entre 1919 y 1930 sigue publicando historias y cuentos, la mayoría con temas de la Primera Guerra Mundial, como la recopilación Thy Servant a Dog, una creativa serie de cuentos que consistía en la vida de una familia campestre inglesa, vista desde el punto de vista de los perros de la familia. Este es el último trabajo creativo de Kipling, ya que su última publicación, Limits and Renewals, es una especie de documento incriminatorio contra algunos escritores.

Adaptaciones cinematográficas

  • Captains Corageous, Victor Fleming, 1937 (título español: Capitanes intrépidos). Protagonizada por la estrella infantil Freddie Bartolomew y Spencer Tracy, supuso un Óscar para este último, por su caracterización de Manuel, un pescador portugués.
  • Gunga Din basada en el poema del mismo nombre, película producida en 1939.
  • Jungle Book de 1942, dirigida por Zoltan Korda, producida por Alexander Korda con una duración de 108 minutos basada en el primer Libro de la selva escrito por Rudyard Kipling.
  • La novela Kim ha sido llevada a la pantalla en dos ocasiones, la primera en Kim de la India 1950 bajo la dirección de Victor Saville, con Errol Flynn entre los actores; y la siguiente adaptación fue la de John Davies, Kim, en 1984, con Peter O'Toole.
  • El libro de la selva de 1967, película de dibujos animados basada en el cuento del mismo nombre, producida por Walt Disney y dirigida por Wolfgang Reitherman, con una duración de 78 minutos.
  • The Man Who Would Be King de 1975, en español El hombre que pudo reinar. Una película basada en una de las historias de Kipling con el mismo nombre, dirigida por John Huston y con una duración de 129 minutos. Obtuvo cuatro nominaciones a los Premios Óscar.
  • Disney's Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book 1994, Basada en el Libro de la Selva, fue dirigida por Stephen Sommers y producida por Edward S. Feldman y Raju Patel. Distribuida por Walt Disney Pictures. Por otra parte. La película The Jungle Book 2 es la secuela de la película The Jungle Book de 1967, pero no está basada en la obra de Kipling.
  • My boy Jack, 2006, con el mismo nombre puesto en el libro de Kipling protagonizada por Daniel Radcliffe.
  • They basada en la historia corta Traffics and Discoveries protagonizada por Patrick Bergin y Vanessa Redgrave.


Las obras más importantes de Rudyard Kipling son:


Publicado en

Tipo de Obra




Cantinelas departamentales


Poema satírico

Cuentos de las colinas



Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, In Black and White



Under the Deodars, The Phantom Rickshaw, Wee Willie Winkie



De un mar a otro






Life's Handicap


Historias cortas

La luz que se apaga






Gunga Din



Muchas invenciones



El libro de la selva


Cuento de ficción

El segundo libro de la jungla


Cuento de ficción

Capitanes valientes



El trabajo diario



A Fleet in Being


Colección militar

De mar a mar


Carta de viaje

La carga del hombre blanco



Stalky & Cía.





Novela de espionaje

Just So Stories for Little Children



Los ancianos


Traffics and Discoveries



Puck of Pook's Hill



Canción de la patrulla


Acción y reacción



Recuerdos y cuentos



Songs from Books



Sea Warfare


Colección militar

Una diversidad de criaturas



Historias de tierra y mar para scouts y guías



La Guardia Irlandesa en la Gran Guerra


Colección militar

Deudas y créditos



El libro de las palabras



Thy Servant a Dog



Limits and Renewals



Algo de mí mismo[10]



          Ihr braucht Euren Glauben nicht zu verstecken   
Das Programm der Piratenpartei gilt als liberal. So werden auch religiöse Zwänge wie beispielsweise das Tanzverbot an "stillen Tagen" abgelehnt, da die Religionsfreiheit es eben auch mit sich bringt, keiner Religion anhängen zu müssen oder sich ihren Bräuchen, Geboten und Verboten unterwerfen zu müssen. Piraten, die sich die Freiheit nehmen, an Gott zu glauben, sehen sich Kritik und Angriffen ausgesetzt, wie ein aktueller Fall zeigt. Weiterlesen
          Thoughts on Going Nowhere   
Kath Connolly ’89, is an educator who lives and makes in Providence, RI.  She was a founder of New Urban Arts and Card Carrying Liberal, an activist greeting card company.  She still reads news in print.  There are so many of us Going Nowhere.  When Providence was fondly known as The Armpit of New England …

Read More

          By: Phoebe   
Heyya Jane, *hugs* Not a lot else to say. First hand experience of the sort of disempowerment those bastards can get up to is hard. Sorry you've had such a hard day. It would be nice if someone could get an informed-consent model through the NHS one day. It'd be so much cheaper just liberalising cheap drugs than public funding £300 every appointment for some gatekeeper to drag the assessment process out.
          Trump acepta invitación de Macron a la Fiesta Nacional francesa   

La Prensa

París, Francia.

El presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, ha aceptado la invitación de su homólogo francés, Emmanuel Macron, para asistir en París al desfile del 14 de julio, la Fiesta Nacional francesa, informó hoy el Palacio del Elíseo.

La sede de la presidencia francesa precisó en un comunicado que la participación del mandatario en los festejos se enmarca dentro de la conmemoración del centenario de la entrada de las tropas de EUA en la Primera Guerra Mundial (1914-1918).

Soldados estadounidenses, según la nota, desfilarán junto a sus homólogos franceses en presencia de los dos dirigentes.

Trump recauda fondos para Trump en su hotelEl jefe de Estado francés invitó a Trump este martes durante una conversación telefónica en la que ambos abordaron además "la necesidad de trabajar para una respuesta común en caso de un ataque químico en Siria".

El Gobierno estadounidense había alertado antes de esa charla de que había identificado "potenciales preparativos" del régimen del presidente sirio, Bachar al Asad, para efectuar un nuevo ataque con armas químicas en su país, y advertido de que, de ocurrir, el mandatario y sus Fuerzas Armadas "pagarán un alto precio".

La crisis en el Golfo Pérsico y la "necesidad de evitar toda escalada en la región", así como el combate contra el terrorismo y su financiación, vistos como "un desafío común", fueron otros de los temas de su conversación de ayer.

Unas 111 Personas optaron por el suicidio asistido en CaliforniaAntes de su participación conjunta en la conmemoración francesa, Macron y Trump celebrarán un encuentro bilateral durante el G20 de los próximos 7 y 8 de julio en la ciudad alemana de Hamburgo.

Su primera reunión cara a cara se remonta al pasado 25 de mayo al margen de una cumbre de la OTAN, en la que el terrorismo, la economía, el clima y la energía coparon su agenda.

De ese encuentro, no obstante, prevaleció como imagen su firme apretón de manos, interpretado por los medios como un pulso entre ambos y del que Macron reconoció posteriormente que no fue "algo inocente" sino una forma de demostrar que Francia no tiene intención de hacer "pequeñas concesiones".

Trump se reúne con víctimas de crímenes cometidos por inmigrantesSus divergencias se han reflejado también desde entonces en la lucha contra el cambio climático: Macron parafraseó el eslogan electoral de Trump para bautizar una plataforma digital con la que su país prevé facilitar la movilización internacional al respecto.

Bajo el nombre de "Hagamos nuestro planeta grande otra vez", el dirigente socioliberal instó a todos investigadores, asociaciones, ONG y sociedad civil a instalarse en Francia para proseguir con sus esfuerzos en ese campo.


          Let's Pretend: A Civil Health Care Discussion   

I should probably accept that corporate and deeply entrenched political interests would not allow a comprehensive health care system to gain traction in the United States. Yet I can’t let go. One of the things that hurt me deeply is the lack of civil public discourse. It could have been different. Come with me to the set of the imaginary Vixen News Network as Becky Glenne shows us how it could have been possible for pundits to peacefully share differing opinions on health care reform.
Stethoscope on Indian banknotes of different denominations

Becky Glenne/VNN: Thank you H.C. Andersen for that follow-up report on the tragic situation the nation has come to know as “The Little Match Stick Girl.” Her identity is still unknown at this time. I have been joined by a panel of bloggers who have strong opinions and, at times, the facts to back them up.

Each of the panelists has been given the question “How does the death of The Little Match Stick Girl relate to the health care debate in the United States?" The order of the panelists has been selected by random draw to prevent accusations of favoritism.

VNN: Fulvia Tiberius, how does this tragic incident relate to the health care debate?

Fulvia: Well, Becky, as far as I can see it has nothing to do with it. It does speak to a higher natural law of survival of the fittest. It is indeed a shame a life has been lost, but I nor should anyone else feel that they have a so-called moral obligation to help, aid or assist another human being unless it is in that specific person’s vested interest to do so.

I reject the intervention of the government into private matters. I oppose the use of any federal state or local taxes to help or prolong the existence of vulnerable or unproductive members of the society. Let the market and environmental forces regulate the health care needs and wishes of the nation. Allow the forces of nature to adjust the population accordingly.

VNN: Germana Servius, your response to the relationship between The Little Match Stick Girl and health care reform, please.

Germana: When compassion is measured in dollars and cents terms, I am deeply saddened. It is not that we are incapable of designing a fair and equitable heath care system, it is that we are profoundly selfish and unwilling to provide the quality of services that members of Congress have currently enjoyed for years. I believe that no child or adult for that matter should be denied affordable health care.

If we seriously looked at waste and fraud within the federal budget, we could have the kind of coverage we could be proud to have as citizens. Stopping an illegal war would go a long way to providing health care funding.

VNN: I wish to remind the panel that the subject is health care, and to the extent possible please confine your responses to that topic. The next name to be drawn is Sabina Aculeo.

Sabina: Socialism! The victim mentality will destroy the nation. Give me my country back!

VNN: That is it? That is your entire response?

Sabina: Yes.

VNN: Moving on, up next is Claudia Laterensis.

Claudia: Glad to be here, Becky. Look,  there is a finite amount of money. We as a nation cannot fund every well meaning but financially unrealistic desire each citizen might want to have in terms of governmental services. Just as in our personal lives, we have to be fiscally prudent in our national spending.

However, there does need to be some form of a health support system. It would be unrealistic and in fact dangerous not to have a base level of health care resources as the incident with The Little Match Stick Girl illustrates.

Is this the time to implement a full-scale health delivery system? I don’t think so, but it might be a time of public/private option that does not require the full engagement of government support.

VNN: Finally we have Marcella Plauta to give her response to the topic.

Marcella: Thank you, Becky. It is the gift of passion and concern that has engaged the nation in this debate. Quite honestly, it has been a challenge to hear authentic and not politicized voices. I want no less than what the majority of industrialized nations have, an equable and accessible health care system.

It does not make me disloyal to my country to want to be able to obtain health treatment without losing my home, my stability or my piece of mind. It should not be a reflection of my character if I believe the interference for profit of the health insurance companies is not the best way to administer health treatment in this country.

I am profoundly disappointed that Congress and both political parties could not create a cohesive workable solution for the nation. There is only one approach at this time; a single-payer plan that does not involve the health insurance industry. This will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.

And so another dream of an engaged population rising above partisanship is once again deferred. Perhaps the next time.

Blogs to Consider If You Are Looking for Alternate Views:


Liberal/Progressive Blogs on Health Care


Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

          Why Black History Month Still Matters   

The stories that a nation tells about its history provide a foundation for building community, creating institutions and transmitting values. For a pluralistic democracy such as the United States, the work that historians call "constructing a usable past" is vital to the task of building a future. That's why it's imperative that people who want that future to be built on principles of inclusion, mutual respect and genuinely equal opportunity should understand and embrace commemorations such as Black History Month.

Let me start with a disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that founded what is now known as Black History Month. I receive no compensation for that position; I do it to repay a debt to educators and scholars whose work was essential to my survival and development. The views presented here are strictly my own, and do not represent the opinions of ASALH.

The learning opportunities afforded by Black History Month (and other related celebrations devoted to the history of other groups who have been traditionally under-represented or misrepresented in social studies curricula) offer the following benefits:

  • They can help children of African descent form a positive self-concept and a critical perspective on the negative propaganda about blackness that continues to encourage self-sabotaging behavior among black youth.
  • They can promote informed conversation about "race" because the historical formation of the concept of "blackness" is linked to the process by which "whiteness" was constructed. As Judy Helfand explains: "Whiteness is defined by determining who is not white; it is defined as the superior opposite of non-white."
  • They offer insight and context for contemporary policy debates, such as the furor over former Rep. Tom Tancredo's recent claim that President Obama was elected because we lack a "civics literacy test" as a qualification for voting.
  • The 2010 Black History Month theme, the History of Black Empowerment, is relevant to contemporary efforts to achieve genuine economic recovery

A Personal Journey

When i was growing up in black working-class neighborhoods in Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I did not see people who looked like me doing the kinds of things I liked Wikimedia portrait of Sarah Vaughanto do: reading books, taking Saturday morning science classes, collecting rocks, writing poems. One day in elementary school, though, I found ASALH's Encyclopedia of Negro History on a bookcase at the Friends' Neighborhood Guild. I can still remember the delicious shock of poring over profiles of black inventors, scholars and artists.

I did not know then what I know now, that Carter G. Woodson, a child of slaves who became the second African American to earn a doctorate in history at Harvard, founded ASALH in 1915 to redress the "mis-education of the Negro" (a term that became the title of his most famous book. In addition to the encyclopedia that held me in thrall, Woodson founded two

journals that are still publishing: the Journal of African American History, found today in many university libraries, and the Black History Bulletin, targeted to middle and secondary-school teachers. 

When I flipped through Woodson's encyclopedia, I remember, especially, being transfixed by a glamorous portrait of singer Sarah Vaughan, (pictured above, left). She had skin like mine, a nose like mine and hair like mine, and she was beautiful and successful. This was heady stuff in 1966, and it opened a crack in my very limited view of what a black woman could become. (It was only later, upon further study, that I learned how colorism had kept her from appreciating her dark chocolate skin, and that her success was circumscribed by patriarchy.)

In high school, I learned of WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson, further confirming my growing belief in the power of principled scholarship and culture work. However, I was nearly 40 by the time I discovered Jessie Fauset, who had come from my home town, gone to my high school, and become the magazine editor who first published Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and many of the other writers we now associate with the Harlem Renaissance. Despite my educational privilege I was 20 years out of journalism school before Patricia Hill Collins and David Mindich helped me understand why Ida B. Wells' exposure of Southern lynching and northern complicity had been ignored by my undergraduate history and politics professors and my graduate school journalism teachers. 

Today, when I teach my occasional class on WEB DuBois, or Race, Gender and the News, I still meet students who tell me that they've never encountered most of the American history we are studying. Others told me that while they may know some names, dates and places, they haven't been taught to think systematically about how African American or multicultural history helps to shape the nation in which they live today, regardless of their own racial or ethnic identification. A more comprehensive understanding of African American history would, I submit, substantially improve our civic discourse.

Robin Roberts Reads To Children For Black History Month

In other words, I agree with the Rev. Irene Monroe who rejected arguments against Black History Month by contending, "In order to move forward, you must look back."


Backlash and Confusion


In making this argument, let me acknowledge the anger and confusion that some people have around the rituals popularly associated with Black History Month. Womanist-Musings, for example, has been a vocal progressive critic of the way that corporations that market unhealthy products or engage in problematic labor practices use Black History Month as a marketing opportunity:

"Why should black history month be any different than any other public celebration?  That's right, commodify the shit out of it and then pretend that we seriously value it.  We certainly shouldn't be taking the time to educate children about the struggles of their ancestors through conversation, or even visit sites that are important in African Diaspora history, when we can conveniently purchase something to prove that we are culturally aware."

(A side note here - the history of the kind of cause-related marketing she's criticizing is an interesting African American history moment in and of itself. Moss Kendrix is credited with convincing corporations such as Coca-Cola to market products to black and urban markets in the 1950s and 60s. Many viewed his efforts as a step forward, because it gave black media and ad agencies access to advertising and promotional dollars that had been unavailable before. Many also also saw it as a way to break down stereotypes. When I was in corporate PR in the 1980s, I still read accounts of corporate advertisers being admonished that black consumers don't just buy cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars. As late as 2004, broadcasting personality Tom Joyner found it necessary to campaign against a major media buying organization that labeled urban radio stations ad being full of "suspects, not prospects.")

Mural with Carter G. Woodson quote

(media credit: DB King, Flickr)

Let's also dispense with the kind of faux controversy that the musician Questlove set off when he posted a picture of the soul food menu in the NBC cafeteria. He later said he posted the picture because he thought the sign was funny, but a national discussion ensued over whether a racial offense had been committed. What's really unfortunate about the incident is that this non-story dominates the Google Blogsearch results for the term "Black History Month" when there are many substantive issues to consider.


Tom Tancredo's Toxic Brew

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) stirred up some of those issues this past weekend with his speech at the Tea Party convention. His speech was a call to arms against what he claimed was a decades-long drift toward socialism accelerated by President Obama:

"It seemed as though we were doomed to experience the political equivalent of the proverbial frog in the water syndrome. Every year, the liberal Democrats and RINO Republicans turned the temp up ever so slightly till it seemed we would all be boiled to death in the cauldron of the nanny state. "And then, because we don’t have a civics literacy test to vote, people who couldn’t even spell vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House named Barack Hussein Obama. He immediately turned up the heat under that cauldron so high and so quick that people started jumping out of the water all over the place."

After critics, such as Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, lambasted Tancredo for endorsing a practice that was historically used to keep African Americans from voting, Tancredo issued a statement denying any racist intent to his proposal.

Pro-democracy protest for Iran in Washington
However, as a former social studies teacher who launched his political career in 1975 when his school district introduced bilingual education, there's little doubt that he understood the incendiary history associated with these kinds of tests.


In 2004, my former student Scott Hoover created an interactive version of the Alabama literacy test that you can try out for yourself. I'm pleased to report, by the way, that Scott's work is going to be turned into an exhibit at the new International Civil Rights Museum, which opened Feb. 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina, on the site where the sit-in movement began exactly 50 years before.

I don't know what Tancredo thinks of educational projects such as Scott's or the International Civil RIghts Museum, but he's an avowed opponent of what calls the "cult of multiculturalism," a phrase he credits to blogger Michelle Malkin in one of his audio commentaries. In that commentary, he describes a purported "civil war" being waged by left-wingers intent on presenting American history in the worst possible light. He further mused on this theme in a radio interview last December, where he acknowledged the hardships endured by Native Americans and African Americans but asked:

"Now the question that we have to ask ourselves and certainly African Americans have to ask themselves is: Are they better off as a result of the fact that they came under any conditions? And it does not mean for a second–let me reiterate– it does not for a second mean that slavery was a good thing, that we should be happy about it. It is a black mark on our society and all societies that have had it since the beginning of time. Or recorded time… It doesn’t mean it is good. Is someone better off today in the United States of America as a result that they came under–or are Native Americans better off as a result that people came here from the West and created the society that we have here? Or would they have been better off if that had not happened?"


Tancredo is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but his claims about American history reflect a larger movement by some conservative academics and activists to discredit, and in some cases distort, multiculturalist scholarship. His efforts strike me as similar to those members of the Texas State Board of Education who want to revise that state's social studies standards to downplay such topics and civil rights in favor of greater emphasis on teaching about conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly.

The bottom line is that the discussion of the proper way to understand and teach American history, including the experience of African Americans, is part of the debate over the core values that will guide public policy in this country. Becoming acquainted with the credible, peer-reviewed scholarship in the field is one great way to prepare for the debate that may be coming to your school district sooner than you think.


Sarah Vaughan portrait from Wikimedia Commons

ASALH posters from ASALH

Robin Roberts and Tom Tancredo images from Picapp.com

BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|

          Should Mamas Let Their Babies Grow Up to Be Journalism Majors?   

According to a recent news report, Kevin Li is an accomplished high school student who thinks the leadership and management experience he got from editing his school paper is more important for his future career than the fact that he aced his AP biology exam. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), he says his parents might not pay for college if he majors in journalism

As a journalism professor and former science writer, I'd love 10 minutes with Kevin and his parents. If they're like the students and parents that my colleagues and I talk to regularly, I'm pretty sure I know their reasons for being skeptical about the value of a journalism degree. It's not exactly a secret that traditional journalism jobs are vanishing. Despite some recent softening of demand, however, enrollments in journalism programs have gone up - mystifying even industry leaders such as Court TV Founder Steve Brill. According to a report from the Asian American Journalists Association convention last August, Brill said the increase in J-school enrollments meant: "[P]eople are just behaving stupidly." 

Brill's problem is that he is thinking of journalism study as vocational training, but a journalism major is really an interdisciplinary liberal arts major that uses theory and practice to equip students with knowledge and skills applicable to a variety of careers. The curriculum guidelines for journalism and mass communications programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications draw upon political theory, ethics, history, rhetoric, literature, art and design, mathematics, English, sociology and -- increasingly -- computer science. 

Further, the guidelines require that two-thirds of an undergraduate journalism major's credits should come from outside of major. Just over half the credits must be in liberal arts subjects such as history, math, science or modern languages. That ratio is typical of a liberal arts major. Contrast that to the requirements of a pre-professional, such as accounting or nursing, for which it's not unusual for nearly half the student's credits to be within the major.

Because journalism is a liberal arts major, it shouldn't be surprising that many journalism majors never end up in a newsroom.  After all, not all English majors become teachers. Like other liberal arts majors, journalism graduates pursue a range of careers and programs in graduate study, such as law, education, business and public relations. Regardless of where they end up professionally, I agree with multimedia journalism professor Mindy McAdams that there are certain things that we should expect a modern journalism major to know: how to communicate clearly and effectively in word and image, how to check facts, how to dig through public records and how to conduct interviews.  

It's become common for journalism programs to require or encourage students to pursue at least a minor in another field or often a second major. International study is also encouraged. We've long recognized that while it's important to know how to tell a story, craft an argument, understand the fundamentals or press law, it's even better to practice authoritative journalism within a particular knowledge domain. That's why I would tell Mr. Li not to be so dismissive of that great AP bio score -- we desperately need good science writers. A July 2009 survey by the Pew Center for People and the Press found that scientists consistently fault the quality of science journalism. 

That said, there are a lot of things that good journalism programs can do to help students who do aspire to journalism careers. Many of our programs require that students do professional internships, which in turn require active involvement in campus news organizations. As Li pointed out in the Chillicotte Gazette article, his high school journalism experience taught him "how to be a good leader and manage people." 

We're constantly updating our own skills and talking about how to do our jobs better. (Poynter, JMC Educator, Nieman) And we are working hand-in-glove with industry professionals, including our former students, to produce the innovations that will ensure that the fundamental civic mission of the profession will be sustained, even as the methods of newsgathering and delivery change.

Different programs approach that challenge in different ways -- some are stressing entrepreneurship, others are launching hyperlocal and investigative reporting ventures with local news organizations and still others are collaborations with middle school and secondary educators to promote civic engagement and media literacy.

The bottom lime, I say to Kevin and his parents, is that a journalism major can be a path to many careers. For some, that that might path might lead to a traditional newsroom -- or the opportunity to invent what comes next.



BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|

          Comment on Brian Head fire increases entering Panguitch City’s watershed by Brian   
This fire and the decisions that lead to it are such a good analogy for the ruin that comes out of many liberal policies (see Detroit, Baltimore, etc as examples). Conservative locals have known this day was coming for 15 years because its the natural, predictable consequence of shutting down all logging and not spraying for bark beetles. Yes, it's "natures way", but so are pandemics and serious disease. Should we stop medications and vaccines since they interfere with natural cycles? Similarly, its no surprise that it was during the over-regulating "capitalism is evil" obama era that more businesses went under than were created for the first time on record. Just like its no surprise that Seattle is finding that raising the minimum wage so high, so quick is killing jobs. Just like its no surprise that getting government involved in healthcare has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Just like its no surprise that the government getting involved in student loans caused a massive and continuing spike in tuition costs and debt. Just like its no surprise that the government changing to buy any and all mortgages caused a massive bubble leading to the 2007 crash. It is worth noting that some of these examples fell under "republican" "leadership" (I used that word VERY loosely), but the actions in question were done by progressives, with conservatives screaming at the top of their lungs against it (which led to the creation of the tea party). The next big fire and smoking ruin may very well be our economy... I guess we should get used to it.
          Little Known Black History Fact: Carmen Ambar   
Carmen Ambar was named the first African-American president of Oberlin College, an institution known for opening its doors to Blacks and women in the 1800s. It is the oldest liberal arts college in the United States and is the first college to admit African-Americans. Ambar, the school’s 15th president, is just the second woman to […]
          Geschlechtsspezifische Diskriminierung im Libanon: "Gewalt gegen Frauen kennt keine Konfessionen und keine Klassen"   

Trotz seines liberalen Images sind im Libanon Diskriminierung und Gewalt gegen Frauen ein verbreitetes Problem. Gesellschaftlich debattiert wird dieses Thema jedoch kaum. Kafa, die führende Frauenrechtsorganisation des Landes, versucht seit Jahren das Schweigen zu brechen und Frauen vor Gewalt zu schützen. Alsharq sprach mit Hiba Abbani, Projektkoordinatorin bei Kafa, über die Benachteiligung der Frau im Libanon und über eine Gesetzesvorlage, die häusliche Gewalt gegen Frauen unter Strafe stellen soll.

Das Interview führte Maximilian Felsch

Frau Abbani, Sie und Ihre Organisation Kafa engagieren sich gegen Diskriminierung und geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt im Libanon. Können Sie uns zunächst erklären, was unter geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt zu verstehen ist?

Geschlechtspezifische Gewalt ist jede Form von Schaden, der einer Frau angetan wird, allein weil sie eine Frau ist. Das kann sich auf physische, psychologische oder ökonomische Gewalt beziehen. Das schließt auch das Verbot ein, sich als Frau am öffentlichen Leben zu beteiligen oder Bildungseinrichtungen zu besuchen.

Welche Formen geschlechtspezifischer Gewalt sind im Libanon besonders verbreitet?

Das Problem existiert natürlich nicht nur im Libanon. Es ist ein universales Phänomen, das auf patriarchalen Systemen und Ideologien beruht. Jedes Land weist in diesem Punkt spezifische Probleme auf. Speziell im Libanon wird die Frau als minderwertiger Bürger wahrgenommen. In der libanesischen Gesellschaft ist immer noch das Rollenverständnis verbreitet, wonach die Frau sich vor allem um den Haushalt und um die Kinder kümmern soll.

Ist das nicht ein Gesellschaftsmodell, das in den meisten Ländern immer noch vorherrscht?

Das ist richtig, aber anders als in vielen westlichen Ländern wird dieses Modell im Libanon sehr offen vertreten und offensiv als „normale“ Rollenverteilung verteidigt. Die meisten Libanesen haben sehr genaue Vorstellungen davon, welche Rolle die Frau zu erfüllen hat und welche Rolle dem Mann zukommt. Frauen sollen sich um das Haus kümmern und ihrem Mann folgen. Und dass Frauen ihre eigene Sexualität besitzen, das wird überhaupt nicht akzeptiert. Sogar Menschen, die sich in NGOs engagieren und modern und aufgeklärt erscheinen und erklären, sie stünden für Gleichberechtigung, vertreten oft die Meinung, dass Frauen, die unabhängig und stark sind, eher Männern gleichen.

Abgesehen von diesen kulturell-basierten Aspekten, welche Formen legaler Diskriminierung von Frauen sind im Libanon verbreitet?

Zunächst möchte ich sagen, dass aus meiner Sicht die gesellschaftliche Wahrnehmung durch die Gesetzgebung beeinflusst wird und umgekehrt. Das lässt sich nicht so leicht trennen. Das patriarchale System wird durch die Gesetze gestärkt und erhalten.

Können Sie uns ein paar Beispiele legaler Diskriminierung nennen?

Im Libanon herrscht ein konfessionalistisches System vor [in dem jede Religionsgemeinschaft autonom in Fragen der Personenstandsrechts agiert, einschließlich einer unabhängigen Gerichtsbarkeit, Anm. M.F.] und keine einzige Gemeinschaft erlaubt es Frauen, sich scheiden zu lassen. Frauen haben auch nicht den Anspruch, den gleichen Teil wie ihr Bruder zu erben – sie bekommen in der Regel nur halb so viel. Da es im Libanon kein ziviles Recht in diesen Fragen gibt, können Frauen dieser patriarchalen religiösen Rechtssprechung nicht entkommen. Im Fall der muslimischen Gemeinschaften, die die Gesetze der Scharia anwenden, gelten z.B. Zeugenaussagen von Frauen nur halb so viel wie die von Männern. Und wenn ein Paar heiratet, braucht es als Trauzeugen entweder zwei Männer oder einen Mann und zwei Frauen oder aber vier Frauen, um der Ehe Rechtmäßigkeit zu verleihen.

Aber auch das libanesische Zivilrecht diskriminiert Frauen. Da gibt es z.B. den Paragraphen 522, für dessen Abschaffung wir uns seit Jahren stark machen. Dieses Gesetz besagt, dass ein Mann, der eine Frau vergewaltigt hat, dann straffrei bleibt, wenn er seinem Opfer anbietet, es zu heiraten. Für die Straffreiheit ist es unerheblich, ob die Frau dieses Angebot annimmt. In den meisten Fällen jedoch wird durch die Familie und das soziale Umfeld Druck auf die Frau ausgeübt, dieses Angebot tatsächlich anzunehmen. Dieses Gesetz existiert nicht nur im Libanon, sondern in vielen arabischen Staaten.

Schließlich werden Frauen im Libanon auch durch ein geringeres Gehalt systematisch diskriminiert. Nach dem Gesetz steht Frauen im öffentlichen Dienst für die gleiche Position weniger Gehalt zu als Männern. Auch Sozialleistungen für Kinder und Familien werden nur an Männer ausgezahlt. Und schwangere Frauen sind rechtlich nicht geschützt – nicht selten wird ihnen im letzten Monat ihrer Schwangerschaft gekündigt.

Wie rechtfertigt der Staat diese Diskriminierungen?

Die Regierung versteht den Mann als Oberhaupt der Familie, daher stehen nur ihm staatliche Leistungen zu und deshalb benötigt vor allem er ein auskömmliches Gehalt.

Wo steht der Libanon in Frauenrechtsfragen im Vergleich mit anderen arabischen Staaten?

Die Situation der Frauen ist in allen arabischen Staaten ähnlich, auch wenn es in den Formen geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt und Diskriminierung Unterschiede gibt. Das Besondere im Libanon ist, dass ihm das Image eines liberalen Landes anhaftet. Das liegt wahrscheinlich daran, dass Besucher zuerst die vielen Bars und Clubs auffallen. Doch wenn sie in den Süden fahren, ins Bekaa-Tal, nach Akkar oder auch schon in die Vororte Beiruts, also dorthin, wo die Familien wohnen, dann finden sie eine Gesellschaft vor, die genauso konservativ ist wie die anderer arabischer Länder. Im Bereich Bildung jedoch bietet der Libanon Frauen gleiche Chancen, was man von den meisten arabischen Staaten nicht behaupten kann. Auch die Verheiratung von Minderjährigen ist kein Thema im Libanon, anders als z.B. im Jemen. Dafür weist der Libanon eine sehr hohe Rate an sogenannten Ehrenmorden auf. Die besonders in Ägypten und Sudan verbreitete Genitalverstümmelung wird im Libanon zum Glück nicht praktiziert. Sexuelle Belästigung schließlich ist als Phänomen in der gesamten arabischen Welt verbreitet, am stärksten wahrscheinlich in Ägypten.

Gibt es denn auch positive Beispiele von Ländern, die Frauen vor Gewalt schützen?

Jordanien hat vor Kurzem ein Gesetz zum Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt erlassen. Dieses Gesetz stellt physische Gewalt gegen die eigene Ehefrau unter Strafe, jedoch nicht sexuelle Gewalt. Es ist leider nicht sehr effektiv, da es versäumt wurde, weitere Schutzmechanismen für die Frau zu etablieren, sodass in der Realität kaum eine Frau tatsächlich ihren Ehemann bei der Polizei anzeigen wird.

Auch das libanesische Parlament diskutiert seit langer Zeit über ein Gesetz gegen häusliche Gewalt. Wie stehen Sie zu diesem Gesetz, an dessen Entwicklung Kafa ja auch beteiligt gewesen ist?

Wir haben zusammen mit 60 NGOs und vielen Anwälten ein Gesetzentwurf erarbeitet, der Frauen einen effektiven Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt bieten würde. Nach intensiver Lobbyarbeit hat das Parlament eine Kommission gebildet, die diesen Gesetzentwurf diskutiert. Leider wurde es von dieser Kommission bereits so verwässert, dass es in dieser Form keinen effektiven Schutz mehr bieten würde. Wir haben gefordert, dass es speziell ausgebildete Polizeikräfte braucht, am besten weibliche Polizisten, denen sich Frauen eher anvertrauen könnten. Wir kennen die Erfahrungen von Frauen, die ihren Mann bei der Polizei anzeigen wollten. Oft werden sie von Polizisten gemobbt und ihnen wird meist gesagt, sie sollten schnell wieder nach Hause gehen. Wir haben auch gefordert, dass ein Jeder häusliche Gewalt zur Anzeige bringen kann, nicht nur das Opfer der Misshandlung selbst. Leider wollen die Parlamentarier, die das Gesetz beraten, keine dieser Schutzmechanismen. Sie wollen sogar den Namen des Gesetzes ändern. Anstatt „Gesetz zum Schutz der Frau vor häuslicher Gewalt“ soll es nun „Gesetz zum Schutz der Familie vor häuslicher Gewalt“ heißen. Hier wird einmal mehr deutlich, dass nicht anerkannt wird, dass es im Libanon ein Problem mit Gewalt speziell gegen Frauen gibt.

Was ist der Grund dafür, dass das Gesetz noch immer nicht verabschiedet ist?  

Das Hauptproblem ist, dass politische Parteien eng mit religiösen Institutionen vernetzt sind. Bei jeder Wahl sind die Parteien auf Bündnisse mit religiösen Würdenträgern angewiesen, um gewählt zu werden. Die religiösen Institutionen sind daher sehr mächtig und sie können Menschen zu Großdemonstrationen mobilisieren. Kaum ein Politiker wird gegen die Interessen dieser Institutionen agieren. Auf der muslimischen Seite gibt es keine religiöse Institution, die dem Gesetz zum Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt zustimmt. Das Dar al-Ifta [die höchste religiöse Institution der Sunniten im Libanon, Anm. M.F.] zum Beispiel lehnt das Gesetz ab, weil es angeblich die Familien zerstören und den orientalischen Werten zuwider laufen würde. Vor zwei Jahren hat Dar al-Ifta sogar eine Gegenkampagne zu unserer Gesetzesinitiative gestartet und Proteste organisiert.

Das heißt, dass die religiösen Autoritäten im Libanon das Gesetz zum Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt als eine illegitime Einmischung in ihre internen Angelegenheiten auffassen?

Genauso ist es. Und aus diesem Grund sagen uns zwar Politiker im direkten Gespräch oft, dass sie unsere Initiative unterstützen würden, aber wenn es um die Punkte geht, die das Gesetz erst effektiv machen würden, dann machen sie einen Rückzieher. Daher wurde es auch abgelehnt, dass das Gesetz auch Strafen für eheliche Vergewaltigung vorsieht.

Gibt es denn auch politische Kräfte, die das Gesetz zum Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt unterstützen?

Ja, etwa die maronitisch-christlichen Parteien Kataeb und die Lebanese Forces und die sunnitische Mustaqbal unterstützen uns auch offiziell. Jedoch steht Samir al-Jisr – der Vorsitzende des parlamentarischen Komitees zur Beratung des Gesetzes und zugleich Mitglied der Mustaqbal – leider dem Dar al-Ifta sehr nahe. Al-Jisr ist der Überzeugung, dass das Gesetz das islamische Recht verletzen würde. Unser Dilemma ist, dass alle Kräfte des „14. März“ unser Anliegen zumindest offiziell unterstützen, das Regierungslager es jedoch ablehnt. Daher werden wir oft in eine politische Ecke gedrängt, obwohl wir ein politisch unabhängiger sowie nicht-konfessioneller Akteur sind. 

Ist geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt ein Phänomen aller Religionsgemeinschaften oder gibt es Unterschiede?

Gewalt gegen Frauen kennt keine Konfessionen und keine Klassen. Aber ich will nicht unerwähnt lassen, dass die maronitische Kirche und der maronitische Patriarch Bechara Rai unser Anliegen zum Schutz vor häuslicher Gewalt unterstützen.

Mit welchen Mitteln versucht Kafa, die Gleichberechtigung von Frauen im Libanon zu verbessern und Gewalt gegen Frauen zu bekämpfen?

Unser wichtigstes Projekt ist unser „Zuhör- und Therapiezentrum“. Wir glauben, dass wir das Schweigen über Gewalt gegen Frauen brechen müssen. Das Problem ist, dass Frauen keine Möglichkeiten und keine Macht haben, um über Gewalt, die ihnen angetan wird, zu sprechen. Gewalt gegen Frauen ist immer noch ein Verbrechen, vor dem die Augen verschlossen werden. Wir dokumentieren Fälle von Gewalt gegen Frauen und machen sie publik. Und wir betreiben Lobbyarbeit bei Medien, damit sie über diese Themen berichten. So wollen wir ein öffentliches Bewusstsein schaffen und die Gesellschaft für Fragen der Diskriminierung und Gewalt gegen Frauen sensibilisieren.

Frau Abbani, wir danken Ihnen für dieses Gespräch. 

Hiba Abbani hat Journalismus studiert und arbeitet seit einem Jahr als Projektkoordinatorin bei Kafa. Kafa (bedeutet übersetzt so viel wie "genug") wurde 2005 als unabhängige und gemeinnützige Organisation gegründet und setzt sich für die Rechte der Frauen im Libanon ein.

          Presseschau zu Obamas Wiederwahl: "Kein Präsident, der in den Krieg zieht"   
Die Zeitungen im Nahen Osten zwischen Algerien und Iran reagieren überwiegend positiv auf die Wiederwahl von Barack Obama. Der Präsident habe in seiner ersten Amtszeit zwar viele Erwartungen enttäuscht, Mitt Romney wäre nach Überzeugung der Kommentatoren jedoch das noch größere Übel geworden. Israelische Blätter fürchten eine weitere Verschlechterung des Verhältnisses zwischen Obama und Benyamin Netanyahu. Auch in Bahrains Presse schwingt Skepsis gegenüber dem Demokraten mit. Dafür sind sich israelische Kommentatoren mit der syrischen Parteizeitung al-Baath in einem Punkt einig: Obama sei kein Präsident, der einen Krieg im Nahen Osten wolle.

Eine Presseschau von Christoph Dinkelaker, Lea Frehse, Amina Nolte, Dominik Peters, Friedrich Schulze, Bodo Straub und Christoph Sydow

 Youssef al-Kuweilit äußert in seinem Kommentar für al-Riyadh aus Saudi-Arabien zunächst einmal seine Verwunderung darüber, dass Obama für eine zweite Amtszeit gewählt wurde - „trotz der Aufregung und Zweifel an seinem Glauben, seiner Kindheit, seines Geburtsorts und darüber, ob er vom islamischen Glauben seines Vaters beeinflusst wurde“. Der Präsident habe sich aber seine Wiederwahl durch seine Erfolge in Irak, Afghanistan und Libyen verdient. Kuweilit hebt auch hervor, dass sich Obama in seiner ersten Amtszeit „den wiederholten Erpressungen Israels“ widersetzt habe. Gleichwohl habe er gegenüber dem israelischen Siedlungsbau zu nachlässig gehandelt. Dennoch ist der Kommentator überzeugt: „Für die Länder zwischen Maghreb und Mashreq bleibt Obama der beste Präsident, auch wenn er Versprechungen gebrochen hat. Aber er hat viele Erfahrungen gesammelt und bleibt moderat im Vergleich zum Extremismus der Republikaner“.

Ibrahim Eissa, Kommentator der oppositionellen ägyptischen Tageszeitung al-Tahrir, sieht durch Obamas Wiederwahl schwierige Zeiten auf Ägyptens Präsidenten Mohammed Mursi zukommen. Die USA hätten den Muslimbrüdern zwar den Weg zur Macht am Nil geebnet, nun aber werde Washington dafür einen Preis verlangen. Das informelle Abkommen zwischen Obama und Mursi sah demnach so aus: „Die Muslimbrüder garantieren Israels Sicherheit und bändigen die Hamas. Sie verpflichten sich, sich für Amerikas Interessen einzusetzen und unter dem Banner des sunnitischen Islams in die Phalanx gegen Iran und die Schiiten einzutreten.“ Gleichzeitig habe Obama zugesichert, das Machtmonopol der Muslimbrüder nicht zu brechen. Dafür werde er in seiner zweiten Amtszeit aber eine Gegenleistung verlangen: Die Wiederherstellung von Ordnung auf dem Sinai, ein Ende der dortigen Präsenz von al-Qaida und anderen extremistischen Gruppen. „Dies wird Mursi Ärger mit seinen Freunden in Gaza einhandeln und den Zorn der Jihadisten auf dem Sinai entfachen“, ist Eissa überzeugt. Mursi werde deshalb Bedenken äußern. Die wichtigste Frage sei daher: „Wie geduldig wird Obama sein?“

"Obama will politische Lösung der Syrien-Krise"

Der Leitartikel der syrischen Staatszeitung al-Baath wartet am Donnerstag mit einer Überraschung auf: Es sei zu erwarten, dass Obama in seiner zweiten Amtszeit eine politische Lösung der Krise in Syrien suche, so das Blatt. Das liege zum einen an der Standfestigkeit des syrischen Volkes und der Armee und zum zweiten am Unwillen des US-Präsidenten, sein Land in einen neuen Krieg zu führen. „Ein Präsident, der in seiner Siegesrede sagt: 'Ein Jahrzehnt des Krieges ist zu Ende gegangen', der nach dem Rückzug seiner Armee aus dem Irak erleichtert aufatmet und der jetzt hart daran arbeitet, die US-Armee aus dem Sumpf in Afghanistan herauszuziehen, der denkt nicht an ein militärisches Abenteuer in Syrien, das die ganze Region in Brand setzen kann.“ Die USA steckten in einer schweren Wirtschaftskrise und hätten begriffen, dass sie nicht länger die einzige Weltmacht seien. Daher strebe Washington eine internationale Einigung auf eine politische Lösung der syrischen Krise an. „Schließlich kann die US-Regierung nicht länger die große Rolle der Qaida-Gruppen in Syrien übersehen, besonders nach dem er den Geschmack des Terrors in Bengasi selbst schmecken musste.“

Einen ganz anderen Aspekt beleuchtet al-Khabar aus Algerien. „Die Amerikaner wissen seit Mittwoch, dass Obama bis Anfang 2017 regieren wird. Sie brauchen keine Politiker oder Experten, die mit den Geheimnissen des Weißen Hauses vertraut sind, und die ihnen sagen, ob Obama die Verfassung ändern oder sein Amt aufgeben und irgendeinem ausgesuchten Nachfolger übergeben will.“ Ganz anders sei das in Algerien, kritisiert die Zeitung in ihrem Leitartikel. Niemand wisse ob Präsident Abdelaziz Bouteflika möglicherweise noch einmal die Verfassung ändern, und sich damit eine weitere Amtszeit sichern werde. Es sei ja noch nicht einmal klar, wie es um die gesundheitliche Verfassung des Staatschefs bestellt ist. Niemand gebe Auskunft darüber, warum der Präsident lange verschwinde und dann plötzlich wieder auftauche. In diesem politischen Klima zeige auch keiner der möglichen Nachfolgekandidaten seine wahren Absichten, in diesem algerischen System komme der am weitesten, „der seine politischen Ambitionen am besten versteckt.“

"Obamas Wiederwahl spaltet den Nahen Osten in zwei Lager"

In der Jordan Times schaut man vor allem enttäuscht auf die erste Amtsperiode des Präsidenten zurück: „Obama hat hohe Erwartungen geschürt, als er in den ersten Monaten seines Antritts Kairo und Istanbul besucht hat, um der arabischen Welt seine guten Absichten hinsichtlich des Israel-Palästina Konflikts und die guten amerikanischen Beziehungen mit den Muslimen zu bekräftigen. Aber wie ein Sprichwort sagt: 'Der Weg zur Hölle ist mit guten Intentionen gepflastert', so hat Obama seine guten Absichten nach seiner Rückkehr in die USA fallen gelassen, angeblich weil die Pro-Israel-Lobby und ihre Unterstützer sich weigerten, seine Absichten zu unterstützen. Deswegen ist Obamas Popularität in der arabischen und muslimischen Welt drastisch abgesunken, vor allem nach dem er Israel als „Verbündeten“ bezeichnet hatte und Netanyahu in seinem Konflikt mit Iran Unterstützung zusagte."

Auch in Bahrain wird die Wiederwahl Obamas mit gemischten Gefühlen aufgenommen. Die arabischen Länder bewerteten die Wiederwahl sehr unterschiedlich, schreibt Kassim Hussain für al-Wasat: "Die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas spaltete den Nahen Osten in zwei Lager: Während ein Lager versucht mit Schwierigkeit seine Freude zu verbergen, versucht das andere Lager sein Leid zu verbergen."

Diese Unterscheidung, so Hussain, verlaufe entlang der amerikanischen Einteilung des Nahen Ostens in eine „Achse des Bösen“ und eine „Achse der Guten“. Paradoxerweise begrüßten die Länder der „Achse des Bösen“ die Wiederwahl Obamas, die Länder der „Achse der Guten“ seien darüber eher enttäuscht. Den Grund sieht er in der eher milden Haltung Obamas gegenüber jenen Länden, denen Bush Junior noch Krieg angedroht habe. In Anspielung auf die NATO-Intervention in Libyen schreibt er:„Die Region, die vom arabischen Frühling erschüttert wurde, ist noch immer in zwei Lager gespalten: Regierungen, die von der Wiederwahl Obamas enttäuscht sind und Menschen die an der Idee festhalten, das es sich bewahrheitet dass die Amerikaner ihre Einstellung gegenüber den Menschenrechten ändern, wenn auch nur ein einziges Mal, und nicht ein weiteres Mal Menschenleben gegen Öl eintauschen“.

"Die Apokalypse wird morgen nicht eintreten. Das Paradies auch nicht."

Unter der Überschrift „Ein amerikanischer Traum“ stellt der Leitartikler des libanesischen L'Orient le Jour fest: „2008 haben die Amerikaner einen Traumfabrikanten ins Weiße Haus geschickt – was man ihnen nicht unbedingt zum Vorwurf machen kann – der es vier Jahre später immer noch nicht geschafft hat, diesen Traum zu verwirklichen, was nicht auf eine strahlende Zukunft schließen lässt. Weise oder nicht, sie haben sich für den amtierenden Präsidenten entschieden, den sie wenigstens schon kennen, anstelle eines Gegners, der sein Können bisher lediglich bei olympischen Winterspielen unter Beweis gestellt hat.“

Dieses Mal hätten sie Obama eine neue Aufgabe mit auf den Weg gegeben: Die Reihen zu schließen, die nie zuvor so gespalten waren. Angesichts der Mehrheit der Grand Old Party im Repräsentantenhaus sei jedoch zu bezweifeln, dass Obama dafür in naher Zukunft eine Lösung finde, ebenso wie für die Wirtschaftsprobleme oder die Arbeitslosigkeit. Die Reform des Gesundheitssystems sei bereits enorm in einem Land, in dem jeder nur auf sich gestellt ist. Der Leitartikel endet mit der lapidaren Feststellung: „Die Vereinigten Staaten schrammen immer am Abgrund entlang, ohne jemals hineinzufallen. Die Apokalypse wird morgen nicht eintreten. Das Paradies auch nicht.“

Osama bin Laden, für den Bush noch sämtliche Berge von Tora Bora durchkämmte, habe Barack Obama die Wahl gerettet, meint der Kommentator der algerischen Tageszeitung El Watan. „‘Forward!‘ proklamiert Obama, selbst wenn seine internationale Bilanz alles andere als rosig aussieht. Seine Versprechen einer besseren Welt haben sich vier Jahre später nicht unbedingt als wahr erwiesen. Zwar hat seine Rede in Kairo die Herzen der Araber und der Muslime berührt. Aber letztendlich waren das nur schöne Worte, magische Formeln eines Mannes, der zu reden und zu respektieren versteht.“ Auch die Palästinenser sähen heute die Kluft zwischen Obamas Versprechen eines unabhängigen Staates und der Wirklichkeit. Er habe Gaza 2009 ebenso wenig verhindern können wie den israelischen Siedlungsbau, und als Friedensnobelpreisträger führe er weiterhin Krieg im Irak und in Afghanistan. „Trotz allem: Die Tatsache, dass er wiedergewählt wurde, ist mit Sicherheit eine gute Nachricht für die ganze Welt. Sie ist ein Zeichen dafür, dass die Mehrheit der Amerikaner seinen Willen teilt, die Dinge zu ändern und sein Land menschlicher zu machen. Nachdem er nun seine Landsleute überzeugt hat, dass er ihr Präsident in den vier kommenden Jahren sein darf, bleibt es seine Aufgabe, die Welt und vor allem die Araber und die Muslime zu überzeugen, dass sie nicht nur sein liebster Zeitvertreib sind.“

 "Wir gratulieren Ihnen zur Wahl"

Die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas wurde in den palästinensischen Medien mit Erleichterung, jedoch sehr nüchtern aufgenommen. Der Tenor der wenigen Meinungsartikel lautet, dass eine Regierung Romney sich "noch einseitiger" im Nahostkonflikt zugunsten Israels positioniert hätte. Der renommierte Politikwissenschaftler Oraib Rantawi befindet etwa in der Jerusalemer Zeitung al-Quds: "Mitt Romneys Wahl hätte einen Albtraum für Präsident Abbas und für das palästinensische Streben nach Selbstbestimmung bedeutet, obwohl auch Obama Abbas enttäuschte und im Stich ließ."

Zudem hätte Romney anders als Obama mit seinem konfrontativen Auftreten die globalen Machtverhältnisse destabilisiert: "Obamas Tür ist für Lösungen und politische Kompromisse - wenn auch unausgewogen - geöffnet, während Romneys Tür geschlossen bleibt, weil er Russland als militärische, China als wirtschaftliche und Iran als terroristische Bedrohung wahrnimmt"

In vielen Meinungsbeiträgen schwingt bittere Enttäuschung angesichts Obamas bisheriger Nahostpolitik mit, in die zahlreiche Palästinenserinnen und Palästinenser nach seiner Rede in Kairo große Hoffnungen gesetzt hatte. Ein anonymer Leserbrief fasst diese Gefühlslage zusammen: "Von Beginn seiner ersten Amtszeit richtete sich Präsident Obama an die internationale Öffentlichkeit und machte viele Versprechungen. Seine Rede an der Universität von Kairo war ein Durchbruch und verbreitete Optimismus unter vielen Palästinensern. Doch peu à peu wendete sich das Blatt und Obama gelang es nicht, auf der politischen Ebene etwas für die palästinensische Sache zu erreichen. Im Gegenteil nahm er fortan blind, einseitig israelische Positionen an. Er konnte den Siedlungsbau nicht stoppen und wandte sich stattdessen gehen die palästinensischen Bestrebungen im Sicherheitsrat."

Prominente Persönlichkeiten wie der Multi-Milliardär Munib al-Masri aus Nablus nutzen die palästinensischen Medien wiederum, um Obama zu beglückwünschen und gleichzeitig Erwartungen an die zwei Amtszeit zu formulieren. al-Masri, der sich auch politisch engagiert und mehrfach für das Amt des Ministerpräsidenten im Gespräch war, schreibt ebenfalls in der Zeitung al-Quds: "Wir gratulieren Ihnen zur Wahl (...) und hoffen, dass Sie diese Amtszeit mit innen- und außenpolitischen Erfolgen füllen, insbesondere im Hinblick auf die Beendigung des arabisch-israelischen Konflikts. Dies ist die Grundlage für ein Ende der Besatzung der arabischen Gebiete, die Errichtung eines unabhängigen Staates in den Grenzen von 1967 mit Ostjerusalem als Hauptstadt und die Rückkehr der Flüchtlinge in Übereinstimmung mit der UN-Resolution 194."

Al-Masri appeliert in dem Schreiben an internationale und insbesondere amerikanische Werte. Die Besatzung und Annexion, verbunden mit der Inbesitznahme von Land durch die Sperranlage und den Ausbau von Siedlungen verletze "alle Normen, internationale Gesetze und die in der US-Verfassungen verankerten Prinzipien der Gerichtigkeit".

"Wir brauchen einen Führer, der Israel mit harter Hand führt"

Dass das US-Votum enorme Auswirkungen auf die israelische Parlamentswahl haben würde, war spätestens
dann klar, als Ehud Olmert und Tzipi Livni vor wenigen Tagen verkündet hatten, sie würden die Entscheidung über eine Rückkehr in den Jerusalemer Polit-Zirkus vom Ergebnis – und damit einem Sieg Obamas – zwischen New York und L.A. abhängig machen. Besonders dieses Verhalten stößt vielerorts in den israelischen Medien auf Unverständnis.

Da ist Ruthi Blum, für die die Wiederwahl Barack Obamas, in dem sie einen Sozialisten zu erkennen glaubt, ein Schock ist. Im Massenblatt Israel Hajom schreibt sie: „Mit einem weniger als freundlichen Commander-in-chief im Oval Office, ist es umso bedeutender, dass wir in Jerusalem einen Führer haben, der Israel mit eiserner Faust führt.“

Paroli bietet Blum Lynette Nusbacher. In der Times of Israel erklärt sie: „Wenn die weitere Existenz Israels davon abhängt, dass wir einen Likudnik im Weißen Haus sitzen haben, dann ist Israel kein richtiger Staat“ – und hält eben jenen Befürwortern dieser Strategie vor, sie würden aus Israel ein zweites Süd-Vietnam machen wollen, dass nicht mehr gewesen sei, als ein „Hubschrauberlandeplatz, eine Puppe oder Schoßhündchen“.

Eli Avidar kommentiert für das vor dem Bankrott stehende Traditionsblatt Maariv, dass Israel durch die Wiederwahl von Barack Obama vor vier sehr komplexen Jahren stehe. Nicht deshalb, weil der neue und alte US-Präsident und Benjamin Netanjahu offenkundig keine innige Beziehung zueinander haben, so Avidar, denn persönliche Befindlichkeiten spielten hierbei keine Rolle. Vielmehr gehe es darum, den Analytiker Obama mit Fakten zu beeindrucken. "Der Ministerpräsident wird noch härter arbeiten müssen", denn "Obama hat bereits gezeigt, dass er kein Präsident ist, der in den Krieg zieht, sondern seine Soldaten nach Hause bringt. Israel wird deshalb große diplomatische Anstrengungen unternehmen müssen, wenn es nicht eines Tages mit einer Atombombe in den Händen Irans aufwachen möchte."

"Der Nahe Osten wird ihn verfolgen"

In der liberalen israelischen Tageszeitung Ha’aretz reflektiert Akiva Eldar einen möglichen Wandel der amerikanischen Nahostpolitik in Obamas zweiter Amtszeit. Während Obama zu Beginn seiner ersten Präsidentschaft durch politische Impulse positive Erwartungen geweckt habe, sehe er sich nun einem “neuen Nahen Osten” gegenüber, der die USA vor “neue Herausforderungen und neue Spielregeln” stelle.

Noch 2009 habe sich Obama in Kairo für einen eigenständigen palästinensischen Staat ausgesprochen. Doch sei die US-Regierung danach nicht bereit gewesen den nötigen Druck auf Israel auszuüben und habe die Palästinenser damit sehr enttäuscht. Mit Spannung werde nun Obamas Position zum palästinensischen Antrag auf den Status eines staatlichen nicht-Mitglieds der Vereinten Nationen erwartet. „Angenommen Abbas kriegt keine kalten Füße, wird Obama gezwungen sein sich entweder hinter Abbas oder Netanjahu zu stellen. Beide Optionen haben ihren Preis.” Lasse man Abbas scheitern, bedeute das seinen Rücktritt und womöglich die Dritte Intifada. Unterstützten die USA Abbas, riskiere man israelische Sanktionen und in der Folge ebenfalls den erneuten gewaltsamen Aufstand.

Sollte Obama seine Kairoer Versprechen brechen und den Palästinensern die Unterstützung vor den Vereinten Nationen verweigern, sollte er also, so Eldar, “dem Nahen Osten den Rücken kehren wollen, wird der Nahe Osten ihn verfolgen”.

„Netanjahu hat riskant gespielt, wir werden dafür bezahlen“, kommentiert Sima Kadmon in den israelischen YnetNews die US-Präsidentschaftswahlen. Der israelische Premier hatte sich im Vorfeld der Wahlen klar auf die Seite von Obamas Rivalen Mitt Romney geschlagen und Obama mehrere Male offen brüskiert. „Netanjahus Verhalten wird für uns alle Folgen haben. Israels Außenpolitik und unsere Beziehungen mit den Vereinigten Staaten sind nicht Netanjahus Privatangelegenheit sondern existenzielles Kapital des Staates Israel. Netanjahu hätte dieses Kapital niemals aufs Spiel setzen dürfen.“ Kadmon befürchtet nun Amerikas Rache: „Ohne Zweifel werden die USA weiterhin Israels Sicherheit und Existenz verpflichtet bleiben. Die USA werden Israel nicht für Netanjahus Verhalten in Geiselhaft nehmen. Doch in allem, was über essentielle Sicherheitsbelange hinausgeht, erwartet uns die kalte Schulter.“

"Eine Wahl gegen Romney"

Die reformorientierte Zeitung Etemad aus Teheran lieferte eine breite Berichterstattung unter der Schlagzeile „Obamas iranische Herausforderung“ mit mehreren Meinungsbildern und einem zentralen Interview mit Hossein Daheshyar, einem langjährigen US-Kommentator, der allerdings seit den Wahlunruhen von 2009 keine weiteren Interviews gegeben hatte.

Zu Beginn des Interviews äußert Daheshyar seine Verwunderung darüber, dass Obama die Wahl gewann. „Noch nie hat ein amerikanischer Präsident unter solch schlechten Wirtschaftsbedingungen eine Wahl gewonnen. Die Wirtschaftslage war seit der letzten Großen Depression in den dreißiger noch nie so schlecht“. Obama habe die Schuld auch nicht auf seinen Vorgänger Mitt Romney abwälzen können „Die Amerikaner haben diese Ausrede auch nicht akzeptiert, sondern wollten einfach Romney nicht“. Daraus schlussfolgert er, dass die Wahl „eigentlich keine Wahl für Obama, sondern eine Wahl gegen Romney war“. "Die Außenpolitik hatte überhaupt keinen Einfluss", analysiert Daheshyar.

Die US-Bürger hätten Obama vor allem wegen des Glaubens gewählt, den er verbreite. „Obama präsentierte sich selbst als jemand, der Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt und Ronald Reagan folgt. Alles Politiker, die eine besondere Rolle in der amerikanischen Gesellschaft einnehmen und als ,Veränderer‘ gelten. Mit seiner Wiederwahl besitzt er nun auch die Chance als „Veränderer“ in die Geschichte einzugehen“. Allerdings habe Obama zu wenig unternommen, um die Polarisierung der amerikanischen Gesellschaft zu überwinden. „Daher halte ich es für unwahrscheinlich, dass man ihn nach den vier Jahren in der Reihe dieser Präsidenten sehen wird. Er versuchte im Wahlkampf ja auch nicht einmal, Personen in den republikanischen Reihen zu überzeugen“.

Dariush Soleymani, Experte für Internationale Beziehungen, merkt in seinem Kommentar für Etemad an, dass die geschichtliche Erfahrung zeige, dass Republikaner vor allem „nach einem Erstarken der Wirtschaft den Präsidenten stellten“. Trotz der enttäuschten Erwartungen an Obama gebe es einige „nennenswerte Veränderungen“ in der Politik gegenüber seinem Vorgänger. Dazu gehöre „der Rückzug vom Krieg in der Außenpolitik mit den dazu verbundenen Kürzungen im Militärbudget des Landes und die Konzentration Obamas auf die Lösung der eigenen Wirtschaftskrise“.

"Vier weitere Jahre ohne Veränderung"

Die Zeitung Keyhan, die den Sicherheitsorganen der IRI nahe stehen und mit ihrem Chefredakteur Hossein Shariatmadari einen direkten Draht zum Revolutionsführer Ali Khamenei haben soll, titelte: „Der ,Herr der Veränderung‘ schaffte es wieder - vier weitere Jahre ohne Veränderung“. Die Keyhan stellt heraus, dass Obama mit „etwa 50% der Stimmen die Wahlen gewinnen konnte“ und dabei „sechs bis acht Milliarden Dollar“ ausgegeben wurden. Anschließend wird das amerikanische Wahlsystem erklärt, und darauf hingewiesen, dass „Obama Sieger wurde, obwohl er im Vergleich etwa zehn Millionen Stimmen verloren hat“. Eine lange Liste an Gratulationswünsche folgt, bei denen unteren anderem Mahmud Abbas als „Präsident der Selbstständigen Palästinenser“ und Benyamin Netanyahu als „Präsident des zionistischem Regimes“ vorgestellt werden.

Ebenso würde George Soros, „zionistischer amerikanischer Milliardär“ und Präsident der Soros-Stiftung Obama zum Wahlsieg gratulieren. Keyhan greift dazu eine "Reuters"-Quelle auf und zitiert: „Der berühmte amerikanische Milliardär sagte, dass der Erfolg Obamas gegen Mitt Romney bedeute, dass eine vernünftigere und bessere Politik fortgesetzt wird. Er würde sich freuen“. Nachdem kurz einige Ziele Obamas genannt werden, wird auf die US-Wahlkritik von Jürgen Klimke, einem OSZE-Wahlbeobachter eingegangen. „Nach Berichten der deutschen Zeitung Die Welt war er sehr unzufrieden mit der Durchführung der US-Wahl. Herr Klimke sagte, dass er nicht frei arbeiten konnte und bezeichnete die Durchführung der Wahl als „unlogisch“ und dass die Wahlzählung in dem Sinne „merkwürdig“ war, dass die „Registrierung zur Wahl nicht mal nach den Standards wie in anderen Ländern verlief“ und ihm als Wahlbeobachter nicht einmal Kameras oder Handys erlaubt waren. So erging es allen etwa 80 Wahlbeobachtern“.

Die Keyhan hebt ebenso die „schwache Wahlbeteiligung hervor, die in der „Unfähigkeit Obamas Verantwortung zu übernehmen“ und „dem Taifun Sandy“ verschuldet war. Zudem hätten „die unabhängigen Kandidaten der Wahl, aufgrund der Anspannungen und großen Probleme unter denen das Land leidet, keine Chance gehabt, sich der amerikanischen Bevölkerung vorzustellen. So ist die Bevölkerung gezwungen entweder den republikanischen oder demokratischen Kandidaten zu wählen“.

Abschließend nennt die Keyhan „einen weiteren interessanten Aspekt der Präsidentschaftswahlen“, da „Romney aus Michigan stammt und trotz allem dort weniger Stimmen als Obama holen konnte“. Zweifellos eine Anspielung auf die oft als unglaubwürdig kritisierten Wahlergebnisse 2009, bei denen beispielsweise Ahmadinejad mehr Stimmen im Heimatort seines Konkurrenten Mousavi erlangen konnte.

          Neuer koptischer Papst: Eine Taube in stürmischen Zeiten   
Die koptische Kirche hat einen neuen Papst: Theodoros II. Der 61-Jährige muss in Zeiten des Um- und Aufbruchs divergierende Interessen innerhalb der Kirche miteinander versöhnen – und seine Gläubigen nach außen hin schützen, ohne eine Isolierung von der Gesellschaft zu fördern. Eine Mammutaufgabe.

Von Dominik Peters

Für Bishoy Gerges Mossad war es ein außergewöhnlicher Moment: Nach altem koptischem Brauch zog der Junge heute in der Kairener Markus-Kathedrale mit verbundenen Augen den Namen des neuen koptischen Papstes aus einem Glaskasten, der mit rotem Wachs versiegelt gewesen war. Sieger dieses Lotterieverfahrens ist nun Weihbischof Tawadros, der heute Geburtstag feierte und dessen künftiger Titel auf Deutsch Theodoros II lauten wird.

Er konnte sich gegen Bischof Raphael und den Mönch Raphael Awa Mina durchsetzen. Alle drei hatten die Abstimmung im Kloster Wadi Natrun abgewartet und waren zu Beginn der vorigen Woche von einem Gremium, bestehend aus neun Bischöfen und neun Laien, in die finale Auswahlrunde gewählt worden, nachdem sie sich bereits gegen 14 weitere in einem ersten Wahlgang mit insgesamt 2412 Wahlberechtigten hatten durchsetzen könnnen.

Der 61-Jährige wurde am 4. November 1952 im oberägyptischen Mansoura als Wajih Sobhi Baki Solayman geboren, vor 15 Jahren zum Bischof ernannt und hat damit die formalen Kriterien erfüllt, nachdem ein Kandidat älter als 40 Jahre sein muss und mindestens 15 Jahre in einem Kloster gelebt haben soll. Erdiente im Bischofsamt bisher in al-Buhaira im nordwestlichen Nil-Delta, assistierte jedoch zugleich auch der bis zum vergangenen Sonntag als Interimspapst für die Übergangsphase seit dem Tod Papst Shenouds III. agierte. 

Pharmazeut und liberal-konservativer Denker

Innerhalb der koptischen Kirche gilt Tawadros als Taube. Schließlich hatte er noch kürzlich öffentlich erklärt: „Wir teilen die gleiche Geschichte, Kultur und Wurzeln mit unseren muslimischen Brüdern und wir sollten unsere Kinder dazu ermutigen, dass sie die kirchliche Umgebung verlassen und sich mit der Gesellschaft vermischen.“ 

Diese und andere Sätze brachten dem in Alexandria und Großbritannien studierten Pharmazeuten das Wohlwollen vieler Laien ein, deren Rat sich nach Angaben der Tageszeitung „al-Ahram“ bereits vor dem Losverfahren ausgesprochen hatte und dessen „Weisheit, Bodenhaftung und Fähigkeit für ein gutes Verhältnis zwischen jedermann zu sorgen, Christen wie auch Muslimen“ gelobt hatte.
Gleichwohl gehen Kenner der Kirchenkreise nicht davon aus, dass man von ihm einen radikalen Kurswechsel erwarten könne, etwa in Fragen der hierarchischen Strukturen, die der im März dieses Jahres verstorbene Papst Shenouda III. maßgeblich ausgebaut hatte und die vor allem von jungen Kopten mehr und mehr in Frage gestellt werden.

Die kommenden Aufgaben sind kaum zu bewältigen

Am 18. November wird Tawadros feierlich als 118. Nachfolger des Evangelisten Markus auf dem Thron des Patriarchen „von Alexandria bei Ägypten, der Pentapolis und ganz Afrika“ eingeführt Zu diesem Anlass wird auch Präsident Mohammed Mursi erwartet, dessen Freiheits- und Gerechtigkeitspartei allen Kopten kurze Zeit nach Bekanntgabe des Ergebnisses gratulierte. Erst in den kommenden Monaten wird sich indes zeigen, ob die bislang im Land gebliebenen rund zehn Millionen Kopten über ihren neuen Papst wirklich jubeln können. 

Dann, wenn sich zeigt, wie Tawadros mit dem schweren Los umgehen wird, die größte im Nahen Osten lebende Gemeinde autochthoner Christen in Zeiten des Um-, Auf- und Zusammenbruchs zu führen und zu vertreten, aber auch zwischen den verschiedenen Meinungen innerhalb der Kirche zu moderieren – zumal auch die Diasporagemeinden, die bei den Vorwahlen erstmals mitstimmen durften, auf mehr Mitspracherecht pochen. All das unter einen päpstlichen Hut zu bringen, gleicht einer kaum lösbaren Mammutaufgabe.


          Schutzlos im Libanon? Die sunnitische Gemeinschaft nach dem Anschlag auf Wissam al-Hassan    

Libanons Sunniten sehen im Anschlag auf Geheimdienstchef Wissam al-Hassan am 19. Oktober einen weiteren Verlust an politischem Einfluss und an Sicherheit. Eine zweite »Zedernrevolution« ist dennoch nicht zu erwarten. 

Vor sieben Jahren sah die Zukunft für die Sunniten im Libanon noch vielversprechend aus. Die Ermordung des sunnitischen Ex-Ministerpräsidenten Rafiq Hariri im Februar 2005 hatte die Gemeinschaft vereint und politisiert. Auf dem Beiruter Märtyrerplatz forderten sie vehement einen von Syrien unabhängigen Libanon. Der spontane zivilgesellschaftliche Protest gegen Syrien war so groß, dass sich das Assad-Regime gezwungen sah, sein Militär aus dem Libanon vollständig abzuziehen. In Folge dessen waren freie Wahlen möglich, aus denen das Syrien-kritische Parteienbündnis des 14. März – bestehend aus sunnitischen, christlichen und drusischen Akteuren – als Sieger hervorging.

An allen Jahrestagen des Anschlags wiederholten sich die zeremoniellen Massenkundgebungen auf dem Märtyrerplatz, denn die Bewegung des 14. März sah die Revolution noch nicht als abgeschlossen an. Sie forderte die Aufklärung des Attentats durch ein internationales Tribunal und die Entwaffnung der pro-syrischen schiitischen Hizbullah. Jedoch verlor die Bewegung ihren anfänglich zivilgesellschaftlichen Charakter und wurde immer mehr zu einem Instrument Syrien-kritischer Parteien.
Keine Religionsgemeinschaft unterstütze so vereint das Bündnis des 14. März wie die sunnitische. Durch diese einflussreiche Allianz wurden die Sunniten wieder eine eigenständige politische Kraft im Libanon. Saad Hariri machte aus »Mustaqbal«, zu Deutsch »Zukunft« – einem vormals losen Netzwerk sunnitischer Eliten – eine gut organisierte Programmpartei. Ausdrücklich wollte Hariri keine konfessionalistische Klientelpartei nach libanesischem Muster aufbauen sondern eine liberal-nationale, säkular orientierte politische Kraft. Als Führer der Unabhängigkeitsbewegung des 14. März gelang Hariri 2005 der Sieg bei den Parlamentswahlen.

Bis auf die Radikalen und Gewaltbereiten trauen sich nur noch wenige Sunniten zu Protesten auf die Straße

Die Einheitsregierung von 2005 zerfiel jedoch früh an der Frage des Internationalen Gerichtshof zur Aufklärung des Attentats auf Rafiq Hariri. Das pro-syrische Lager ging fortan in Fundamentalopposition zum 14. März. Im Mai 2008 eskalierte dieser Konflikt, als die Hizbullah ins sunnitisch dominierte Westbeirut einmarschierte und das Gebiet mehrere Tage besetzt hielt. Hariri und die Regierung der »Zedernrevolutionäre« konnten der sunnitischen Gemeinschaft keinen Schutz bieten und schauten der Machtdemonstration der Hizbullah tatenlos zu. Die Enttäuschung der Sunniten über die politische Führung und die Angst vor erneuter Fremdbestimmung wuchsen seitdem, und es verwundert wenig, dass die Demonstrationszeremonien zu den Jahrestagen des Hariri-Anschlags immer weniger Menschen mobilisierten.

Dennoch gelang Hariri 2009 erneut der Wahlsieg. Nun hatte er Mustaqbal jedoch konsequent als sunnitische Interessenpartei neu organisiert. Aber auch diese ab 2009 von Hariri als Ministerpräsident geführte Regierung hielt nicht länger als zwei Jahre. Als die drusische Partei von Walid Jumblatt die Seiten wechselte, verlor der »14. März« die Regierungsmacht zugunsten eines vorwiegend pro-syrischen Lagers, dem unter anderem die Hizbullah angehört. Nach dem Ende des zivilgesellschaftlichen Elans der Sunniten hatte Mustaqbal nun auch noch die Regierungsmacht abgeben müssen.

Im Vorfeld der Beerdigungszeremonie für Wissam al-Hassan hat Al-Jazeera in seinem englischen Hauptprogramm noch über eine zweite »Zedernrevolution« spekuliert. Hunderttausende Demonstranten wurden auch von den Granden des 14. März erwartet. Mustaqbal hatte die Beerdigung extra auf den Sonntag verschoben, um seine Anhänger zu mobilisieren und die nötige Zeit für die Organisation einer Großveranstaltung zu gewinnen. Dem Aufruf von Oppositionspolitikern, sich am »Tags des Zorns« auf dem Märtyrerplatz zu versammeln, sind aber nur wenige Tausend Menschen gefolgt – darunter viele Anhänger der christlichen Lebanese Forces. Bis auf die Radikalen und Gewaltbereiten trauen sich nur noch wenige Sunniten zu Protesten auf die Straße. Eine neue Revolution gab es nicht. Und es wird sie auch nicht mehr geben.

Die Sunniten brauchen souveränen Staat und seine Schutzfunktion wie keine andere Releigionsgemeinschaft

Die Sunniten sind nach dem stetigen Machtverlust ihrer politischen Führer und dem Erstarken des pro-syrischen Lagers desillusioniert. Die Probleme sind aber auch hausgemacht, wofür vor allem Saad Hariri verantwortlich ist. Das Kernproblem der Opposition ist nicht allein das Scheitern der Regierung der »nationalen Einheit«, in der die widerstreitenden Lager des 8. und des 14. März keinen Konsens finden konnten, sondern die Passivität, mit der Hariri agiert, seitdem er Oppositionsführer ist. Hariri hat sich im März 2011 – und damit nur zwei Monate nach dem Regierungsbruch – nach Saudi-Arabien abgesetzt und ist seither nicht in den Libanon zurückgekehrt. Saudi-Arabien ist das Land, in dem er geboren ist und dessen Staatsangehörigkeit er trägt. Von dort (und manchmal auch von Paris aus) verbreitet er seine politischen Botschaften via Twitter. Seine Anhänger im Libanon zeigen immer weniger Verständnis für seine Abstinenz – und auch nicht für die Sicherheitsbedenken, die Hariri als Grund für seine Abwesenheit angibt. Nachdem sich aber noch nicht einmal der Geheimdienstchef der Polizei vor einem Anschlag schützen konnte, ist mit einer Rückkehr des einstigen Hoffnungsträgers überhaupt nicht mehr zu rechnen.

Die um sich greifende Anarchie im Libanon ist für die sunnitische Gemeinschaft ein besonders gravierendes Problem. Die anderen größeren Gemeinschaften, insbesondere Schiiten, Maroniten und Drusen, werden politisch von Parteien und Parteiführern vertreten, die bürgerkriegserfahren sind und im Falle eines Staatszerfalls die Hauptsiedlungsgebiete ihrer jeweiligen Gemeinschaft notfalls auch militärisch verteidigen könnten. Keine Gemeinschaft ist auf einen souveränen Staat und seine Schutzfunktion stärker angewiesen als die sunnitische. Es ist daher vor allem im ihrem Interesse, dass der Staat seine Souveränitätsrechte gegenüber inneren und äußeren Widersachern durchsetzen kann.

Der am 19. Oktober ermordete Wissam al-Hassan war ein Verfechter des staatlichen Gewaltmonopols. Er war kein politischer Führer, aber seit dem Sturz der Hariri-Regierung im Januar 2011 der bei weitem einflussreichste Hariri-Vertraute im libanesischen Staatsapparat. Seine Geheimdienstbehörde gehörte zu den wenigen effektiven Institutionen des Staates. Unter Hassans Führung hat der Geheimdienst terroristische Anschlagspläne vereitelt und ein israelisches Spionagenetzwerk enttarnt. Der größte Coup gelang der Behörde in diesem August, als sie eine von Syrien geplante Anschlagserie aufgedeckt und dabei die Verwicklung des ehemaligen libanesischen Ministers Michel Samaha nachweisen konnte. Einmalig in der libanesischen Nachbürgerkriegsgeschichte erhob ein libanesisches Gericht in dem Fall auch Anklage gegen den mutmaßlichen Drahtzieher Ali Mamlouk – einen engen Sicherheitsberater von Baschar al-Assad.

Der mächtige Polizeigeheimdienst stellte somit sicherheitspolitisch ein effektives sunnitisches Gegengewicht zu pro-syrischen Regierungskräften dar. Unangenehm wurde Wissam Hassan im Speziellen der Hizbullah, als er auch an der Aufklärung des Hariri-Attentats von 2005 maßgeblich mitwirkte. Seine Behörde war es, die durch die aufwendige Auswertung des Telekommunikationsverkehrs die Beweisgrundlage für die Anklage des Den Haager Tribunals gegen vier Hizbullah-Leute lieferte. Wissam al-Hassan ist bereits der zweite hochrangige sunnitische Sicherheitsbeamte, der einem Anschlag zum Opfer fiel. Im Januar 2008 wurde bereits Geheimdienstoffizier Wissam Eid durch eine Autobombe getötet. Auch Eid arbeitete bei der Inneren Sicherheit unter anderem an der Aufklärung des Hariri-Attentats.

Salafistische Konkurrenz aus Hariris Heimatstadt

Im kommenden Jahr stehen im Libanon Parlamentswahlen an, eigentlich eine Chance für die Opposition, wieder an die Macht zu kommen. Aber auch für den Fall, dass die Sicherheitslage die Abhaltung von Wahlen überhaupt zulässt, ist ein erneuter Wahlerfolg des 14. März nicht zu erwarten – und das, obwohl die gegenwärtige Regierung vor allem durch interne Streitigkeiten auffällt. Hariris Abwesenheit hat jedoch ein Machtvakuum in der sunnitischen Gemeinschaft geschaffen, das andere Akteure längst zu füllen begonnen haben.

Da ist zum einen Ministerpräsident Najib Mikati, der aus der größten sunnitischen Stadt des Libanon Tripoli stammt. Er hat seit Amtsantritt im Juni 2011 an Statur gewonnen. Dem gemäßigten Mikati kann außerdem zugute gehalten werden, dass er einen gewissen Einfluss auf die pro-syrischen Kräfte des Libanon hat, allen voran die Hizbullah. Mikati wird seine Anhänger nächstes Jahr mobilisieren können. Viele sunnitische Tripolitaner werden zwar nicht euphorisch aber pragmatisch für Mikati stimmen, nach dem Motto: besser einer von uns in der Regierung, als ein Oppositionsführer in Saudi-Arabien.

In Hariris Heimatstadt Saida, der zweitgrößten sunnitischen Stadt des Landes, konnten sich salafistische Anhänger des Predigers Ahmad al-Assir als politische Größe etablieren. In manchen Vierteln prägen heute die langbärtigen Salafisten in ihren weißen Gewändern das Straßenbild. Solange Hariri im Land war, beschränkten sich die Salafisten Saidas auf religiöse Aktivitäten in ihren Moscheen, ohne von der Öffentlichkeit wahrgenommen zu werden. In diesem Jahr haben Assir und seine Anhänger auf Saidas Hauptverkehrsstraße über Monate ein Protestlager aufgeschlagen, um nicht weniger als die Entwaffnung der Hizbullah zu fordern. Häufig kam es zu Auseinandersetzungen mit der »Populär-Nasseristischen Organisation«, deren Führer Osama Saad und Lokalnotabel das pro-syrische Lager unterstützt.

Assir, der durch seine medienwirksamen Aktionen zum schärften Kritiker der Hizbullah geworden ist, hat in diesem Jahr begonnen, auch außerhalb Saidas zu mobilisieren. Am 21. September organisierte Ahmad al-Assir nach dem Freitagsgebet auf dem Beiruter Märtyrerplatz Libanons größte sunnitische Protestveranstaltung gegen das amerikanische Muhammad-Video. Alle Hauptverkehrsstraßen von und nach Beirut wurden an diesem Tag sicherheitshalber gesperrt. Assir geht es um die religiös-politische Vorherrschaft in der sunnitischen Gemeinschaft. Am Tag des Attentats auf Wissam al-Hassan ließ er einmal mehr Straßensperren in Saida errichten und hielt zwei Tage später in Beirut zur Beerdigungszeremonie eine wütende Rede vor begeisterten Anhängern.

Assads Verbündete zeigen Flagge in Westbeirut

Saida ist auch die Heimat des ehemaligen Ministerpräsidenten und Hariri-treuen Fuad Siniora. Zwar konnte Siniora 2009 noch einen der beiden Parlamentssitze in Saida ergattern, grundsätzlich aber ist der Architekt der Pariser Geberkonferenzen für den Libanon ein Technokrat in Hariris Diensten ohne eigene Anhängerschaft. Mit Blick auf die Wahlen im kommenden Jahr stellt sich die Frage, warum sich Ahmad Assir dem Diktat der Mustaqbal-Partei unterwerfen soll, wo er sich in den letzten Jahren mit Beharrlichkeit eine eigene Machtbasis geschaffen hat.

In Westbeirut, der dritten sunnitischen Hochburg des Libanon, sind seit dem militärischen Eingriff der Hizbullah im Mai 2008 die Fahnen nur einer einzigen Partei allgegenwärtig: die der SSNP. Die pan-syrisch nationalistische Partei unterstützt das syrische Regime und steht in einer engen politischen Allianz mit der Hizbullah. Die SSNP stellt keine Massenbewegung dar, hat aber ihre Hochburg im Westbeiruter Stadtteil Hamra. In einzelnen Beiruter Geschäften haben die Ladenbesitzer zwar immer noch Bilder des verstorbenen Rafiq al-Hariri an den Fenstern aufgehangen. Aber Bilder Saad Hariris oder gar die himmelblauen Fahnen seiner Mustaqbal-Partei sucht man heute in ganz Beirut vergebens.

Es ist eine Mischung aus Angst vor der allmächtig erscheinenden Hizbullah, Frustration über Hariris Unscheinbarkeit und Enttäuschung über die politische Entwicklung seit der Zedernrevolution, die die politische Apathie der sunnitischen Mehrheit erklärt. Die gesamte Gemeinschaft fühlt sich schutzlos und als Opfer regionaler Interessenskonflikte. Und aufgrund Saad Hariris Abstinenz fehlt ihr auch der Heilsbringer, mit dem sie einst die Hoffnung auf Stabilität, Unabhängigkeit und Prosperität verband.
          Abtreibung in Marokko – Ein Schiff wird kommen   
In Marokko sind Schwangerschaftsabbrüche wie in fast allen arabischen Staaten nur in Ausnahmefällen rechtlich erlaubt. Nun will eine niederländische Organisation Marokkanerinnen auf einem Schiff Abtreibungen ermöglichen. Schon bevor das Boot überhaupt eingetroffen ist, tobt im Land eine lebhafte Debatte zwischen Bürgerrechtsgruppen, Abtreibungsgegnern und Islamisten.

Die Niederlande sind stolz auf ihre Liberalität. Diese spiegelt sich nicht nur in der Drogenpolitik oder der Legalisierung der Sterbehilfe wider. Auch Schwangerschaftsabbrüche waren in Holland früher erlaubt als in den meisten anderen europäischen Ländern. In den 1980er Jahren kam laut Schätzungen jede zweite Patientin, die ihr Kind abtreiben ließ, aus der Bundesrepublik. Auch heute noch nehmen niederländische Ärzte etwa 14 Prozent der Abbrüche an Ausländerinnen vor.

In der Tradition dieser niederländischen Liberalität steht die Organisation Women on Waves, 1999 von der Ärztin Rebecca Gomperts gegründet. Die Gruppe will Frauen in Staaten helfen, in denen die Gesetze Abtreibungen rechtlich nahezu unmöglich machen. Dafür reisten ihre Aktivistinnen und Aktivisten in den vergangenen Jahren mit Schiffen in mehrere europäische Staaten – nach Irland, Polen, Portugal und Spanien. In den Ländern nahmen sie schwangere Frauen an Bord, fuhren mit ihnen anschließend in internationale Gewässer und nahmen dort Schwangerschaftsabbrüche vor. Ihre Aktionen sorgten für großes Aufsehen – in Portugal verhinderte ein Kriegsschiff, dass die Women on Waves in portugiesische Gewässer einlaufen konnten.

In dieser Woche wollen Gomperts und ihre Mitstreiterinnen erstmals ein arabisches Land ansteuern: Marokko. Die einheimische Bürgerrechtsgruppe „Alternative Bewegung für individuelle Freiheiten“ (MALI) hat Women on Waves in den Maghrebstaat eingeladen. Damit wolle die Organisation „illegalen und gefährlichen Praktiken ein Ende setzen, indem wir Zugang zu legalen, gesundheitlich unbedenklichen Abtreibungsmethoden verschaffen um Leben zu retten.“ Auf dem Schiff von Women on Waves sollen Marokkanerinnen in den ersten 6,5 Schwangerschaftswochen die Möglichkeit haben, mit Hilfe von Medikamenten ihr Kind abzutreiben.

Per Paragraph 453 des Strafgesetzbuchs sind in Marokko, wie in den meisten anderen arabischen Staaten auch, Abtreibungen nur erlaubt, wenn die Schwangerschaft das Leben der Mutter gefährdet. Dennoch treiben laut Schätzungen täglich zwischen 600 und 800 Marokkanerinnen ihr ungeborenes Kind ab. „Es gibt eine große soziale Ungleichheit in Marokko, so wie in vielen Ländern, in denen Abtreibung verboten ist“, sagt Rebecca Gomperts. „Mädchen aus der Oberschicht kennen die Ärzte, die eine sichere Operation durchführen können. Aber jene ohne Geld und Informationen sind gezwungen, sich auf gefährliche Methoden zu verlassen, die von Leuten durchgeführt werden, die nicht ausgebildet sind.“

Vor zwei Jahren haben sich Gynäkologen und andere Experten zur „Marokkanischen Vereinigung für den Kampf gegen geheime Abtreibungen“ (AMLAC) zusammengeschlossen. Auf einem Kongress im Juni dieses Jahres forderte die Gruppe, dass künftig auch Minderjährige, Vergewaltigungs- und Inzestopfer, Frauen über 45 und Frauen mit psychischen Störungen straffrei abtreiben sollten. Einen entsprechenden Gesetzesentwurf will AMLAC dem marokkanischen Parlament bis Ende 2012 vorlegen. Außerdem forderte die Organisation die Einführung von Sexualerziehung an den Schulen sowie wirksame Maßnahmen zur Empfängnisverhütung.

Nach Angaben von Rebecca Gomperts ist ihr Schiff bereits auf dem Weg nach Nordafrika. Wann es in Marokko ankommt und welchen Hafen es ansteuert, will Women on Waves erst kurzfristig bekannt geben. Im Zielland selbst ist die Aufregung aber schon jetzt groß. Islamistische Gruppen rufen die Regierung auf, alles zu unternehmen, um die Ankunft des Schiffes zu verhindern. Die Aktivisten gefährdeten die Moral des Landes und untergraben die Säulen der Gesellschaft, warnt etwa die Bewegung für Einheit und Reform, die zweigrößte islamistische Organisation des Landes. „Jede Verbindung zu solchen Aktivitäten ist obszön und für keinen Muslim akzeptabel“, teilt ein Sprecher mit. Aisha Fazli, Vizepräsidentin der marokkanischen Gruppe „Für die Verteidigung des Rechts auf Leben“ sieht gleich das ganze Land in Gefahr: „Sie wollen unser geliebtes Marokko in ein Land verwandeln, in dem das Töten der Seele erlaubt wird, was Gott verboten hat.“

Derweil bezeichnen die Aktivisten von MALI schon diese Aufregung und die aufkommende Diskussion über das Tabuthema Abtreibung als Erfolg für ihre Einladung an Women on Waves. Und schon einmal konnten Rebecca Gomperts und ihre Mitstreiterinnen mit einer Aktion die öffentliche Meinung in einem Land beeinflussen. In Polen stieg nach ihrer Ankunft die Zustimmung für eine Liberalisierung der Gesetze für Schwangerschaftsabbrüche laut Umfragen von 44 auf 61 Prozent.

          Book Review: How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity   
Fed up with your day job and ready to let your pet support you? Check out the latest from Quirk Books, HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAT AN INTERNET CELEBRITY by Patricia Carlin. This book is funny, entertaining and frighteningly subversive. Occasionally while reading, I’d say to myself, “Yeah, I could do that.” It’s a tip of the hat to Carlin, who makes this not only funny, but close enough to a Weird Success for Dummies book to sound totally plausible.

The Internet has conditioned us to take in information with cat pictures, and Carlin has taken advantage of that with lots of adorable kitty pictures (by apparent cat whisperer Dustin Fenstermacher) and fake profiles liberally sprinkled throughout the book. It covers everything from getting the best performance from your cat to what to do when your feline becomes a diva and wants to fire you. By the end, I was mentally ticking off my cat’s assets to see if she was Internet material. Uno the Inappropriate Cat already has a title (one of the recommended branding tips in the book) although filming her constantly is more effort than I can muster. But when Carlin suggested where to buy kitty props and costumes, I mumbled “That’s brilliant!” I suspect I’m smack in the middle of her target humor demographic or dangerously close to letting my cat host a pawdcast.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAT AN INTERNET CELEBRITY is a fun read, especially if you love cats, the Internet and don't have a 401K for your retirement. If this whole writing thing doesn’t pan out, I’ll probably end up buying a good camera and some tiny funny hats. Uno, show me your best side! Um, Uno, that's a little close. Can you back up...wait...oh, forget it.

          Gore Place Sheepshearing Festival '16   

We couldn't have asked for better weather yesterday for the annual sheep-shearing festival at Gore Place in Waltham.

There we cute animals. Kids chased chickens.  We ate too much fair food and got a little too much sun despite liberal application of sunblock.

Wooly activities like shearing, spinning, weaving and knitting occurred. And I even picked up a small amount of yarn from  June Pryce Fiber Arts. The worsted is planned for a requested hat, while I have just been wanting to play with a gradient set for ages. Now I just need to find the perfect patterns.

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          Comment on If you don’t want to pay for other people’s health insurance, you can’t live in a first world nation by I am blah blah!!   
Nothing from the liberal? Guess what I do not have health insurance and I do not want it!! I will also hopefully no longer have to pay a fine!! Life is great!!!
dear friends in indonesia, while i cannot read your post, you seem to be quoting me. thank you for the courtesy. i am happy that blogging and podcasting is picking up with you also, and i would be honoured if our foundation contributed to this ... liberal and democratic progress. greetings from greece, where i am just taking a short holiday. <strong><em>@) Oke Pak Meinardus...memang ini bagian dari presentasi anda.... ;)</em></strong>
          Predictions for 2008   
As it is the start of the year, I thought I would put down a few predictions for the year ahead. I am no Mystic Meg, and most of it is pretty much guesswork so I don't know how accurate I will be.

  • Premier League winners: everyone seems to think it will be Man Utd or Arsenal. I don't know though, I can see Derby having a good run of form. Failing that and a few intimidated referees later, Chelsea do have an outside chance out of the remaining 2 in the top 4. So, let's go with Arsenal.
  • FA cup winners: I would like to see an outside team win it, but I think Chelsea may have the edge as they tend to do well in tournaments.
  • Champions League: I will say this much, it won't be an English team.
  • England team: a year of optimism for future will be brought to a stuttering halt by a few players continuing to not find form. Rooney to become a super sub, Lampard to dropped completely after a dismal performance against Switzerland.
  • UK election: not while Gordon Brown is in power. If one is called, a slim majority for the Conservative party (maybe a hung Parliament?) with Labour losing out to both Tories and Liberals.
  • US election: isn't there one due soon? Don't know if it is this year or not, but if so, expect the Republicans to retain by 1% again, after multiple recounts, suing of the balloting machine developers and within 2 months everyone complaining that they didn't vote for them. The Democrats will blame Michael Moore for losing them votes.
  • Middle East: more of the same, I'm afraid.
  • Australia: they have just had an election, so they will be happy for a bit longer.


  • Housing: prices down, then up, then down, then up. Then everyone will realise that Halifax's economic predictor is suffering from a previously unseen Y2K bug.
  • High-street spending: more on-line spending leads to less high street spending. By the end of the year, queues at on-line checkouts match high street stores.


  • Facebook: mass desertions as everyone gets tired of being poked, bitten by Vampires and receiving dubious "do you find me hot?" requests. That, and people read the privacy statement.
  • iPhone: new one introduced, the world goes crazy. Steve Jobs has more followers than Ghandi, is canonised by the Pope, starts managing the US Football team, forms a US cricket team, cures cancer, etc...
  • Next big thing: not sure. Last year it was Facebook and the year before that You Tube, as a guess I will go with an application that syncs all your contacts, emails, instant messages, calendars, etc across work and home, mobile phone, etc. There are a few options already available in this field, but none of them have really taken off yet.
  • This blog: sporadically updated ;)

I will try and remember to check these out at the end of the year.

          Voices of Women with Host Kris Steinnes: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom with Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin   
GuestBonnie Glass-Coffin, PhD, is a visionary and a bridge builder who believes that educating the whole person head and heart should be at the core of a liberal arts education. She has been inspired to build these bridges because of the transformative experiences that she has had while studying with Peruvian shamans for more than 30 years. She has developed and piloted course curricula that celebrate this "whole person" approach to learning while providing tools for inner-exploration and develop ...
          ,TTIP coraz bliżej – Rodacy obudźcie się!   


Flash-mob anty-TTIP w Belgii. W czasie oficjalnego propagandowego spotkania duża grupa "uczestników" wstała i pięknie zaśpiewała rewolucyjną pieśń ludu z "Nędzników". Filmik i (angielski) opis zdarzenia znajdziecie tutaj:

Krótka relacja filmowa

A w Polsce media milczą na ten, najważniejszy w ostatnim czasie, temat, a jeśli już coś bąkną to raczej w tonie aprobaty, jak przystało na rządowe media, bo nasz rząd także nie widzi problemu. W sprawie ACTA też nie widzieli problemu...

Aktywiści anty TTIP będą próbowali do was dotrzeć z materiałami poświęconymi tej tematyce. Nie oganiajcie się od tej wiedzy - musimy, wszyscy, bo wszystkich nas to dotyczy, dać wyraz naszej niezgody na zamach na najważniejsze zdobycze - min.: demokrację, prawa pracownicze, ochronę środowiska, i kasę budżetu państwa. TTIP to nie jest zwykła umowa między partnerami handlowymi, to układ zawiązany między korporacjami EU i USA, gdzie panowie z korporacji, bez żadnych ograniczeń będą robić jeszcze większą kasę, a my staniemy się nowoczesnymi , a jakże, niewolnikami ich i tylko ich interesów. I nie dajcie sobie wmawiać, że dla obywatela z tej umowy wyniknie cokolwiek dobrego. Już daliśmy sobie wmówić przed laty, że każdy może być Kulczykiem jeśli się postara... i pokocha neoliberalizm gospodarczy i społeczny... wielu pokochało, wielu nadal kocha, a sukces coraz dalej i dalej, znika z horyzontu...


I już słyszałam głosy malkontentów, którzy machają obojętnie ręką na tą bulwersującą sprawę, bo niby co nam ma TTIP odebrać? Demokrację?!!! A gdzie ta rzeczona demokracja jest ? - pytają. Fakt. Z demokracją w Polsce nie jest najlepiej, ale wciąż jest szansa by to naprawić. Po wejściu w życie ustaleń TTIP takiej szansy już nie będzie.


Może Bernie Sanders was przekona?

A jeśli nie to poczytajcie sobie ten materiał albo zobaczcie co o TTIP mówi ekspert.







Post ,TTIP coraz bliżej – Rodacy obudźcie się! pojawił się poraz pierwszy w PolskiAteista.pl.

          'This Changes Everything' tackles global warming   
<>"This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" (Simon & Schuster), by Naomi Klein

Cutting the vast amounts of man-made pollution that feed global warming is an enormous challenge for societies that gobble up coal, oil and gas. But in "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein argues that those fuels aren't the root problem — capitalism is. That message is likely to motivate fans of Klein's earlier books, such as "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine," but it also leads to a tough question.

Is blaming capitalism for climate change just rhetorical hot air — or a brutal and uncomfortable truth?

Whatever side you take, Klein deserves credit for not sugarcoating the problem. She writes that limiting global warming won't be quick, easy or without disruptions, yet holds out hope that the end result will be better for people, the environment and even the economy. But make no mistake: "This Changes Everything" argues that we don't just have to cut carbon pollution. We have to change society, and our own lifestyles. Klein writes: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war."

And while Klein is predictably hard on big business and conservatives who deny climate change, she doesn't spare environmental groups or liberals. Klein pointedly shows how easy it is to ignore global warming, noting that until recently she "continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong" with the "elite" frequent flier card in her wallet.

Klein is dismissive of environmentalists who say better technology can limit climate change, yet she doesn't resolve some of the contradictions in that position. China, Germany and other countries have used capitalism and mass production to turn out vast quantities of better and cheaper solar panels and wind turbines. In the U.S., Texas has become the national leader in wind energy by treating it as another business for people to make money on.

Yet worldwide carbon emissions are rising, not falling.

And like everyone else, Klein struggles with perhaps the toughest global warming challenge: how to cope with the explosive growth of newly capitalist economies.

China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution, but only 30 years ago Beijing was filled with bicycle-riding workers dressed in Chairman Mao tunics. Today there are BMWs and clouds of pollution generated by vast numbers of people who are embracing capitalism, not revolting against it. And after the recent huge climate march in New York City, India's environment minister responded by saying that developed countries such as the U.S. need to cut emissions, not developing ones. He told The New York Times that "India's first task is eradication of poverty" and that "we will grow faster, and our emissions will rise."

Klein is calling for a global social revolution to combat global warming, but many countries don't much like it when Westerners who have long benefited from cheap fossil fuels try to tell them what to do.

Yet China and India's runaway growth also makes clear that Klein's core point has merit. She writes that "we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed." The vast majority of climate scientists say global warming is here, caused by humans, and probably already dangerous, and that the world needs to start significantly reducing carbon pollution. If it doesn't, scientists predict that in a few decades, much higher temperatures and more acidic oceans will start to cause "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."

"This Changes Everything" isn't all doom and gloom. Klein notes that an aggressive new movement of climate activists has emerged in the last few years. As a mother, she writes passionately about the need to consider the impact on future generations, and she gives many examples of places where wind and solar energy is dropping in price and becoming a cleaner and more realistic alternative to fossil fuels.

"This Changes Everything" may motivate more people to think and act on climate change, and that's good. Yet capitalism isn't the only problem. The old message from a 1970 cartoon on the first Earth Day still hangs in the air: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."




          After Orlando, a Long War   

The massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando—the worst act of terrorism on American soil since the attacks of 9/11—had barely ended when the debate over its significance began. As usual, the political class divided into competing camps, with liberals predictably claiming that the real issue is gun control and conservatives just as predictably claiming that the real issue is radical Islam. There wasn’t even agreement over whether this was a hate crime or an act of terrorism. (Why couldn’t it be both?)

          Verso un Egitto Democratico   

Il 30 giugno è una data storica per la transizione egiziana.

È il giorno dell'atteso passaggio del potere dalla Giunta militare, alla guida del paese dalla caduta del Rais Hosni Mubarak, al neo-presidente Mohamed Morsi, il primo democraticamente eletto in Egitto con il recentissimo voto del 16-17 giugno. È una vittoria del fondamentalismo?

Il presidente dei Fratelli Musulmani metterà in piedi una repubblica islamica o sarà, come promesso in campagna elettorale, il "presidente di tutti"? Dove sono finite le istanze laico-liberali che avevano animato Piazza Tahrir?

Il presidente Morsi si trova a capo di una repubblica di fatto ancora in fieri, senza un assetto istituzionale certo né una Carta Costituzionale definitiva.

In "Verso un Egitto democratico", Antonio Badini, ex ambasciatore al Cairo e autore del precedente ebook "Il futuro dell'Egitto", analizza le poste in gioco e i retroscena di questa storica transizione, aiutando il lettore a capire il complesso gioco delle forze in campo.

L'autore individua chiaramente colpe e meriti dei due attori che finora hanno retto il paese in un costante braccio di ferro, esercito e Fratelli Musulmani, e non tralascia di valutare il ruolo giocato dall'Egitto nello scacchiere internazionale.

          Berlusconi: Renzi? Ha avuto fortuna   
Dopo la sospirata assoluzione, Berlusconi rilascia un'intervista in coppia con la Pascale al settimanale «Oggi», e parla a ruota libera: della sua commozione, come dei progetti politici per realizzare la sua rivoluzione liberale.

Setelah mempelajaari modul ini siswa dapat :
1. Menjelaskan perkembangan Islam di dunia
2. Menjelaskan manfaat yang dapat diambil dari sejarah perkembangan Islam di dunia
3. Menyebutkan contoh perkembangan Islam di dunia
4. Menjelaskan hikmah perkembangan Islam di dunia

A. Perkembangan Ajaran Islam di Eropa
1. Austria
Di Austria terdapat Islamic Center, masjid , perpustakaan, dan madrasah sebagai tempat untuk memepelajari Al Qur’an. Lembaga ini menjadi penghubung dengan dunia Islam pada umumnya.
Di Austria terdapat perpustakaan Islam yang dikenal dengan nama Social Service. Semua biaya kegiatan keagamaan ditanggung oleh umat Islam sendiri. Untuk menyiapkan generasi penerus pendidikan agama Islam diberikan pada hari sabtu dan minggu.
2. Belgia
Keberadaan agama Islam di Belgia diakui oleh pemerintah sebagai salah satu agama dari yang sah. Untuk menampung kegiatan umat Islam dibangun masjid dan Islamic center. Di negara ini pernah dipakai tempat muktamar Islam Eropa tepatnya di kota Brussel.
Sejak tahun 1975 Pendidikan agama Islam di masukkan ke dalam kurukulum sekolah di tingkat SD, SMP dan SMA. Materi yang diajarkan adalah; Al Qur’an, Bahasa Arab, Ilmu Agama Islam.
3. Spanyol
Di negara ini umat Islam pernah mengalami kejayaan, yaitu pada masa kekuasaan Bani Umayyah. Pada masa-masa berikutnya Isam tidak lagi mampu mengembangkan sayapnya dinegara ini, karena mendapatkan himpitan dari kristen. Pada masa pemerintah Spanyol mengeluarkan undang-undang yang mengakui bahwa semua agama mempunyai derajat yang sama, kegiatan Islam muai tampak lagi. Bangunan masjid Kordaba menjadi kebanggaan umat Islam pada waktu itu. Pada tahun 1981 dibangunlah Islamic center sebagaipusat pendidikan Islam.
4. Bulgaria
Umat Islam di Bulgaria pernah berjaya, yaitu pada masa Dinasti Usmaniyah berkuasa. Umat Islam di Bulgariaya berjumlah 12,2 %, dan sudah masuk menjadi bagian dari sistem politik.
Pemerintah Bulgaria pernah melarang segala kegiatan organisasa muslim serta menetapkan sejumlah larangan bagi umat Islam. Kegiatan keagamaan dibatasi dan umat Islam diharuskan mengganti nama Arab mereka. Manun demikian umat Islam tetap bertahan dan teus mengmbangkan dakwah Islam. Umat muslim Bulgaria terdapat dua komunitas besar yaitu; Pomak atau etnis Bulgaria yang tigngal di wilayah pegunungan selatan dan etnis Turki yang tinggal di kawasan tenggara. Problem yang dihadapai umat muslim adalah rendahnya tingkat pendidikan dan minimnya lapangan pekerjaan.
5. Inggris
Di inggris agama Islam berkembang dengan pesat, faktor yang menjadi pendorong perkembangan Islam antara lain mengalirnya ilmu pengetahuan Islam dari Spanyo, Pemindahan Universitas Toledo ke Inggsris, sehingga Inggris memiliki Universitas Cambraibge dan Oxford. Untuk mengengbangkan agama Islam dibangunlah masjid agung (Central mosque) di pusat kota London. Mozarobes adalah salah satu tokoh yang sangat gigih dalam mendakwahkan Islam di Inggris.
Pada saat ini umat muslim Inggris menjalin hubungan kerja sama dengan umat muslin Indonesia. Programnya adalah penukaran imam dan khotib yang disepakati dalam forum Kelompok Penasehat Keulamaan Indonesia- Inggris atau RI UK Islamic Advisory Group ( UK – IAG ) yang dibentuk atas kesepakatan Perdana Menteri Inggris Tony Blair dengan Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudoyono, pada bulan Maret 2006. Selain itu adalah penterjemahan karya-karya Indonesia ke dalam bahasa Inggris, dialog antara agama dan aneka kegiatan mengisi waktu luang pelajar.
6. Perancis
Sebenarnya di negara ini terkenal sebgai negara Katolik. Akan tetapi, dalam hal agama liberal, orang yang tidak beragama pun diakui hak-haknya. Agama Islam dapat berkembang dengan baik di negara ini. Sekarang sudah ada Al Qur’an diterjemahkan ke dalam bahasa Perancis. Salah satu tokoh yang sangat gigih dalam hal ini adalah Jackues Beroue.
7. Italia
Italia adalah pusak agama Katolik di seluruh dunia. Namun demilkian Agama Islam dapat tumbuh dan berkembang di negara ini. Pada tahun 1984 kaum muslimin berhasil mendirikan masjid sebagai pusat kegiatan agama.
8. Jerman
Islam masuk di Jerman pada abad ke 8 M. Pada masa pemerintahan Frederich Wilhelm, Islam berkembang karena umat islam berjasa dalam perjuangan militer di jerman. Pada tahun 1908 dalam resimen “Towarczy”, ada 1.220 tentanra muslim dari 1.320, sedangkan sisanya beragama kristen. Peran militer muslim tidak hanya berperang melawan Napolion, tetapi berlanjut melawan Rusia dan Polandia.
Islam berkembang dengan pesat pada masa pasca Nazi puncaknya pada tahun 60-an. Sekarang populasi muslim di Jerman mencapai 3,7 juta, dari 82,5 juta penduduk jerman 33% beragama Protestan, 33 % beragama Katolik dan 4,5 % beragama Islam. Mayoritas muslim Jerman dari keturunan Turki, sisanya keturunan Maroko, Pakistan, Iran, Afganistan, Balkan dan sebagainya.
Pendidikan agama Islam telah disetujui pemerintah masuk pada kurikulum sekolah negeri, namun demikian masih ada kendala yaitu tidak adanya organisasi Islam yang diakui pemerintah, sedangkan pemerintah mensyaratkan hal itu ada untuk menjadi mitra bicara untuk membahas materi pelajaran agama Islam. Di Jerman terdapat masjid dan mushola sekitar 2.200 . Di Berlin sendiri terdapat sekitar 70 masjid /mushola. Selain digunakan sebagi tempat ibadah, juga difungsikan sebagai tempat kegiatan Islami terutama pengajian atau pendidiakan Islam.
9. Kanada
Islam masud di Kanda kurang lebih 150 tahun yang lampau. Sikap toleransi antar agama cukup tinggi, sehingga kekerasan yang ditimbulkan dari agama ras dapat diminimalisasi.
Pada saat ini ada sekitar 600 ribu umat Islam di Kanada. Umat Islam di Kanada dapat bekerja diberbagai bidang. Saat ini pendidikan agama telah diajarkan di sekolah, karena para guru dan pengelola pendidikan merasa perlu untuk memberikan pengetahuan tentang Islam kepada para siswanya.
Usaha-usaha umat muslim di kanada untuk memperkenalkan kepada publik, bahwa Islam adalah agama yang cinta damai terutama di negara-negara barat antara lain ; diselenggarakan diskusi-diskusi, dialog listas agama, penerbitan buletin, serta aneka produk budaya. Selain itu umat Islam di kanada juga membuat acara khusus tentang Islam dan kehidupan sehari-hari. Mereka memproduksi film dokumenter yang diberi judul A New Life in a new Land.
10. Kawasan Eropa Timur dan Semenanjung Balkan
Pada masa Kekholifahan Turki Usmani, Islam merebak di negeri ini. Jumlah umat Islam terbanyak berada di Albania, dibandingkan di Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Azerbaijan dan sebagainya.

B. Australia
Islam masuk di Australia melalui orang-orang Afganistan yang bekerja sebagai pengendara unta. Pada tahun 1924 Islam lebih berkembang lagi yang dibawa oleh orang-orang dari Albania, yang bekerja sebagai petani tembakau di Australia Utara.
Quesland Islamic Society, didirikan bertujuan untuk menyadarkan anak-anak muslim agar melaksanakan sholat. Al Qur’an menjadi ajaran pokok di sisni. Diantara organisasi yang dibeentuk untuk memajukan Islam yaitu :
1. Australia Federation of Islamic Councils (Federasi Dewan-dewan Islam Australia)
2. Federasi of Islamic Societies (Federasi Masyarakat Muslim) yang bertaraf nasional, melipouti 35 ormas muslim lokal dan 9 Dewan Islam Negara Bagian.
3. Moslem Student Association (Himpunan Mahasiswa Muslim)
4. Moslem Women’s Centre (Pusat Wanita-wanita Islam) bertujuan memberikan pelajaran keislaman bagi kaum yang datang dari luar negeri diberi tambahan pekajaran bahasa inggris.
King Khalid Islamic College (KKIC) adalah sekolah Islam yang pertamakali didirikan di Australia tepatnya di negara bagian Victoria. KKIC didirkan tahun 1982, siswanya terdiri dari berbagai bangsa dan negara. Sekolah ini setara dengan SD, hingga SMA. Sekarang telah berdiri 30 sekolah yang serupa di seluruh Australia. Sekolah tersebut menggunakan kurikulum nasional dan internasional. Agama Islam dan Al Qur’an mejadi mata pelajaran wajib.

C. Afrika
1. Sudan
Perkembangan Islam di Suda sangat megembirakan. Salah satu tokoh yang berjasa masuknya Islam di Sudan adalah Abdullah bin Said bin Ali Sarah. Penyebaran Islam di negeri ini dilakukan dengan mengajarkan ilmu Tasyawuf dan Filsafat. Tokoh yang paling berpengaruh pada waktu itu adalah Syeh Abdul Qodir Al Jilani dan Abdul Hasan Asy Syazali.
2. Etiopia
Islam masuk di Eteopia ketika Rosulullah masih hidup. Pada saat itu ada 15 orang muslim yang hijrah ke Eteopia. Negeri ini pada masa Rosul dikenal dengan nama Habsyinia atau Habsyah. Sejak abad XIV M , orang muslim Hasbania mengadakan hubungan dengan Mesir (Al Azhar), sehigga memunculkan ulama-ulama terkenal pada masa itu.
Pada tahun 1934 M, Al Azhar mengirimkan beberapa utusan yang bertugas untuk mengajar agama Islam. Beberapa masjid didirikan sebagai pusat ibadah umat Islam, dan madarasah sebagai pusat pendidikan Agama Islam.
3. Uganda
Perkembangan Islam di Uganda cukup pesat. Masuknya Islam di negeri in diperkirakan sekitar tahun 1844 melalui perdagang yaitu Ahmad Ibrohim, Idi Amin. Idi Amin dianggap sebagai pendiri Uganda Muslim Supreme Cauncil (UMSC) pada tahun 1974. Ia juga berhasil mengundang Raja Faisal pada peletakan batu pertama pembangunan Masjid nasional di Old Kampala. Beliau juga membwa Uganda menjadi Organisasi konferensi Islam (OKI). Saat ini sekitar 15 % penduduk Uganda memeluk agama Islam.
4. Somalia
Sebelum Islam masuk di Somalia, agama kristen masuk lebih dahulu. Ketika Islam di negeri ini terjadilah perang agama. Pada akhirnya Islam dapat berkembang di negeri ini. Islam masuk di Somalia pada tahun 860 M. masyarakat muslim Somalia mengikuti mazhab sunni, syi’ah ada yang menganut ajaran tasyawuf. Kini Islam terus berkembang di negeri ini.
5. Liberia.
Jumlah umat muslim Liberia saat ini mencapai kurang lebih 25 % dari 3 juta penduduk. Keadaan masyarakat muslim di negeri ini sangat memprihatinkan, karena rendahnya tingkat pendidikan dan meluasnya tingkat kemiskinan.
Undang-undang di negeri ini menjamin kebebasan beragama, pemerintah menghormati setiap pendidik beribadah menurut agamanya masing-masing, meskipun demikian uamt Islam tetap menghadapi diskriminasi dalam beragama.
The Arabic Organization for Studies, merupakan salah satu organisasi Islam yang bertujuan meningkatkan dakwah Islam dan mengajarkan Islam dan Al Qur’an kepada para mualaf.
6. Mozambik
Nama Mozambil berasal Mu bin Baig, yaitu nama seorang tokoh Islam yang pernah berpengaruh dikawasan itu. Di Negeri in Islam dapat berkembang dengan baik. Umat Islam di negeri ini berhasil membangun lembaga Islam, antara lain ; Comunidodo Musulman Assocao (Persatuan Masyarakat Islam) , Islamic Center. Masyarakat muslim Mozambik bermazhab sunni.
7. Senegal
Islam masuk negeri ini pada abad XI M. dibawah oleh bangsa magribi. Kebanyakan umat Islam dinegeri ini bermazhab Syafi’I dan Maliki. Ribuan masjid telah didirikan dan masjid yang paling besar adalah masjid Tsiys dan Taubah, Pendidikan Islam telah dibangun dari tingkat Ibtidaiyah sampai dengan peerguruan tinggi.
8. Gambia
Islam masuk ke Gambia pada abda ke X M, dibawa para pedagang dari Arab (Maroko) dan Barbar dari Mauritania. Islam Gambia bermazhab sunni dan mayoritas beraliran sufi. Para pemuka sufi ini yang membawa Islam dapat berkembang dengan pesat.
9. Namibia
Sampai dengan akhir tahun 1980-an Islam belum banyak dikenal di negeri ini. Pada waktu itu penganur Islam mayoritas berasal dari Afrika. Pada tahun 1980 di negeri ini belum ada satupun bangunan masjid. Windhoek Islamic Center, yang di anggap bangunan mesjid, sebenarnya hanya bangunan kecil yang menempel pada bangunan gereja yang megah yang dibangun oleh pemerintah.
Saat ini telah terdapat tujuh masjid dan satu lagi baru di bangun di Katutura. Tokoh muslim yang paling berjasa dalam pegemmbangan Islam di Namibia adalah Jacobs Salmaan Dhancees. Dia adalah pejabat Komisi Pemilihan Umum Nmaibia. Perjalanannya ke Konferensi Islam membawa hidayah baginya masuk agama Islam. Untuk mekanjutka dakwah dan syiar Islam, kini banyak pemuda muslim yang dikirim ke Arab Saudi untuk belajar agama Islam.

D. Asia
1. Pakistan
Islam masuk ke India-Pakistan pada masa Bani Umayyah. Dengan melalui perjalanan yang panjang pada tahun 1862 M menjadi negara Islam.
Pada awal abad XX, Sayid Ahmad Khan ( seorang kominis ), mencetuskan gagasan bahwa Muslim dan Hindu membentuk bangsa yang berbeda dan terpisah di India, atas dasar agama dan budaya. Tulisan Ahmad Khan ini mengilhami Muhammad Ali Jinnah memimpin Liga Musliam pada pembentukan Pakistan.
Pakistan mejadi negara Republik Islam. Negeri ini termasuk negara produktif ilmuwan dan budayawan muslim yang terkenal seperti Muhammad Iqbal, Fazlur Rahman dan lain sebagainya.
2. India
Islam masuk ke India pada masa Khulafaur Rosyidin, ketia Kholifah Umar bin Khottob memerintah, Ia telah mengirimkan pasukan ke Persia dan berhasil menaklukkan Persia babian selatan.
Pada masa pemerintahan Bani Umayyah Islam di India berkembangn pesat. Para da’i yang berhasil menyebarkan Islam di India antara lain :
a. Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan. Pada masa pemerintahannya Beliau mengirimkan pasukan ke India yang dipimpin oleh Maglab bin Abi Sufiah.
b. Hajja bin Yusuf as Saqofi, orang yang dipercaya Abdul Malik bin Marwan.
c. Subaktakir dari Ghozna’
d. Muhammad Ghori, raja muslim di Ghori yang moderat.
Puncak kejayaan Islam di India pada masa Kerajaan Islam Mughal yang dipimpin Babur Akbar kemudian dilanjutkan oleh putranya Humayun. Pada masa kejayaan Islam di India datanglah Inggris menjajah India, Kerajaan Mughal runtuh dan India menjadi jajahan Inggris.
3. Rusia
Islam masuk di Rusia pada masa Bai Umayyah. Di kota Bukhora pernah lahir seorang ulama besar ahli hadis yaitu Imam Bukhori yang menulis kitab hadis Shoheh Bukhori. Islam di Rusia mengalami kejayaan ketika Dinasti Samanid berkuasa. Akan tetapi ketika Jengis Khan menggempur Asia Tengah banyak penduduk muslim yang dibunuh, masjid dan sekolah-sekolah dibakar.
Di Rusia saat ini telah memiliki Direktorat Utusan Islam di Departemen Luar Negeri Urusan Asia. Dengan adanya lembaga ini hak-hak dan kewajiban-kewajiban umat muslim dilindungi negara. Di negeri ini terdapat hampir 400 masjid dan 190 madrasah sebagai pusat syiar dan pendalaman Islam. Studi Isalam dan bahasa arab kini menjadi bagian kurikulum Islam di Rusia.
4 Afganistan
Islam masuk ke Afganistan pada masa Kholifah Umar bin Khottab. Pada masa Kholifah Usman bin Affan Islam telah memasuki Kabul, setelah melalui perjalanan pajang umat Islam berhasil memprokamirkan Afganistan.
Di Negeri ini umat Islam selalu berjuang menegakkan kebenaran dan keadilan, akan tetapi perjuangan umat Islam selalau mendapat tekanan dari Uni Soviet. Pada masa pengaruh Uni Soviet dapat dilenyapkan, para pemimpin gerakanm mujahidin dapat berkuasa di Afganistan. Pada masa kejayaan umat Islam, Afganistan teerkenal sebagai gudang ilmu dan berhasil melahirkan Sejumlah ilmuwan muslim.
5. Republik Rakyat Cina
Islam masuk ke Cina pada masa daulah Bani Abasiyah, kedatanag Islam di semenanjung Cina disambut gembira oleh masyarakat. Pada masa Dinasti Ming lahirlah seorang muslim terkenal yaitu Laksamana Zheng Ho atau Sham Poo Kong (1371).
Pada masa dinasti Manchu yang diprakarsai oleh Kaisar Kong His, Islam berkembang dengan pesat baik dikalangn terpelajar maupun masyarakat biasa. Kehidupan umat Islam terasa aman dan damai, bahkan banyak tokoh muslim yang menduduki jabatan penting dalam pemerintahan.
Perkembangan dan kamajuan Islam semakin tampak nyata Setelah RRC merdeka tanggal , 10 Nopember 1911 M , terutama ketika hamcurnya faham komunis di berbagai belahan dunia. Di Cian terdapat dua masjid khusus wanita yang berada di Peking (Beijing). General Moslem Associatin of China, adalah salah satu organisasi Islam di Cina, yang bergerak dalam pengembangan dakwah penembangan Islam.
1. Singapura
Islam masuk Singpura kurang lebih abad ke XVI M. Pada masa Kerajaan Malak dipimpin oleh Sultan Mansyur Syah, wilayahnya melebar sampai ke Palembang dan Jambi. Dari Jambi melalui Tanjung Pinang Islam menyebar ke Singapura.
Di Singpura Islam dapat berkembang dengan baik, khuisusnya di bidang pendidikan, seperti penerbitanbuku-buku agama berbahasa Arab, Madrsah-madrsah banyak didirikan. Islam di Singapura mendapatkan pengkuan dari pemerintah. Majelis Ulama Singapura (MUIS), mempunyai otoritas bagi pembangunan kehidupan masyarakat Islam Singapura. MUIS berada di bawah Kementerian Pembangunan Masyarakat dan ditangani oleh Menteri Lingkungan atau Menteri Sekitaran. Pada tahun 1990 MUIS bernama Maintenance Religous Harmony Act.
7. Thailand
Islam masuk ke Thailan ( Muangtai ) pada abad ke XV M, melalui kerajaan Acaeh (Pasai), setelah ditaklikan kerajaan Siam (Thailan). Selain itu Islam masuk melalui Malaka.
Kini banyak umat Islam Tailan yang merantau keluar negeri, seperti Timur Tengah dan Indonesia untuk mencari ilmu.
8. Bunai Darussalam
Islam masuk ke negeri ini sekitar tahun 977 M melalui jalur Timur Asia Tenggara oleh para pedagang dari Cina.
Pada waktu pusat penyebaran dan kebudayaan Islam di Malaka jatuh ketangan Portugis, Islam di Brunai maju pesat. Kemajuan Islam semakin bertambah cepat pada masa dipimpin oleh Sultan Bolkiah ( Sultan ke 5). Pada tahun 199885 Brunai membentuk Majlis Agama Islam berdasarkan Undang-undang Agama dan Mahkamah Kadi. Pada waktu itu Islam telah menjadi idiologi negara. Didirikannya pusat dakwah untuk kepntingan penelitian Agama Islam. Anak cacat dan yatim mejadi tanggungjawab pemerintah. Saat ini Islam telah menjadi bagian dari negara.

E. Hikmah Belajar Sejarah
Ada beberapa hal yang dapat kita ambil hikmahnya setelah kita belajar sejarah perkembangan Islam, yaitu antara lain :
1. Hanya dengan kerja keras dan usaha yang maksimal, apa yang diinginkan akan berhasil. Hal in dapat dilihat bahwa Islam berkembang dengan baik di berbagai belahan dunia adalah atas usaha yang maksimal umat muslim.
2. Tidak menjadikan warna kulit, beda bahasa dan sebagainya menjadi jurang pemisah. Karena Allah hanya membedakan hambanya dari segi ketaqwaannya.
3. Sesama muslim adalah saudara, meskipun dari berbagai benua dan negara yang berbeda. Persaduaraanitu diikat adanya aqidah atau ketuhanan yang satu Allah dan kitab suci yang satu yaitu Al Qur’an.
4. Menjadikan perbedaan dalam hal warna kulit, beda bahasa, suku jenis rabut dan lain sebagainya sebagi rahmat, bukan sebagai jurang pemisah.

A. Pilihlah Jawaban yang Paling Tepat
1. Sejak tahun 1975, di Belgia ilmu agama Islam telah masuk di dalam kurikulum sekolah. Materi agama ini di ajarkan pada sisiwa mulai tingkat …
a. SD d. Pperguruan Tinggi
b. SMP e. TK
c. SMA
2. Lembaga Islamic Center yang berada di Austria berfungsi sebagai ….
a. pusat dakwah Islam
b. pusat pendidikan Islam dan hubungan dengan dunia Islam
c. kegiatan ekonomi Islam
d. kegiatan polik
e. menampung anak cacat dan yatim
3. Agama Islam masuk di India-Pakiskan pada masa pemerintahan Islam ……
a. Dinasti Fatimiyah d. Khulafaur Rosyidin
b. Bani Umayyah e. Turki Usmani
c. Bani Abasiyah
4. Tokoh muslim yang terkenal dari Tionghoa (Cina) yang lahior pada masa Dinasti Ming adalah ……….
a. Muhammada Ali Jinnah d. Sayyid Ahmad Khan
b. Zheng Ho e. Ali Bin Abi Tholib
c. Abu Bakar
5. Salah satu peninggalan Kerajaan Isalam di India yang sampai saat ini masih dapat kita saksikan adalah ……
a. Masjid Kordafa d. Piramida

c. Tajmahal
6. Salah satu Universitas di Inggris yang turut serta mendorong perkembangan Islam di Inggris adalah ………
a. London d. Toledo
b. Al Ashar e. Kanada
c. Oxford
7. Saat ini umat Islam di Inggris telah menjalin kerjasama dengan umat Islam Indonesia. Salah satu program yang disepakati adalah …….
a. pertukaran kebudayaan d. pertukaran Imam dan Khotib
b. pertukaran pelajar e. penyediaan lapangan kerja
c. pertukaran mahasiawa
8. Di Perancis Agama Islam dapat berkembang dengan baik. Jackues Beroue telah bejuang keras mengembangkan Islam dalam hal …..
a. menterjemahkan Al Qur’an dalam bahasa Perancis
b. menterjemahkan buku-buku agama Islam
c. menerbitkan buku-buku keagamaan
d. memasukkan kurikulum agama Islam ke sekolah formal
e. tukar menukar pelajar Islam dengan Arab Saudi
9. Islam dapat berkembang dengan baik. Jumlah penduduk sekiitar 3,7 juta jiwa. Dari jumlah tersebut yang memeluk agama Islam sekitar ……
a. 90 % d. 4,5 %
b. 50 % e. 2.5 %
c. 3,4 %
10. Penyampaian pelajaran agama Islam di Jerman menggunakan model percontohan atau pilot proyek. Daerah yang dibuat percontohan adalah …
a. Berlin d. Frankfurt
b. Muceen e. Bayern
c. Bom
11. Rusia salah satu negara Asia Tenggara yang pernah memiliki pusat pengembangan Islam yaitu Bukhoro. Di kota tersebut lahir seorang ulama’ ahli Hadits yang bernama ……
a. Imam Syafi’I d. Imam Muslim
b. Imam Hambali e. Imam Ibnu Majah
c. Imama Bukhori
12. The Arabic Organization for Studies merupakan organisasi Islam di Liberia. Organisasi ini memiliki tujuan ….
a. menyebarkan Islam ke penjuru dunia
b. mengajarkan Islam dengan murni dan konsekwen
c. mengajarkan Al Qur’an dan Hadis
d. meningkatkan dakwah dan megakjarkan Al Qur’an kepada para mualaf
e. memurnikan aqidah umat Islam
13. Salah satu hikmah yang dapat kita ambil dari mempelajari sejarah perkembangan Islam di seluruh dunia adalah …..
a. menjadikan perbedaan pendapat sebagai jurang pemisah
b. tidak perlu usaha mendakwahkan Islam
c. tidak menjadikan perbedaan warna kulit, bahasa, sebagai jurang pemissah
d. saudara mulim hanya yang sedaerah saja
e. perbedaaan madzhab dijadikan sebagai pegangan
14. Quensland Islamic Society adalah sebuah organisasi Islam yang didirikan di Brisbane Australia, yang bertujuan ……….
a. mengajarkan pedidikan Islam dari tingkat SD sampai perguruan tinggi
b. mengjarkan agar anak-anak muslim mengerjakan sholat
c. menterjemahkan buku-buku Islam kedalam bahasa Inggris
d. menerbitkan buku-buku Islam
e. menhembangkan dakwah Islam
15. Di Brunai Darussalam, Islam menjadi Idiologi Negara khususnya pada masa pemerintahan Hasanah Bolkiah pada tahun ………
a. 1985 M d. 1928 M
b. 1945 M e. 2008 M
c. 2004 M

B. Jawablah pertanyaan di bawah ini dengan singkat dan benar !
1. Jelaskan beberapa bentuk kerja sama umat muslim Indonesi dengan muslim Inggris yang telah disepakati yaitu ? ………
2. Jelaskan perkembangna Islam di Australia ? …..
3. Jelaskan perkembangan Islam di Spanyol ?.........
4. Bagaimana cara yang ditempuh umat Islam di Kanada dalam usaha mengenalkan Islam ke seluruh masyarakat , jelaskan ? ….
5. Jelaskan hikmah yang dapat diambil dalam mempelajari sejarah perkembangan Islam di seluruh dunia ? ……
6. Jelaskan perkembangan Islam di Brunai Darussalam ? …….
7. Jelaskan bagaimana perkembangan Islam di Singpura ?........
8. Bagaimana perkembangan Islam yang anda ketahui di Afganistan, jelaskan ?..
9. Jelaskan perkembangan Islam di India ? …
10. Pakistan adalah merupakan negara Islam yang produktif dalam pengembangan ilmu pengeahuan dan kebudayaan Islam. Sebutkan dua tokoh ilmuwan dan budayawan yang terkenal di pakistan?.

          Comment on HDFC Bank starts charging for outward UPI transactions by Anil Lahoti   
Monopoly may not sound the exact word but being one of the the market leaders, they have imposed terms which are not liberal & one can say stringent. Banks with lower CASA or customer base could not even think of charging customers for NEFT, IMPS etc. HDFC always charges smallest of payments which hurt the common man. And where they get float, margin like Imperia, Preferred accounts they happily waive 5 Rs for a small amount NEFT. Isn't this ironical? The one who should be motivated, encouraged to go online is charged for doing so. The one who can afford & can pay for such services is given for free. So I called it monopoly of sorts, basically this is their profit making approach which takes service into business zone. They aren't here for banking growth but actually their Balance sheet green line growth.
          Hillary Needs All the Help TRUMP and the GOP Can Give Her   
Obama called Hillary,"Not Nearly Enough BAD" in his own unique way, but with Michele as VP...and TRUMP Perot-ing away critical GOP votes, she can at last grasp "The BRASS RING".

On the very day after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her favvorite hat "in the ring" for president of the United States, she hobnobbed at a Chipotle in Ohio with top advisor Huma Abedin. Both wore sunglasses and the same color dress probably. Few photos exist, if any. They did not hold hands but ordered at the counter where nobody noticed, saying,"WOW, There is the former first former lady!" They sat down at a table and guess what... nobody noticed. They sat at the table for 25 minutes, paid their bill FIRST because who gets to eat it THEN pay, and ambulated out. Nobody noticed that they were "incognito".
Nobody had to take a purloined pistol from an exasperated Democrat because she had failed to be distraught, depressed, and even grab one to pretend to be "ending it all". Hang your head, and say, "AW SHUCKS!"

Down Low but otherwise upper echelon Democrats who "sabe mas como el BURRO" and want to appear to know seem to believe that Hillary Clinton has magic. The Democratic National Committee all but prayed over her and anointed her with cottonseed oil as their nominee just scant moments after her lollapaloosa announcement. Barack Obama almost endorsed her. The media drooled on their bibs, swooned over her statement that she would be going on a tour in a van, and got all excited. 
Nevertheless that episode in the Chipotle says and ingonito Hillary and good buddy, Nana, can go anywhere and do not need a "rope barrier" to corral the over-caffinated and wild-eyed adoring media. Hillary is 100 percent infamous on name identification. She is not an anonymous Chicago senator with a paper-thin resume who recommends abortion, writes bills that are ignored and gets major attention anyway. She is better than hot fudge on a stick - she’s an unapproachable, insincere, - elitist who proudly calls herself the B-word. And most of all, everybody is all too well aware of her "status".

there are three HUGE reasons that Hillary is no B.O. or whatever people want to call him:

Hillary lacks that "I'm Special" racial appeal. The hierarchy of major victimhood in the leftist thought system places blacks at the top with 300 free points on job-related qualifying tests. Latinos get 150 and gays and lesbians are ranked somewhere below blacks and Latinos free-points-on-test-wise because they were mostly whites rowdy at Stonewall Bar and Grill. Latinos and Native Americans rank below both groups, then women. Jews and Asians, mainly an afterthought in the rankings take the lower tiers because they are the most taken for granted. Barack Obama promised that as a half-black man, his election would unify the country, and people bought that jive, hook, line and sinker. Barry Soetoro was elected to moving America beyond the racial polarization of the past. Naive Republicans joined equally naive Democrats in celebrating the symbolism of his election, although some knew it was a power grab beyond all expectations that it quickly became.  Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote in his book that he cried when Obama was elected. and stated:

    I was so proud to be an American, and so moved by the powerful symbolism of the moment, I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up."

Nobody will peel onions and become all leaky-eyed when Hillary is elected, because nobody, down deep, believes a woman cannot be elected in America. Three out of four US Secretaries of State were women and there are presently and have been - numerous overly-powerful female senators. Hillary Clinton is in no way, shape or fashion - a victim.

Even more telling, Barack Obama’s 2012 election, representing a wised-up example of his actual support level, relied heavily on black electoral support. Palefaces and "browns" intilidated by dozens of blacks in voting lines expected to vote for you-know-who, did not bother to vote. Likewise, Obama needed and got - critical black support in the 2008 primaries. Had it not been for black support in 2008, Obama would have been beaten by Hillary Clinton. Hillary can "shuck and jive" practically plastic-like and robotically but lacks that same level of support from blacks in either the primaries or the general election.

Hillary is a somewhat lackluster female. Hillary may have a child that Mike Obama can never have to be truly female, but Hillary will emphasize the fact that she is female in her own boring, repetative fashion but the fact remains that her bond-ability with female voters leaves something to be desired. Her upper middle class elitist upbringing helped her to "marry well"- snaring the future governor of Arkansas. The Arkansas governor's coattails landed her in a prestigious law firm, then First Lady, Senator, and as a consolation prize, Secretary of State. She does not emote or bond particularly well with moms or grandmothers, in spite of her baking cookies and lying about Chealsea jogging at the Twin Towers. The mainstream alphabet TV and print media tries valiantly to portray her as a regular human being, but falls flat on its collective face.

Hillary Clinton rhetorically wants assist students heavily in debt by taxing the rich, especially the rich who favor everyone paying 1% and incrementally more topping at 15% for millionaires.
Hillary Clinton's her backpedaling on coal reveals her coal miner roots may be a total fabrication.
An August 2015, polling on the pubs holds that Hillary Clinton is somewhat dominant with 'somewhat liberal' voters percentage-wise (57 to 22), moderates (54 to 18), women (56 to 21), and seniors (58 to 19). For Hillary Clinton,  designated 'very liberal' voters are (49 to 39), males (47 to 30), and younger voters sometimes called "wippersnappers" and "skulls full of mush" (46 to 31).

hillary is ancient in age. Under 30 voters constituted about 19 percent of 2012 voters. That bodes ill for Hillary, who must rely on contributions from women and youth (Yutes) to pick up the slack she is sure to see with a diminished black vote turnout. With Hillary, they have seen "Par-ee" so it will be difficult to keep them "on the plantation" or farm - in the tank - for her. The ageing face full of wrinkles is bad news for Hillary. Pollsters easily predicted that Hillary would do well with youth voters when an early April Fusion poll piled up victories over Jeb (Common Core lover) Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Governor Scott (Dynimite) Walker, Bobby Jindal and Marko Rubio. In these days of looking important on TV, Hillary polls well when she goes missing-in-action (MIA), but when the ones polled actually SEE HER, they are UNDERWHELMED.

Perhaps more than anything else, Hillary represents the past. Marko Rubio presented a  contrast splendidly in his "gonna run for POTUS " announcement speech which punted "patooty" posteriorly:

Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.

Similarities of Hillary remain for comparison to Obama since the mainstream media will automatically favor her as a Democrat giving her softball questions instead of gruelling headache-inducing ones she deserves. Similarly, her checkered-infamous past will be whitewashed. As an Ivy League elitist, she comes across as a fake intellectual, having no Rhodes Scholar or epic grades from long ago when the chisels recorded court transcriptions.  Unlike Obama, nobody will just GIVE HER the presidency because she is a Democrat and the Republicans will grovel and worship at her feet.  She will have to pump up her own following. And when Hillary forced to portray herself, she is at a loss to "act naturally". 
If she had done a few hundred homicide trials, she would have that stony demeanor that would set her apart as a rock between steel and a hard place.

          igra istine   
mislim da nisam... no uporno delujem za seksualnu liberalizaciju ovog drustva, te mozda malo eksponujem neke teze...

seks ili novac ti je vazniji?
          Nyliberal is Good!   
          The Closer Versus the Strategist    

Mitt Romney spent the better part of this presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy. He characterized the President as weak, ineffective, and lacking in leadership. But when given the opportunity to debate the President on foreign policy last night he engaged in a surprising amount of “me-too-ism.” All of a sudden, with the election on the line, Romney decided to make another one of his now famous flip-flops and found, when given the occasion to show what he would do differently, he chose the more prudent course of agreeing with the President's main foreign policy initiatives. He even went so far as to agree with 2014 as a hard deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, a position for which he had previously derided the president for.

By now, nobody should be surprised with the flexible Romney who has pivoted from being a “severe conservative” in order to best his conservative rivals in the Republican primary to being a “moderate” in order to win the presidential election. In Ted Kennedy's immortal words, “I am pro-choice, and Mitt is multiple-choice.” That leaves the American public and the entire world, however, in doubt about what would a President Romney in fact do if elected. He has changed positions so many times on so many topics that voters could be excused for being somewhat confused as to what the Republican candidate stands for. For a man who makes a point that the business world needs consistency and certitude in order to conduct business, he has offered us neither.
There was one major point where Romney departed from the President on military policy, however. He made clear once again his desire to spend significantly more money on defense. He is always careful not to say exactly how much more, so as not to scare the average taxpayer already weary about our substantial debt, but the implication is clear, that a massive, Ronald Reagan style military buildup is in store if Romney gets the commander in chief job. There was a point in the debate that was almost comical when he stated that the US Navy had less ships today than before 1917 in an attempt to show that Obama had neglected his defense obligations. The President responded with:
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Judging by the laughter in the audience, the President drove home the point that Romney was hopelessly out of touch with how the modern military actually works, that sheer numbers is not what makes our military strong. It is all about capabilities, deployment, and strategy. Obama last night clearly demonstrated his command of military strategy and Romney sounded like a student who had been cramming for an exam.
Even though the President clearly won the foreign policy debate last night, the election will most likely not be won or lost based on foreign policy, which is why Romney ceded the point. He knows he won't best Obama on foreign policy so he is counting on the economy as his strong suit. And that's where it gets interesting.
As pointed out in earlier articles, Romney is a formidable closer. He has made millions convincing skeptical investors to plunk down their millions in business schemes that offered high risk and potential high profitability. He won the first debate hands down exhibiting these closing skills. He lives in the moment and knows how to maximize opportunities. This is how he has run his campaign and it has, by and large, worked if you are inclined to believe the polls. Many people see him as a credible alternative to the cooler, more deliberate Obama who can be frustratingly opaque at times.
When Obama got us involved in the murky war against Muammar Gaddafi, it was not clear what the President was up to. Was he leading? Following? Hence the celebrated phrase “leading from behind.” The phrase was not intended as a compliment, but looking back, he got the job done with a fraction of the cost and no American loss of life, unlike the plodding effort in Iraq. As an added bonus, Obama got the French to conduct airstrikes alongside our pilots. Unlike Iraq, the Libya action was a truly allied effort that led to the elimination of a dictator. Best of all, it happened without thousands of American soldiers dead and injured, not to mention another mega-increase in the deficit. This was truly smart power at work. If this is leading from behind then let’s have more of it.

if you ask any general worth his or her salt, 
they will tell you that strategy 
wins over tactics almost every time.

Mitt Romney, the consummate business tycoon, is all about quick results -- the quarterly report -- and in his profession, it is essential. A venture capitalist does not have time to waste on unnecessary items such as developing long term relationships or projecting too far in advance. The turnaround expert is quick to act, get the job done, and walk away as expeditiously as possible. As a matter of fact, expediency is a virtue in Romney's world of business closings.
Governing a complex country with a deeply divided population while dealing with responsibilities all over the world requires patience and lots of it. Romney has shown us time and again that he is not a patient man. He grew tired of governing the infinitesimally smaller territory that is Massachusetts only two years into his governorship. By the time he finished his first and only term he was fed up with governing and allowed Massachusetts to slip to 47th in job creation among our 50 states. His approval rate was in the 30's and he was deemed unelectable for a second term. This is what happens when people are convinced by a quick turnaround artist to govern their state. There is nothing quick about governing. Governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Romney, for example, would make an excellent consultant on a commercial deal with Bolivia, but as CEO of the whole enterprise that is the United States of America he would be a flop, even though he would no doubt shamelessly take advantage of the groundwork prepared by the current President.
Barack Obama, on the other hand is the consummate strategist. He showed us in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Hillary had all the advantages. She was considered almost the prohibitive favorite and had a hard core of dedicated fans. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her. Mark Penn, her campaign manager, was one of the best in the business. But unfortunately for her, she was pitted against a real strategist. Obama's supporters kept their hearts in their mouths the whole time, not knowing where Obama was going. He kept things close to the vest much to the consternation of his supporters. He kept everyone in suspense and pulled it out with forward thinking and a superior strategy. The Hillary camp had tactics, Obama had strategy. And if you ask any general worth his or her salt, they will tell you that strategy wins over tactics almost every time.
Barack Obama is one of our first truly strategic Presidents. Richard Nixon was also a strategist but was also a victim of his own self-doubts and paranoia. What is frustrating for many voters, including some of Obama’s most ardent supporters, is that there are always questions about what exactly his strategy is. That’s all part of the plan since a strategic thinker rarely conveys his strategy, because that is the nature of the master chess player. You are not sure how he does it, but he gets it done with little bombast and fanfare.
It has taken a few years for the Iranian leadership to figure this out. Which is why they are willing to negotiate, albeit in secret. I'm sure the President would love to share what he is doing behind closed doors to bring Iran, kicking and screaming, into dropping their plans for a nuclear weapon, but he can't. That is the nature of power politics. We only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We can only guess what goes on under the surface.
Americans will have a major choice this November. And the choice is not between fake issues like Socialism versus Capitalism. (Hint: both candidates are pro-capitalism.) Or Liberal versus Conservative. (Hint: both candidates are moderates.) No, the choice is more profound and personal.
We have in Mitt Romney, the classic business closer. The king of the deal. The super salesman. The guy you want to convince people to give him their hard-earned cash and sink it into something they never heard about. Those qualities come in handy at times and it would be an intriguing idea to hire Mitt as a consultant on tangible and complex deals.
We have in Barack Obama, on the other hand, the classic strategic thinker. Calm, cool, and collected. The guy with the steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state. The guy who does not get rattled easily. The guy who is not just thinking short term, but long term as well. The man who will bring this country back slowly, but steadily.
It remains to be seen which quality will prevail among a most volatile electorate.

          Dirty Harry Meets Harvey   

Clint Eastwood at the Republican Convention
Film buffs remember Jimmy Stewart's iconic portrayal of a simple man who had a six foot two invisible rabbit as a friend. Stewart carried the 1950 film classic, Harvey which centered around the question of whether Jimmy Stewart's character was sane or insane.
There is no question that the rambling Clint Eastwood is sane. His performance at the Republican National Convention, where he conversed with an invisible Barack Obama, may have been a bit bizarre but it nicely encapsulated the fiction that continues to be the criticism of the President. Clint Eastwood was short on specifics, but he tried to reinforce the myth that the President is a nice guy but in over his head, that he is not up to the job.

The media generally has panned Eastwood's convention performance, alleging that he sounded like an “old,” almost senile man who was generally an embarrassment and out of synch with the Republican convention. Certainly, he was a shadow of himself if you compare his performance in Tampa with the powerful Superbowl commercial he did for Chrysler. The Chrysler commercial was criticized by Republicans for sounding too pro-Obama. Somehow, truth-telling, which is what Eastwood was doing in the commercial, seems to benefit the President. But Eastwood went beyond truth-telling in that hard-hitting Dirty Harry style spot. The commercial not only reminded Americans of the critical role the President had in saving the US automobile industry, but Clint made that all-American pitch, that we were merely at halftime, alluding to not only the break in the football game but also, some concluded, to the halfway mark of Obama's presidency. Therefore, it became imperative for the Republican Party to make clear to the voters that Eastwood was a supporter of the Republican ticket.
But Eastwood is no old senile man. Far from it. He is as clever as a fox. His performance was not only designed to pander to the delegates at the convention but was also designed to plant seeds of doubt among the undecided voters. Unfortunately for Clint, it was too clever by half and he got lost in his contradictions. It is hard to make the point that Obama is a “nice guy” who is in over his head while simultaneously attributing epithets such as “go fuck yourself” and “shut up” to him since most people think of their President as a mild-mannered man. Eastwood did, however, capture the essence of the Republican message and talking to a non-existent Obama pretty much says it all. The Romney/Ryan campaign is entirely dependent on perpetuating a critique of a non-existent Obama. The following is a small representative sample:
The Stimulus was a Failure
It is a classic fallacy that if something does not solve every problem it must have failed. In order to make this statement believable one must suspend all reality. The only legitimate critique is that the stimulus could have been larger, but that is counter to Republican orthodoxy that government is powerless to solve anything. Thousands of jobs were either saved or created. All manner of projects, both in the public sector and private, were brought to success. For example, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, would never have been able to balance his budget without stimulus funding. All manner of infrastructure work was accomplished in spite of a few projects which were not quite “shovel ready.” The Republican critique only works if one concentrates on the few failures. A short quote from Energy.com tells a small part of the story:
Today, the Obama Administration announced the selection of the first public-private pilot institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio, to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process to receive an initial investment of $30 million in federal funding and matched by $40 million from the winning consortium of manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania ‘Tech Belt.’ August 16, 2012 [source: Department of Commerce]
There are countless initiatives that did not make the news. Unlike the simplistic slogans characterizing the media as “liberal,” the media gravitate more to sensational stories. For example, the closing of a single plant such as Solyndra in California is simple to report, while telling the bigger story of NAMII (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) is more complex and nuanced and therefore a more difficult story to tell in a five minute segment.
The Elimination of the Work Component of Welfare Myth
This blatant falsehood is essential to paint Obama as a protector of the shiftless and lazy class, complete with racial overtones since so many people assume that welfare recipients are mostly blacks. The best numbers available on welfare recipients: Black – 39.8%, White – 38.8%, Hispanic – 15.7%, Other – 3.3%, Asian – 2.4%. [source: answers.com]
All the fact-checkers agree that Obama did not eliminate the work component for welfare recipients. He simply gave, within the provisions of the law, some flexibility to governors, such as Mitt Romney himself, regarding how to attain the work requirement. For a party that is constantly promoting states rights not only is this critique a lie but it is disingenuous as well as hypocritical.
The Gutting of Medicare Myth
This is clearly one of the most pernicious of all the Republican lies. The $716 billion number Republicans bandy about as “taking” from Medicare is really a tightening of the program by negotiating with hospitals and other providers smaller reimbursements based on the expectations of an expanded population insured under the American Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Republicans, on the other hand, have made no secret of their desire to eliminate Medicare by forcing future seniors into the private insurance market with the promise of a fixed subsidy that may or may not cover the insurance premiums, which will undoubtedly be extremely high based on probability factors. Ironically, only the full implementation of Obamacare with its insistence of insuring people with pre-existing conditions might palliate the Republican voucher plan. Of course, to add insult to injury, Ryan has the exact same cut to Medicare in his plan as Obama does.
Obama Believes Jobs Come from Government
This particular myth is actually quite easily disproved, although Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that repeating a lie over and over again has an effect on the body politic. Public sector jobs grew by 4% under George W. Bush and shrank by 3% under Barack Obama, a fact that is just not generally known thanks to a failure of the Obama administration to push that point coupled with the media's infatuation with more sensationalist stories. Not only do too many people believe Obama is “growing” government but too many people don't realize he cut most of their taxes as well.
This is why Clint Eastwood's dialog with a non-existent Obama rings true. Critics have had a field day accusing President Obama of the most outrageous fantasies. The above examples are merely a few selected policy fabrications, but the concoctions have been many and varied. The smears on his reputation seem to be endless, from raising doubts about his own birth, his faith, his convictions, almost everything about him has been called into question – not as legitimate inquiry, but as deliberate fraudulent statements designed to misrepresent. The Republicans have been criticizing a non-existent Obama for years and getting away with it.
Clint indeed made their day.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Ryan's Medicare Problem   
In the point, counter-point world of campaigns, much is lost in the hyperbole and obsession over details. Most issues are not black and white, so to reduce them to slogans based on one esoteric point over another, doesn't give voters a chance to properly evaluate the competing claims.
Representative Paul Ryan
The Medicare debate is particularly complicated because it involves scores of factors, many of which are difficult to control. Most slogans actually say very little that is useful to the voter. “End Medicare as we know it” is a truism that says nothing just as “government takeover of healthcare” is a falsehood that doesn’t provide any information. The first slogan, used by Democrats, is true but meaningless. It tells us nothing about what the Republicans are up to. Its intention is to scare people afraid of change, nothing more. It actually begs the question as to whether the Republican changes to Medicare are an improvement or not, thereby shutting down any effective debate. “Government takeover of healthcare” is a slogan used by Republicans to denigrate “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) which not only is a falsehood, since the ACA is actually a reform of the already existing private health insurance system, but equally shuts off debate by scaring voters into believing that the President is a closest Socialist hell bent on turning America into a big gulag.
So what then happens is the commentary class then will go into excruciating detail trying to unravel a most complex issue that requires reams of documents to explain. The result is that the public is as confused as ever, not knowing who or what to believe.
The intent of this piece is not to be an exhaustive analysis of the issues but to make a few observations as to what the philosophies are behind the various reforms. It is really up to the individual voter to read as much as possible about the various plans and their critics and come to his or her own conclusion.
However, as one who leans towards the liberal side of the equation I cannot help but notice that Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants to weed seniors away from the admittedly government-run current system to a private insurance based system much like the rest of us have, has the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the President's Affordable Care Act. An interesting twist since his partner, Mitt Romney, is staking his candidacy in large measure on the repeal of ACA. I predict that if Mr. Romney is elected president, repealing ACA will be his first official flip-flop since he will find out it will not be easy to unravel such a large piece of legislation whose many individual parts are more popular than the whole. In a word, he will find out, as President Obama did, the power of the filibuster rule (in the case the Democrats should lose the Senate) or the power of the Senate (should the Democrats remain in the majority).
But the problems for Ryan don't end there. There is a real difference in philosophy between the two major parties and in particular between the Obama/Biden and the Romney/Ryan teams. The President is all about spreading the risk among all Americans. Unlike the caricature of his “spreading the wealth,” he genuinely believes that 1) all Americans should have medical insurance regardless of income level and 2) a single risk pool should be the strength of the American people as a whole. One can disagree with this philosophy, but that is what the man believes in.
The private insurance businesses, however, believe in creating risk pool groups. This is how they manage their business. Lower risk groups, therefore, pay the lowest premiums and the higher risk groups pay increasingly higher premiums because their risk is higher. It makes perfect sense as a business model which is why the business minded Romney and Ryan support this type of approach. This is what they call the free market.
The problem with this free market approach to human services is that, although great for business, it is not so great for people who end up sick and old. The free market is a wonderful mechanism to deliver most goods and services. No one has come up with a better economic system that is more innovative, nimble, and efficient. But healthcare is in a different class. One might even say it is in a unique class because as we all get old we all use healthcare disproportionately. Young, healthy people rarely need medical intervention unless they get involved in a catastrophic accident or contract an unpredictable disease. Consequently, as a group they are in a rather low risk pool.
So here's where the differences in philosophies clash. By insisting that everybody is in the same boat, the President is telling younger people that they should pay more now in insurance in order to have a guarantee that they won't pay significantly more when they get old. That is the bargain that Obama would like to see for America. The Republican alternative (when you get deep in the weeds with Ryan's reforms) is to rely on the private sector for seniors. This means, of course, they will get caught up in increasingly higher and more expensive risk pools. To his credit, Ryan left the public option open for seniors -- after howls of protest from Democrats and senior groups like AARP -- but all that will accomplish is to push the really sick into the government plan, making it even more expensive than it is now. Ironically, it is Obama's cost saving ACA that can palliate the effect somewhat. No matter what, though, the highest risk people will cost the most, because the population as whole was treated unequally to start with.

Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants 
to weed seniors away from the admittedly 
government-run current system to a 
private insurance based system 
much like the rest of us have, has 
the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the 
President's Affordable Care Act.

People who see the market as some sort of religion that has to be correct for everything will embrace the Republican philosophy until it will be too late if they find themselves out of luck. We have been living in a mixed economy for some time now. We have maintained a market economy that works well (with a few exceptions) but have also embraced government intervention in certain areas of common good. Most Republicans have accepted that the free market in its purest form cannot meet all of people's needs. Services like fire, police, public works, primary and secondary education, have been in public hands for a long time and although not without problems, are considered by most best done through a public service, not private enterprise. Nobody in his right mind would suggest we turn the fire departments into a private insurance scheme where premiums are optional and varied. And if you chose not to participate, well, your house will just burn down as the fire department would limit itself to protecting those who paid their insurance premiums.
Healthcare is not very different from protection against fire. We all need it. It is not an “option” unless you are so heartless as to think people should be allowed to die at the scene of an accident or from a curable disease. Fortunately, very few people think that.
There is much to reform in healthcare. The costs are too high. There are many inefficiencies in the system. There is too much corruption. The list is quite long. All ideas that contribute towards solving these problems should be welcomed, and it should not matter who comes up with them. But America has a choice to make. Should the private insurance companies be allowed to make up the rules that satisfy their bottom line? Or should the public sector create rules that are in everyone's interest that take into account that as we grow older our needs are greater and costs are higher? Are we all in this together? Or should each group be forced into fending for itself?

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          The Ugly American   
Most Americans only get interested in foreign policy when either a) someone bombs us or b) we bomb someone. I realize this is a bit of oversimplification but the average American is just not interested in world affairs or the fact that as the world's superpower, we have daily dealings with countries and people across the entire globe. Americans just don't think that our presence in the world is all that important.
Of course, that changes from time to time as when the Olympic Games roll around and all of a sudden our competitive juices get revved up. Suddenly it matters a lot that a small group of female gymnasts besting all the world's other gymnasts becomes all-consuming and all-important. There are other times, on smaller scales, when Americans care about what happens in the world, but on the whole, the average American is not terribly interested or informed about world events.
However, our presence in the world matters. A lot. America has commercial interests all over the world and not just limited to oil or iPod sales, to name two obvious concerns. America is a true world leader and whether we care or not, the whole world looks to America for leadership.
Governor Mitt Romney
Which is why Mitt Romney's uninspired tour of three of the most American-friendly nations, Great Britain, Israel, and Poland does not bode well for the Republican prospect. The press has had its fun with the many gaffes and missteps by both the presidential candidate himself and his closest aides, but the whole is more important than its parts. Sure, blaring headlines in the London papers announcing, “Mitt the Twit” are not helpful, but the image of a would be world leader incapable of navigating friendly waters should give Americans pause.
Headline in Rupert Murdoch's "The Sun" newspaper
More egregious, however, was Romney's blatant disregard of the delicate and tricky role America plays in the Middle East. In his zeal to contrast himself with President Obama, shore up support with Jewish voters back home, and assist his unquenchable thirst for campaign cash, he threw caution to the wind by adopting an uncompromising pro-Israeli government stand. I say Israeli government because his chummy relationship with Bibi Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister should not be confused with a pro-Israel position. Netanyahu represents a conservative government, which in a parliamentary democracy such as Israel could change in a blink of an eye.
Much more important is the delicate balance America has to achieve between being a supporter of Israel the country and its true interests, while maintaining a position as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Maybe posturing with his buddy Bibi will score him points back home with the yahoos and fool some Jewish voters into believing Romney has Israel's back, but Israel is not simply defined by its current government and its current policies. Israel is a complex democratic society similar to ours with many points of view and it is clearly in the country's interest to co-exist peacefully with its Arab neighbors. Putting down Palestinian “culture” as Romney did does not help Israel in any way.

If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections 
is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing 
to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting 
in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions 
in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? 

Every American President, liberal or conservative, understands this delicate balancing act and none has ever lowered himself to being merely a blatant cheerleader for Israel. Most Israelis understand this simple fact. By ignoring the true interests of the Israeli people in order to score cheap campaign points, Romney is not only showing his lack of mastery of the complex art of diplomacy, but also putting his immediate personal needs ahead of Israel. Jewish voters should not be fooled.
So far, the most under-reported story of Romney's latest international tour is his shameless fund-raising on foreign soil yet the press reported his ability to raise millions from foreigners in the most nonchalant way. Is is not enough that the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates of money pouring into our elections? The Supreme Court declared that corporations are equivalent to people and as citizens have the right to donate money to influence elections, in unlimited ways and in secret. That is a travesty that the Congress is trying to address, but since when is it OK for foreign interests – big foreign interests – to participate in our elections with cash? Where is the outrage from the people who are trying to make voting in elections as difficult as possible in order to prevent foreigners from voting? I think everybody agrees that foreigners voting in our elections is a no-no, but how about foreigners giving cash to presidential candidates? Are we so blasé and cynical that raising millions in foreign cash hardly raises an eyebrow? If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? I am reasonably confidant that Romney broke no laws when he collected millions from foreigners. I don't believe Romney is careless enough to openly break such a law were it to exist. But, one might ask, how is it possible that foreigners can legally influence our elections with cash and what does this say about a candidate willing to take large sums from foreigners?
Romney supporters like to say that his trip abroad was a resounding success. I guess it all depends on what his goals were. Based on the results, we can be confident in assuming that foreign policy was not his main priority.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          The Dysfunction Myth   

Democracy is not pretty to look at. It's messy. It was always messy from the very formation of the United States. The Founding Fathers argued about everything but ended up with great compromises like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
And now we have the Affordable Care Act, a badly needed beginning of healthcare reform almost one hundred years in the making.
Underscoring this historical moment is the myth of American dysfunctionality. Every major accomplishment has been fought tooth and nail and that is when statesmen step up to the plate. Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, JFK, and LBJ were among the many who moved the ball forward. Too early to say about Obama, but in the case of healthcare reform the statesman this time around is Chief Justice John Roberts.
Chief Justice John Roberts
Roberts confounded everybody. The Liberals thought he was a lost cause, a hopeless partisan in the same league as the most partisan Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia. But the Liberals were wrong. When Roberts famously said, “My job is to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat,” many Liberals did not really believe him. Since he was appointed by a Republican President, the nefarious George W., it was feared he was bound to be another partisan judge like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. But something mysterious usually happens on the way to powerful positions. People become more realistic and more importantly, more responsible. It is one thing to be on the outside, throwing rocks; it is another thing to accept a position of great responsibility and have the fate of one's fellow citizens in one's hands.
Conservatives also got Roberts wrong, much like they did Earl Warren. Conservatives thought that Roberts was going to be a “team player” and play for their team regardless of what was in the interest of the Nation. But Roberts surprised the Conservatives too. We may never know what Roberts' personal view of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is, but that does not matter because he correctly understood that his job is to find a way to validate the will of Congress and the President.

America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare 
taken a big step forward, but the political system 
has been proven to work as the Founders intended.

Predictably, the right-wing noise machine is going to go into overdrive and badmouth Justice Roberts. They will call him traitor and worse. There will undoubtedly be calls for his impeachment from the Tea Party types and their sycophants. These extreme ideologues claim to be patriots but do not really understand how our country works, how democracy works, or even what the meaning of the Constitution is. Then there will be the inevitable conspiracy theories, casting Roberts as a stooge or an evil genius. There will be much cynicism spread because so many of us cannot believe that honorable men still exist.
America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare taken a big step forward, but the political system has been proven to work as the Founders intended. Justice Roberts showed us all that he has a deep understanding of American history, that he understands the great responsibility that comes with being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, that it is not a trivial job for trivial people. That he, along with the President, does not have the luxury of letting his emotions get the better of him. That he is not part of some ideological “side” which if it doesn't get its way will stamp its feet like a three-year old. No, Roberts showed us that along with Obama, he was one of the few adults in the room and rose to the occasion.
This is the stuff of history! It is not the time to play a sleazy game to get a great headline in the Drudge Report or praise from the professional bloviators. This is America at its finest, when people from different backgrounds, different philosophies come together for the benefit of all of the American people. It is so rare these days that too many people will miss it, which is why it deserves a special mention.
And, to paraphrase the great Mark Twain, “Reports of the death of American democracy are greatly exaggerated.”

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.

          Vigilante Justice   
Still from the Oxbow Incident
This is the first time in the history of this blog that I present an entire movie for people to watch. But the Oxbow Incident is not just another movie. Nor is it just another western. This movie does the best single job of explaining where America's dark history with vigilantism comes from. It is rooted in the “wild” West and is a product of an immature nation which in those days had a less than effective system of justice. Policemen were rare if existent at all and in small towns in the West, the law, or what passed itself for law, was typically in the hands of a sheriff who was either corrupt or hopelessly out gunned. Sheriffs had precious few resources at their disposal, and the itinerant judges that meted out justice led to the phrase “kangaroo court” which referred to judges hopping from case to case in an effort to dispense quick justice so they could make as much money as possible.
The law, if you want to call it that was basically in the hands of the public, and usually the loudest and most aggressive segment of the populace. The Oxbow Incident illustrates that in glorious detail. This 1943 classic is all you need to know about the sad history of vigilantism in America. That is the power of great art. The Oxbow Incident illustrates the issue of citizen policing in the same effective manner as the Grapes of Wrath did the plight of the Depression era families. And it is no coincidence that the great Henry Fonda was the lead actor in both of these films. This is American film at its best – unafraid to expose the shortcomings of our great nation. Only great nations have the self-confidence for self-examination and self-criticism.
That is why examining the Florida law that permitted George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” to gun down Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is important. We need as a culture to take a very hard look at the “stand your ground” law that permits people to auto-define when murder is an appropriate course of action. This incident, instead of being a “teachable moment” where we should be examining our culture, has turned into another shouting match between liberals and conservatives. There is really nothing inherently liberal or conservative about the killing of a teenage boy, but we as a country have been stuck in this paradigm too long and now we have a hard time getting out of it.
Only great nations have the self-confidence for 
self-examination and self-criticism.
Trayvon Martin
Nobody has a full command of the facts in this case, as in the very relevant and still timely story of the Oxbow Incident. We all project our fears and hopes into what should be exclusively a law enforcement matter and not a political free-for-all. In this case, we have all become vigilantes. The Martin supporters and the Zimmerman supporters are engaged in a battle royale which sheds more heat than light. The police chief whose duty it is to investigate the case steps aside, unwilling or unable to conduct a credible investigation. All manner of celebrities go on TV pontificating as if they had any clue what happened. So this sad affair has become about a wannabe vigilante who is now the object of other vigilantes.
George Zimmerman
Justice? Hardly. Just another circus in town and the 24/7 media is eating this up. Opinion upon opinion and opinions about opinions, And yes, I guess I'm piling on as well.
My opinion, however, deals with how are we going to continue self government when everything becomes a shouting match and facts be damned? The Oxbow Incident is a stark reminder about where our sense of “popular justice” comes from. Justice by acclamation. Justice for those who shout the loudest.
This is what our public square has turned into. Who cares about facts anymore? We just want to be “heard.” The Tea Party folks want to be “heard.” Minorities want to be “heard.” Everyone wants to be heard so much that facts are relegated to minor props in this soap opera.
Remember when the Clinton campaign postulated it was all about the “economy, stupid?” Perhaps we should all be ready to say, “It's about the facts, stupid.”

Post Script: I take on the taboo subject of the Second Amendment on Salon

Am I the only one who has noticed how effeminate that pastor is - the one who said that Mormonism is a cult and then went on to throw his arms out toward Rick Perry in a gesture that must have been the envy of drag queens everywhere.  I am guessing we are just about one lacy ruffle from our next clergyman scandal; I only hope drugs are involved.  It's just more fun that way.
I listen less and less either to the news or to any of the talking heads, but there are a few things I have noticed lately from the little I have seen.  One is that those who are not raging against the Occupy Wall Street folks with small flecks of foam flying from their lips, are nonetheless baffled at what it is, exactly, that "those people" want.  I have also heard comments that ranged from gleeful gotcha-type snark to rueful bafflement as to why these folks who "can't be that poor" because they have iPhones or iPads (or both) seem to have so little resentment of Steve Jobs since they are "against the wealthy".  
It is clear to me that first of all, the idea that they are against not the wealthy per se, but rather against those wealthy people who have not earned their wealth, or those who use their wealth to unfair advantage.  Steve Jobs is eminently not among those.  Old Habakkuk said it well in his own little book of the bible: "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain".  Looks like Habakkuk had more going for him than a cool name.
In general there is now, as there always has been in the USA, three things going on.  There is the legitimate disagreement about social issues - the place of religion, abortion, gay rights, marriage, parental rights and responsibilities, crime and punishment, gun issues, the role of schools and so forth.  Secondly, there is the issue of spending - how much and whence the money to pay for it, and on what to spend public money.  These are two separate issues - fiscal and social - which are constantly being conflated so that many people who have strong feelings about social or 'moral' issues find themselves willingly or otherwise, allying themselves with people who have a particular stance on the spending issue, and vice versa.  Anyone who is socially liberal but fiscally conservative or socially conservative but fiscally liberal is reviled as a moderate, a fraud, or what have you.  Many people who feel strongly about social issues but less so on fiscal issues, or those who feel the reverse, must actually become frauds to be heard or elected by espousing strong positions they do not actually care about as much, in areas they find secondary in their beliefs about how to 'fix things'.  
As I said there are three, not two, things going on all the time.  The third thing is the growing power of those who win either way and who make every effort to keep the public focussed on emotional issues and acrimonious debate: the gotcha commentary, the 'assault' upon 'our rights' or upon the poor or upon those who 'earn their money and don't go looking for a handout' or the decline of the middle class or whatever resonant phraseology is current.  If every single congressman and senator were replaced by his or her chief opponent in the coming election, the effect would be miniscule.  There is no difference, really, between George Soros' political spending and that of the Koch brothers.  
In the antebellum South a small group of landowners oppressed both the poorer whites and the enslaved black population.  After the Civil War, this group - with a few desertions by leaders who fell from power and a few additions from both Southern and Carpetbagging Northern opportunists - pivoted smoothly into the Jim Crow era, where the poor whites were kept in line by threats of what would happen if blacks got rights and the blacks, poor or otherwise, were kept in line by what they had to lose from the little they had if the 'poor white trash' gained control.  The degree to which the poor whites had some awareness of their lack of real commonality with the aristocracy is reflected by the number of poorer mountain folk from slave-holding states who chose to join the Union army - there were rather a lot of these.  In Virginia, the poor mountain people seceded from the Secession majority in the state and formed the state of West Virginia, which remained with the North.  The passionate hatred between the "white trash" and the blacks was subtly stoked by those few who profitted either way; these poorer folk found themselves consistently supporting the lesser of two evils, as indeed we all find ourselves doing today with almost every vote we cast.  The problem is that the lesser of two evils is increasingly not all that much different from having to decide whether you'd prefer to be murdered by a serial killer or by a guy who just lost his head that one time.  Hmm; still dead.
It matters who wins an election in regard to the outcome of social issues, in regard to fiscal issues it matters somewhat also, in terms of where the money will come from and where it will go - although things will be far more the same, no matter who wins - than the rhetoric implies. However, it makes much less difference - almost none - in terms of how much money will be at issue.  In order to support our social beliefs we are sadly forced to accept the status quo politically and fiscally.  People who vote Democratic lose, people who vote Republican lose, and people who proudly proclaim that they never vote because it makes no difference lose.  
There is only one thing that would make any difference. It is something that the wealthy government officials - which includes every Justice on the Supreme Court, all the decision makers in the White House and Cabinet and all of the Congress - (although a few of the newer Congressmen may not be wealthy yet, their future wealth is guaranteed by their ability to slide smoothly into lobbyist firms or to start charging four, five or even six figures for a single hour of speaking at various venues for the rest of their life).  And that one thing is to add an amendment to the constitution divorcing the idea of spending unlimited money from the right of free speech.  There is no seat in Congress that isn't beholden to some wealthy person(s) or other.  None.  We all know this.  These wealthy few may be disguise themselves as interest groups or PACs or charities or any number of things, but in the end the money comes from people who had money to spare.  It is obscene how much it costs to run for office, and how much time most office seekers and office holders must spend seeking funds.  So much time is spent thusly that even the most conscientious of men or women must leave their research or decision making to a staff that has been largely chosen on an ideological basis or to a friendly lobbyist who will help him or her out by writing the legislation which he or she is to present or vote on.  
There will always be crooks in government but increasingly everybody is forced, by the cost of running for office and of countering expensive misinformation campaigns, into compromising independence and integrity if not into flat out dishonesty.  Whether it is hope and change or 9-9-9, no candidate for President will ever deliver, because Presidents do not make law, Congress does; and Congress won't because no Congressman is entirely free of indebtedness to the wealthy, and by wealthy, I am not talking of those who have five or ten million socked away, I mean those few families wealthy enough to buy a state.  Term limits don't help because two crooks are not better than one.  Campaign reform laws are useless, even in the rare case where they are meaningful, because the wholly-owned Supreme Court routinely overturns any real reform.  The one hope is a Constitutional amendment, because (so far) even the Court cannot declare an amendment unconstitutional. Unfortunately no amendment can be passed because the legislatures which would have to ratify it consist of men and women who are also beholden to the same wealthy few.  
What the Occupy Wall Street people are reacting to is the complete powerlessness of most of us to get out of this awful bind.  One of the last times such an all-powerful establishment was truly reformed a guillotine was involved.  The longer reform is suppressed, the more cataclysmic the reform will eventually be.  That is the way it has always been. 
It is not envy of the wealthy that is fueling this latest protest.  As I said, I have heard of few who begrudge the wealth of Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, or any of the others who actually DID something to earn what they have.  It is the CEOs who get seven, eight or nine-figure bonuses and payouts when they ran their firms into the ground, or wealthy people who are using money they never earned to demonize poor people for using, or trying to use, wealth they never earned - i. e. welfare.  People who do nothing but live well off the money some ancestor made should not be so quick to castigate people who receive medical care they cannot actually afford.  It is disheartening that those who rob a bank of billions are all over the society pages while those who rob the same bank of a couple of hundred dollars are, if caught, doing hard time.  
Poor people are notorious for not bothering to vote, but for whom should they vote?  They should, perhaps, run themselves, but they'd only be spending money to do so that they don't have or can't spare - and if they raise the funds to run, they will be raising them from rich or at least richer people, and then here we are: back at square one.   
I don't expect any improvement; I think it quite possible that we have passed the point where real reform can occur.  But I shall be watching the protest movement with great interest.
By the way, the Blogger KING OF NEW YORK HACKS has talked to a lot of different folks in the Occupying crowd and has published some excellent pictures and commentary showing who's there.

          Wanita Jadi Imam di Masjid Liberal di Jerman   
Bismillah   Tanggal 18 Jun 2017, dunia Islam digemparkan semula dengan “idea pembebasan”  yang mengiktiraf ‘wanita sebagai imam solat’.  Bukan itu sahaja, bahkan sebuah masjid liberal pertama telah dibuka di German dengan pelbagai lagi ‘kebebasan’ dituntut seperti hak untuk tidak bertudung, hak untuk golongan gay dan sebagainya.  Untuk ‘entry’ ini, saya suka berkongsi jawapan dan […]
          Kommentarer till ”Förbjuden kunskap” av Nils   
Jag har läst både The Bell Curve, Coming Apart och Loosing Ground och samtalet var otroligt intressant. Frågan är vad man gör med kunskapen men finns inte kunskap för kunskapens skull? Jag har inte lyssnat igenom riktigt hela men av det jag hittills hört gör jag några reflektioner. Bl a CMs konstaterande att "vanligt folk" har accepterat tanken på att IQ till stora delar är ärftlig och att det finns skillnader medan eliterna vägrar. Hur kommer det sig? SH nämner det i podden och Steven Pinker skriver om det i någon av sina böcker, att hög intelligens förutsäger liberalism, tolerans och positiv till migration, typ. Men frågan är vad som spelar in här. Som jag ser det måste det vara miljön. Har du hög IQ kommer du att få bättre jobb och bo bättre vilket innebär att du aldrig konfronteras med de problem som vi ser i Rosengård, Vivalla och Biskopsgården. Det kostar inget att sitta i Stockholms innerstad och visa tolerans mot vargförekomst. För fårägarna som får sina djur rivna är kanske inte toleransen lika självklar. Skulle en fårägare med några punkter högre IQ vara mer överseende att med få djuren lemlästade? Och varför är det så mycket bättre om miljön har stor betydelse för IQ? Nu visar ju alla forskning att IQ har en stor ärftlig komponent, men om jag förstår CM rätt har miljön inverkan bara om två individer växer upp i olika miljöer. Växer de upp i samma miljö kan inte miljön göra något. I Bell Curve skriver de väl också att de mest ambitiösa projekt med förbättrad miljö och pedagogik endast förmår skapa kortvariga effekter.
          The New LCD Soundsystem Songs Were Worth the Wait   

The anxiety of aging has fueled some of James Murphy’s best work, from his debut single, “Losing My Edge,” to the middle-aged gut punch that is “All My Friends.” So it only figures that, six years after LCD Soundsystem played what was supposed to be their farewell concert, Murphy sounds more haggard than ever on “American Dream,” one of two new songs from LCD Soundsystem’s forthcoming comeback album, released this week as a digital “double A side”. A woozy waltz for analog synths and chintzy rhythm box, the song cryptically recounts the morning after what sounds like the worst one-night stand ever, as the narrator, LSD coursing through his veins, looks in the mirror and watches his beard crawl across his face. As mid-life crises go, David Byrne’s iconic “How did I get here?” pales in comparison to Murphy's acid-fried vignette.

Mulling over a single, brooding set of chord changes, the song doesn’t really go anywhere during its languid, six-minute run; instead, it uses that velvety blue mood as the backdrop for some of Murphy’s most self-lacerating introspection yet: “You just suck at self-preservation/Versus someone else’s pain”; “Look what happened when you were dreaming/Then punch yourself in the face”; “In the morning everything’s clearer/When the sunlight exposes your age.” It’s a song about love, self-loathing, and unshakable desire, with bittersweet catharsis coming in the form of the song’s doo-wop-flavored finale: “American dream,” Murphy sings in a frail falsetto, over and over. Whatever the title is supposed to mean, it sounds like shorthand for an existential meltdown.

However broken down he may come across on “American Dream,” though, “Call the Police” finds Murphy and his bandmates raring to go, aiming for the bleachers like they haven’t since “All My Friends.” Like that staple of their repertoire, “Call the Police” is a big, bold anthem with emotion to spare, and near shameless about its grip on the heartstrings. Multi-tracked vocal harmonies, high-necked bass vamps, guitar feedback tangling like downed live wires—they spare no excess in their pursuit of extreme feeling.

Murphy has never been shy about invoking memories of his betters, and where “All My Friends” copped moves from John Cale, “Call the Police” borrows liberally from the melody of New Order’s “Procession” and the swirling guitars of Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Some have even heard an echo of U2 in the song’s stadium-sized ambitions and they would not necessarily be wrong. But this is arena rock as only LCD can do it, with an exterior as scruffy as Murphy’s own salt-and-pepper beard. Don’t call it lo-fi, though: Murphy may sound like he’s singing through a broken mic, but the song—mixed by Sound of Silver’s Grammy-nominated Dave Sardy—is as dynamic as you could ask of a contemporary rock recording, with levels upon levels of detail nestled in its folds.

Fans of lyrical exegesis will have a field day: What starts out sounding like it might be the story of the band’s breakup and rebirth becomes, by the end, a full-scale street riot, with people lining up to “eat the rich.” Whatever the hell is going on here, it couldn’t sound timelier. The conditions that inspired “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” have got nothing on the shit-show that is America in 2017, and LCD Soundsystem know it, with Murphy following his voice out to its ragged edge and gazing back at the wreckage in wonder: “There’s a full-blown rebellion.” Early in the song he sings, “The old guys are frightened and frightening to behold,” but Murphy and company have never sounded so invigorated.

          They Brought This on Themselves   
Leftists have created their own abortion nightmare. They can whine all they want to about the eeeeevil pro-life movement and those aaaaawful conservatives, but the truth is that the Stupak amendment was only made possible by the liberal obsession with government-run health care. Consider this, Planned Parenthood and NARAL: Under any of the various Republican […]
          Gun politics   
"You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.

"You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby. While no one should doubt the NRA's long-term health, the landscape of gun politics in the United States is changing in a direction that will force significant strategic shifts for the gun lobby. And, the organization's stumbled reaction to the verdict in the Philando Castile case June 16 shows that it is not fully prepared for this new era.

The Obama era was extraordinarily successful for the gun rights lobby. Despite overwhelming public support for modest reforms to control access to guns nationally, the GOP-controlled Congress resisted President Obama's calls to pass a bill that would have would have closed the gun-show and internet-sales loopholes in existing background check policy even after a series of mass shootings, including the late 2012 elementary school assault in Newtown, Conn. Moreover, in the 2010 McDonald decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an individual's right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment applied also to regulations passed by states and localities. But, the real success for the NRA and allied organizations came at the state level, where the organization succeeded in passing law upon law that expanded gun rights across the country.

In a piece I co-authored with Gary Reich published recently in Social Science Quarterly, fears that President Obama threatened gun rights drove those state-level dynamics. Specifically, gun and ammunition purchases popped up dramatically across the nation in sync with the 2008 and 2012 Obama victories. However, they did not increase evenly; in some states, including Arkansas, there were dramatic increases and in others new purchases stayed relatively flat. It was in those states where upticks in gun purchases occurred that gun liberalization efforts in states were most likely to succeed. Employing effective grassroots and social media networks and messaging that highlighted the threat to guns created by the Obama administration, the NRA was able to capitalize on concerns among gun enthusiasts of a new and onerous regime of firearms restrictions in those states as the rush of firearms and ammunitions sales provided fertile ground for the NRA to influence subsequent state legislation. In such friendly environs, the organization's state-level spending produced expanded gun rights.

The NRA was fully prepared for a Hillary Clinton presidency. If Clinton had won in November, the dynamic experienced during the Obama years would have continued to play out with Clinton easing into the Obama role of constant threat to gun rights. Like most, however, the gun rights movement was surprised by the Trump victory. The patterns surrounding the prior two presidential elections reversed and gun sales have dropped since the election of a man who said after his victory, "The gun rights community can breathe again." (In the first three months of 2017, sales dropped by 14 percent compared to a year earlier.) Interestingly, though, there is some evidence gun sales have popped up among another group: African-Americans. While demographic data is not regularly collected on gun purchasers, sales did increase in heavily black states and anecdotal evidence from gun storeowners notes a rise in African-American shoppers. Moreover, the National African American Gun Association, which formed in 2015, has more than doubled its membership since the election. (To be sure, with fewer than 20,000 members, the NAAGA remains tiny compared to the NRA's millions of members.)

Despite some clear efforts to reach out to persons of color starting in 2013 with targeted advertising, the NRA is challenged in turning these new gun owners into activists. Thus, the heightened success of NAAGA. The NRA's "non-reaction" (in the words of commentator Jelani Cobb) to the innocent verdict in the trial of the St. Paul policeman who shot Philando Castile, a concealed-carry permit holder, shows the difficulty the group has in fully embracing diverse gun owners. Colion Noir, the lead in the NRA's outreach to African-Americans, was sharply critical of the verdict, but the organization's official response — "it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing," — was halfhearted at best.

Certainly, as the debate on guns on campus in the Arkansas legislature last year showed, the politics of guns has not gone away entirely in the states. Moreover, the NRA remains a potent force in stymying gun control efforts because of its institutional advantages in the political arena. Since the group became politicized in the late 1970s, it has also shown an impressive adaptability to changing dynamics and it will figure out how to play offense in this new landscape. But, in the short run, the demise of the Obama threat and the increasing diversity of new gun owners creates very real challenges for the NRA as it attempts to achieve its ultimate goals on expanding gun access across the country.

          Give us mo' momo   
Katmandu Momo serves up crave-worthy Nepalese dumplings.

Since Saroja Shrestha and her husband, Kyler Nordeck, started the Katmandu Momo food truck in 2014, we've been following it around Little Rock and on social media in pursuit of our momo fix. What's a momo, you ask? It's a type of steamed South Asian dumpling, popular in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and parts of India, and Katmandu Momo's version is addictive.

Shrestha grew up in Katmandu, Nepal, and first came to the U.S. to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. She stuck around Arkansas after college and met and married Nordeck. Shrestha enjoyed cooking, got acclaim from friends when she made momos and had a business administration degree, so she and Nordeck decided to open a food truck. After three years of success as a mobile eatery, they opened up shop in a corner stall of the River Market's Ottenheimer Hall earlier this year. The food truck remains in operation around town, but, man, oh man, are we glad to have a fixed location to get our fix of Nepalese deliciousness.

For those new to Katmandu Momo's cuisine, you're in luck: The options are few and all tasty. The steamed momos come filled with beef, chicken or veggies. They're roundish, creased together with a swirl on top (Shrestha assembles each momo). All the fillings are marinated in spices that may be somewhat familiar — cumin, coriander, turmeric — along with fresh garlic and ginger, but together, taste unlike anything we've tried before. They come with achar sauce, which is thin and tomato-based with hints of sesame oil and a slow heat. Dump the momos thoroughly in the achar sauce and lean all the way over your to-go container — the momos are juicy and, if you're not careful, you'll get splattered. We've had all varieties many times. They're all excellent, but we prefer the crunch of the veggie, which have a stewed-like quality, and apparently we're not alone. Nordeck says it's hard for Shrestha to make enough veggie to satisfy the demand.

The veggie momos are also vegan, as are all three of the sides. The long-grain jasmine fried rice was buttery and golden (we suspect there's a healthy seasoning of turmeric, saffron or both), with a wonderfully uneven toasted quality. It was like paella rice, but without the crunch. If the aloo dum, or spicy potato salad, was on a chain restaurant menu, it'd have a little hot pepper symbol next to it to warn the capsaicin-averse. It's spiced liberally with fennel, cumin, green onion and cilantro, and enough heat to make the crunchy, mild spring roll a nice go-between.

You can get large portions of each of the sides for $4, or get them as part of a combo. It's $8.99 for 10 momos, eight momos and a side or six momos and two sides.

Katmandu Momo
Ottenheimer Hall
400 President Clinton Ave.

Quick bite

Katmandu Momo's regular special is chicken chow mein, a smoky tangle of spaghetti mixed with blackened pieces of chicken and green pepper and covered with garam masala and other spices. It's a massive portion and, like everything else, delicious. You can get a veggie variety, too.


10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Other info

Credit cards accepted, no alcohol.

          The Blueprint   
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ve read my rants about how I hate reading political books. I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about how awful all political books are (as I did plenty here and here). But Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski’s book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency got me riled again. Another rant is forthcoming, and you are warned.

Like I’ve said before, I am on the liberal end of the political spectrum. However, I have plenty of friends and relatives who are conservative, and I like to think that reading books like Th