(November 6, 2006)
[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting. Thank you.]
Our Kind of Guy: Good ol' Eli Beckerman...solid as a rock!
I am very excited to say that I have joined Jill Stein's campaign for Secretary of the Commonwealth. While this is a temporary move for me, it is a significant one -- where I have found a way to get paid doing something that I believe in to my very core.
Jill is an extraordinary woman and a phenomenal candidate, and I don't say this casually, but I think she can actually win.
She is running straight up against a 12-year incumbent Democrat -- Bill Galvin -- who should be ashamed of what has happened to our democracy on his watch as Secretary. Only 25% of the elections in Massachusetts are contested elections, while incumbents have a 98% re-election rate. Galvin even had the gall to thumb his nose at his Democratic challenger, John Bonifaz (an amazing voting rights advocate), who raised countless important questions about Galvin's record. Galvin refused to debate -- somehow thinking that the people of the Commonwealth are not entitled to see the candidates before them on the ballot actually debate the issues they will face in office. It is one thing for our elected officials to show such disdain for their constituents, but it is another thing entirely when that office holder is Secretary of State -- overseeing our election system at a time when it is so broken.
There are even more important questions to raise about Galvin, about the rampant corruption on Beacon Hill, about the electoral system that is failing us, about the decay of our democratic system of government, and the voters of Massachusetts will be left with a clear choice. There will be no Republican to fear and thus no lesser evil to reluctantly support. With Jill, the voters can vote their hopes, for a change.
An important part of Jill's campaign actually addresses this spoiler argument -- and it's called Instant Runoff Voting. Since the Democrats have a supermajority on Beacon Hill, they can take care of the spoiler effect in an instant. But they cherish it because it can scare you out of voting for someone you actually believe in. By ranking your votes, you automatically get to vote for the candidate you want without jeopardizing the end result. Thankfully in this race, there is no spoiler argument.
But there are two things that stand in our way -- money and visibility -- and they are deeply connected. I believe very strongly that grassroots mobilizations can outpower money any day of the week, and I actually encourage you to consider what you could do with your feet, with your hands, and with your heart, to make this upset victory happen. And of course, if you're stuck on that or feel like you don't have the time, then money will help tremendously (and that grassroots effort will have a multiplier effect).
Now, just so you know I'm not getting paid to write this, I want to make a push for you to donate to the gubernatorial Green-Rainbow candidates as well. Grace Ross and Martina Robinson are incredible activists who have put their lives on hold to try to represent the actual people of this state. Their opponents -- Deval Patrick included -- are in that top 0.01% of the people who earn more than 5 million dollars a year. Patrick's true colors will shine through, and I think Grace will stand out from the pack of hypocrites. But I think people will fall prey to the spoiler argument and end up voting their fears. It's still possible to work against that happening -- but I cannot hold my breath.
So, rest assured you will hear more from me on all of this... but for now, please visit www.jillstein.org and www.graceandmartina.org
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA - October 27, 2006
Differences Without Differences
To the Editor:
Congratulations on a very strong issue. I'm impressed with the consensus on how to vote, or not to, in the November elections, but I think the conclusion is simplistic.
I agree with Gore Vidal that we have only one political party in the U.S. with two right wings. This is broadly true on foreign policy, where both have supported the neo-liberal agenda on trade and globalization. It is less true on the domestic economy, where Clinton followed balanced budget policies, while Bush is breaking the bank. It is not true on domestic social issues, where one party at least tried to enact a national health plan, while the other created a drug policy that benefited the drug companies. It's not true on environmental issues, it's not true on women's rights, it's not true on the minimum wage, and it's not true on civil rights and the Constitution.
People who say there is no difference between the parties overlook the danger of the plan that Bush is carrying out: domestic wiretapping, imprisonment of US citizens without trial, torture, the building of mass detention centers; the ending of checks and balances; ending of accountability in the executive branch and subversion of the electoral process. These are rightly called harbingers of fascism, and if Michael Chertoff is to be believed, some of us writing in this journal could feel the effects of it.
On the international level, while it's true that both parties have followed the general agenda of economic neo-liberalism, Bush's pursuit of military adventurism, his advocacy of the war on terror, his phobia about an axis of evil and the influence of the Israeli right and the neocons on his policies, are unique cancers that need to be excised immediately.
Rather than saying "don't vote for the Democrats -- it only perpetuates the system," I would say "voting is a minor and symbolic act. Do what you want at the polls, but don't expect anything major to change. Do expect to go right back to work in your critical roles, whoever wins."
Sausalito, California, USA - October 23, 2006
By Golly, They are Coming, They are Coming! Peter Byrne's Oriana Fallaci, 1929-2006
To Peter Byrne:
I've just come across your obituary of the late Ms. Fallaci published in Swans Commentary, on September 25, 2006. The reason I am cluttering up your inbox was the following passage:
On September 12 in Germany, he [Pope Benedict XVI] developed his thesis that the Christian God was reasonable (rejecting violence), unlike the Muslim God who was arbitrary (indifferent to violence). After the hostile reaction of Muslims to these speculations, Benedict was quickly excused in Italy as a bookish old man, lacking diplomacy, who had been misunderstood. On the contrary, his words in Germany, apart from being patronizing toward 1.3 billion Muslims, simply marked another step in the effort of the Church to keep Europe for its private domain. In fact, as John Hopper points out (London Observer, September 17, 2006) Benedict began dwelling on the links between Islam and violence well before he became Pope.You are not the only one who takes Pope Benedict XVI severely at task for citing a Byzantine emperor (actually Manuel II Paleologos 1391-1425) for quoting in a lecture the pontiff gave at Regensburg on Sept. 12th. The particular citation that has the faithful in an uproar was: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
For this Benedict XVI had been traduced not just by the adherents of the Religion-of-Peace but by a fair number of their fellow-travelers all across the Main Stream Media as well as tenured useful idiots of Western universities.
Was the accusation of armed conquest concomitant with forced conversation at the point of the sword justified? Well, does the name Constantine XII Palaiologus ring a bell? If not let me refresh your memory. It was on May 23rd, 1453 that the last Byzantine emperor died sword in hand fighting off the hordes of the Ottoman Turks who than proceeded to put Constantinople to the sack sparing neither young nor old save comely maidens who were parceled out to the harems of the faithful.
And shortly afterwards present day Albania / Bosnia-Herzegovina / Bulgaria / Crete / Cyprus / Greece / Hungary / Macedonia / Montenegro / Romania / Serbia were brought under the suzerainty of the Crescent, the inhabitants being given the choice of submission to Allah (the merciful and compassionate) or accept the status of dhimmitude. The dhimmies had to pay a special tax payable in boys. These children were shipped off, forcibly converted to Islam including being circumcised (without anesthetics) and turned into janissaries and a magnificent body of infantry they turned out to be.
And let's not forget Vienna. Islam tried twice, 1588 and 1683 to conquer that city and each time they were turned back -- just.
At last report, His Holiness has invited a number of Muslim luminaries to meet with him so that he can clarify his attitude towards the Religion-of-Peace. This is par for the course. Historically, the Vatican has always been more at ease dealing with Islam than with schismatics like the Greek & Russian Orthodox Churches to say nothing like heretics such as the Lutherans, the Calvinists, the Anglicans and numerous others. Jews, of course, are beyond the pale.
As a sort of postscript, apart from the two attempts on Vienna, that Religion-of-Peace tried to conquer Western Europe at Poitiers in 712 AD. What would have happened had Islam won the battle of Poitiers (and it was a dammed close thing)? Let Edward Gibbons (1737-1794) author of The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire tell it in his own inimitable way:
A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland: the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.Well Mr. Byrne, it is only a matter of time before the green flag of the Prophet (peace be upon him) flies over St. Peter's in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Paul in London.
E. David Litvak
San Francisco, California - October 31, 2006
Interview with Col. Andrew Bacevich (Ret.)
I think it's important to keep making the connection between Iraq and Vietnam, so to talk about this who better than a Vietnam Vet with a Ph.D. from Princeton who teaches at Boston University? What's interesting here is how idealistic Andrew Bacevich still is -- and I wonder whether by the time the Iraq debacle is finished and done with he'll have become more cynical. More realistic, perhaps I should say, which would be a good thing. We do have a number of different views and did scrimmage a bit, but I enjoyed this conversation and found Andrew quite likeable indeed. One area we did agree, almost completely, is the nature and importance of civil-military relations: Andrew's thoughtful contributions to that subject are welcome indeed.
If you find time to listen I hope you enjoy the show.
The podcast entry is here:
Bethesda, Maryland, USA - October 27, 2006
[Ed. George Kenney is a principled US citizen who resigned from the State Department in the early 1990s in opposition to the US policies in the former Yugoslavia.]
More of the Same, Old Same... Jewish Prominence, all 15 million of 'em!
To the Editor:
Gilles d'Aymery requested that I demonstrate my claim that the Zionists had brought the U.S. into WWI.
Here it is:
Background to BalfourI have read elsewhere that tentative peace negotiations between Great Britain and Germany were underway in mid 1916 but did not find any precise references.
I get the feeling that Gilles d'Aymery believes that any insistence on the presence of a powerful Jewish and/or Jewish-Zionist (certainly not the same, especially back at the turn of the century) lobby implies the belief that they are behind everything, or controlling the U.S., i.e., are the only such group lobbying to exert influence. As Robert John argues elsewhere in his book, of course there are many such groups, not to mention differing opinions within the same group. However, to assume that just because one particular group (in this case Zionists around WWI) was NOT in control of everything that therefore it had no part to play is no less extreme. Obviously the negotiations carried out by Zionist power brokers at the turn of the century involved the major powers of the time, presumably because the international network of financiers and others in the widespread Jewish Diaspora, by coming together across national fault lines with a unified approach could exert considerable influence on the outcome of great affairs, including wars during which sources of finance are as vital as fuel and other supplies to the military in the field. So although it is surely quite silly to maintain that one group is controlling the whole world (as he seems to be implying I have been doing), it is no less absurd to deny a long lineage of influence at the highest levels which the historical record clearly shows. Merely the fact that a small population of 15,000,000, with around 5,000,000 in Palestine today can play so prominent a part in world affairs, that Israel receives such a disproportionate amount of aid from the U.S. as she has done since her founding, and so forth, is evidence of the most simple, common-sense type that Israel does indeed wield great influence in US affairs (for whatever reason), as AIPAC -- by far the largest foreign lobbying group in the U.S. -- no less clearly demonstrates. Why anyone would be uncomfortable acknowledging this is beyond me -- unless they feel duty bound to cover up the obvious for some partisan reason, or they are afraid of being associated with the dreadful (and by now over-abused) "anti-Semite" label perhaps.
Cape Breton, Canada - October 23, 2006
Debunking a Few Canards as well as Interjecting the Usual PR
To the Editor:
Ashley Howes writes: "I remind you that it is a matter of public record that the U.S. was dragged into WWI by Zionist power brokers." You can find this nonsense in several anti-Semitic Web sites. They even accuse the Zionists (meaning the Jews) as being responsible for WWII, because they were behind the harsh treatment of Germany at Versailles, by the Jewish (Zionist) bankers...
As for his statement that, "[T]his was true with the very creation of the state of Israel that was determined against the expressed wishes of all the Arab League states at the U.N.," which means that the U.N. should not pass any decisions opposed by the Arab League states. It does not matter to Howes that both the U.S. and the Soviet Union voted for the decision. (I am sure he thinks that the Zionists also had a huge influence even on the USSR...) It does not matter to him that the "mess," as he calls it, developed ONLY because the Arabs refused to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state in Palestine, regardless of its size, and tried to destroy that state numerous times by military means. And for his information, there is no such thing as a "Jewish race." The Jews are a people just like the Bulgarians or the French. Just as there is no Italian "race," there is no Jewish "race." And Israel is run by a secular parliament, not by religious law. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are all recognized. In fact the state pays the salaries of the rabbis, the imams, and the pastors. And Israel is not "ethnically cleansing" the indigenous population. It has 1.3 million non-Jewish citizens. Some ethnic cleansing....
And, the Jews living in Eastern Europe or in any other places for that matter, have a very strong historical and emotional connection to their place of origin, what they call Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel), which later became known as Palestine. Contrary to many peoples of antiquity, the Jews did not disappear from the stage. They were able to preserve their historical memory and to eventually reestablish their independent state in the place of their origin. This has nothing to do with religion or "Talmudism" and everything to do with peoplehood. After all, the founders of Zionism were all secular Jews motivated by history, not by religion.
The Palestinian Jewish community, led by the Zionist movement, accepted the 1947 UN partition plan, thus giving up more than 80 percent of Mandatory Palestine, precisely because another people lived there. They understood that the territorial compromise was a must.
The idea that Israel wants to "conquer most of the well-over-a-billion Islamic region" is as bizarre as it is ludicrous. Israel is already a part of the Middle East, now recognized by the largest Arab state. In the end, the "mess" will end up with the implementation of the two states solution, with the border following the green line with minor modifications and land swaps.
Jerusalem, Israel - October 25, 2006
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