Thursday, October 19, 2017

50 years ago: March on the Pentagon | 21 October 1967

Me and a friend on the bus to DC
Fifty years ago today I was riding a bus from St. Louis to my first national anti-war demonstration. At the time I was a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, MO with a double-E major. The March on the Pentagon was a massive and militant protest against the American War in Vietnam and it took place on 21 October 1967. Protesters rallied at West Potomac Park near the Lincoln Memorial and marched to the Pentagon. Phil Ochs sang and David Dellinger and Dr. Spock spoke. A rally there was followed by civil disobedience on the steps of the Pentagon. I was among those that marched across the bridge to the Pentagon but I didn't get arrested.  

Che Guevara was murdered on 9 October 
1967 and we were still mourning our loss
as we marched across the bridge to the

This weekend I will be flying to Washington to commemorate the 50h anniversary of that historic protest. These events are being organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee. It begins with a vigil at the Pentagon on Friday, 20 October, followed by dinner at Saigon Saigon, and an all day conference on Saturday, 21 October. You can read complete information on the event website.

I will be tweeting and blogging from the various events so look for my post over the weekend.

After this protest, anti-war activity became the focus of my life for the next few years. By the end of that school year I was president of the Washington University SDS chapter and a veteran of many protests.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Monday, October 9, 2017

From Santa Monica to Syria: It's a small world after all

The Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice had another very successful meeting Sunday evening. Although the house was packed, it wasn't the massive turnout we had last month. The Santa Monica PD only sent four horsemen this time and the Alt-Right groupies were a complete no-show. Word on the street is that they are saying we are no longer considered a "soft target."

From my six years of blogging in support of the struggle against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, @Partisangirl is a familiar adversary. She is one of Assad's best known propagandists. I first mentioned her in August 2012, a year before the massive sarin attack on East Ghouta, in a post titled Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria, which featured this tweet:
In retrospect, that tweet can be seen as part of the long propaganda campaign designed to prepare the way for chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime that would eventually kill thousands.

DIY Division: Neo-Nazi Fighting Club
In the past year or so, much of my energy has been diverted away from Syria, as regular readers of my blog know. First, in an unsuccessful campaign to keep Donald Trump out of the White House by strategically focusing on what proved to be an indispensable element of his victory - the Jill Stein candidacy, and since, in fighting the results of that victory. Most recently, I have been focused on a local struggle in a way I really haven't done since the halcyon days of Occupy LA in the Fall of 2011. Readers of this blog also know this recent struggle broke out when a number of Southern California Alt-Right groups decide to target SMCRJ. We now have identified the Proud Boys, Goyim Boys, DIY Division, Hammerskin Nation, Rise Above and the bloggers Red Elephant and Baked Alaska as among the attackers.

My struggle against Baked Alaska has been up close and personal, as well as over the Internet:

Baked Alaska [Tim Gionet] harassing Committee for Racial Justice in Santa Monica | 6 August 2017
Baked Alaska [ Tim Gionet] marching with racists in Charlottesville, VA | 11 August 2017
So, imagine my surprise at seeing this in @Partisangirl's latest twitter feed:

Worlds Collide - Like the title says "Its a small world after all!"

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Democracy Now: Where Marsha Gelen missed the white supremacy

On Thursday, 5 October 2017 Amy Goodman interviewed the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen on Democracy Now. Gessen made some very important points drawn from her study of totalitarianism in Russia, and what it says about the rise of Trump in America, but when the discussion turned to the main reason Trump won the election, her explanation fell fatally short because the adopted framework was designed to obscure the main problem. The problem I am pointing to is crucial, but easy to miss because it relates to what is assumed and not said when they speak of American voters as the single, undivided entity. In their discussion, it seemed like when they spoke of the American voter, they were thinking only about the white voter.

Given Democracy Now's support for Putin's objectives in the US presidential election, Amy Goodman was most interested in knocking down stories about Russian interference in the election, and any talk of collusion, so she points Gessen in that direction, but Gessen has limited interest in that. She see's it as a distraction. Her main point is that "Americans elected Trump," which leaves her a little short when it comes to explaining why:  
AMY GOODMAN: Masha, you are the author of The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. You’ve been fiercely critical of Russia. You’re fiercely critical of the Trump administration. But you’re also fiercely critical of the story that has predominated now of Russia’s interference with the U.S. election that ended in the victory of Trump. Why?

MASHA GESSEN: Well, because, you know, I just need more things to be fiercely critical of, obviously. But I think—and this is a word that also has almost lost its meaning, because we use it so much—in a way, it’s a distraction. Right? And this is a very difficult point to try to convey—right?—that I think that conspiracy thinking is really dangerous to culture and to political culture. And it’s very hard to stay away from conspiracy thinking when there may have been a conspiracy. Right? We don’t know if there was a conspiracy.

But more important, it creates this fantasy that we can find a reasonable explanation for the election of Trump that will somehow let us out of this national nightmare. And the national nightmare is that Americans elected Trump, and he’s president. Russians didn’t elect Trump. Even if there was collusion, even if every hypothesis that has—that is at play in the Russia investigation is proved, still, Americans elected Trump, and he is president.[my emphasis] 
It is a hopeless banality to point out that Americans elected Trump because the truth it hides is that white supremacists elected Trump. True enough, Russians didn't elect Trump, but neither did black Americans. They voted 88% for Hillary Clinton.  This is a very significant statistical difference given the role that racism has played as one of the foundation stones of American capitalism. Drowning, and then ignoring that difference with the banality "Americans elected Trump" may be par for the course on Democracy Now, but it is most unhelpful in understanding what has happened and why.

Most voters that didn't define themselves as white voted in opposition to Trump because they could see what Trump was peddling. What Trump was peddling, and now, thanks in part to the "don't vote for the lesser of 2 evils" politics of the likes of Democracy Now, is peddling from the White House, more than anything else, is a white supremacist vision of America, codenamed #MAGA. He was elected president because a majority of the white voters bought into it. According to the Pew Research Center:
White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.
Clinton held an 80-point advantage among blacks (88% to 8%)
It is not true that everyone who voted for Trump defines themselves as "white." Trump got 8% of the "black" vote. It is also not true that every "white" who voted for Trump was conscious of doing it for racist reasons, although they had to be willing to overlook his obvious racism, but this was also true of those that argued there was no meaningful difference between the two contenders. What is true is that from the moment Donald Trump came down the escalator to announce his candidacy by denouncing Mexicans as rapists, allegiance to the basic tenets of white supremacy have been the hallmark of his candidacy, and now his presidency. This was something all but overlooked by the white Left as it focused on defeating Trump's main adversary, and it is something they downplay today.

Sensing that it wasn't enough to leave it at "Americans elected Trump," Nermeen Shaikh tried to get Gessen to expand on her answer:
Can you say what you think some of the historical—although not that long ago—reasons are that Trump was elected?
Masha Gessen responds with this "distraction." She talked about how Hitler used the Reichstag fire as an excuse to seize power in Germany in 1934, and added:
Well, I think that that has all happened in this country, and it happened in the wake of September 11th. The state of emergency that went into effect three days after September 11th has never been lifted. It was renewed by President Obama every September for seven years of his presidency, the seven Septembers that he was president. We continue to be in the state of emergency. The War Powers Act passed with one dissenting vote three days after September 11th, continues to be in effect and has been used by President Obama and now by President Trump. And there’s also been a 16-year run of concentrating—increasing concentration of power in the executive branch—under George W. Bush, basically, in the interest of shoring up more military and surveillance power; under President Obama, for some of the same and some other reasons, having to do with a Congress that was intent on paralyzing him. But basically, I think that chain of events did a lot to create the possibility of Trump, to create the very possibility of a politician who could run for autocrat in this country and get elected.
Her answer is a distraction because it really doesn't even address the question, let alone provide a meaningful answer. We aren't suppose to notice because she gives us a history of the growth of presidential powers since 9/11/2001, and then tries to turn that into an answer by saying that created the possibility of someone running for autocrat and getting elected. But Trump won votes by promising to "Make America Great[white] Again", not because he promised to be an autocrat.  His dog whistles are all about racism, not autocracy.

True enough, the legal changes since 9/11 may now legitimize autocratic president powers, but that is a very different thing from exercising them, and Gessen puts forward a very dangerous proposition when she implies "our Reichstag fire" has already happened. It has not. Trump does not yet hold the kind of absolute power wielded by the post-Reichstag Hitler. There may already be laws on the books that would legitimize those powers, and Trump certainly wants them, so we must vigorously fight his attaining them, and it is most unhelpful to say it is a done deal already.

Although, I have learned to expect nothing less from Democracy Now.

The white nationalism of Trump supporters found its compliment in the white Left around such forces as the US Green Party and Jill Stein, Democracy Now and Amy Goodman. They both enjoyed the support of Vladimir Putin in Moscow, who fancies himself the leader of a worldwide white nationalist movement. This is the central problem of our time and these people that fancy themselves "the Left" had better get a grip on it if they are to be of any use to anyone.

What many on the Left don't seem to understand is that capitalism will run its course, sooner or later, given enough time. It is its byproduct, racism, that today poses the greatest threat to the future of humanity.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Put a pin in this: The Mandalay Bay shooter was obesessed witn guns

Few facts have so far emerged about the man who killed 59 concert goers before killing himself that give us a clue about his mentality or his motivation. One of those facts seems to be that he owned at least 42 guns and brought 23 to the hotel room for this operation. There could be a lot for reasons why he might own so many guns. He may have been a collector. He was a millionaire, so if he was into guns he could afford it.

The 23 guns he brought to the hotel room is key. It has been reported that only one was a handgun. I'm willing to wager that he committed suicide with that handgun and he brought it explicatively for that purpose. Clearly, at least one of those guns was a fully automatic machine gun, and it has been reported that he had set up two shooting platforms with tripod-mounted guns, if he had a backup gun for each shooting position, together with the handgun, we are up to five guns already. Given that each additional weapon brought up to the hotel room represented an operational risk, how could he have rationally justified the need for 23 guns for this suicidal lone-shooter operation? The only rational for 23 weapons in the room is that Stephen Paddock had a gun fetish and it played a big role in this shooting spree.

UPDATE: Tuesday 3 October 2017

According to USA Today, Marilou Danley, who is reported to be the shooter's girl friend has been out of the country and is no longer considered a "person of interest."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday said Congress is focusing on “mental illness reform” to prevent mass shootings in the future

President Trump on Tuesday called Mr. Paddock “a sick man, a demented man,” adding that “we are dealing with a very, very sick individual.”

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice - next meeting Sunday, 8 October

Since CRJ has normally met on the first Sunday of the month and we have reported that, we wanted to get this announcement out before tomorrow in case someone thought the meeting would be taking place tomorrow.

After much discussion among the leadership of CRJ, Bob Gordh produced this excellent history and description
The Committee for Racial Justice

CRJ originated in response to a single disturbing racial incident.

On May 4, 2011, an African American member of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team was held against his will and chained to his locker by two Caucasian teammates while there were chants of “Slave for sale” and a wrestling dummy had a noose around its neck nearby. This racially charged incident and the District’s slow response were the catalyst for the formation of the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ). Our 11-person
Steering Committee consists of parents of Santa Monica students, community members and clergy. CRJ membership is open to all. We welcome all people of good will to attend our workshops and join our working committees.

CRJ is committed to combating all forms of racial injustice, whether overt or covert, whether individualized or systemic, that may take place in
our community. While we know that racism affects many cultural groups, we are especially drawn to focus on the severe impact it has on the African
American community.

CRJ has been active in 3 main arenas.

Since early in its existence, CRJ has been active in 3 arenas. First, we have produced a series of workshops on various aspects of the subject of race. We do not, of course, view race as a natural category but rather as a social construct imposed by racism. Racism has had an enormously complex and destructive history in our country. Likewise, it persists today in enormously complex and destructive ways. In common with anti-racists everywhere, we see racism as much more than just a conscious attitude. It can also be an unconscious bias. Moreover it is much more than just attitude, whether conscious or unconscious. It is also an insidious pattern
embedded in the systems by which our society is organized. It manifests itself, for instance, in segregated housing patterns, in enormous racial disparities in our distribution of wealth, in the use of predominantly Eurocentric materials in our history classes, in racially discriminatory policing, etc. The study of race and racism is multi-disciplinary, involving the fields of history, sociology, political science, psychology, economics, religion, literature and other arts, and more. There is so much to learn!

Hence, our monthly educational workshops, which typically feature noted guest speakers, as well as time for discussion and dialogue.

And of course, there is so much to do to undo racism. A regular feature of our workshops, therefore, is to inform our attendees of a variety of opportunities for action.

Second, CRJ works continuously to advocate for Black students in the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District. We persistently push for policies and practices that will benefit Black students. We do not espouse “colorblindness.” We believe Black students face specific challenges in this society, which is so pervaded by racism, and we believe, accordingly, that they deserve various kinds of support that are designed especially for them. For example, we believe that they deserve courses that are specifically about Black history and culture, as opposed to mere equal access to predominantly Eurocentric courses. It is worth noting that CRJ avoids a binary approach to thinking about race. We do not, for instance, divide individuals simply into racists and non-racists. Instead we recognize that we are all at some point on a continuum. Similarly we see institutions like the Santa Monica schools as being at some point on a continuum. Our goal is to push them to the highest point possible. We believe that not only Black students but all students will benefit enormously as a result. CRJ has created a document called “A Vision for Schools where Black Lives Matter” to guide us in this work. During the 2017-2018 school year we will be campaigning specifically to establish a support group for the parents, grandparents and guardians of Black students for every school in the district.

Third, CRJ works to oppose many forms of injustice in the nation’s criminal justice system: racial profiling and race-based harassment, excessively harsh sentencing laws, mass incarceration, police shootings of Black citizens, discrimination against individuals exiting incarceration, etc. On the local level CRJ, along with the Santa Monica/Venice chapter of the NAACP, the Westside ACLU and the Peace and Justice Committee of the Santa Monica Unitarian Universalist Church, participates in Coalition for Police Reform. It is the mission of this coalition to eliminate racial profiling, as well as the use of unnecessary force toward Black citizens, by the Santa Monica Police Department.

CRJ faces new challenges, seizes new opportunities.

CRJ’s July, 2017, workshop was visited by 5 members of white supremacist hate groups, 3of them wearing bandanas as masks. Throughout the meeting they interrupted and made racist and anti-Semitic remarks out loud. The August meeting was besieged by at least 30 white supremacist disruptors, who tried to invade the hall but were blocked at the door by stalwart attendees. Our research indicated that over 300 neo-nazis were mobilizing to descend on our next workshop. CRJ spearheaded a de-escalation and public safety program for CRJ and its anti-racist allies. Several hundred CRJ supporters turned out for the September 10 workshop. They were fortified by a plan for resistance, the presence of numerous clergy, and a large police contingent. Only a handful of far-rightists dared to show up, and the meeting proceeded peacefully.

Not only are white supremacists attempting to disrupt our workshops. They are also spreading misinformation about us. We have therefore taken up the additional projects of safeguarding our workshops and of sharing our message more broadly. We shall not be moved. We are committed to growing and expanding our anti-racist work in Santa Monica and invite others to join and participate with us.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
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