Friday, October 31, 2008

Gozareshgaran website Hacked

The Farsi-language website, Gozareshgaran, was hacked a couple of weeks ago. It is now back online (thank whatever deity you believe in, I thank perseverance!). The website is an invaluable place for reading about the news of Islamic Republic's oppressive ways and means, and this may have had something to do with the hacking. 

Some speculated that the hacking was a response to a particular report about the participation of certain people in a friendly meeting with President Ahmadinejad, in New York City, during his visit there to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assmebly. The 'certain people' included Azita Shafaa-zand (pictured with the president above), a former spokeswoman and member of the executive committee for the Conference of the (Iranian) Women's Research Foundation, (Bonyad-e Pazhooheshe Zanan; Washington, DC). No wonder then, that in this Foundation's conferences the practice of Siqeh (temporary marriage, legal in Shi'ite Islam) has been presented at times as something positive for the Iranian women!!

Equally likely, I think, is all the reports regarding the Iranian government's daily violations of human rights of women, students, workers, and just about anybody who does not go along with a theocratic dictatorial political superstructure; as well as reports of the struggles put up by students, women and workers, as well as human rights activists. 

In particular, also, I think that Hasan Da'ie, whose writings are posted on the Gozareshgaran website, could have been the cause for the hacking.  Hasan Da'ie is an indefatigable writer who has meticulously documented the growth and development of a well-organized lobbying network that the Islamic Republic has developed in the United States. 

This lobbying network is well worth studying, so if you read Farsi/Persian, or have a friend who can, here is the link to Hasan Da'ie's website (note the link to his website, Iranian Lobby, in our 'Links' sidebar); otherwise find a well-meaning Iranian friend ASAP!  

This network includes, among its various prongs, organizations setup in recent years to pose as anti-war outfits (e.g., CASMII; a great detailed account of this organization is given by Da'ie -- well worth the read!). This approach is very effective. The tactic is, basically, to align with the U.S. left, and, via them, put pressure on the U.S. government to effectively block not merely aggressive military moves (which, of course, all progressive people have been fighting against), but to block any CRITICISM directed at the Islamic Republic regime.

The tactics employed by such organizations is actually quite similar to those used by Zionist organizations. These include hyperbolic exaggerations of how people (or entities) are trying to 'wipe them off the map', as well as labeling the critics of their beloved theocracy with anything from 'hawkish' to 'neocon' to 'intolerant' to even 'not willing to listen to others' views' (this last one really gets me laughing just before it really gets me crying, right after which it gets me banging my head against sharp, metallic objects on the wall). 

More on these characters in later posts ...  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McKinney campaign website hacked; Chomsky voting McKinney

Received this in the mail, from Amee Chew (read her article supporting voting for McKinney). Check it out!  

Just wanted to share some sadness (and yeah, sick-and-tiredness) ...

The reason why the official McKinney/Clemente website has been down the last few days is because it was hacked. A national campaign rep just told me.

None of the other candidates' websites were hacked down -- not other Third Party runners like Nader's.

This reminds me of another website,, for Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel, that was bravely started by survivor Dorothy Mackey. It used to serve as a valuable resource containing survivors' testimonies. The site has been shut down for the last four years because it was hacked and replaced by a pornography portal.

Whose hands does technology get swiped from, and why?

Who targeted her? Was hacked by people who really hate McKinney as a black woman? By other minor party supporters who are in competition with the Greens...? I know, I can't jump to conclusions, but still.

On another note, Noam Chomsky wrote me, he is voting for McKinney.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote Independent or Boycott

As you may have heard, Howard Zinn has changed his mind, and has said he will vote for Nader; with the qualifier that Zinn advises people in battle-ground/swing states to support Obama against McCain, to make sure that McCain is defeated. This is somewhat of an improvement on his previous position, but still not the radical break with the system we would expect from him.

My own position, to boycott the elections, needs a qualification.

I must admit that I respect anybody who votes for Nader or McKinney (Amee Chew makes a great case for supporting McKinney in her October 29 Counterpunch piece), as a way of registering their opposition to the 'two party' monopoly. I have argued in previous articles that, IF you think by voting you can bring change, then know that the only change worth voting for is the kind presented in the platforms of the independent candidates. Also, voting for independent candidates as a way of registering your support for people who are actually addressing our problems is a way of getting a real tally of how many people actually oppose the establishment candidates and support real change.

My argument for a boycott addresses a different sub-set of the population affected by this system, whether we vote or not. The point about the boycott is that regardless of the outcome of these elections, which is the continuation of the empire and its deep-rooted corruptions, we need to look past the elections and think how to build a long-term strategy for a real movement for fundamental change. This must include addressing those who do not vote, since it is they who are getting the biggest brunt of this system's cruelties. They are most likely unemployed or underemployed, have no healthcare, most likely poor; they include the millions who go hungry (yes, in this 'great' country called America); they include the undocumented immigrants; and they are the ones who are rightly disgusted with the system, and want nothing to do with the kind of politics that the system presents as the only kind in existence.

People who do not vote are not participating for very good reasons. However, in the absence of a loud boycott, their non-participation gets interpreted as 'conceding' or 'apathy'. My point here is that, NO, this is not apathy. In fact it makes perfect logical sense, and it is far more honest than participating in fraudulent elections that only re-produce illusions about America, the 'world's greatest democracy'; illusions that only buttress the imperial system.

I come from the so-called Third World, in which boycotting elections is a political tool the masses, and the parties that stand with them, employ with good effect. Imran Khan's party (Insaf) in Pakistan, for example, boycotted the last elections there, and it was an organized message sent to the establishment that the rulers would not get the stamp of approval from the opposition. This, far from re-creating 'apathy' or 'conceding' the elections, actually makes governments nervous. In Iran, for another example, you are required to take your birth certificate with you when you vote, so the authorities can stamp it, so they can see who has not participated, so they can do onto you what they will, should you have to deal with the authorities at some point.

So, boycott is actually a very powerful political tool, because it gives political voice to those who refuse to participate. Simply sitting at home and not announcing that you are boycotting is a different matter. Boycott is a political move, with a long-term vision in mind.

So, we must take seriously the necessity of building a truly oppositional party. The first step in that direction is to either vote for independent candidates or conduct a boycott of these elections with the declaration that voting is bunk until real political alternatives representing people's needs are built. Don't waste your vote, and don't encourage the establishment bastards.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Colin Powell's Place in Hell

Ladies and Gents, Comrades, Brothers and Sisters, we beseech you to please gently endure these mildly polite rude rhymes, fathomed by Rudboy, who, inspired by the Dante's Inferno's verses, could not hold back his tongue! Ahem ... 

Colin Powell's Place in Hell

Behold, please, you there, for we have discovered,
the place where Colin Powell, the liar,
will be dispatched to, after his funeral has expired.

Right after his duplicitous life on earth, as if by miracle,
is extinguished, having delivered too many false criers;
after which there ensues a battle, in hell's Eighth Circle,

between ditches numbered eighth, ninth and tenth,
which shall decide which one of them can encase forever
this double-tongued prevaricating white-black up for rent.

In this fight between the ditches, it is ordained,
the eighth and the ninth, housing in there,
evil counselors and sowers of discord, get nailed

by the tenth, where falsifiers ruminate on their sins;
this, carried through by Black Cherubs, Hell's little handlers,
who lead the sinners to their true stations where they sit,

besotted by the furious fires of Hell, no escaping it!

Monday, October 27, 2008

What's the Point of Voting?

How long shall we allow the system to kick us in the head, take our money, insult us after taking our money, and still expect us to participate in its frauds? With every passing year, the differences between the two ruling political parties in the U.S. diminish further, and their outlook, conduct and even advertising campaigns merge so much so that their members can be mistaken one for the other. By now it must be clear that the 'two-party' system is not only no such thing; it is corrupt to the bone.

It should be instructive to recount some major points of Obama's record:

Barak Obama has voted for all the war funding bills that have gone through the Congress; Obama has voted for USA PATRIOT ACT that effectively suspended the habeas corpus, and he voted for the FISA bill that gave free reign to government to spy on all Americans; his Democratic Party has gone along with policies allowing torture, and we have not heard a single word out of candidate Obama regarding the evils of torturing people; had it not been for the Supreme Court rulings, the Democrats would not have been the ones to come to the defense of habeas corpus, this oldest of legal protections granted to human beings against arbitrary government harassment, and neither have we heard anything from Obama, although he is reported to be a constitutional lawyer; it was with the energetic pushing and shoving of the Democratic presidential nominee, Barak Obama, that the theft of people's money was given legal cover in the recent $700 billion bailout of the banking industry (the actual figures are much higher).

Moreover, as pertains to how the American imperial machinations work beyond the American borders, Obama, or at least his rhetoric, is every bit as dangerous and bloodthirsty as McCain's. He was one of the first people to advocate publicly (and on campaign trail, which is even more telling) that Pakistani sovereignty be disregarded and indeed violated completely if, with regards to the 'war on terror', the Pakistani government 'can't do the job'. He is a strong advocate of increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and to intensify the bloodletting in that country, in a war of occupation every bit as barbaric and immoral as that in Iraq. As regards the war of occupation in Iraq, Obama has never said he will end the occupation; in his stated policy, he will leave a substantial number of troops in Iraq to 'fight the terrorists' and protect the embassy, 'aid workers', etc., which is to say he too will leave substantial troops in Iraq, into an indefinite future. Finally, as regards the ongoing, brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people, the theft of their lands, water and resources under one of the most barbaric contemporary colonial ventures, he is every bit a slave to the Israeli lobby and government.
Despite all this, a good section of the American left is still agonizing over whether or not to vote for this 'lesser' evil! Luminaries as large as Chomsky and Zinn, The Nation magazine, and even the Communist Party USA, as they did in the 2004 presidential elections, are again raising the specter of the 'necessity' of voting, albeit with noses well held, for Obama. Some qualify this support with: "But, don't have any illusions!" Anybody who supports, even qualified tenfold, voting for an imperial (hence criminal) Democratic Party candidate, is already filled with illusions.

What on earth is the point of voting at all, when the two evils under consideration do not even present a noticeable degree of difference is avarice? Such recommendations coming from the 'left' are stunning if it weren't so infuriating to hear such talk always being qualified with tons of qualifications, which make the recommendations not just absurd, but insane.
[Some have argued] that by voting for Obama, they are acting against racism. To think that one is fighting racism while voting for a candidate that upholds every racist element of the structures of imperialism is to venture into political oblivion.
What is to do then? For starters, a good half of the eligible voters have been conducting a de facto boycott of the presidential elections, since they instinctively and correctly realize that the two ruling parties do not represent them. So, why not join them?

The only thing that can transform the non-voters' 'apathy' into an actual political force is to recognize that a boycott of the elections must be done loudly and with the purpose of announcing to the non-voting public that another way must be sought and created to bring about political change. This other way must engage them, the non-voting population, in a serious effort to build a real party of opposition.

This, in turn, requires a genuine opposition party-building effort. The Populists in the 19th century did not debate whether or not to vote for the lesser evils of their days. They built their own party. [...]

Within the context of building a real opposition party, then, a boycott as a political move makes good political sense. It would bring coherence and political direction to energies not wasted in the electoral fraud (yet sitting still), not burned in the electoral game presented by the system as an opiate (to paraphrase Max Kantar).

In my opinion, at this point, the tiny benefits of getting the independent candidates, such as McKinney or Nader, enough votes to bring them Federal dollars and a place on the presidential debates in the next election, is simply not worth the participation in the fraud created by this machinery of deception called 'voting', which in turn only helps re-create the illusion that there is democracy in America.

The American people are fed this lie every four years that their voices can make a difference. Really? It didn't make a jot of difference in 2006, when people, out of pure illusion, voted into the Congress a majority of Democrats with the hope that they would bring the war of occupation in Iraq to a speedy end. As George Carlin would have said, people might as well have wished on a rabbit's foot!

It didn't make any difference when a huge majority of the American people kept yelling down the jammed Congressional telephone lines, and over-stuffed Congressional email inboxes with, "Don't give my money away to those scum sucking swine!" The people's 'representatives' stole people's money anyway and handed it over to the banksters in broad daylight!
So, instead of wringing our hands over whether or not to vote for an evil, which is only a tiny bit less so, let us recognize the necessity of building a truly oppositional party. The first step in that direction is a loud boycott of these elections with an even louder declaration that voting is bunk until real political alternatives representing people's needs are built. Don't waste your vote, and don't encourage the bastards. Invest your time vociferously boycotting the voting farce, and build an oppositional socialist party.

Read the complete article here ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Step Closer to the Grand Bargain?

This piece of news is all over the place by now. The piece below is from Seattle Times, and it confirms what was reported by, among others, The Guardian (British), which in July reported that, "The US is waiting to get all its ducks in a row before going public about the interests section. The key is formal approval by the Iranian government, which has already said it would welcome the prospect." 

This should further confirm that the U.S.-Iran relations are headed for a rapprochement, or a Grand Bargain along the lines Nixon struck with China; which started with Kissinger's secret visit to Beijing in July 1971, and culminated with Nixon shaking hands with Chairman Mao during his one-week trip to China in February 1972.

Bush to seek diplomatic presence in Iran
By Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers (Originally published October 24, 2008)

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will announce in mid-November, after the presidential election, that it intends to establish the first U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, according to senior Bush administration officials.

The proposal for an "interests section," which falls short of a full U.S. Embassy, has been conveyed in private diplomatic messages to Iran, and a search is under way to choose the American diplomat who would head the post, the officials said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month that he would consider the idea, which first surfaced over the summer.
Earlier this month, an Iranian official said that Iran would refuse to allow a U.S.-based nonprofit group, the American-Iranian Council, to operate there even after it received a Treasury Department license to do so.
[In] his waning days in office, President Bush has authorized a more direct approach to Iran, sending Undersecretary of State William Burns to participate in six-nation nuclear talks with Iranian representatives in Geneva in July.

Among other things, the U.S. diplomats in Tehran would facilitate cultural exchanges; issue visas for Iranians to travel to the U.S.; and engage in public diplomacy to present a more charitable view of the U.S.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in New York in July that Iran would insist on a quid pro quo for permitting a U.S. interests section: approval of its standing request for direct flights between Tehran and New York.

While some senior officials said Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice haven't made a final decision, they and others indicated that the mid-November announcement is a near-certainty.

The Usurers

In Canto XVII of Dante's Inferno, we learn about the usurers' place in Hell. The canto contains this appropriate description:

Behold the monster with the pointed tail,
that passes mountains, breaks through wall and gate,
and taints the whole world with his stinking trail.
He had features of an honest curate,
outwardly so meek and mild; the rest
of him was serpentine and intricate.
Dangling down into the void, his bottom
quivered upwards with its forked hook,
which, as in scorpions, was tipped with venom.

(from: Ciaran Carson translation, Granta Books, 2002)

And now behold a different story about usurers in a different century. Below is part 2 of a 12 part video series named after the same-named book, The Creature from Jekyll Island, by G. Edward Griffin (a right-winger who, nonetheless, has keen insights into the Fed). Make sure to view at least up to part 5 (by going to YouTube), and learn how the Federal Reserve System was set up, with what aim, and by whom. AND learn how the Fed fleeces us all completely unobserved. (Thanks, for pointing me to this, to a correspondent who wrote in response to my article on taxation.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Not All Doom & Gloom!

Found this on The Independent (London), via Green Party's website. Check it!

Crunch resurrects Marx
By Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin
Friday, 17 October 2008

Two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, communism's founding father Karl Marx is back in vogue in eastern Germany, thanks to the global financial crisis. His 1867 critical analysis of capitalism, Das Kapital, has risen from the publishing graveyard to become an improbable best-seller for the academic publisher, Karl-Dietz-Verlag.

"Everyone thought there would never again be any demand for Das Kapital, the managing director, Joern Schue-trumpf said. He has sold 1,500 copies so far this year, triple the number sold in all of 2007 and a 100-fold increase since 1990. "Even bankers and managers are now reading Das Kapital to try to understand what they've been doing to us," he added.

A recent survey found 52 per cent of eastern Germans believe the free market economy is "unsuitable" and 43 per cent said they wanted socialism rather than capitalism. Unemployment in the former communist east is 14 per cent, double western levels, and wages are significantly lower. Millions of jobs were lost after reunification.

Defend Troy Anthony Davis

There will be demonstrations in Atlanta, GA, on October 23, in support of Troy Anthony Davis, sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Below is his plea. At the bottom, please see link to his website. If you are in the Atlanta area, you can join the rally in his support. 

Free Troy Davis! Down with Death Penalty! Down with Racism!

Where is the Justice for me?
A plea from Troy Davis

Where is the Justice for me? In 1989 I surrendered myself to the police for crimes I knew I was innocent of in an effort to seek justice through the court system in Savannah, Georgia USA. But like so many death penalty cases, that was not my fate and I have been denied justice. During my imprisonment I have lost more than my freedom, I lost my father and my family has suffered terribly, many times being treated as less than human and even as criminals. In the past I have had lawyers who refused my input, and would not represent me in the manner that I wanted to be represented. I have had witnesses against me threatened into making false statements to seal my death sentence and witnesses who wanted to tell the truth were vilified in court.

For the entire two years I was in jail awaiting trial I wore a handmade cross around my neck, it gave me peace and when a news reporter made a statement in the local news, “Cop-killer wears cross to court,” the cross was immediately taken as if I was unworthy to believe in God or him in me. The only time my family was allowed to enter the courtroom on my behalf was during the sentencing phase where my mother and sister had to beg for my life and the prosecutor simply said, “I was only fit for killing.” Where is the Justice for me, when the courts have refused to allow me relief when multiple witnesses have recanted their testimonies that they lied against me?

Because of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the blatant racism and bias in the U.S. Court System, I remain on death row in spite of a compelling case of my innocence. Finally I have a private law firm trying to help save my life in the court system, but it is like no one wants to admit the system made another grave mistake. Am I to be made an example of to save face? Does anyone care about my family who has been victimized by this death sentence for over 16 years? Does anyone care that my family has the fate of knowing the time and manner by which I may be killed by the state of Georgia?

I truly understand a life has been lost and I have prayed for that family just as I pray for mine, but I am Innocent and all I ask for is a True Day in a Just Court. If I am so guilty why do the courts deny me that? The truth is that they have no real case; the truth is I am Innocent.

Where is the Justice for me?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time for Tax Revolt: Direct Representation for Taxation

Below are sections of the revised version of the piece on taxation that was posted earlier. This is slightly longer, with some added transitions, more elaboration, and is a better presentation of our taxation idea. You can read the complete article by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

The current crisis of American capitalism, among other things, has shown the complete lack of realistic and practical solutions coming from the left. Most of the suggestions coming from American left, commentators and analysts alike, fall under two categories. First is a general reiteration that socialism is the only solution; an agreeable iteration, but it is done without any concrete programs of tactics and strategies. Second, solutions that come under the category of 'a new Bretton Woods' and/or 'a new New Deal'.

In short, all suggestions in the second category are for saving the system and not challenging it on a fundamental basis. Such calls for saving this deeply rotten system or 'restoring stability' ignore the realities of our times. As argued by Immanuel Wallerstein, capitalism has morphed structurally to such a degree that it is becoming something else. So, wishing to go back to FDR's New Deal, even if desirable for some, is simply a reactionary pipe dream. There is only one direction for proceeding: forward.

As Wallerstein has argued, world capitalist system is at a bifurcation point: there are two directions in which it can develop. It can morph into a system that is more egalitarian, more just (for example in a socialist direction), or it can develop into a system even more unjust, more barbaric and more intensely class divided, with permanent totalitarian features. 

Wallerstein has also argued that in turbulent times such as these, compared to periods of high stability in any system, any push for change can more effectively and more pronouncedly decide the direction and the shape of the changes to come.

So, what of the socialist way forward? As relates to a socialist tactical solution, I would like to return to a favorite theme: direct representation for taxation.

The current financial meltdown of the system has brought one issue into sharp focus. Leftist commentators have pointed out almost unanimously (without any concrete suggestions, though) the complete lack of representation for an absolute majority of the population; not merely the voting population (about 50% of eligible voters), but more so the entire population. The banksters who have created the current crisis are being bailed out with people's money, but the people do not even get to decide how their money should to be spent (as pointed out, the partial 'nationalization' of the banks underway is in the form of buying non-voting shares).

The crisis of legitimation in the U.S. is an acute one, and is an issue that has brought home to tens of millions of Americans the intensity of their irrelevance when it comes to spending THEIR money. Eight years of far-right rule in the U.S. have done more to educate people about the inequities deep-built into the system than did decades of leftist pamphleteering. In old-timers' lingo, the objective conditions are over-ripe for the subjective intervention of the socialist agency.

The recent robbing of the public treasury, virtually at gunpoint, to the tune of $2.1 trillion (seehere), just for starters, to be given to the richest bankers on land even as a majority of the population was clearly against it, proves (if any were needed) that the 'representatives' in the U.S. Congress represent not the people but the richest and the most powerful who own the Congresswomen/men.

Why such a rush (to steal the people's money)? Is the current world capitalist system so sick and corrupted that it would collapse in mere days? If so, then it is not a system worth keeping!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

This morning, the televisions at the international hostel I am staying at here in Hanoi, were showing the last presidential debate between Obama and McCain. As I watched on and off, along with a crowd of other foreigners staying here, it struck me that since I am in Hanoi maybe I should visit the prison where McCain was kept, after being shot down on one of his missions carpet-bombing innocent civilians of Hanoi.

Better known to the Westerners as Hanoi Hilton, this prison "was built after the decision [by the French colonialists] to form the Union of Indochina [on] October 17, 1887," according to the booklet you can purchase at the prison-cum-museum. The construction of the prison started in 1896, in the area that was formerly a village, named Phu Khanh Village. According to the booklet, "The Phu Khanh village used to be a handicraft professional village specializing in producing ceramic house ware. The ... villagers fired their pottery kilns all day and night, hence the village had another name of Hoa Lo (fired pottery kilns)."

In order to build the prison, the French administrators confiscated about 1.3 square km of land, driving out some 48 households, and called the prison Maison Centrale (Cetnral Prison), but it became known as the Hoa Lo Prison.

The location of the prison is what is now called the Old Quarter in Hanoi, which happens to be the backpackers' area as well these days. The streets in this section of the city vary from narrow to very narrow to just walkable, and they are arranged in all kinds of directions (an anti-grid, if you like). Thousands of small shops line the streets, and streets are crowded with cars, thousands of motorbikes, bicycles, panhandlers and people, and the sidewalks used as parking space for the motorbikes, or sidewalk tiny restaurants with plastic tiny stools and plastic low tables. These don't look very appetizing to a Westerner, but the food is usually healthy, delicious and very cheap.

According to the museum guidebook, "The prison's capacity in its initial design was 500 prisoners, but it had to be continuously adjusted and restructured to minimize the area of the stores and the healthcare center and maximize the jail area ... In the years 1950-1953, Hoa Lo Prison held up to 2000 prisoners. Some detention rooms were so crowded that the prisoners had to request to take the weaker ones out so that they were not suffocated."

Of course, from the very start of its operations, the French faced constant resistance inside the prison, most notably hunger strikes. The prisoners were naturally highly politicized and they took their imprisonment as just another phase of their struggle against the colonialists. Communist party cells were formed there and political education was constant.

A very interesting invention comes to attention when reading the little guidebook on the prison. It says that the Vietnamese prisoners, all revolutionaries and resistant fighters against the French, invented a special kind of ink to write their secret documents. "The ink was two types of medicine, namely mercurochrome which has red color, and methylene blue: both were taken from the healthcare center. The diluted mercurochrome used as ink made the writing invisible. To read it, the prisoners would soak it in the liquid of cooked rice." (Take notes, those of you planning to resist seriously!).

Among the artifacts on display were tools of torture and execution. There was a sample small electrical generator, which together with electrical wiring would be used on men and women alike (seems like things have not changed much from Hoa Lo to Abu Ghuraib). Another object, used specifically on women, was simply a bottle. Readers can imagine what kind of torture could have been practiced on women political prisoners using that.

There is a guillotine on display at the museum, used by the French for executing the political prisoners held there. Prisoners who were condemned to death had their legs in fixed (to the concrete) iron fetters (whose locks were outside the cells), all day and all night, and had to do everything while shackled down. At the museum, gruesome pictures and artifacts remind the visitors of the kind of 'civilization' the French were attempting to tempt the Vietnamese with. There is a picture of three severed heads in baskets, and the note said that the French used to display the severed heads so as to terrorize the rest into submission.

In a sharp contrast, the museum had pictures of the American pilots who had been shot down, while running carpet-bombing missions over Hanoi, and kept as prisoners in Hoa Lo Prison. There are pictures of the American pilots receiving medical care, receiving mail and pictures from family and friends, and even pictures of the American pilots decorating a large Christmas tree, cooking their Christmas meals, playing basketball and volleyball. There were pictures showing that upon being released, the American pilots were receiving souvenirs even; I wonder if McCain kept his.

I took some photos at the museum (which was allowed). One was of John McCain receiving medical care; he doesn't look too happy, his right arm in bandages. Another picture shows him (I think it's him, anyway) at the front of a group of prisoners walking in formation, as they are being released. And there was also his pilot's suit and parachute on display. There was also a picture of him in April 2000, when he visited the Hoa Lo Prison Museum.

As I was walking around the museum, and looking at all the photos of the American pilots doing not too bad, compared to those perishing in Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo prisons, and also compared to how the French colonialists treated the Vietnamese resistance fighters, all I could think was: Would any of the Abu Ghuraib prisoners be allowed to observe their festivities? Or, receive letters and pictures from family and friends? Or play basketball and volleyball?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Imperialist Strategic Thinking on Iran

In a recent policy paper by the New American Foundation (among whose board members sits Francis 'End of History' Fukuyama), it is argued that the next U.S. administration must engage Iran with a 'grand bargain', which addresses both Iran and the U.S.'s strategic concerns. The paper argues that the piecemeal approach the U.S. has taken towards Iran has clearly failed to change the behavior of the regime in Iran, and a détente is not a desirable option. The only stable and strategically appropriate path to take is a full rapprochement.

The policy paper is very frank in its approach, as imperialists usually are among themselves. It argues that Iran is strategically too important to be alienated, and argues that in the absence of a full rapprochement, Iran's leaders will have no choice but to flea to the Russian and the Chinese spheres of influence. Iran's hydrocarbon resources are vast (second in the world, in combined oil and gas), and it's strategic positioning in the Middle East is not something the U.S. can afford to do without for much longer. More importantly, Iran's animosity toward the U.S. can be detrimental to the advance of the American interests in the region. So, the best thing to do is for the U.S. to strike a 'grand bargain' with a regime that has historically proven that it can cooperate with the U.S., but has never been rewarded fully for its past cooperation both in fighting the Taliban regime and their overthrow, as well as in the American military and political designs for Iraq.

The wish list of things to be granted by the U.S. and Iran in such a grand bargain include the familiar demands: Iran is to modify its nuclear program to accommodate western powers' concerns, disavow the 'terrorist' organizations such as Hamas, Hezbullah and the Islamic Jihad, and help stabilize the region for Uncle Sam. In turn, the U.S. is to guarantee that it will not militarily (or otherwise) try to change Iran's borders or its form of government, lift all unilateral sanctions against Iran, and generally play nice.

Of particular interest is the following passage from the policy paper: "During their dialogue with U.S. counterparts over Afghanistan in 2001-03, Iranian diplomats indicated their interest in working with the United States to establish a regional security framework focused on Central Asia. Other senior Iranian officials raised such a possibility with us in 2003-04." Hardly an anti-imperialist stance on the part of the Iranian regime! On the contrary, this is clearly indicative of a regime with ambitions for becoming a cop on the beat (much like the Shah's regime was for the Americans), and wants that role officially sanctioned by the biggest cop on the global beat, the U.S.

These are recommendations of a group of professionals whose bread is buttered by thinking ahead and advising Uncle Sam on the best course of action to take, in order to secure its long-term geo-strategic interests. The analysis provided by the New American Foundation shows that powerful forces within the imperil halls of the U.S. also find the 'cop on the beat' scenario for Iran as something desirable.

This line of thinking is not isolated to think tanks, as attested to by a Time magazine article of 4 October 2008, titled, "Changing the conventional wisdom about Iran." In this Time article, France is portrayed as the key European power to lead the charge for a strategic adjustment of policy as regards Iran.

As reported there: "'The opportunity is there to move past the 30 year-old images of a defiant and frightening revolutionary Iran, and start encouraging cooperative behavior by engaging with Iran as the swiftly-developing nation and regional power it is,' says Bernard Hourcade, an Iran specialist at France's National Center for Scientific Research. 'The key is direct American involvement in relations, because renewed ties with the U.S. is what Iran wants most'."

Further, the Time article reports: "'Iran's biggest strategic concern is obtaining security assurances and accords, and the only nation that can provide those is the U.S.,' says Didier Billion, deputy director of the Institute on International and Strategic Relations in Paris. The logic behind that view is supported by Thomas Fringar, chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council and the senior analyst in Washington's intelligence community."

There have been other indications as well. For one, there have been reports on the volume of U.S.-Iran trade, which have increases ten fold during the Bush administration. Another highly telling development was the plans of Bush administration to open a diplomatic post in Iran (see here). Though the plan was shelved, "in part over fears it could affect the U.S. presidential race or be interpreted as political meddling," other reports indicate that it is still under consideration. If the Bush administration's stated animosity toward Ahmadinejad's administration (or the Iranian regime as a whole) were as deep-rooted as the alarmists have been stating, whence did these considerations of opening a diplomatic post materialize?

The truth is that American imperialism is not on very solid foundations. Besides its military power, which alone does not acquire one an empire, most other aspects of its power are on very shaky ground, as the current financial meltdown has made plain. For its maintenance therefore it requires two things: prevention of other powers from rising, and a host of client states in geo-strategically important regions. The grand bargain discussed here addresses both requirements.

To sum, these are important signs and the writing is on the wall that neither this nor the next president of the U.S. will be looking at bombing Iran; rather, he'll be likely offering the regime of the mullahs yet more cakes and the keys to the heavens the mullahs have been asking for.

Read the complete article here ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Imperialist 'Grand Bargain' with Iran

This came in the mail, curtsy of Liz Burbank, whose indefatigable efforts on shedding light on imperialist thinking and strategizing are invaluable and priceless. The piece (read the article here) is by a think-tank, among whose board of directors is that luminary of imperialist thinking, Francis 'End of History' Fukuyama.

A longer commentary of ours is forthcoming, but for now, we'll leave you with Ms Burbank's own commentary:

Many 'word warriors' among us have been stoking the fire a long time predicting imminent u.s. war on Iran. No argument that the u.s. prepared for war militarily and with incessant psywar 'news', but beyond the threats, it was also wielding carrots, carrying on back-channel talks, getting Iran's approval of its occupation of Iraq and its puppet govt., for starters.

Many still continue to predict this imminent war without taking into account the major changes political-economic-military setbacks that have severely weakened u.s. imperialism. Though it is a possibility, directly or via its zionist proxy, it is not a likelihood as many of us have argued for a long time, and it has distracted people, even mobilized street protests against a possible attack instead of against actual genocidal u.s. wars.

[Here], an imperialist thinktank analysis puts U.S. - Iran in the context of u.s. geostrategic agenda, proposing a new policy to salvage u.s. supremacy in the ME and beyond, to beat out rapidly gaining capitalist rivals China & Russia. Considering the all-round u.s. political-economic-military situation, some variation on this proposal is necessary for the empire and I think likely to be implemented under the next probably dem. admin. despite opposition. (Check out bipartisan participants who's who at the recent newamerica conference -- a good antidote to and exposure of the electoral con-game distracting and paralyzing u.s. 'progressives')

This much 'oilier' policy to maintain u.s. hegemony, if reported at all by the 'news', will of course be presented in neoliberal drag as a step toward 'peace', so our readers need to be prepared, to see how it serves the u.s. bipartisan global agenda.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Press conference with Iranian Freedom and Equality Seeking Students

Found this on SB News, which has linked the piece to the videos section of The Commune. 

Unlike most American leftists and socialists, these activists presented here represent a clear voice of principled opposition that opposes both imperialism AND theocracy. They come from amongst those who work to keep an independent socialist left not only alive but vibrant, and we are sure they will in the long run shape the ideological direction of the vast movement for social justice that exists inside Iran. Our complete solidarity is with these brave beings! 

This is a film of the press conference held on Monday 29th September 2008 with the Iranian student activists Behrooz Karimizadeh and Kaveh Abbasian. Both are leading activists in the Freedom and Equality Seeking Students, a group which is opposed not only to the Ahmedinejad régime but is also opposed to all threats of war, “surgical strikes” and sanctions, which will only serve to undermine the Iranian working class.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Bailout Revolt that Fizzled Away

I must say that when I woke up in Seoul, S. Korea, on Tuesday morning of September 30, and heard that the bailout plan had been voted down in the House of Representatives, and that the Dow Jones had plunged 777 points, I was ecstatic.

A huge surge of energy and optimism rushed through me, even though somewhere in the back, front and center of my mind I knew it was too good to be true. But, I basked in the ecstasy of the moment. It was extremely rejoicing to know that the American people had been listened to; even if for just a short time, while the Congress figured out another way of sticking it to the people some other how.

In my understanding, the members of U.S. Congress NEVER listen to the people, unless the outcry and the outrage is so huge that it threatens their seats. So, the outrage and the pressure on the House members must have been extraordinarily huge, and that was a great cause for celebration.

My trust and faith in the American people was temporarily restored.

But, of course, the dream was short lived. The Senate, most of whose members are not up for reelection, passed a variation of the bailout bill that was packed with lots of tax CUTS, and the House followed suit shortly thereafter; so $700 billion of people's money was successfully stolen and is on its way to the pockets of the crooks who brought us this gigantic financial disaster in the first place.

The problem, however, was how the Left COULD not channel and organize this outrage. Just like it couldn't channel and organize the outrage of the undocumented workers in 2006, just like it hasn't been able to organize the outrage against the holocaust in Iraq, just like it could not channel and organize the outrage in the wake of the disastrous Katrina, a man-made disaster to be sure; nor against any other recent class-driven attacks by the ruling classes in the U.S. against the people.

The most disappointing aspect of this whole episode, however, was how the 'left' was interpreting the unfolding scenario. I'll share only two commentaries that struck me as particularly bizarre, yet indicative of the sorry state of the American left.

The first one is the piece posted on MRZine, that bastion of 'lesser evil' mentality, when it comes to the Iranian regime. In his piece congratulating corporate crime fighters, Michael Moore presented what seems to be the most hallucinatory piece of political writing I have seen for a long time. The gem in this piece is how he tries to hide the culpability of the weasel Democrats and their leadership, who overwhelmingly SUPPORTED the first draft (and, of course, the final draft) of the bill in the House. In doing so, he first argues that:

"The Dems who voted for the giveaway did so mostly because they were scared by the threats of Wall Street, that if the rich didn't get their handout, the market would go nuts and then it's bye-bye stock-based pension and retirement funds."

Oh, poor Democrats; they were so scared. As if they are completely clueless neophytes. Moore is the real clueless neopghyte, not the Dems. But, that's not the real gem. Here's the real gem of obfuscation, if I've ever seen one:

"Here's my guess: The Democratic leadership in the House secretly hoped all along that this lousy bill would go down. With Bush's proposals shredded, the Dems knew they could then write their own bill that favors the average American, not the upper 10% who were hoping for another kegger of gold."

Well, as it turned out, no such alternative plan was proposed. But, for Moore to suggest that the Dems "secretly hoped ... this lousy bill would go down" is truly mind boggling. I wonder why, then, after the first House vote (defeating the bailout) Nancy Pelosi, instead of looking ecstatic, looked like her whole family had just died!

First of all, why would they 'secretly' wish the plan to die? Obviously, the American people were outraged in enough numbers to wake the House up. So, if anything, real opportunists would jump on that bandwagon. Second, if you truly wish for something, and get a chance to act on that wish, why would you act in exactly the opposite way when you have the chance to vote your wishes? Moore is not sane no more!

But, a more troubling piece came not from the right but from the left of the Left. In a Counterpunch piece, Joe Bageant, argued pretty much that the reason bailout passed is because American people are worms without backbone, and won't rise up in a revolt, and the Congressmen/women and their corporate owners know it. This line of thinking is very reactionary; it blames the victims for being stupefied victims, and leaves the American left completely out of the culpability equations.

When big wig 'leftists' such as The Nation magazine, Move-On, and even the CP (Communist Party USA) are stalwart supporters of the Democrats and their treacheries, can we expect more from the American people? When there is no institutional vehicle to channel and organize people's outrage, what choice do the people have? None! So, to have an extraordinarily higher expectation of the stupefied working stiff masses than of the 'enlightened' left is, for me, an upside-down form of political logic.

The point that these 'leftists' refuse to act on is this: Until there is a nationwide organization of the true Left, with a socialist outlook, that works nonstop to organize and galvanize people's rage, the current impasse will not be overcome. If the Left has any backbone, it should unite into a multifaceted, pluralistic and truly democratically organized institution that can realistically challenge the ruling class and Capital in an effective manner.

Until then, calling the people 'worms' or trying to obfuscate the treacheries of the Dems will be the only stones the 'leftists' will have to throw at the problems and the crises of our times.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The First Dig

We have relaunched our weblog. The original Revolutionary Flowerpot Society blog was obliterated by some entity, and since we have not gained well from technical knowledge of our times, we could not figure out the reasons for the obliteration, let alone restore it. So, here we are after two years and some months, with a new blog.

Here is a first dig, in revolutionary rude rhyme. Take it away, Rudboy:

Yo, puck the big wigs!
Their head's too big for their wigs,
They can't think big,
They drink too much,
Before they hit their lunch,
And then have to take a lickin',
That's the way of their bunch.

Speaking of silly oafs,
Did you hear that anserine Moore,
His politics a bunch of hogwash bore,
He can't get it straight no more,
So he twists and squeals with it,
Saying vote for big dicks,
Over there in the right wing,
Just left of the fascist pricks,
Vote for big biz,
Vote in the big wigs.

But we reply, Puck the big wigs!

And the boys and the girls,
In the American Left corner?
Where've they been?
They can't fight no more!

They first take your best gleam,
They gladly dump on your dignity,
They take for granted their indemnity.
Then they turn on you,
And if need be spit on you,
On the first hint of,
"Tryina' get me somethin' quick."

Lesser evil talk is too much shit,
Ridin' us for too long and still,
Gettin' nowhere, just getting stiffed!
They only try to tie you down,
To the worst less evil that comes around,
"Look, this way, right here, stay with the clique."
Not letting you imagine better situations,
Gluing you to their wretched salivation,
Over this miserable status that be,
So that they can get their honey,
And eat it too on the double quick.

So, let's repeat:
Fuck the big wigs,
Dig your own gig!