In the past, the U.S. has sometimes been described sardonically — but not inaccurately — as a one-party state: the business party, with two factions called Democrats and Republicans.
That is no longer true. The U.S. is still a one-party state, the business party. But it only has one faction: moderate Republicans, now called New Democrats (as the U.S. Congressional coalition styles itself).
There is still a Republican organization, but it long ago abandoned any pretense of being a normal parliamentary party. Conservative commentator Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute describes today's Republicans as "a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition": a serious danger to the society.
The party is in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector. Since votes cannot be obtained on that platform, the party has been compelled to mobilize sectors of the society that are extremist by world standards. Crazy is the new norm among Tea Party members and a host of others beyond the mainstream.
The Republican establishment and its business sponsors had expected to use them as a battering ram in the neoliberal assault against the population — to privatize, to deregulate and to limit government, while retaining those parts that serve wealth and power, like the military.
The Republican establishment has had some success, but now finds that it can no longer control its base, much to its dismay. The impact on American society thus becomes even more severe. A case in point: the virulent reaction against the Affordable Care Act and the near-shutdown of the government.
You would think this came from a Sinclair Lewis novel, but it's for real:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.
Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”
The U.S. Government keeps claiming “wins” in the “war
against terror,” but who are these alleged terrorists? In the case of the Cleveland 4, it seems the
FBI used a career criminal to manipulate a groups of indigent kids into a “terrorist
plot” against a bridge. One of them, Joshua
“Skelly” Stafford, was an impoverished developmentally impaired kid who did not
take place in the planning of the event and it’s not clear he understood why he
was in the car on the way to the bridge on the day in question, other than that
he was promised a free meal and cigarettes.
A sane government might provide food, shelter, and
psychological assistance for a kid like Skelly, but instead our government
chose to coerce him and his equally indigent friends into being “terror
trophies” – pawns that could be used to at once scare the public into thinking
we have a terrorist threat within and at the same time to offer evidence of
“success” in their fake war on fake terror.
As Vivien Lesnik Weisman reports in the Huffington Post,
Skelly’s story and the fact that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison is an
indictment of our security state. As she
puts it, it is symptomatic of the failure of the rule of law.
As some of you know I’ve recently been concerned with
Surveillance State’s war on hacktivists.
What does the State have against hacktivists? Well as Chris Hedges has said,
the State can’t abide hacktivists because “they have the tools to expose how
rotten Empire is… and it is completely rotten.”
Hedges might have added that hacktivists also have the tools to *embarrass*
the Surveillance State and its corporate partners. Andrew Auenheimer (a.k.a. weev) is one such
hacktivist, recently sentenced to 41 months in jail for embarrassing AT&T.
More specifically weev and a friend wrote a script that
harvested the email addresses of 114,000 iPad users from web pages that
AT&T had left unprotected on the public Internet. Then, weev and his friend passed the email
addresses on to the online magazine Gawker, presumably so as to embarrass
AT&T for its shoddy security. The
prosecution charged weev with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
– a law forged in 1984 that says you cannot use a computer system for reasons
not intended by the owners. It seems
AT&T didn’t intend for people to visit these public web pages. (This is the same law that was used to
persecute Aaron Swartz and eventually drive him to suicide).
Some months ago, I published an op/ed in the New York Times
Weekly Review in which I argued that weev and others like him were the gadflies
of our age. Weev had a copy of the op/ed, which he rather
enjoyed, but in a letter to his lawyer Tor Ekeland he reports that it has now been seized by the prison guards -- it would seem in
violation of the law. I’ve decided to
share the letter here because it touches on some philosophical themes. Below the fold is
a text version of Weev's letter.
...watch this (and see the commentary that follows by Andrew Sullivan), all of which supports, I'm afraid, Robert Paul Wolff's diagnosis. These sick, sick people need to be caged first, treated second.
(Note: I'm putting this under the "academic freedom" category, but without knowing more about Professor Guth's areas of expertise, it's not clear to me this is an academic freedom issue, as distinct from a generic free speech issue.)
UPDATE: Actually, it turns out Kansas is now punishing him for his speech. Prof. Guth would do well to consult a lawyer, since he is pretty clearly being punished for offensive but constitutionally protected speech.
AND ANOTHER: Professor Guth concurs with being put on leave, given the threats he and others have received. The linked article also reports, unsurprisingly, that the local fascists in Kansas want him fired for exercising his free speech rights.
Rhetorically, it is brilliant, even if moralistic posturing by a crypto-fascist like Putin is ludicrous. (Moralistic posturing by the leader of the United States, the most dangerous country on the face of the earth, is also ludicrous, for somewhat different reasons.) But he is right that it would be prudent for everyone, even the aggressors, not to launch criminal wars of aggression.
Let us be realistic: Russia and America have always done what they can get away with in the regions where they thought they could act without provoking the other: thus we had the American invasion of South Vietnam in 1962, and of Iraq in 2003, among many other cases. So, too, Russia dealt with Hungary, Afghanistan and Chechnya in a similarly brutal manner. But 2013 is not 2003, and Russia has already seen one Baathist party toppled in the Middle East. Putin has made clear that it will not see a second one meet the same fate. The nominal stabilitiy of the so-called "world order" since WWII--i.e., the absence of catastrophic wars of annihilation involving many countries and continents--has depended on this restraint. Putin's movtives are no doubt as impure and mixed as Obama's, but one may hope, for the sake of that part of humanity not within Assad's reach (and no doubt for many of those subject to his criminality), that they will hear each other clearly.
I'm here in Turkey, and things are awful, much more awful than is being portrayed in the media, as these pictures and videos attest to. Your blog would give more exposure to what's going on. Your readers could call their nearest Turkish embassies to complain or their congressperson and ask them to put pressure on the Turkish government to show restraint.
There's an ongoing, very strong resistance in Turkey against the despotic rule of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan is no more representing the Turkish people. We'll do everything to oust this worthless dictator from power. Please kindly let all philosophers following your highly influential reports to the following (reasonably independent) link:
...where the current protests in Turkey began. A philosopher in Turkey writes: "It is quite crazy here. Disturbances now in at least 67 provinces. I was in [the Park] until 6am yesterday - watching potesters build serious barricades.
Anyway - I thought you might be interested to know that there will now be philosophy talks in Gezi park in Istanbul - which is now a police free zone occupied by protesters.
The first talk will be by Jesse Prinz tomorrow."
The news even made the right-wing media. The criminals in the Reagan Administration who embraced and supported him will, of course, "go free," indeed, probably enjoy sinecures at the Hoover Institute. And the fact will remain that the United States, like every dominant power in world history, will continue to support criminals, butchers, and genocidal maniacs as long as it accrues to the advantage of domestic elites. But it would be rude to point that out. So we won't.
Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.
The next time someone refers to the alleged "independents," please remember that one-quarter of them are gearing up for armed revolution.
We recently marked the 10th anniversary of the criminal war of aggression against Iraq by the United States. This item is a useful reflection on the disgraceful performance of the "free" press in America during that episode. Here's what we posted on the occasion of the 5th anniversary.
A propos the attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College, longtime reader Ruchira Paul passes on this letter sent to President Gould from Zujaja Tauqeer '11, and Ms. Tauqeer kindly gave her permission for me to post it on the blog. By way of background, Ms. Paul notes that, "Zujaja Tauqeer belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and came to the US from Pakistan with her parents. The state of Pakistan sanctions legal and social persecution of Ahmadis."
Here is Ms. Tauqeer's letter:
Dear President Gould,
I hope this letter finds you well. As a Brooklyn College alumnus, a Rhodes Scholar, and the commencement speaker and class representative for the 2011 graduating class, I urge you to continue upholding the principles of academic freedom and to allow the Political Science Department to co-sponsor, as originally planned, the panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has been scheduled to take place at BC.
As you and Provost Tramontano are aware, I know all too well how fragile freedom of speech can be. As a beneficiary of political asylum by the US, I am horrified to see the kinds of perverse tactics used to marginalize minority communities and viewpoints in less developed countries being introduced in an American public educational institution for the express purpose of stifling the freedom of speech, and therefore the freedom of conscience, of students and faculty. Elected officials and trustees who hold the public trust are now trying to force you to join them in betraying that very trust. They are seeking to deprive the Political Science Department of its right—and responsibility—to sponsor discussions that may conflict with the convictions of those in a position of power.
As a Rhodes Scholar selected from Brooklyn College, I have tried my utmost to represent my alma mater as a progressive institution whose commitment to freedom and toleration vindicate the sacrifices students and alumni like myself have made to pursue a liberal arts education here. Though in the past BC has stumbled in its effort to preserve civil liberties on campus, I am confident that as president you will capably show that academic freedom, so crucial to critical scholarship and democratic citizenship, is non-negotiable.
I recall at this time the motto of our school—nil sine magno labore. We cannot ensure for future students and faculty the freedoms promised to them as citizens of this country if we as an institution back down from the effort needed to uphold those very freedoms now when they are threatened by vested interests. If I can support you in any way in helping to make this case to my fellow alumni, our elected officials, and our donors, please do not hesitate to call upon me.
Zujaja Tauqeer ‘11
As Greenwald reports, city officials are now explicitly threatening to withhold funding to the College if the event goes forward. As Greenwald also notes, this is rather obviously unconstitutional.
...are out in force because the Political Science Department and several other groups at Brooklyn College are sponsoring two speakers discussing the "BDS" (or boycott, divest, and sanction) movement in response to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. John Protevi (LSU) has a good summary. And the President of Brooklyn College has made a good, public statement.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)