The Revolution - Politics

Clinton, Fox News, and Barry Goldwater
September 24, 2006 9:15 PM

Quick news update - check out the first link at the bottom of this entry for a video of former President Bill Clinton completely owning a Fox News "journalist" who is trying to ambush him with a question about Osama Bin Laden. Clinton was there to discuss his recent achievements with the Clinton Global Initiative (over $7 billion dollars raised to fight Global Warming) and this guy continues the recent attempts by republicans to smear Clinton's record on terrorism and try to lay the blaim for 9/11 on him. Clinton gets pretty pissed at this guy and completely OWNS him. It's great - finally somebody taking it to Fox News - calling them out on their bias.

In other news, there was a recent documentary about Barry Goldwater (directed by his granddaughter) on HBO this weekend. Barry Goldwater was the republican candidate for president in 1964 against LBJ. Goldwater is widely known as the father of modern conservatism and is given credit for starting the conservative movement that inspired and eventually elected Ronald Reagan - and which continues to dominate American politics today. I really enjoyed the documentary and thought they did an execellent job balencing his role in politics with his personality.

The most interesting part was that Goldwater, seen as the being so important to the rise of the conservative movement George W. Bush exploits, actually disagrees with many, many things that modern conservatives stand for. For instance, Goldwater is pro-choice because he didn't believe the government should legislate a woman's body. He believed religion should have no role in politics whatsoever. He believed that homosexuals should be able to serve in the military. Goldwater's conservatism is really just liberterianism! Towards the 90's, after the republican party had been hijacked by the religious right Goldwater said the party had been taken over by "a bunch of kooks."

And this is my main point - modern republicans are not conservatives! They are imperialists - that's for sure. They are corporate elitists. They are religious extremists. But they are not conservatives. And this has only strengthened my opinion that we need more political parties in this nation. In addition to the democrats and republicans we need a socialist party and a libertarian party that actually matter... but I'll save most of that argument for another article. The Goldwater Documentary is called "Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater." It's on HBO.

Chomsky's Failed States
September 18, 2006 9:08 PM

Noam Chomsky. The New York Times once called him "arguably the most important intellectual alive." According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, between 1980 and 1992 Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar, and the eighth most cited scholar overall (Wikipedia). In the field of linguistics, his works are considered to be some of the most significant contributions in the past century. His hierarchy of formal languages is even taught in my field, computer science, where it is an important part of automata theory. According to wikipedia, "he also helped spark the cognitive revolution in psychology." Chomsky is clearly a smart guy. But beyond academia, Chomsky is most well known for his political activism. Since the mid-60's, he has been a harsh critic of US foreign policy and he is considered to be one of the key intellectual figures in leftist American politics.

I have always admired Noam Chomsky, especially after seeing the 1992 documentary "Manufacturing Consent" about his life and politics, and I was looking forward to reading some of his work. This past weekend, on the drive to and from Columbia, I listened to the 12-hour audio book of Chomsky's most recent work: "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy."

"Failed States" is a carefully articulated and well-researched critique of American policies both abroad and at home. It exposes American foreign policies for what they really are ... not idealistic crusades to "promote democracy around the world" but raw imperialist aggression designed to tilt the world in favor of American corporate interests at all costs. "Failed States" chronicles our complete disdain for all established international laws and standards, our efforts to topple legitimately elected democratic governments that might stand up to our exploitation in favor of brutal dictatorships, and our extensive military build-up that is creating a worldwide arms race - bringing the world closer and closer to nuclear oblivion. Add to all this to Chomsky's evidence that our government's domestic policies are radically different from public opinion, concerns of election fraud, and an electorate ill informed of candidate positions and you start to see the book's main argument - that the US can easily fit into our own definition of a "Failed State"

While I could talk about this book all day, I'm going to try and keep this post to a decent length so I'm going to limit myself to a few topics. First off, it's amazing the double standard (or "single standard" as Chomsky calls it - because it only applies to the US) we have with regard to international law. Think of an international treaty that relates to human rights, the environment, war... the Kyoto Protocols, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, etc - in nearly every case you can think of the US has either not signed, vetoed or claimed that it doesn't apply. Ignoring these international laws allows us to pursue our illegal preemptive war in Iraq, our illegal human rights abuses in Guantanamo, and our military aid and support to brutal dictatorships. We are a rogue state that almost never honors international law while simultaneously criticizing other states (only when they disagree with our demands mind you) for violating these international laws. And the interesting thing - according to Chomsky's polling data - the majority of Americans agree with international opinion on most of these issues. According to Chomsky, we have a "democracy deficient" because public opinion is so vastly different from government policy.

Perhaps most interesting is that these policies have been consistent and continuous since the post-World War II period when we emerged as a major world power - regardless of political party. So while Republicans are clearly much worse about these things, Chomsky is not letting the Democrats off the hook. Apparently Clinton had a foreign policy that was just as, if not more, aggressive sounding than the Bush Doctrine. Because both Democrats and Republicans are competing for campaign money from the same source - wealthy corporations - neither party actually represents the interests of normal Americans. We don't live in a liberal democracy; we live in a system of corporate state capitalism. As Chomsky sees it - most modern politics is a distraction with voter confusion as the ultimate goal.

And to me this is one of the key things to take away here. This isn't just another partisan book slamming the Bush administration while giving a nice pat on the back to Democrats... it's a harsh eye-opener on what our government really stands for and does in the rest of the world. As hard as it is to believe, We are the world's greatest threat to peace! Millions of people suffer every day because of US policies. As a starting point for change, Chomsky offers us seven issues that have wide public support according to polls but are not supported by our government.

  1. Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court
  2. Sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols on global warming
  3. Let the United Nations take the lead in international crises
  4. Rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror
  5. Keep the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter
  6. Give up the security council veto and have decent respect for the opinion of mankind, even if power centers disagree
  7. Sharply reduce military spending and sharply increase social spending

Doesn't seem like it's too radical of a list is it? Then if we could just find a way to add some more political parties. Voters need more choice. Politics is far too complex for this binary, left-right political spectrum paradigm we are stuck in. But at any rate, if you ever get the chance to read some Chomsky - do it!

The Corporation
December 28, 2005 2:52 AM

Earlier this evening I watched a documentary with Hannah titled "The Corporation." The Corporation is a film about the legal entity created by incorporation and the effects that it has on society. The interesting thing about corporations is their definition as a legal "person" who's only goal, by law, is to increase profit for its shareholders. As such a person, corporations inadvertaintly act like people who are psychopathic monsters (continuing the corporation as person metaphor). This argument is methodically built through example after example of corporations showing the behaviors found in the psychatric profile of a psychopath: self-interested, incapable of guilt, willing to break social and legal standards for profit, callous and deceitful, etc...

The really interesting part of the movie is how the corporation is an out of control institution comparible to slavery. While an individual slave owner might be a nice guy normally, the institution is inheriantly evil and in his role as slave owner - the individual good person becomes evil. One can see this in the many corporate CEOs interviewed throughout the film. Each of these men appears to be individually a good person - concerned about the environment, friendly... but in their position as CEO they are forced, again by law, to act with the best interests of the corporation (which is only profit). So many of these good men suddenly become part of an evil institution. If these men were to say... stop polluting the environment... or refuse to take advantage of starving workers overseas then their company would be put at a disadvantage when compared to the competiton (who we assume will not become good). The company starts to lose money. The CEO is now not acting in the best interest of the company (profit) and the stockholders can fire him. Maybe the guy they replace him with will care less. So it's a catch-22. Even if a CEO is a good person it might not mean he can do anything to make things better. Corporations are like Frankenstein's monster unleashed on the world and out of control.

How do we stop this trend? Almost everything I purchase is from a major corporation. I'm going to work for a major corporation. This is probably the best movie I have seen all year. Highly recommended. Why is this not one of the defining issues of our time? We're heading towards a dark future if things don't change.

Al Franken's New Book
December 28, 2005 1:51 AM

I love Al Franken. His books are always just the right combination of funny, insightful, and ocasionally touching. Above all Franken does an exceptional job of identifying and debunking right wing lies. If you haven't read his last book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balenced Look at the Right" go out and do it now. You owe it to yourself. If you have, his new book, "The Truth (With Jokes)," is a great continuation of same themes found in "Lies."

Franken explains how the Bushies were able to get reelected through a platform of "fear, smear, and queers", tried to convince the public of a nonexistant mandate, failed horribly to plan for a postwar Iraq, failed in their attempt to destroy social security, and attempted to make a political issue out of Teri Shiavo. Perhaps, most shocking of all is his focus on the corruption of House Majority leader Tom Delay.

I know there are people out there who are going to see this post and simply dismiss it as another crazied liberal rant against anything Republican. In some respects you are correct simply because I am already inclided to believe the things that Franken is saying. In a way, me reading this book is like Franken preaching to the choir - I'm the choir. However, I really and truly believe that this book should not be seen as a completely partisan book. Simply put, Bush and many of the republicans currently in power are flat out corrupt and if many conservatives could see through the lies they would be furious. This is not to say that ALL republicans are corrupt - there are a few good ones out there and Franken does point them out whenever possible.

Reading this book there are a couple key things that kept coming to mind

  • If only a few moderate swing voters could read some of this
  • I wish the news media would get their act together and actually call out Republicans on thier lies
  • To Bush, everything is partisan politics. I wish it was actually possible for some cooperation to get things done

Excellent read, I wish I could convince some of my friends in the middle to read it. To me, this is about corruption not partisan politics. While I might like it if everyone suddenly started voting completely Democrat, the real goal of books like this is not to destroy all things conservative - but to rat out the corrupt and lying conservatives. We need to get back to a point where the parties can work together instead of being split apart by wedge issues and republican smear campaigns.

Politics Book List
The People's History of the United States
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon
The Corporation
Failed States
Moral Politics
Profit Over People
Hegemony or Survival
Manufacturing Consent
Imperial Ambitions
The Good Fight
China INC
What's the Matter with Kansas
One Market Under God
End of Oil
Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century
United States of Europe
The European Dream
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
When Presidents Lie
All The President's Spin