Tuesday, May 20, 2008



One of the more absurd myths circulating in establishment circles is that that Democrats don't get along well enough with GOP right wingers, when, in fact, since Clinton, the Democratic Party has been often virtually indistinguishable from its supposed opposition. Having sensed Obama's willingness to move from handshake to hug with the right, the pressure is on to make this a major campaign theme.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASH POST One of the most appealing but untested promises of Barack Obama's presidential campaign is that he would break down the partisan divisions in America and govern across party lines. He has a chance to make this gauzy idea of consensus politics concrete in his choice of running mate.

By reaching outside the Democratic Party for his vice presidential nominee -- tapping Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, say, or independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg from New York -- Obama would in an instant demonstrate that he truly means to change the divisive, lose-lose politics of Washington. It would offer a unity government for a country that seems to want one.


WILLIAM R. HAWKINS ,FRONTPAGEMAGAZINE Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican congressman from 1995- 2003, formally announced his campaign for president on the Libertarian Party ticket on Monday, May 12. It was widely reported that his candidacy will take votes away from the GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, similar to the way Ralph Nader's campaign will hurt the Democratic nominee. But while Barr was a conservative Congressman, he has moved rapidly to the left since breaking with the Republican Party two years ago. He has claimed that a McCain victory would be a "third term" for the Bush administration. On issues of national security and foreign policy, he now sounds more like Nader or Barack Obama. Instead of running to the right of McCain, Barr will be running well to his left - perhaps even further left than the Democratic nominee. Indeed, one of his best-known competitors for the nomination is far-leftist Mike Gravel.

In a video posted on the left-wing Huffington Post the day of his announcement, Barr says, "Only a fool would signal to whatever our adversaries are, whoever our adversaries are, exactly how and when we would be drawing down our troops. But I do believe that it is extremely important, and in the best interests of America's defenses and our security, and our relationship with our allies, that we do begin immediately setting in place a plan to draw down, dramatically decrease the military, the economic and the political footprint that we maintain in Iraq." Barr's vagueness about who the enemy is in Iraq, be it al-Qaeda or Iranian-backed militias, makes it easier for him to ignore the consequences of his proposed withdrawal of all tools of American influence from the region. Allies and those considering whether to align with the United States, are not going to be favorably impressed by a demonstration of American weakness; nor is crippling political divisions at home a persuasive argument for democracy. . .

He is opposed to defending the United States itself from terrorist attack. He joined with Bruce Fein, a notorious critic of the Bush administration who has called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, to form the "American Freedom Agenda." The most consistent theme running through left-wing opinion since September 11, 2001, has been concern for the well-being of the enemy, who must be protected from American counter measures. The Barr-Fein agenda thus calls for extending habeas corpus to alien enemy combatants and amending the Espionage Act to permit journalists to reveal classified national security information without fear of prosecution.

OUTRIGHT LIBERTARIANS We find that though he has shown some welcome evolution on the issues, he has a record that remains notably different from the other Libertarians in the race. Mr. Barr has not completed Outright's Candidate Survey, but is "on the record" regarding two issues key within the LGBT Libertarian community and the broader LGBT electoral base.

First, while we applaud the former Congressman's repudiation of the anti-gay military policy that he drafted for the Wall Street Journal, and the evolution that this represents for Mr. Barr, his opinion on this issue simply moved into the Libertarian mainstream-rather than pushing the debate forward.

On the Defense of Marriage Act-an odious law that Bob Barr co-sponsored as a Congressman-his evolution has been far slower. We have discussed the law with him a number of times, and recently he has telegraphed support for repealing the half of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage. However, he has not consistently campaigned on this point, and seems reluctant to speak of it.

In contrast, Democratic nomination candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has adopted a similar position, yet appears more willing to campaign upon it. Barack Obama has declared that he would repeal the law altogether.


COUNTERPUNCH - Ziga Vodovnik: Thoreau once wrote that we have an obligation to act according to the dictates of our conscience, even if the latter goes against the majority opinion or the laws of the society. Do you agree with this?

Howard Zinn: Absolutely. Rousseau once said, if I am part of a group of 100 people, do 99 people have the right to sentence me to death, just because they are majority? No, majorities can be wrong, majorities can overrule rights of minorities. If majorities ruled, we could still have slavery. 80% of the population once enslaved 20% of the population. . . . Democracy has to take into account several things -- proportionate requirements of people, not just needs of the majority, but also needs of the minority. And also has to take into account that majority, especially in societies where the media manipulates public opinion, can be totally wrong and evil. So yes, people have to act according to conscience and not by majority vote.

Ziga Vodovnik: Where do you see the historical origins of anarchism in the United States?

Howard Zinn: One of the problems with dealing with anarchism is that there are many people whose ideas are anarchist, but who do not necessarily call themselves anarchists. The word was first used by Proudhon in the middle of the 19th century, but actually there were anarchist ideas that proceeded Proudhon, those in Europe and also in the United States. For instance, there are some ideas of Thomas Paine, who was not an anarchist, who would not call himself an anarchist, but he was suspicious of government. Also Henry David Thoreau. He does not know the word anarchism, and does not use the word anarchism, but Thoreau's ideas are very close to anarchism. He is very hostile to all forms of government. If we trace origins of anarchism in the United States, then probably Thoreau is the closest you can come to an early American anarchist. You do not really encounter anarchism until after the Civil War, when you have European anarchists, especially German anarchists, coming to the United States. They actually begin to organize. The first time that anarchism has an organized force and becomes publicly known in the United States is in Chicago at the time of Haymarket Affair

Ziga Vodovnik: Most of the creative energy for radical politics is nowadays coming from anarchism, but only few of the people involved in the movement actually call themselves "anarchists." Where do you see the main reason for this? Are activists ashamed to identify themselves with this intellectual tradition, or rather they are true to the commitment that real emancipation needs emancipation from any label?

Howard Zinn: The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchists don't want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism. But actually the ideas of anarchism are incorporated in the way the movements of the 1960s began to think.

I think that probably the best manifestation of that was in the civil rights movement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC. SNCC without knowing about anarchism as philosophy embodied the characteristics of anarchism. They were decentralized. Other civil rights organizations, for example Seven Christian Leadership Conference, were centralized organizations with a leader -- Martin Luther King. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were based in New York, and also had some kind of centralized organization. SNCC, on the other hand, was totally decentralized. It had what they called field secretaries, who worked in little towns all over the South, with great deal of autonomy. They had an office in Atlanta, Georgia, but the office was not a strong centralized authority. The people who were working out in the field -- in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- they were very much on their own. They were working together with local people, with grassroots people. And so there is no one leader for SNCC, and also great suspicion of government. . .

So SNCC was decentralized, anti-government, without leadership, but they did not have a vision of a future society like the anarchists. They were not thinking long term, they were not asking what kind of society shall we have in the future. They were really concentrated on immediate problem of racial segregation. But their attitude, the way they worked, the way they were organized, was along, you might say, anarchist lines. . .

Ziga Vodovnik: In your People's History of the United States you show us that our freedom, rights, environmental standards, etc., have never been given to us from the wealthy and influential few, but have always been fought out by ordinary people -- with civil disobedience. What should be in this respect our first steps toward another, better world?

Howard Zinn: I think our first step is to organize ourselves and protest against existing order -- against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralized authority, without charismatic leader, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society. So that even if you don't win some victory tomorrow or next year in the meantime you have created a model. You have acted out how future society should be and you created immediate satisfaction, even if you have not achieved your ultimate goal.


A great collection at Slate including this from a private investigator: "The biggest [way P.I.'s procrastinate] would be creative uses of Nexis. I routinely Nexis myself and people I know using the person locator, which you're really not supposed to do, and just see how much info on you or your friends comes up. . . Another specifically P.I. related procrastinatory activity is going back through the divorce and domestic dispute court cases we sometimes pull for these fund managers and reading through all the salacious details that are usually outside the purview of our investigations, at least in name.". . . And a third grade teacher: "I laminate things that don't need to be laminated."

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