Monday, June 29, 2009

Taner Edis summarizes every book on Islam by a Muslim

I like this post by Taner Edis. It made my laugh. Having read a fair number of those books, though far less than Taner, it rings true.

Summary of every book on the state of Islam written by a Muslim

Here, as a public service, is a summary of every single book on the state of Islam ever written by a devout Muslim in modern times:
The Muslim world is in crisis. But none of this indicates any fault with my version of Islam, which in its core precepts is divine and perfect. Muslims, however, have misunderstood Islam, and have therefore fallen into unfortunate circumstances.
There. That should save you from having to read through an awful lot of books. You're welcome.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two books on the American Far Right --old and new

Two of my favorite books on the American far right were published 66 years apart. Leonard Zeskind's Blood and Politics was published just weeks ago, while John Roy Carlson's Undercover, was a best-seller in 1943.

Blood and Politics will likely be viewed as the authoritative history of the racialist American right over the last fifty years. It's going to be discussed next week in the TPM Cafe. Check out the discussion. Meanwhile, Daniel Levitas has an insightful review in the Forward.

To most Americans, including seasoned political observers, the machinations of white supremacists and professional antisemites are regarded, if at all, as crude carnival theater. After more than three decades of close observation, Leonard Zeskind, recipient of a 1998 MacArthur Fellowship for his independent scholarship on far-right, racist and neo-Nazi groups, is not so dismissive. More important, his first book, “Blood and Politics,” analyzes the past 35 years to provide a trenchant and troubling assessment of the future of what Zeskind terms “the white nationalist movement.”

Since the mid-1980s a number of books have detailed homegrown paramilitaries and the bigoted zealots behind them, but “Blood and Politics” provides an entirely deeper level of analysis. Zeskind is the first to fully integrate a sophisticated understanding of global events — specifically the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union — with an equally forceful insight into the uniquely American dynamics of racial identity, Southern sectionalism and national politics. After the Soviet Union “cracked apart like a three-minute egg,” and anticommunism became almost instantly irrelevant to American national identity, white nationalists rushed in to fill the vacuum.

The end of the Cold War dichotomy gave way to a new struggle, that of nationalism vs. internationalism, and the results of this “geopolitical earthquake” are still reverberating all around us, Zeskind explains. While most of the civilized world ostensibly looked on with horror as the multicultural communities of Yugoslavia disintegrated under the demands of ethnic nationalism, white supremacists and antisemites in the United States saw increased promise in the prospect of recasting their domestic struggle as both an ethnic and religious war.

Because Undercover as a tremendous best-seller, there's a good chance you might find it a used-book store, ebay, or abebooks. There is an on-line PDF

Here's what Time magazine said about Undercover back in 1943

For four years pseudonymous Author John Roy Carlson, a youthful Armenian-born journalist, has sat in on the conclaves of some 30 U.S. fascist and near-fascist groups. What he saw and heard, and what he thinks about it, makes a bulky (544 pages), jumbled, fact-crammed book. * It is good reading and worth reading; it is a believable account of real viciousness, relieved by fragments of pure absurdity. Smart readers will make allowances for Investigator Carlson's enthusiasms, distinguish for themselves between stooges and stars.

The Line. Before Pearl Harbor U.S. fascism was blatant and aggressive. Federal agents and public hostility have driven it to cover. So today's techniques are largely confined to whispering campaigns in industrial centers, promotion of racial violence, draft dodging, food hoarding, agitation for "democratic" opposition to the Administration. The objective, says Carlson, is to sabotage "with every means at their command, a quick Allied victory ... to ,prolong the conflict in order to intensify . . . work of dissension. . . ."

"The America First spirit," said Senator Gerald Nye to Carlson, "is much stronger now. But . . . you can ruin a good thing by coming out with it at the wrong time." When the time comes, explained the " 'dean' of American intellectual fascism," suave Lawrence Dennis, "such slogans as 'America for the Americans,' 'White Supremacy,' . . . 'Europe for the Europeans' . . . will become popular. Reactionary feeling will become rampant, followed closely by antiSemitism. . . . Declare yourself for the war now [and] after you say this begin to explain that we're fighting for Communism."

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Roomful of Blues at SCZ

Roomful of Blues was at the Sedgwick County Zoo on Thursday night as part of the annual summer concert series. The band was excellent, the weather was hot, and two beers were welcome. Enjoy my sliceshow. Click the button and the pics will start.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Poltics website-redesign

The website of the fine socialist political journal New Politics has an attractive new design. Take a look and if you like what you see, subscribe.

Dissent also redesigned its website not too long ago and is also recommended.

New Economics Blog

Economic Perspectives from Kansas City is a new economics blog featuring professors from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

This is how they describe the blog

This website offers policy advice and economic analysis from a group of professional economists at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. We created this site in order to weigh in on the serious challenges facing the global economy today. We aim to provide an accurate description of the cause(s) of the current meltdown as well as some fresh ideas about how Congress, the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve should respond. Our approach, which has been dubbed “The Kansas City School,” builds on the work of Abba P. Lerner, John Maynard Keynes and Hyman P. Minsky. Above all, we are careful to provide analyses and policy recommendations that are applicable under a modern, fiat money system.
Here are a couple of blog posts that caught my attention

Stephanie Kelton "The Failure of the Mainstream Model"
Randall Wray, "The Fiscal Storm"
James Galbraith, "Fiscal Sustainability"

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deer at Zoo Blvd and I-235

A deer was killed in traffic yesterday around noon at Zoo Boulevard near I-235.

Counter-demo honors Dr. Tiller

I took some pictures at Saturday's counter-demo to honor Dr. Tiller.

Here's the quick background from KWCH

About 30 people attended a prayer vigil outside of Operation Rescue Saturday. They laid hundreds of flowers along the sidewalk as a symbol of their cause.

During the vigil, they prayed for Doctor George Tiller and his family. They said the purpose of the vigil was to pray for both Tiller and unborn babies....

The vigil was supposed to be outside of Tiller's clinic. But Saturday morning, they moved the vigil because the National Organization of Women planned a counter vigil at the clinic. More than 40 abortion rights supporters kept watch at the clinic on E. Kellogg.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crisis in Iran A Statement from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy

[Here's a good statement from THE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY (CPD) which advocates a new, progressive and non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy -- one that encourages democracy, justice and social change. Founded in 1982, the Campaign opposed the Cold War by promoting "detente from below." It engaged Western peace activists in the defense of the rights of democratic dissidents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and enlisted East-bloc human rights activists against anti-democratic U.S. policies in countries like Nicaragua and Chile. The Campaign sees movements for peace, social justice and democratic rights, taken together, as the embryo of an alternative to great power politics and to the domination of society by privileged elites.]

We are horrified at what the Iranian government is doing in the aftermath of the June 12th elections. In a wave of state terror, security forces have arrested hundreds of oppositionists, reformist officials and ex-officials, and human rights activists. Using clubs, whips, chains, machetes and guns, they have viciously attacked protestors; many have been killed. Media, both domestic and international, have been shut down or restricted, and the authorities have attempted to prevent people from communicating with one another via cell phone, text messaging and Internet networking sites. All protest demonstrations have been banned.

Despite the savagery of the Republican Guards and the religious thugs of the Basij militia, however, opponents of Ahmadinejad have thus far refused to back down. Furious over an apparent clumsy and cynical manipulation of the election results, hundreds of thousands have marched in nonviolent protests in defiance of the ban. In the face of this courageous resistance, the government has retreated slightly, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has offered to allow a partial recount. The protestors have said no to this offer -- they are demanding totally new elections.

We do not claim to know the true results of the elections. But there are certainly many indications of massive fraud; that, plus the fact that election monitoring by opposition groups and independent observers was barred, can only raise grave doubts about Ahmadinejad’s claim to a landslide victory. What is clear is that the results lack credibility for masses of Iranian citizens.

Even if the votes were fairly counted, it must be remembered that Iranian elections are far from democratic. The unelected Council of Guardians vets candidates to be sure they support the theocratic order before their names are ever allowed to appear on the ballot, which usually guarantees that anyone the authorities seriously oppose is disqualified from running in the first place. And while the Islamic Republic allows far more freedoms than many other countries in the region, it is still extremely repressive. Gay people have been brutally persecuted, women are forced to endure a host of restrictions on their rights, and workers have been beaten and jailed for striking and trying to organize trade unions.

Mir Hossein Mousavi does not represent a decisive break from the status quo. As Iran's prime minister during 1981-89, he didn’t challenge the fundamentals of the system. As Shirin Sadeghi pointed out in the Huffington Post, Mousavi was “a man known for upholding the values of a Republic that has systematically deprived Iranians of basic civil rights; a man who, as senior adviser to President Khatami stood by as the second ‘cultural revolution’ of the late 1990's and early 2000's swept students off the streets, shut down semi-free newspapers, terrorized dissidents, and paved the way for the so called ‘hardliners’.” Nevertheless, Mousavi’s support, albeit limited, of women’s rights and political freedom, has given him the backing of millions of Iranians.

This election has opened up new possibilities for Iranian politics that go far beyond Mousavi. As women’s rights activist Noushin Khorasani noted, its has already provided an opportunity for the formation of independent coalitions of women’s and students’ organizations, which had faced terrible repression; it is to be hoped that trade unions, too, will be able to take advantage of this new opening to function and play an independent role in Iranian society. Long-simmering splits among the ruling elite have become open fissures. Protestors in the streets and on the rooftops have cried “no to dictatorship,” referring to Ahmadinejad; perhaps the movement will soon take the next step and demand an end to the dictatorship of Khatamei, the Guardian Council, the Republican Guards and Basiji, and the whole corrupt ruling apparatus.

As for the response of our own government, given the long, sordid record of U.S. policy towards Iran, interference by Washington can only play into the hands of the forces opposed to democracy. U.S. support for the Shah before 1979 resulted in the evisceration of Iran's secular left. The Bush administration’s threats succeeded only in terrorizing the Iranian people and providing political ammunition to the mullahs. The Obama administration can help by removing sanctions on Iran and publicly and unambiguously renouncing any possibility of military attack, thus eliminating a major excuse for Ahmadinejad’s repressive policies.

The Campaign for Peace and Democracy extends its solidarity to the protesters in Iran, and salutes their bravery. We express our deep concern for their well-being in the face of brutal repression and our fervent wishes for the strengthening and deepening of the movement for justice and democracy in Iran.
* * * * * *

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Understanding Von Brunn

The murderous assault on the Holocaust Museum by John Von Brunn should not be treated as just an isolated event. And, it probably won't since the murdered of Dr.Tiller comes from a similar environ.

Von Brunn is a reminder that there is a vibrant far right and that antisemtism was not been vanquished. (Unfortunately, there is also antisemitism on the left and, worse, a wider tolerance for it.)

There is going to be lots of reporting and commentary in the progressive media, but I want to recommend a blog that has some of the best coverage of Von Brumm. Check out the site of Adam Holland.

I suspect that over the next several years is going to be far more important to understand the far right than we are used to. It is not going to be enough to just thinks of them as "kooks" and "nutcases." In the next week or two, I'll be discussing some books, new and old, that I think will help in that task.

Another Case for Single-payer

Pam Pohly looks at the "Truth About Health Care"

It's a long post, but well worth reading.

Chicago photos

Here are a few photos I took while in Chicago recently for the Labor and Working Class History Association conference. (I did take lots of photos at the conference, but you'll have to wait a little bit to see them.)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Two left organizations, Democratic Socialists of America, and the independent union UE have recently issued positions papers on health care. Both are supporters of a single-payer system. However, judging this to be a unique political juncture, they also put forth demands for an acceptable public plan,

DSA says

the current political situation provides the best opportunity for serious health-care reform in a generation. We do not accept the position that unless we get everything we want, we are willing to see that opportunity disappear. We do believe, however, that the insurance industry is powerful enough that the current political dynamic could result in a “health care reform” that is, in fact, worse than nothing at all, because it would create a public plan that is designed to fail.

Therefore, even while we do everything we can to ensure that single payer gets a fair hearing, we must state our minimum requirements for possible alternatives to single-payer health insurance. Our minimum position is that any plan must include a strong public-provision component, one that can compete with the private insurance options. In evaluating proposed plans, the devil is, unfortunately, in the details.

Among the criteria to be considered:

  • All employers and individuals must be eligible to choose the public plan, possibly during an annual open-enrollment period
  • .The plan must be government run, operated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or by a similar agency.
  • The public plan must have the ability to negotiate drug prices.
  • The public plan must be allowed to negotiate reimbursement rates, possibly pegged to Medicare rates.
  • The public plan must, like Medicare, allow participants to choose their own doctors.

Short of these provisions, whatever comes out of Congress will not be real reform. Health care is a human right and must be available to all without economic barriers.

The UE says

Since the likelihood is growing that such a proposal may be adopted, we need to spell out what provisions would be acceptable to our union in such a plan, and what we would find unacceptable.

A public plan must be open to all workers and their families, and all employers must have the option of insuring their employees through the public plan rather than private insurance. This will allow more workers to share in the benefits of lower-cost public healthcare, and the savings to employers from the public plan will remove a major incentive for corporations to move jobs overseas.

Premiums for the public plan must be indexed to income and affordable for working class people. We oppose any effort to force the public plan to charge artificially high premiums for the purpose of bailing out the private insurance companies. If the private insurers cannot compete with a public plan on a level playing field, perhaps they should get out of the healthcare business.

A public plan must have the ability to bargain with providers over rates for services, and over prescription drug prices. Such bargaining would be one of the public plan’s most powerful tools for bringing down healthcare costs overall.

We reject the inclusion of “user fees” such as co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses in a public plan. Those who need care should not be penalized and forced to pay more than those who are healthy.

We oppose any effort to contract out the administration of the public plan to private profiteers. This would be a waste of resources that should go into providing healthcare, diverting some of those resources instead into cultivating a new crop of millionaires and billionaires. Such privatization would put people in charge of the public plan whose motives are in opposition to the public good.

If we are to have a system where a public plan competes with private insurance companies, consumers must be empowered to choose their coverage by evaluating objective information on the merits of each plan.

Marketing must be strictly limited; companies should not be trying to lure customers through costly advertising campaigns, nor such gimmicks as paying to name sports arenas after themselves.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]