playing for keeps

the blog of g.a. matiasz


  • Free 1% FREE excerpts

  • 1% FREE on sale now

    Copies of 1% FREE can be purchased from Barnes & Noble POD, and the ebook can be had at Barnes & Noble ebook. The physical book is $18.95 and the ebook is $6.99.

  • END TIME reprinted

    Downloads of END TIME can be purchased from SMASHWORDS.
  • Copyright

    The contents of this Web page and subsequent Web pages on this site are copyright © 2007 - 2016 by G. A. Matiasz.
  • My Pages

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Category Cloud

  • Categories

  • Tag Cloud

  • My Social

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

2016 Presidential Elections—in a nutshell

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 18, 2015

This is self-explanatory. And funny!
Unfortunately, it’s not accurate.


Posted in life, politics, presidential election | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hey Kids! Here’s Presidential Candidate and Old Jewish Man Bernie Sanders’ 1987 Folk Album!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 3, 2015

Heeb Magazine broke this story, and it’s reprinted here:

Hey Kids! Here’s Presidential Candidate and Old Jewish Man Bernie Sanders’ 1987 Folk Album!
Yo Semite August 30, 2015

Bernie Sanders is having a pretty great summer. The crotchety senator from Vermont is not only riding a wave of popularity unmatched by anything in his career thusfar, but according to recent polls, his presidential campaign is, amazingly, improbably, starting to close within striking distance of Democratic dauphin, Hilary Clinton, herself. While some might attribute Sanders’ newfound political relevance to his thoughtful, nuanced, policy positions, or his grassroots efforts to appeal to a wide, untapped liberal base. I have another theory.

America loves a folk musician.

Oh, you didn’t know? Bernie Sanders once released a full album of American folk standards. Yup. The (admittedly, unlikely) next president of the United States is a bona fide folker.

Sanders’ album, “We Shall Overcome” was release in 1987, while Bernie was still mayor of Burlington, VT. According to Seven Days, a Vermont-based independent news site:

Todd Lockwood, a Burlington-based author/photographer/musician, remembers sipping coffee at Leunig’s Bistro one morning in 1987 when he came up with the idea of recording then-mayor Sanders at his White Crow Audio studios. (Phish recorded early albums there.)

“I’m not sure where it came from,” Lockwood said of his brainstorm. “I thought, ‘You know, there’s an idea.’”

On a whim, he called the mayor’s office — he didn’t know Sanders — and left a message with a secretary. Before long, he got a call back — Sanders wanted a meeting.

“I was surprised he said, ‘Yes,’” Lockwood said. “When I first went to his office he said, ‘I have to admit to you this appeals to my ego.’’’

Sanders gave Lockwood a list of songs, mostly from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, he would be willing to record.

How does it sound? Judge for yourself:

Originally, Sanders had planned to sing each song himself, but that went right out the window after he actually, well, started to sing. Mel Torme, he ain’t. Instead, his singing voice allegedly ended up sounding exactly as you’d probably expect coming from a crotchety Jewish member of the Vermont Progressive Party – Not, uh…not so great.

Still, if you’re interested/brave enough, the full album is available for purchase on amazon.

Posted in Democratic Party, democratic socialism, life, music, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Supporting a Long Shot or Moving Hillary to the Left?

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 20, 2015

Here’s the story behind and a case for Bernie Sanders, from The Observer:

(Illustration: Josh Gosfield/New York Observer)

(Illustration: Josh Gosfield/New York Observer)

Berniemania! Why Is Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders So Popular?

Brooklyn-born, Vermont-fueled, Bernie Sanders promises a revolution if he’s somehow elected president next year. Does Hillary have to watch her back?

By Ross Barkan | 06/16/15 OBSERVER/NEWS

Brattleboro, VT.—Of all the people buzzing at the start of the Strolling of the Heifers parade on a recent Saturday morning—the clowns, the teen stilt-walker, the theater kids in witch’s garb—the 73-year-old grandpa in khakis and Adidas sneakers did not seem like the most probable candidate for a selfie.

But even tweens more used to fawning over Ariana Grande can barrel toward Sen. Bernie Sanders to beg for a picture.

“Can we get a selfie?” members of a marching band, holding trumpets and saxophones, squealed.

“I think we can!” the Vermont senator replied.

“Oh my God. You guys. Mr. Sanders, Mr. Sanders…”

A dozen marchers clenched their smartphones. Mr. Sanders grinned. He was running for president and having a pretty good time with it.

Yet Mr. Sanders, with his slight stoop and cloud of white hair flaring off his ruddy scalp, sometimes suffers on the stump. Later that day in a rec hall across the border in Keene, N.H., packed with about 700 people, some wearing homemade T-shirts Magic Markered with “Bernie 2016,” he lamented the plight of a young teacher he had just met. “Obviously in our society we desperately need teachers,” Mr. Sanders said to his audience. “And her crime for wanting to get a master’s degree was that she is now $200,000 in debt and paying interest rates between 6 and 9 percent. … All of this stuff is crazy stuff.” If the country does not reform its environmental policies, he said a grim fate awaits: “more drought, more famine, more rising sea levels, more floods, more ocean acidification, more extreme weather disturbances, more disease and more human suffering.”

This is not morning in America but mourning in America—and the crowd loved it.

Toward the end of the rally, the Brooklyn-born liberal icon leaned into the microphone and quieted his distinctive voice, which sounds like Larry David playing George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld. “Let me tell you a secret,” said Mr. Sanders, who hopes his audience helps him pull off what would be the biggest upset in modern political history.

Even Mr. Sanders’ supporters concede that his odds of toppling front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, let alone winning in November 2016, are long. But with a progressive favorite, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, declining to run, a void on the left opened and Mr. Sanders filled it. Taken piece-by-piece, his campaign platform—a higher minimum wage, more vacation days, mandated sick pay, free public colleges—polls well enough to sand some of the radical edge off him, or at least pack more town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire. The magic behind the early Sanders surge is not so mysterious: what he says, invariably, is popular with the Democratic base at a time when many feel fatigued by promises of hope and change.

Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, violates most laws of American politics. He proudly calls himself a socialist, a label vilified by Republicans and avoided by most Democrats. He is not outwardly charming; he rarely glad-hands and his speeches are often mirthless. Like a modern day Jonathan Edwards, who found Eugene V. Debs rather than Jesus Christ, he thunders about the dying middle class and oligarchies eroding democracy. Cross him, like one camera-holding man who yapped at him in Keene to take a position on the Edward Snowden affair, and earn a stern rebuke. Why wouldn’t he answer the man’s question? “Because you’re rude, and you’re shouting out things and I don’t really like that,” Mr. Sanders groused.

Despite a thorny approach to retail campaigning, Mr. Sanders’ quest for the White House is on an upswing. Last week, a Wisconsin Democratic Party straw poll showed Mr. Sanders trailing Ms. Clinton only 49 to 41 percent among delegates. On, Brent Budowsky wrote, “There is a very real prospect that Mr. Bernie Sanders wins an outright victory in the Iowa caucus.” Donations are flooding in; he raised $1.5 million in the 24-hour period after he announced his candidacy in early May. He has since raised cash from more than 100,000 individual donors.

Berniemania already seems to be nudging Ms. Clinton to the left: she has toughened her tone toward Wall Street, called for criminal justice reform and avoided taking a stance on a controversial free-trade agreement many liberals abhor.

A strong second-place finish by Mr. Sanders in either early primary state will mean momentum, which will mean money. “His kind of candidacy can live off the land for quite a while,” said Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004. “With Bernie, there’s always a core liberal wing, there’s grassroots activists to give him enough money for the next plane ticket.” It’s also not clear how much grassroots love there is for the former first lady, either—a recent CNN poll showed half of voters view her unfavorably, while 46 percent have a favorable view.

The challenge will come when the primary graduates to mega-states like New York and California—and revolutionary zeal meets sobering reality. Team Sanders admits winning beyond Iowa and New Hampshire will prove a significant hurdle.

“We have to compete everywhere for delegates. We can’t cede ground to Hillary Clinton,” said Tad Devine, a top Sanders adviser who counseled Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry four years later.

Some veterans of tough elections are taking notice. “To me, the story so far is not how far ahead Secretary Clinton is, but the fact being perhaps that even though she is the best known political figure in America, there are still 40 percent or more Democrats polled who are looking for another candidate,” said former Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat who ran for president in the 1984 and 1988—and is now supporting Martin O’Malley, the ex-Maryland governor. “That’s the story.”

That candidate may not be Bernard Sanders of 1525 East 26th Street, Brooklyn. But he is promising a revolution, and if the raucous rallies are any indication, the beginning, at least, will be televised.

Before Mr. Sanders was a presidential contender, senator, congressman and mayor, he was really only known for one thing: running fast.

“He was one of the best half-milers in the city. He was always at the front of the pack,” said Walter Block, a high school classmate who went on to become a leading libertarian economist.

Born on September 8, 1941, Mr. Sanders grew up in Flatbush. His father was a struggling paint salesman.

At James Madison High School, the tall, trim Mr. Sanders was a good, though ordinary, student. He wrote for the student newspaper, the Highway Reporter, but friends don’t recall him having political inclinations—just a general leftward tilt, common among the many working-class Jews who lived in the neighborhood.

“We were apolitical with a dash of lefty pinko,” Mr. Block said. “It was sort of in the air.”

Unlike another James Madison alumnus, Sen. Charles Schumer, who would graduate about a decade later, Mr. Sanders wasn’t an elite enough student to go to college out of town. Like many classmates, he went to nearby Brooklyn College, where tuition was free. But he was miserable.

Mr. Sanders did not get along with his father and felt stifled in Brooklyn, Steve Slavin, a classmate in high school and college, recalled. He griped about professors and read what he wanted to, rather than what was required. During his freshman year, his mother died at the age of 46.

“Before final exams, that semester, he came back from the library with eight or 10 books that had nothing to do with his courses,” Mr. Slavin recounted. “I said, ‘What are you doing? We have finals.’ He said, ‘But these books look really good.’ ”

One book that caught his eye was a history of 19th century Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld, a leader of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. Altgeld in 1899 sounds like Mr. Sanders more than 100 years later: “We have the anomalous spectacle of abundant food products, on the one hand, and hungry men without bread, on the other; abundant fabrics, on the one hand, and industrious, frugal men going half-clad, on the other.” After a year of tragedy and ennui, Mr. Sanders transferred to the University of Chicago, a hotbed of activism.

“When I was a kid growing up, I think my instincts always were for the underdog. I didn’t like big kids pushing around little kids,” Mr. Sanders told the Observer in a brief interview in Keene. “I think I got my politics mostly at the University of Chicago, not only in classrooms but probably more off campus where I was involved in the civil rights movement and peace movement.”

It’s safe to say that Mr. Sanders has never wavered, over the last half century, in his withering critiques of capitalism, poor race relations or the influence of money on democracy. While some leftists of that era, including Mr. Schumer and Ms. Clinton, shuffled to the center (and back), Mr. Sanders, who was elected to the Senate in 2006, held firm.

This is part of his appeal.

“When a real Democrat and fake Democrat run for office, the real Democrat will win every time. Hillary is Republican-lite,” said Alan Eldredge, a 62-year-old Sanders fan from Northfield, Mass., who attended the Keene event. “Socialist no longer has the stigma that it used to. Only people over 60 have any feeling of evil about it.”

In the 1970s, Mr. Sanders was a perennial fringe candidate on the Liberty Union Party line, though his political career was going nowhere until he ditched the minor party and ran as an independent for mayor of Burlington in 1981. He won by 10 votes, but grew popular. In 1990, he won Vermont’s at-large House seat on his second try.

Though known for his gruffness—he’s unafraid to shout down constituents in public if he disagrees with them—one former Sanders aide revealed a soft side of his former boss. The biggest misconception is that “he doesn’t really have a sense of humor,” said Anthony Pollina, a Vermont state senator who advised Mr. Sanders for six years in the 1990s.

My kids were young at the time,” recalled Mr. Pollina, “and they would spend time in the office, so we would all be working on policy stuff and they’d be coloring on the floor or that kind of a thing. And Bernie … has always been tolerant of kids and family.” (Mr. Sanders is married with one child and three step children and seven grandchildren). “Bernie’s not a small-talk kind of guy,” continued Mr. Pollina. “But when you get to know him, he’s a lot of fun.”

Mr. Pollina described a congressman willing to trek to the most rural corners of the state to chat at the kitchen table with a struggling constituent. He remembers Mr. Sanders visiting dairy farmer Bob Judd near the Canadian border. “On the way back, we sat in the car together and Bernie just talked a long time about what Bob Judd had been through in his life and how important it was for people like Bob to get their fair share … He would look out the window and just talk about how we were going through God’s country.” Mr. Pollina paused. “And I think that that connection that he had to those people and to that land must have helped define him.”

Bernie Sanders with human and bovine constituents at the Strolling of the Heifers parade. (Photo courtesy of

Bernie Sanders with human and bovine constituents at the Strolling of the Heifers parade. (Photo courtesy of

For a long time, Mr. Sanders’ unbridled liberalism was out of vogue. The Clintons, slashing the welfare rolls and deregulating Wall Street, ruled the booming 1990s. The Soviet Union collapsed; some socialists had lost a lodestar, though Mr. Sanders firmly insisted it was the democratic socialism of the Scandinavian countries, and not the authoritarianism of Russia, that he extolled.
A Sanders supporter in Keene underscored this point, gently chastising a reporter for asking whether an avowed socialist could win over voters nationwide.

“He’s a democratic socialist, like another celebrated Jewish socialist—Jesus,” he said.

Mr. Sanders’ campaign platform is manna from heaven for the American left. His 12-point platform includes growing the trade union movement, creating worker-owned cooperatives and opposing free-trade agreements.

Some of his proposals, like making all public colleges free, may have unintended consequences.

“You put a lot of stress on the public system, to say you’re going to take away the tuition base. You can’t ensure government funding to make up for it,” said Sharyn O’Halloran, an economist at Columbia University’s School of Public Affairs. “If I’m sitting here trying to allocate scare resources to benefit society, the economy, I have to allocate them in the most efficient way … if I give a rich kid a free education, I haven’t improved social welfare.”

Still, with The College Board reporting college tuition far outpacing inflation and the average cost of a private four-year college exceeding $31,000 per year, the promise of free tuition may entice parents and younger voters.

In a CNBC interview in May, Mr. Sanders called for turning back the American tax code 60 years, when the top marginal tax rate was 92 percent (today, it’s about 40 percent), which raised plenty of eyebrows in business and academic circles.

“Why would I go in and expand a business when I have to pay away 90 percent in taxes?” asked Mark Clark, an associate professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business. International trade, the decline of organized labor and a host of other issue have changed America dramatically since the 1950s, he said. “It’s a different world.”

Mr. Sanders had a different answer to why the rich should pay more: “Because they love this country and they want to see future generations do well,” he said, hustling to his Ford Fusion.

The zeitgeist has boomeranged to Mr. Sanders. The 2008 economic collapse brought the issue of income inequality to the forefront, enabling Democrats and even some Republicans to rail against the excesses of Wall Street without being accused of class warfare. Ms. Warren’s ascendance, coupled with a 2015 Associated Press-Gfk poll reporting that 68 percent of respondents said wealthy households pay too little in federal taxes, shows that Mr. Sanders won his popularity in a rather remarkable way, at least by the standards of modern politics: by not changing at all.

What type of presidential candidate Mr. Sanders ultimately turns out to be is still an open question. Archetypes include former Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who drew campus crowds for his uncompromising libertarianism but won few delegates. There is Howard Dean who became a liberal hero after challenging John Kerry on an anti-war platform in 2004. And there is even Mr. Hart, who nearly dethroned Walter Mondale in 1984 before succumbing to scandal three years later.

The challenge for Mr. Sanders will be twofold: competing on the ground with the Clinton machine while trying to prove that a 73-year-old lefty—he would be the oldest president ever elected—can defeat top-tier Republicans, including 44-year-old Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 47-year-old Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He would also be America’s first Jewish president; NPR host Diane Rehm recently “offended” Mr. Sanders, who briefly lived on a kibbutz, when she repeated the falsehood that he had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

“One of his problems is not just getting traction against Hillary but overcoming a lot of people’s basic assumption that he’s unelectable in a general election,” said Mr. Trippi. “The problem still is: Are there enough Iowa Democrats prepared to risk losing the presidency, even if they like his positions?”

Mr. Sanders is not simply an activist politician though. Back when he chaired the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, he helped pass a $16 billion bill to overhaul the Department of Veteran Affairs, which was co-sponsored in the House by Republican Congressman Harold Rogers.

There are thorns on Mr. Sanders’ liberal rose, too. On gun control, he is well to the right of Ms. Clinton and most Democrats. Vermont’s guns laws, as he himself pointed out, are virtually nonexistent. As a congressman, he voted against the Brady Act and another law which shielded gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their firearms are used illegally.

“Guns in cities like Los Angeles or New York or Detroit are not the same thing as they are in Vermont or New Hampshire,” Mr. Sanders told reporters in June. “What we need is a balanced gun policy, which makes sure … guns do not get into the hands of people who should not have them.”

That stance could appeal to firearms fans in the Midwest and South. A 2014 Pew poll found that 52 percent of Americans support gun rights compared with 46 percent who back gun control. But if Mr. Sanders gains enough traction for the Clinton camp to take him more seriously, it’s easy to imagine that liberals will be reminded, on TV and elsewhere, of his tolerance of firearms.

But don’t expect Mr. Sanders to return fire. “The day he would have to get into a negative exchange with Hillary Clinton is the day the campaign is over,” Mr. Devine, his campaign strategist, pointed out.

Clintonworld, so far, remains confident. She won New Hampshire in 2008, after all. The machine plows ahead—but they welcome the “conversation” he brings to the race.

“I think he’ll energize issues and help the Democratic nominee and I expect that will be Hillary,” Hilary Rosen, a Democratic consultant and Clinton backer, said.

Still, after a one-term African-American senator with a funny name rose from nowhere to whip Hillary Clinton, the Sanders faithful are suddenly asking, And why not Bernie? What seems more far-fetched: Barack Hussein Obama, around 2007, becoming leader of the Free World or a socialist Jew (a member of Congress for 24 years and former mayor, to boot) becoming president in 2016? (Never mind Mr. Obama was telegenic and three decades younger.)

And what was that secret, anyway?

“Let me tell you,” Mr. Sanders said, bending down into his lectern in Keene. “We’re going to win New Hampshire.”

This story appeared in the June 24 print edition of The New York Observer.


1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.

2. Reversing Climate Change
The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

3. Creating Worker Co-ops
We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.

4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.

5. Raising the Minimum Wage
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.

6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.

7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.

8. Making College Affordable for All
In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.

9. Taking on Wall Street
The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.

10. Health Care as a Right for All
The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.

12. Real Tax Reform
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

Posted in life, politics, presidential election | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dogs of Greece—A Political Primer

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 28, 2015

[left] Loukanikos, the celebrated “riot dog” who made a name for himself by participating in every demonstration in Athens since 2010, represents the fighting spirit of autonomous movements. Unfortunately, he reportedly passed away in October 2014, having retired from street action in 2012 to wait for Syriza to assume power.
[center] Golden Dawg, a fascist lapdog serving the capitalist elite, is happy to show his teeth from the safety of his master’s arms. He pretends to have his own agenda—but note the leash!
[right] And here is the latest addition to the Greek kennel, a canine partisan of Syriza. “Throw me a bone,” he says! Some see him as Loukanikos’s successor, but there appear to be a few differences. As for the leash, he insists it’s just a matter of pragmatism: “A leash is just a tool like any other,” he says. “If it’s in the right hands, you can do good things with it.”

from crimethinc.

Posted in life, politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Year: Reviving This Blog

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 1, 2015

Yes, New Years resolutions! I do them, starting with resolving to revive this blog. Most recently, I stopped in September of last year because I was deep into finishing my second novel. More about that in a future post, for now I’m committing to posting at least once a week to this, my personal blog.

The idea here is not to get more hits or followers, but to write more. My other blog, my political blog, more or less takes care of itself since I made the commitment to write, and then to post, my monthly Maximum Rocknroll columns there. And my novel rewrite, which is going on its second year, is close to being done. The manuscript will go to the editor I hired for a final line-by-line edit at the end of January. So that leaves this blog, and my writing in general.

I write for personal pleasure, therapy, and expression. I’ve written since I was 12 years old and, except for a period of heavy-duty depression, I continue to write as often as I can. I hope to write until I die.

Posted in blog, blogger, blogging, life, Maximum Rocknroll, politics, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Church and State

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 6, 2014

Or rather, religion and politics. This chart provides one way to map these two dimensions. I do love charts with a whole lot of information.

Posted in life, politics, religion | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Not in my name

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 5, 2014

This sentiment is simple, clear, direct. Not in my name. According to the very controversial book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt:

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.

These subsidies to Israel come out of the money I and other Americans pay in taxes. Not in my name. Not in our name. Enough.

Here’s a quick history lesson of recent events from Le Monde:


Posted in Israel/Palestine, life, politics, United States of America | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oh, for fuck’s sake

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 13, 2014

For the moment, ignore that we went to war in Iraq in 2003 on the excuse that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) fully expecting that US troops would be greeted as liberators, to be showered with flowers and candy. For the moment, forget that the Iraq we had invaded almost disintegrated into a Sunni/Shi’ite civil war, with the northern Kurds standing on the sidelines, until the US military surge in 2007 temporarily shored up the situation on the ground, leaving all the old ethnic/religious tensions firmly in place. For the moment, pretend that neo-conservative predictions that the US/Iraq war would produce liberty and democracy not just in that country but throughout the region weren’t entirely idiotic.

Let’s consider just one set of factors of this fucked-up mess that the US left when America officially ended military operations in Iraq in 2011 and withdrew US troops.

Here are several maps charting the ethnic/religious divisions in Iraq:

When the US declared “mission accomplished” for a second time in 2011, the majority Shi’ite government held power in Baghdad with the minority Sunni population bridling under this arrangement, and the Kurds enjoying relative autonomy in the north. Enter ISIS, the radical Sunni movement for an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This al-Qaeda affiliate is more popular, more determined, more uncompromising and more violent than al-Qaeda itself, intent upon establishing a sharia-governed Islamic Caliphate from Lebanon through Iraq. Here are maps charting the activity of ISIS through 2014:
_69928349_syria_control_20.09.13_624mapw-Iraq_ISIS_75481316_iraq_isis_control_624_v3ISIS Actual Sanctuary June 2014w-EthnoIRAQ_75514982_iraq_isis_976CitiesControlledByMilitants20140614_MAM914

Here are maps indicating the general territory currently controlled by the ISIS as of June 2014:

And here is a map representing the Islamic Caliphate that is the ultimate goal of ISIS:
ISIS-Wilayats-thumb-560x408-2998ISIS Caliphate

Let me restate matters. In 2011, when the US declared victory in Iraq, ceased military operations and withdrew its troops, the nation of Iraq was nominally a democracy under Shi’ite control and heavily influenced by Iran, with al-Qaeda decimated, on the run, and its leader Osama bin-Ladin dead. Now, in 2014, ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is fully resurgent and militarily on the move while Iraq totters on the brink of complete collapse. Hell, the whole region remains profoundly unstable, teetering on the brink of total social chaos and bloody violence. Forget Left or Right. Anybody up for some serious war crimes trials?

Here’s the BBC’s ongoing coverage of the STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ.

[A WORD ON THE MAPS: Treat each series of multiple maps as a slide show, and try to build up a multi-layered, close to 3D image of the situation they separately are two-dimensionally attempting to portray. Merge the information the maps have in common, and accumulate the unique information each map provides.]

Posted in American Empire, American intervention, Baghdad, Democrats & Republicans, Federal Government, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, life, maps, military intervention, neocon, neoconservative, neoliberalism, politics, US military | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Free trade on steroids

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 20, 2014

That’s what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is. Here’s a graphic that summarizes the issues and problems with the TPP.
I love information in graphic form. This particular chart is provided by The negotiations for the TPP by the Obama Administration are so secret that Congress has not been privy to them, and if select members are, they have been sworn to secrecy, as these articles make clear. The Obama Administration hopes to fast track the vote on the TPP, to avoid embarrassing questions and opposition from both Congress and the American people.

Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

Posted in free trade, life, politics, Trans-Pacific Partnership | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ladies and gentlemen, the vanishing middle class

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 29, 2013

It’s a set of platitudes mouthed by all American politicians everywhere, that “the middle class is the foundation of this country’s prosperity,” that Washington “is doing everything possible to strengthen the middle class,” and that “the future looks bright for the American middle class.” Absolute hogwash! Here are a few more charts and graphs, thanks to the Business Insider:


Nothing up the sleeves of the American ruling class, except for the demise of the American middle class.

Posted in capitalism, jobless recovery, life, politics, United States of America, US economy, US middle class, US ruling class, US society, US working class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

USA! We’re Number One!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 29, 2013

It’s official. The United States is #1 at creating rich people. Here’s the chart (based on this study):
The consequences of this “wealth creation” is an ever widening gap between rich and poor, the decimation of the American middle class, the potential for societal segregation, social unrest and class warfare that is exacerbated by such class dynamics. This income gap is the highest since the “Roaring 20s.
What’s more, even prominent moderate-to-liberal individuals are beginning to see this as a problem.

Then, there’s so many other ways that the United States excels at being #1 in very bad shit. Here are the graphic representations, including the first one mentioned above:
Makes you fucking PROUD to be an American! Third World Banana Republic, here we come!

Posted in American Empire, capitalism, corporations, homeless, life, politics, poverty, United States of America, US economy, US middle class, US military, US society, US working class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 3

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 17, 2013

Gay folks are just folk. For the most part, they just want to live and let live, and a surprising number of them are quite traditional and conservative. Witness the embrace of gay marriage by the gay community.

A former friend of mine continues to rant and rail against gays who’ve “betrayed” their “gayness.” For this faux friend, who’s bi and mired in bourgeois alcoholism, the pre-AIDS gay life of the 1970s was the height of liberation, and any acceptance or endorsement of “middle-class” marriage within a gay context is worse than betrayal. It’s blasphemy and abomination, in an anti-religious sense of course.

This is incredibly tiresome, coming from someone who professes to be a freedom loving, leave me alone libertarian type. But enough about him. There’s plenty to be critical of about the San Francisco gay community, without having to mention gay marriage. I mean, personally, and even though I think Gavin Newsom is a dick, I was kind of jazzed when he initiated gay marriage in San Francisco as the mayor. Let’s move on, though.


The somewhat innocuous attempt to name Bradley Manning Grand Marshall of the 2013 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade raised a shitstorm from a staid SF Pride Board that stalled, maneuvered, and ultimately overturned the nomination of Bradley Manning. The SF Gay Pride Parade is festooned with corporate sponsorship, from Budweiser to Wells Fargo, and this has given the event a decidedly conservative, pro-business atmosphere despite all the drunken nudity and Dykes On Bikes.

The Bradley Manning contingent was large and spirited. Daniel Ellsberg acted as a surrogate Bradley Manning Grand Marshall and waved to the crowds wearing a pink boa. But, to be frank, the overturning of Proposition 8 by the Supreme Court overshadowed everything else on that day. Chelsea Manning (nee Bradley) languishes in the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to this day, an American political prisoner and prisoner of conscience.


I stopped blogging on October 10, 2007 when, at the time, I wondered about the lack of a plan on the part of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to deal with the “threat” of the annual Castro Halloween street party. Well, it’s been six years, and the City and SFPD has successfully quashed that once vibrant, extremely large and rambunctious street celebration. People still dress up in costume and wander about the Castro, but the streets are no longer blocked off, the police are out in force, public drinking and nudity are severely dealt with, and the whole affair has become a sad relic of former glory days.

The gay community’s acquiescence to the City’s and SFPD’s efforts to bridle and tame this party should not go unmentioned. Indeed, this was a blow to the wild party spirit of San Francisco in general, from the aboveground nightlife of bars and clubs to the underground scene of shows and raves. Hanging out in the Castro on Halloween is only slightly naughtier than going out trick-or-treating with the kids. Oh well, such is life.

Posted in Bradley Manning, Castro Street, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Ellsberg, Gavin Newsom, gay, gay marriage, Halloween in the Castro, Halloween party, LGBT, life, political prisoner and prisoner of conscience, politics, San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I call bullshit!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 16, 2013

The Beltway budget melodrama rolls on to its predictable and dreary end, with both sides now split over increasingly small differences. None of this is worth a partial government shutdown, much less the risk of a debt default, and both sides are looking like losers. Let’s get it over with.

“The Debt Denouement,” Wall Street Journal, 10-15-13


I call mutherfucking bullshit!

This isn’t a matter of “everybody’s at fault here, let’s dole the blame out equally and move on.” One side, and one particularly tiny faction of one minority party is disproportionately at fault here. The fucking Tea Party loonies of the loser Republican Party, which capitulated to them, is to blame here. I’m no fan of the sad sack Democratic Party, which has its fair share of nutjobs. But the idiocy here cannot be evenly apportioned.

My wife watches the fictional TV drama “Hostages.” It’s a show about a shadowy cadre of heavily armed quasi-government spooks who attempt to force a famous surgeon to assassinate the president of the United States by proxy by taking her and her whole family hostage. Well, it turns out that the son is dealing pot, the daughter is having sex with a “bad boy” boyfriend, the husband is having an affair, yada, yada, yada. Everybody in the family has their dirty little secrets, and they’re all morally culpable to a degree. But they’re being held hostage, damnit! There’s no equivalency between the sordid lives of the family members who are being held hostage, and their thuggish, murderous hostage takers!

I’m making a no-holds-barred analogy to US politics here and now.


Posted in "Hostages", debt ceiling limit, Democratic Party, Democrats & Republicans, Federal Government, Federal government shutdown, government sequestration, hostage taking, John Boehner, politics, Republican Party, Tea Party | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let me make one thing perfectly clear…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 13, 2013

I’m a stone communist, on my best days. When I’m feeling idealistic I’m an anarchist, and when I’m feeling practical I’m a socialist. I’m a liberal when I’m depressed.

Recently, I started a series on my experiences in Paris while on vacation, and how this relates to living in San Francisco. If you’ve been paying attention, I’m NOT blogging anything about the current political mess in this country. That’s because US politics amounts to a steaming pile of dog shit, whether I’m feeling like a communist, anarchist, socialist, or liberal. I don’t want to spoil your appetite with a jpeg of that now, do I? You want my full-on commie pinko analysis of the current state of politics, in America or the world? I will occasionally break for a semi-relevant political post on this blog, but the really juicy stuff can be found on my other blog at “What’s Left?”

Posted in American Experience, anarchism, communism, liberalism, life, Paris, politics, San Francisco, socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 4 (Foreign policy, privatized)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 6, 2007

Here’s a reprint, in full, from the New York Times. You might be asked to subscribe if you click on the link. The accompanying graphic is excellent.


Foreign Policy, Privatized
Published: October 5, 2007

WHILE most Americans are aware of the controversy over the role of the private security company Blackwater in Iraq, probably few understand that armed contractors in Iraq are just the tip of an iceberg. Across the globe, in everything from diplomacy to development to intelligence, contractors are a major American presence, and only a small fraction of them carry weapons. American foreign policy, to a great extent, has been privatized.

The charts below, based on figures from the Federal Procurement Data System, tell the story. In 2005, federally financed contractors were working in every United Nations-recognized country except Bhutan, Nauru and San Marino.

It has become conventional wisdom to blame the Bush administration for the “hollowing out” of government, but this misses the mark. While contract spending has more than doubled since 2001, serious federal efforts to outsource began under President Bill Clinton.

Nor is contracting necessarily bad: United States money creates jobs for the local population, and humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, CARE and Catholic Relief Services have relied heavily on dollars from Washington. Outsourcing can play to America’s strengths, exploiting our capacity for innovation, flexibility and efficiency.

Yes, as we have seen in Iraq, hiring contractors can lead to severe problems with accountability and fraud. And while steps like making contractors liable for civil penalties may manage some symptoms, they will not cure the disease. We need to devise far better ways of overseeing contractors worldwide.

Some are tempted to turn back the clock and reassert traditional government authority, denouncing private-sector greed and the “coalition of the billing.” But that would be a terrible mistake, for outsourcing is in part a rational response to the new possibilities of the information age. The challenge will be to manage creative forms of collaboration between government and the private sector in ways that serve the public interest.

Allison Stanger, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, is writing a book on the privatization of American power. Omnivore is a graphic design firm in New York City.


Posted in Allison Stanger, Blackwater, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, New York Times, news, Omnivore, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, The privatization of foreign policy, US military | 3 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3.9 (Blackwater aids terrorists)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 22, 2007

In one of the more amazing stories to date, Blackwater is being investigated by Federal prosecutors for illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market and then wound up in the hands of terrorists. So, there’s a distinct possibility that, when Blackwater contractors are under attack in Iraq, they’re being fired upon with their own weapons. You can’t make this stuff up!

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater aids terrorists, Blackwater back at work, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, military contractors, military privatization, news, politics, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, terrorists, US military, weapons smuggling | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.7 (Business as usual)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 21, 2007

This should come as no surprise, but Blackwater is back at work in Iraq. The US government is allowing Blackwater operations “limited to essential missions only outside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.” This is being done in consultation with the Iraqi government, according to the BBC. Wonder who and how much the US had to bribe to get this deal?

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater back at work, Blackwater banned, Business as usual, Green Zone, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.5 (CIA shut down in Iraq)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 19, 2007

Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad—along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schools—have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as “the Green Zone,” in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.

So reads an article by Richard Miniter on Apparently, the CIA, State Department, and government contractors all rely on Blackwater for security.

“By jamming up Blackwater, they [the Iraqi government] shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press. 

Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, Pajamas Media, Pajamasmedia, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, State Department, US military | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.2 (Blackwater banned)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 18, 2007


The Iraqi government has suspended Blackwater’s license to operate, and demanded that the company leave the country, as a result of a firefight in which several civilians and a police officer were killed (story here). Blackwater contractors (read mercenaries) were protecting a convoy of US State Department officials when they supposedly came under attack and, according to the Iraqis, started firing indiscrimately at surrounding civilians. The Iraqi government has said it is considering prosecuting Blackwater employees for the deaths, and that it will review the status of all Private Security Firms in the country as a result of the incident. Here’s a profile of Blackwater from the BBC.


Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, US military | 2 Comments »

Mayor Josh Wolf?

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 7, 2007


Josh Wolf, the journalist who refused to hand over DVR outtakes of a 2005 anti-G8 riot in SF to a grand jury and was jailed for his efforts, announced on July 4 that he’s running for mayor. He attended the Progressive Convention last month and was apparently dismayed that no major SF progressive stepped forward to take on Gavin Newsom. Without further comment, here is his platform:

1) Open Government: As mayor I will wear a mounted streaming camera while working on all official business so that the public can take part in a truly open and transparent government. It may be possible that city codes dictate that certain meetings be confidential, in which case I will have a notice posted explaining why I am offline.

2) Crime: The homicide rate in San Francisco is out of control, and the Board’s plan for neighborhood policing is vital towards staving off this deplorable trend. I would like to adopt the Board’s plan and will work to expand it further to make foot patrols the dominant form of policing in the city and county of San Francisco.

3) Homelessness: There are far too many people in this city living without permanent shelter and something must be done to support these residents as they struggle to put their lives back together. As mayor I will work to develop a series of city beautification and beatification programs which will provide employment for those able to work. Unfortunately some significant portion of the homeless population is not physically or psychologically fit to join the work force, and I will be calling for the scores of homeless support organizations in San Francisco to join me and The City for a caucus to discuss how we can best work together to solve homelessness in San Francisco.

4) Public Transportation: Muni needs to be free for city residents, and I would like to see it free for visitors as well. I will look into passing on the additional cost to downtown business interests as well as exploring possible approaches towards taxing those who elect to use automobiles in The City. This could be done by establishing a fee for driving into the city or perhaps attaching fees to all vehicles registered within San Francisco.

5) Federal Funding: I will work to establish a ten-year plan to sever all federal funding from the city budget. While this is obviously an economically uncertain approach, the federal government’s money creates an unfortunate means for the Feds to intervene in all sorts of city business. My own incarceration is one such example, but far more pressing concerns include the mandates established under No Child Left Behind.

6) Gay Marriage: It is a shame that San Francisco is no longer offering marriage license’s to gay and lesbian couples. I propose that San Francisco look into offering a county marriage license to supplement the state documents The City now provides. Although the state of California refuses to support and honor gay marriage, the city and county of San Francisco should provide a way for people who love each other to formalize that love through marriage.

7) Medicinal Marijuana: The people of San Francisco have come out in support of medicinal marijuana in previous elections and it is of critical importance that The City continue to respect the voters’ wishes. San Francisco must make every effort to prevent Federal Law enforcement from interfering with state and local law and work to stop the harassment and intimidation of patients, their caregivers, and the dispensaries that serve our community.

8 ) Biking: I will partner with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to see that bike lanes are constructed on all major traffic thoroughfares.

9) Halloween: The annual Castro celebration has grown too large to safely accommodate the partygoers who gather each year. I will propose a plan to encourage every neighborhood that’s interested to host their own Halloween celebration. Doing so will decrease the massive crowds in the Castro and allow each neighborhood to develop an event that fits its own character. While this approach will certainly increase the demand on police resources I am convinced that it will actually result in safer and more enjoyable revelry for all.

10) Independence: As an avid supporter of a free and independent San Francisco, I will introduce a city ballot measure to provide an opportunity for the people of San Francisco to attain city sovereignty which I hope to derive from the ballot measure I helped draft three years ago. The residents of our city have united around at least three issues that are in direct contradiction with US policy (Iraq, gay marriage, and medical marijuana) and we should be given the opportunity to divorce ourselves from federal intervention on these and other issues of vital importance to our community.

His blog can be found here.

Posted in Gavin Newsom, Josh Wolf, politics, progressives, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco mayor | 1 Comment »

San Francisco Mime Troupe, LaborFest announcements

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 5, 2007


The San Francisco Mime Troupe always begins its new season on July 4. The schedule for the current play, “Making a Killing,” can be found here.

The LaborFest film series begins today. An annual labor cultural, film and arts festival, the schedule can be found here.

Posted in Labor Festival, Labor Films, LaborFest, life, Making a Killing, politics, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Mime Troupe | Leave a Comment »

Medea’s response to being pied

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 2, 2007

Medea’s response to being pied can be read here.

I find some of her statement, in particular the pop psychological stuff about the people who pied her being resentful and angry and not having the love of family and friends, to be a bit disingenuous. It’s a common ploy for defenders of the status quo to reduce youthful rebelliousness to a matter of hating one’s parents. Revolutionary socialism is thus dismissed as problems with authority that stem from the revolutionary’s family of origin, a smug Freudian put down that could apply to Medea as well as to those who pied her.

In turn, this is part of a broader critique of psychology and psychiatry as mechanisms to help fucked-up people fit into an even more fucked-up society. That’s the subject for a book, not a post. For the moment, I want to note that Medea’s dichotomy between resentment and anger on the one hand, and love and empowerment on the other hand, is extremely simplistic, and not very useful.

Or, to quote Johnny Lydon from the PiL song “Rise:” “Anger is an energy.”

Posted in anarchism, anarchists, Bakers Without Borders, black bloc, Code Pink, Global Exchange, Medea Benjamin, politics, revolutionary, socialism, the Left | 1 Comment »

You’ll get pie in the sky…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 1, 2007


Medea Benjamin got pied yesterday at the United States Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia by the Bakers Without Borders and Co-optation Watch.

From Global Exchange to Code Pink, Medea Benjamin impresses me as a grandstander who, as the Bakers correctly point, acts “as self-appointed spokesperson of the ‘American Left’.” Whether she should have been pied is a different matter.

The incident certainly brought something to my attention that has corrected a false impression I had of Medea. Her infamous quote from Seattle 1999 [“Here we are protecting Nike, McDonald’s, The Gap, and all the while I’m thinking, ‘Where are the police? These anarchists should have been arrested.’] left the impression that she wanted all the black bloc anarchists tossed into jail. Benjamin’s statement from Z Magazine, as quoted in the comments section to the pie throwing piece, is worth reprinting.

“There has been some controversy about a quote from me that appeared in the New York Times Dec. 2. The quotation implied that I was calling for the arrest of those people who destroyed property in downtown Seattle during the WTO protest. I want to make it clear that the quote was distorted, taken out of context, and not reflective my true feelings. I did not call for the arrest of anyone, though I did point out the irony that the police were attacking nonviolent protesters while ignoring those destroying property. Do I wish the people causing the damage had been arrested? No. Would I have helped to get them out of jail if they had been? Yes. And I certainly apologize if the statement attributed to me has caused any harm to the anarchist community in general. Do I approve of the tactics that this particular group of self-described anarchists used in Seattle Nov. 30? Definitely not. That, not the distorted quote, is the real issue here. There are certainly occasions in which the destruction of property furthers the cause of social justice and helps garner public support, but this was not one of them. The Boston Tea Party is an example of the destruction of property a shipment of tea. When the Zapatistas rose up in 1994, they destroyed army posts and other symbols of a repressive state. Members of the religious community in the United States have destroyed weapons of mass destruction to express their profound moral opposition to war. And forest activists have destroyed the engines of bulldozers to prevent the clear-cutting of old-growth forests. “The list of tactically thoughtful and politically principled property destruction goes on and on. What these acts have in common is that they were the result of a long process of working with and gaining the support of the affected community. This was not the case in Seattle.”

— Medea Benjamin, Z Magazine

Posted in anarchism, anarchists, Bakers Without Borders, black bloc, Code Pink, Global Exchange, Medea Benjamin, politics, Seattle 1999, United States Social Forum, USSF, Z Magazine | Leave a Comment »

Latest British bombing attempts

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 30, 2007

Here’s a rather well-done, not to mention on-the-spot analysis of the latest attempted bombings in Britain, which can be found here on the Guardian UK website.


New face of the bomber

Jason Burke analyses eight key issues already emerging from the attacks
Sunday July 1, 2007

1. Islamic militants are almost certainly responsible.
This will become finally clear when the identity of the men arrested at Glasgow airport becomes known. The police are still working on gathering images of the London attacks, but will hope the Scottish strike will lead them to any fugitive bombers.

2. The attacks are linked.
They are probably the work of the same loose network. The strike on Glasgow is unlikely to be the result of the pure ‘copycat effect’ for the simple reason that it takes longer than 36 hours to assemble in secrecy a car, petrol and gas canisters.

3. The bombs are amateurish.

We are a long way from the technologically advanced devices and the painstaking preparation work of 9/11, the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa, or even the 7 July attacks on London. This is good news, in that it means Islamic militants are short on expertise and find running sophisticated operations very difficult, not least due to public vigilance and the work of the security services. But it is bad news in that it means that the threat is coming from the people who are hardest to stop: ordinary citizens angry or disturbed enough to become radicalised. Terrorist organisations can have a highly trained, structured, disciplined body of very competent militants or a diffuse network of less skilled and less disciplined individuals, but not usually both. The former is more effective, the latter more resistant.

4. No suicide bombings.

The fact that the London attacks, at least, did not involve the death of the bomber points to a domestic source. Almost all strikes directly commissioned by the al-Qaeda ‘hard core’ of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri involve the death of the bombers. This change may be the result of a lack of long-term psychological preparation of the attackers.

5. Plots involve British citizens or immigrants who have spent some time in the UK.

However the cell behind the recent attacks could be heterogeneous: one emerging theme is a new mix of ethnicities and even languages within groups. The internet remains extremely important to the radicalisation process, with British security services desperately trying to track the moment when ‘the virtual goes real’. Following recent trends, the bombers are likely to be young (possibly in their late teens) and radicalised very rapidly.

6. Too much can be made of the ‘Iraq link’.

Yes, vehicle bombs with gas cans and petrol have been used extensively in Baghdad, but car bombs are hardly an innovation. There were massive vehicle-borne bombs in Pakistan in the Nineties, in Lebanon in the early Eighties – and of course in the UK.

7. Bands of brothers.

Though not yet identified – reports about a ‘clean image’ of one bomber were not correct – officials say there is a strong chance that anyone involved in last week’s events will be linked to other plots. Islamic militant terrorism works through personal associations, which means that everyone eventually has a connection to everyone if you follow enough links.

8. Message to the UK.

The attacks are something that say: what we are engaged in is far bigger than politics. This is about a battle between good and evil. The timescale is long, the cause is far greater than the arrival or departure of a Prime Minister or even a single war, even those in Iraq or Afghanistan. The threat will remain high for the foreseeable future.

Posted in bombings in Britain, Britain, car bomb, Guardian UK, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, Jason Burke, news, Observer, politics, Scotland, suicide bombing | Leave a Comment »