Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Power and Ideology

Mistake

Liberal filmmaker  Michael Moore infuriated some Vietnam veterans with his early May tweet that the U.S. should have national holiday on the date of the fall of Saigon, which should lead to  “a commitment to never make same mistake again.”

“Mistake” is a common shorthand used by liberals to refer to the U.S. destruction in Indochina—Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  Even veteran and antiwar critic John Kerry at the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit asked this question, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Was the My Lai massacre a mistake? Was Operation Speedy Express likewise?

Was U.S. torture of the Viet Cong  (a broad category) a miscalculation?

Were the 20 million bomb craters just one mistake after another? Read the rest of this entry »

US Subversion of Free Elections

In early November 1989, the Bush Administration brought the US candidate Violeta Chamorro to Washington for some publicity. President Bush promised “to lift the trade embargo and assist in Nicaragua’s reconstruction” if Chamorro won the election, the White House announced.

It took no great genius to perceive that the US would continue to torture Nicaragua, with elite support across the spectrum, until it restored US clients to power. This renewed display of the traditional fear and contempt for democracy among US elites, which reached new peaks in the 1980s, could hardly be understood in respectable circles here, however. There was much discussion over proposals to send aid to the opposition or to involve the CIA in covert operations. In comparison with the actual and virtually unchallenged US actions designed to subvert free elections in Nicaragua, these questions are trivialities.

–Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy

 

photo by Mev Puleo

 

Share the Wealth with Tony Albrecht–Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Trump

During this time when Trump is on the tip of so many American tongues, I’m preparing for an unusually political Share the Wealth. Our conversation this Sunday will not, however, traverse the usual spectrum between liberal and conservative. No talk of Hillary’s emails. No talk about Mr. Trump’s…take your pick.

We will instead dive right into the deep end of the political pool and discuss why the Trump administration could pose an existential threat to our Republic based on their utter disregard for American values that transcend partisan politics, things like the freedom of the press and the separation of powers.

We will discuss what President Trump (and his administration) have done to compel citizens to protest in unprecedented ways. We will talk about how President Trump could realistically be removed from office well before the 2020 election, as impeachment is a topic I’ve become very interested in recently. And most importantly, I’ll share ideas for how you could help make impeachment happen AND engage in a little bit of activism (through writing) with the potential to have a big impact.

Join us for a delicious potluck supper followed by a robust discussion. Perspectives from across the political spectrum are most welcome.

Tony Albrecht is a lawyer and social entrepreneur who recently started Get Out of Our House, a campaign setting out to rally citizens around the single demand that President Trump and his administration be removed from office during 2017. He currently resides in Toronto with his wife Sawil but has returned to St. Louis to engage in the Resistance.

Join us
Sunday 5 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 pm
Tony begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Jessie and Savannah
714 Limit Avenue
Apartment #1N
Saint Louis, M0 63130

get-out-of-house

Know Thyself

There are many intellectuals who call the world into question, but there are very few intellectuals who call the intellectual world into question.

–Pierre Bourdieu,  Sketch for a Self-Analysis Read the rest of this entry »

Elie Wiesel and Worthy Remembrance

See, Wiesel has often made this claim quite explicit:  I am above politics, my message is so precious and pure it cannot afford to be sullied by compromise. Such is the transcendent dignity of the murdered Jews of whom I am their delegate and spokesman.  My task is to show, au contraire,  how and why he’s (unconsciously?) political, that is to say, not as independent as he thinks he is, not as distant and detached and free from the determinations of the “political” as he would like to think.  For to reap the symbolic profits that he has himself reaped, he has had to cover a lot of distance in the move from a space of  relative in cognito to one of major publicity and prestige.  And yet, I need to attend to the subtleties involved in his case, because he is often quite deliberately political in the case of Sanctuary for example, even if he in the same case contradicts himself.

Another issue worth investigating  is whether by his own efforts, Wiesel has assisted in the process of transforming the Holocaust from a perennial warning to a political fashion statement [which affords him plenty of symbolic profits, and which he himself already denied in his memoir about “capital”]. Read the rest of this entry »

Authors for Reading Alongside Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
—Franz Kafka, Letters 

Though for us it’s absurd to cut our brother’s head off only because he’s become our brother and grace has descended upon him, still, I repeat, we have our own ways, which are almost as good. We have our historical, direct, and intimate delight in the torture of beating. Nekrasov has a poem describing a peasant flogging a horse on its eyes with a knout, ‘on its meek eyes.’ We’ve all seen that; that is Russianism. He describes a weak nag, harnessed with too heavy a load, that gets stuck in the mud with her cart and is unable to pull it out. The peasant beats her, beats her savagely, beats her finally not knowing what he’s doing; drunk with beating, he flogs her painfully, repeatedly: ‘Pull, though you have no strength, pull, though you die! ‘ The little nag strains, and now he begins flogging her, flogging the defenseless creature on her weeping, her ‘meek eyes.’ Beside herself, she strains and pulls the cart out, trembling all over, not breathing, moving somehow sideways, with a sort of skipping motion, somehow unnaturally and shamefully—it’s horrible in Nekrasov. But that’s only a horse; God gave us horses so that we could flog them.
—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

There [Communist bloc] nothing goes and everything matters; here [USA] everything goes and nothing matters.
—Philip Roth, Shop Talk Read the rest of this entry »

McNamara and Co./1

In his 1995 book, In Retrospect
Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
[translation: former Secretary of Aggression)
Made an apology to the American public

For the harms brought to the country
Because of his unwillingness
To ruffle the feathers of his superiors
By saying that there was no way to win the war

But as to any message
To the Vietnamese people
Who were slaughtered year after year
Not a word

The Empire’s officials
Never pay reparations
Never are subjected to criminal courts
Never admit guilt

Contemporary example: GWB
Launched aggression against Iraq in 2003
Now he receives $100,000 for a talk
As he walks about  a free man

–novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

Trump Trumpets His Real Plans by Ralph Nader

I receive regular emails from Ralph Nader, and want to share today’s correspondence.   He’s been fighting injustice and serving as a consumer advocate in this country for over fifty years.

 

Even for a failed gambling czar, Donald Trump has been surprisingly quick to show his hand as he sets the course of his forthcoming presidency. With a reactionary fervor, he is bursting backwards into the future. He has accomplished this feat through the first wave of nominations to his Cabinet and White House staff.

Only if there is a superlative to the word “nightmare” can the dictionary provide a description of his bizarre selection of men and women marinated either in corporatism or militarism, with strains of racism, class cruelty and ideological rigidity. Many of Mr. Trump’s nominees lack an appreciation of the awesome responsibilities of public office.

Let’s run through Trump’s “picks”:

First there are the selections that will make it easier to co-opt the Republicans in Congress. He has appointed Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for Secretary of Transportation. Ms. Chao does not like regulation of big business, such as those for auto, aviation, railroad and pipeline safety. Next is Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price wants to dump Obamacare, turn over control of Medicaid to the states – including Governors who dislike Medicaid – and even privatize (eg. corporatize) Medicare itself into the hands of the business sector already defrauding just that program by about $60 billion a year.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Crime of Cuba

The following comes from a 1990 discussion among U.S. and Canadian activists with Noam Chomsky. It may provide food for thought given the current focus on Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro.

 

Look, the real crime of Cuba was never the repression, which, whatever you think about it, doesn’t even come close to the kind of repression we have traditionally supported, and in fact implemented in nearby countries: not even close. The real crime of Cuba was the successes, in terms of things like health care and feeding people, and the general threat of a “demonstration effect” that follows from that–that is, the threat that people in other countries might try to do the same things. That’s what they call a rotten apple that might spoil the barrel, or a virus that might infect the region–and then our whole imperial system begins to fall apart. I mean, for thirty years, Cuba has been doing things which are simply intolerable–such as sending tens of thousands of doctors to support suffering people around the Third World, or developing biotechnology in a poor country with no options, or having healths services roughly at the level of the advanced countries and way out of line with the rest of Latin America. These things are not tolerable to American power–they’d be intolerable anywhere in the Third World and they’re multiply intolerable in a country which is expected to be a U.S. colony. That’s Cuba’s real crime.

Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, edited by Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel.

Chomsky on Central America, 1985

Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America& the Struggle for Peace, South End Press, 1985

The real victims of “America’s agony” are millions of suffering and tormented people throughout much of the Third World.  Our highly refined ideological  institutions protect us from seeing their plight and our role in maintaining it, except sporadically.  If we had the honesty and moral courage, we would not let a day pass without hearing the cries of the victims. We would turn on the radio in the morning and listen to the voices  of the people who escaped the massacres in Quiché province  and the Guazapa mountains, and the daily press would carry front-page pictures of children dying of malnutrition and disease in the countries where order reigns and crops and beef are exported to the American market, with an explanation of why this is so.  We would listen to the extensive and detailed record of terror and torture in our dependencies compiled by Amnesty International, Americas Watch, Survival International, and other human rights organizations.  But we successfully insulate ourselves from this grim reality.  By so doing, we sink to a level of moral depravity that has few counterparts in the modern world….

This 1985 analysis was quite important for me; in fact, it precipitated an intellectual conversion, as it provided a coherent view of the political world in light of my experiences with Sanctuary, Witness for Peace, and the Pledge of Resistance. Read the rest of this entry »