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A Thousand Words April 25, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Political Commentary.
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Roger’s note: This photo taken at a BBQ in 1983 shows these Three Amigos: racist Alabama governor George Wallace; point man for the MIC and CIA, G.W.H. Bush; and future President and destroyer of what little was left of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton.  Notice the smirk on Clinton’s face and the all around bonhomie.  They’re having a great time (at whose expense?).  It’s all one big happy family of Republicrats, united to screw ordinary Americans and the peoples of nations around the globe.  American democracy in action.  Eat up!

 

kg0zfzz

Here we see Bill having a belly-splitting laugh with his good friend and mentor, Egyptian Dictator Mubarak:

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IDLE NO MORE ~ One Heartbeat Across Turtle Island, Friday 21 December 2012 Everywhere ~ And that’s just the tip of the drum. December 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/idle-no-more-one-heartbeat-across-turtle-island-friday-21-december-2012-everywhere-and-thats-just-the-tip-of-the-drum/

December 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm (Uncategorized,

Okay folks, Idle No More’s site has been very busy –and this morning it’s clear why. There’s a lot going on and more on the  docket. You’ve got to be quick.  So instead of my yapping about all the information, C-45, protests, solidarity actions and the huge issues for Canada’s First Nations AND the Earth, I’m providing a link to their very informative blog for all interested parties to visit and share widely. According to recent posting on the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Online Reporter blog thousands are expected for rally protest in Ottawa this Friday! http://www.ienearth.org/blog/2012/12/thousands-expected-at-ottawa-protest-on-friday/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IenOnlineReporter+%28IEN+Online+Reporter%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail

For much more Idle No More  information  and a  list of events on Dec. 20, 21 and beyond- visit:

http://idlenomore1.blogspot.com/

Idle No More was formed by Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean to oppose C-45 and other Canadian legislation (in violation of treaties)  that will adversely affect the environment and Indigenous people.

Mission Statement”

Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth. On December 10th,  Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous  sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All  people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.

O Canada!

Hey Harper!

One thing everyone everywhere can participate in is the Heartbeat Across Turtle Island event at Noon on Friday 21 December 2012.  Any form of “drum” will suffice wherever you are on this beautiful blue and green planet. http://www.idlenomore1.blogspot.com/2012/12/one-heartbeat-across-turtle-island.html

Idle No More is heating up on Facebook fast!

Methinks the tipping point has arrived.

“Don’t shit on me” February 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Political Commentary.
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I COULD GIVE YOU MY IDEA OF WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT; BUT, IN HONOR OF THE NOTION THAT A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS; I WILL LEAVE IT TO YOU TO ENJOY THINKING ABOUT HOW RELEVANT A MESSAGE THIS CARTOON HOLDS.

Would We Be Better Off If John McCain Were President? August 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain.
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Roger’s note: for those of us who vote the “lesser of evils,” here is a cogent and fascinating argument.  Should it be McCain and not Obama who is selling out wholesale to the military-industrial complex, warring incessantly abroad and helping the rich get richer and the poor poorer at home, not only would the hypocritical Democratic Party be taking up indignant opposition, but, more importantly, there would be massive protests in the street (which is the only effective antidote to Imperial America).
AlterNet /Fred Branfman

Presidents serve the institutional interests of the
corporations behind them. A President McCain may have at least triggered a true
progressive fight.

July 17, 2011  |

Beth Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Beth Rankin / Flickr
The following piece first appeared on Truthdig.

Democrats were united on one issue in the 2008 presidential election: the
absolute disaster that a John McCain victory would have produced.

And they were right. McCain as president would clearly have produced a long
string of catastrophes: He would probably have approved a failed troop surge in
Afghanistan, engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination, destabilized nuclear-armed
Pakistan, failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table, expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to
expand executive branch power, failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed both nuclear energy and opened new
areas to domestic oil drilling, failed to reform the financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported an extension of the
Bush tax cuts for the rich, presided over a growing divide between rich and poor, and failed to lower the jobless rate.

Nothing reveals the true state of American politics today more than the fact
that Democratic President Barack Obama has undertaken all of these actions, and
even more significantly, left the Democratic Party far weaker than it would have
been had McCain been elected. Few issues are more important than seeing behind
the screen of a myth-making mass media, and understanding what this demonstrates
about how power in America really works—and what needs to be done to change
it.

First and foremost, McCain would have undoubtedly selected as treasury
secretary an individual nominated by Wall Street—which has a stranglehold on the
economy due to its enjoying 30 to 40 percent of all corporate profits. If he
didn’t select Tim Geithner, a reliable servant of financial interests whose
nomination might have allowed McCain to trumpet his “maverick” credentials,
whoever he did select would clearly have also moved to bail out the financial
institutions and allow them to water down needed financial reforms.

Ditto for the head of his National Economic Council. Although appointing
Larry Summers might have been a bit of a stretch, despite his yeoman work in destroying financial regulation—thus enriching
his old boss Robert Rubin and helping cause the Crash of 2008—McCain could
easily have found a Jack Kemp-like Republican “supply-sider” who would have
duplicated Summers’ signal achievement of expanding the deficit to the highest
levels since 1950 (though perhaps with a slightly higher percentage of tax cuts
than the Obama stimulus). The economy would have continued to sputter along,
with growth rates and joblessness levels little different from today’s, and
possibly even worse.

But McCain’s election would have produced a major political difference: It
would have increased Democratic clout in the House and Senate. First off, there
would have been no Tea Party, no “don’t raise the debt limit unless we gut the
poor,” no “death panel” myth, no “Obama Youth” nonsense. Although there would
have been plenty of criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the fact remains
that McCain, a Republican war hero, would never have excited the Tea Party
animus as did the “Secret-Muslim Kenyan-Born Big-Government Fascist White-Hating
Antichrist” Obama. Glenn Beck would have remained a crazed nonentity and been
dropped far sooner by Fox News than he was. And Vice President Sarah Palin,
despised by both McCain and his tough White House staff, would have been
deprived of any real power and likely tightly muzzled against criticizing
McCain’s relatively centrist (compared to her positions) policies.

Voters would almost certainly have increased Democratic control of the House
and Senate in 2010, since the Republicans would have been seen as responsible
for the weak U.S. economy. Democrats might even have achieved the long-desired
60 percent majority needed to kill the filibuster in one or both houses.

Democratic control of the House and Senate fostered by disastrous Republican
policies would have severely limited McCain’s ability (as occurred with George
W. Bush) to weaken Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance
and other programs that aid those most in need. (Yes, domestic spending might
have been cut less if McCain had won.)

Had McCain proposed “health insurance reform,” because health insurers saw a
golden opportunity to increase their customer base and profits while retaining
their control, the Democrats would at least have passed a “public option” as
their price for support. And possible Health and Human Services Secretary Newt
Gingrich—placed in that position in a clever move to keep him away from economic
or foreign policy—might have even accelerated needed improvements in
computerizing patient records and other high-tech measures needed to cut health
care costs, actions that he touted in his book on the subject.

In foreign and military policy, McCain would surely have approved Gen. David
Petraeus’ “Afghanistan surge,” possibly increasing the number of U.S. troops
there by 40,000 instead of 33,500. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal would probably
have remained at the helm in Afghanistan, since he and his aides would never
have disparaged McCain to Rolling Stone. McChrystal
might have continued a “counterinsurgency” strategy, observing relatively strict
rules of engagement, unlike his successor, Petraeus, who tore up those rules and
has instead unleashed a brutal cycle of “counterterror” violence in southern
Afghanistan. (Yes, far fewer Afghan civilians might have died had McCain
won.)

McCain, like Obama, would probably have destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan
and strengthened militant forces there by expanding drone strikes and pushing
the Pakistani military to launch disastrous offensives into tribal areas. And he
would have given as much support as has Obama to Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu’s opposition to a peace deal because he believes that present policies
of strangling Gaza, annexing East Jerusalem, expanding West Bank settlements and
walling off Palestinians are succeeding. (It is possible that a McCain secretary
of state might not have incited violence against unarmed American citizens—as
did Hillary Clinton when she stated that Israelis, who
killed nine unarmed members of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, “have the right to defend
themselves” against letter-carrying 2011 Gaza flotilla members.)

While McCain would have wanted to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan
until 2014, he might have been forced to reduce their numbers, as has Obama. For
McCain would have faced a strengthened and emboldened Democratic Congress, which
might have seen electoral gold in responding to polls indicating the public had
turned against the Afghanistan War—as well as a far stronger peace movement
united against Republicans instead of divided as it now is between the desires
for peace and seeing an Obama win in 2012.

Most significantly, if McCain had won, not only would Democrats be looking at
a Democratic landslide in the 2012 presidential race, but the newly elected
Democratic president in 2013 might enjoy both a 60 percent or higher majority in
both houses and a clear public understanding that it was Republican policies
that had sunk the economy. He or she might thus be far better positioned to
enact substantive reforms than was Obama in 2008, or will Obama even if he is
re-elected in 2012.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March 1933 after a 42-month
Depression blamed entirely on the Republicans. Although he had campaigned as a
moderate, objective conditions both convinced him of the need for fundamental
change—creating a safety net including Social Security, strict financial
regulation, programs to create jobs, etc.—and gave him the congressional
pluralities he needed to achieve them. A Democratic president taking office in
2013 after 12 years of disastrous Republican economic misrule might well have
been likewise pushed and enabled by objective events to create substantive
change.

Furious debate rages among Obama’s Democratic critics today on why he has
largely governed on the big issues as John McCain would have done. Some believe
he retains his principles but has been forced to compromise by political
realities. Others are convinced he was a manipulative politico who lacked any
real convictions in the first place.

But there is a far more likely—and disturbing—possibility. Based on those who
knew him and his books, there is little reason to doubt that the
pre-presidential Obama was a college professor-type who shared the belief system
of his liberalish set: that ending climate change and reducing nuclear weapons
were worthy goals, that it was important to “reset” U.S. policy toward the
Muslim world, that torture and assassination were bad things, that
Canadian-style single-payer health insurance made sense, that whistle-blowing
and freedom of the press should be protected, Congress should have a say in
whether the executive puts the nation into war, and that government should
support community development and empowering poor communities.

Upon taking office, however, Obama—whatever his belief system at that
point—found that he was unable to accomplish these goals for one basic reason:
The president of the United States is far less powerful than media myth
portrays. Domestic power really is in the hands of economic elites and their
lobbyists, and foreign policy really is controlled by U.S. executive branch
national security managers and a “military-industrial complex.” If a president
supports their interests, as did Bush in invading Iraq, he or she can do a lot
of damage. But, absent a crisis, a president who opposes these elites—as Obama
discovered when he tried in the fall of 2009 to get the military to offer him an
alternative to an Afghanistan troop surge—is relatively powerless.

Whether a Ronald Reagan expanding government and running large deficits in
the 1980s despite his stated belief that government was the problem, or a Bill
Clinton imposing a neoliberal regime impoverishing hundreds of millions in the
Third World in the 1990s despite his rhetorical support for helping the poor,
anyone who becomes president has little choice but to serve the institutional
interests of a profoundly amoral and violent executive branch and the
corporations behind them.

The U.S. executive branch functions to promote its version of U.S. economic
and geopolitical interests abroad—including engaging in massive violence which
has killed, wounded or made homeless more than 21 million people in Indochina
and Iraq combined. And it functions at home to maximize the interests of the
corporations and individuals who fund political campaigns—today supported by a
U.S. Supreme Court whose politicized decision to expand corporations’ control
over elections has made a mockery of the very notion of “checks and balances.”
The executive branch’s power extends to the mass media, most of whose
journalists are dependent on executive information leaks and paychecks from
increasingly concentrated media corporations. They thus serve executive power
far more than they challenge it.

No one more demonstrates what happens to a human being who joins the
executive branch than Hillary Clinton, a former peace movement supporter whose
1969 Wellesley commencement address stated that “our prevailing, acquisitive, and
competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for
more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living”; praised “a lot of the
New Left [that] harkens back to a lot of the old virtues”; and decried “the
hollow men of anger and bitterness, the bountiful ladies of righteous
degradation, all must be left to a bygone age.” Clinton the individual served on
the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, promoted helping the poor at home and
Third World women abroad and at one point was even often compared to Eleanor
Roosevelt.

Although her transformation began once she decided to try to become
president, it became most visible after she joined the executive branch as
secretary of state. The former peace advocate has now become a major advocate
for war-making, a scourge of whistle-blowers and a facilitator of Israeli
violence.

But while rich and powerful elites have always ruled in America, their power
has periodically been successfully challenged at times of national crisis: the
Civil War, the Progressive era, the Depression. America is clearly headed for
such a moment in the coming decade, as its economy continues to decline due to a
parasitic Wall Street, mounting debt, strong economic competitors, overspending
on the military, waste in the private health care sector and elites declaring
class war against a majority of Americans.

Naomi Klein has written penetratingly of Disaster Capitalism, which
occurs when financial and corporate elites benefit from the economic crises they
cause. But the reverse has also often proved true: a kind of “Disaster
Progressivism” often occurs when self-interested elites cause so much suffering
that policies favoring democracy and the majority become possible.

The United States will clearly face such a crisis in the coming decade. It is
understandable that many Americans will want to focus on re-electing Obama in
2012. Although Democrats and the country would have been better off if McCain
had won in 2008, this is not necessarily true if a Republican wins in
2012—especially if the GOP nominates Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

But however important the 2012 election, far more energy needs to be devoted
to building mass organizations that challenge elite power and develop the kinds
of policies—including massive investment in a “clean energy economic
revolution,” a carbon tax and other tough measures to stave off climate change,
regulating and breaking up the financial sector, cost-effective entitlements
like single-payer health insurance, and public financing of primary and general
elections—which alone can save America and its democracy in the painful decade
to come.

Fred Branfman’s writing has been published in
the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and other
publications. He is the author of several books on the Indochina War.

Omar Khadr’s Torture by Canadians at Guantanamo October 31, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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http://www.youdontlikethetruth.com/?lang=En&page=Trailer

“You don’t like the truth: 4 days inside Guantanamo.”  The most powerful and disturbing documentary I have ever seen over my 50 some odd years of political involvement.

I cannot tell you how painful it was to watch for over an hour as a Canadian CSIS officer systematically applied psychological torture to this 16 year old child.

If you are a Canadian, you will feel a profound shame (the Canadian Supreme Court found that the interrogation was a violation of the child’s rights, but didn’t order the government to do anything about it).  If you are a human being with an ounce of humanity …

The documentary, using the video of the four days of interrogation, shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the child was innocent of the charge against him.  It shows him (who already had been brutally tortured by the Americans) virtually destroyed emotionally over the persistent hectoring of his interrogator and yet, in the end, having more courage and decency than his monster of an adversary (a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing).

There is much more I could say, and maybe I will add another post once I calm down.  If you want to know the truth about this disgusting travesty of justice, try to find a way to see this documentary, or at least view the trailer whose link is at the top of this post.  The documentary’s home page is http://www.youdontlikethetruth.com/?lang=En&page=Home

Roger Hollander, October 31, 2010

It doesn’t take an Einstein … or does it? May 27, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Socialism.
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“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Why Socialism?
by Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service

Albert Einstein, Radical:
A Political Profile

by John J. Simon

2005 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein and the centennial of the publication of five of his major scientific papers that transformed the study of physics. Einstein’s insights were so revolutionary that they challenged not only established doctrine in the natural sciences, but even altered the way ordinary people saw their world. By the 1920s he had achieved international popular renown on a scale that would not become usual until the rise of the contemporary celebrity saturated tabloids and cable news channels. His recondite scientific papers as well as interviews with the popular press were front page news and fodder for the newsreels. Usually absent, however, was any sober discussion of his participation in the political life of his times as an outspoken radical—especially in profiles and biographies after his death.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, into a liberal, secular, and bourgeois German Jewish family. Young Albert’s childhood and early adolescence does not seem to have been out of the ordinary. Like many late nineteenth century young men, he was curious, read Darwin, and was interested in the material, that is the natural, world and wished to fathom “the arcana of nature, so as to discern ‘the law within the law.’”

In 1895, Einstein, aged sixteen, renounced his German citizenship and moved to Switzerland. His main reason was to avoid military service and also to complete his education at Zurich’s Polytechnic Institute. There he eventually earned his Ph.D. in a climate relatively free of the anti-Semitism that pervaded German and Austrian universities. But Zurich had other rewards. Einstein spent much time at the Odeon Café, a hangout for Russian radicals, including Alexandra Kollontai, Leon Trotsky, and, a few years later, Lenin. Einstein admitted to spending much time at the Odeon, even missing classes to participate in the coffee shop’s intoxicating political debates.

Unable to find an academic job, Einstein went to work in 1902 in the Swiss patent office in Berne. It was there in 1905 that he had his annus mirabilus, publishing articles on the special theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and Brownian motion. In 1914 he was offered and accepted a full professorship in Berlin. Fred Jerome, author of The Einstein File,* notes that the job offer was probably a result of a bidding competition among universities in Britain, France, and Germany looking for scientific and technological talent to abet their respective governments’ imperial objectives. Unfortunately, Einstein took up his post just as the First World War broke out with Germany among the chief belligerents.

Einstein opposed the war, putting him at odds with the German Social Democrats to whom he had been previously sympathetic, instead aligning himself with the party’s minority who saw the war as a dispute among the ruling classes of the belligerents. Einstein also found himself in disagreement with most of his scientific colleagues. Max Planck, then a physicist of roughly equivalent stature to Einstein, and nearly a hundred other scientists signed a supernationalist “Manifesto to the Civilized World,” endorsing Germany’s war aims in language that prefigured the Nazi rants of a generation later, rationalizing the war as justifiable resistance to “Russian hordes,” “Mongols,” and “Negroes” who had been “unleashed against the white race.” Einstein and only three others replied in a document suppressed at the time by the German government, describing the behavior of the scientists (sadly joined by numerous writers and artists) as shameful. At least one of the signatories of the reply was jailed. Einstein was not; it was the first instance of the power of his newly acquired celebrity not only to protect himself, but to allow him to speak out when others couldn’t.

In the turbulent aftermath of the war Einstein continued to speak out. Famously, on the day Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated—it was during a fortnight that saw not only the armistice, but the fall of seven other European monarchies, all replaced, for the moment, by liberal and socialist regimes—Einstein posted a sign on his classroom’s door that read “CLASS CANCELLED—REVOLUTION.” He had joined with and defended liberal and radical students and colleagues for their wartime opposition; now he was with them in their postwar resistance to the burgeoning revanchist militarism that would quickly morph into Nazism.

Einstein’s visibility made him a focus of the revival of virulent anti-Semitism. His work on relativity was denounced as a “Jewish perversion” not only by far right-wing politicians, but even by fellow German scientists. Einstein was by now an illustrious international figure. In 1921 he received the Nobel Prize for Physics for work on the photo-electric effect, which demonstrated the quantum nature of light. He was also a visible presence in the cultural and social life of the Weimar Republic. At the same time, Einstein became increasingly outspoken in his political views. Opposing the mounting racist and jingoist violence and ultranationalism in Germany in the 1920s, he worked for European unity and supported organizations seeking to protect Jews against growing anti-Semitic violence. His egalitarian streak was irrepressible: confronting rising course fees poorer students couldn’t afford, Einstein routinely offered free after-hours physics classes. As the European economic and political crises grew more acute, Einstein increasingly used platforms at scientific conferences to address political questions. “He had no problem,” Jerome notes, “discussing relativity at a university lecture in the morning, and, on that same evening, urging young people to refuse military service.”

By 1930 Hitler’s National Socialist party was poised to become the dominant political force in Germany and Einstein, while still vocal at home, more and more found himself looking abroad for congenial outlets for both his scientific and political expression. He lectured in Britain, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe and, from 1930 on, annually as a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology. On January 30, 1933, the Nazis seized power and confiscated Einstein’s Berlin property. In May, Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, organized a public book burning, prominently featuring Einstein’s work; photos of the atrocity were published worldwide. Following the offer of a large cash bounty for his murder in Nazi newspapers, Einstein was forced to complete a speaking tour in the Netherlands with the protection of bodyguards. That winter, while at Cal Tech, he and his family decided not to return to Berlin. Instead he accepted a lifetime appointment from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, settling into a modest house on Mercer Street.

There, while trying to orient himself to his new country, Einstein worked doggedly on his Unified Field Theory, an attempt to demonstrate that electromagnetism and gravity were different manifestations of a single fundamental phenomenon. It would be his main scientific concern for the rest of his life and remains one that continues to animate contemporary physics and cosmology.

In the years before he was granted U.S. citizenship in 1940, Einstein’s political concerns were focused on the depredations of Nazi anti-Semitism and the rise of fascism. Once again, making use of his renown, he petitioned the government to allow refugees to migrate to the United States, but to no avail. He then joined with other European intellectuals to ask Eleanor Roosevelt to intervene with her husband, but the result was the same. This was not Einstein’s first conflict with FDR’s administration. He vigorously and publicly supported the anti-Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War. While the Nazi Luftwaffe bombed Spanish villages, the United States, along with Britain and France, enforced a phony “neutrality” embargo, denying Republican troops needed munitions. Despite organized demonstrations and appeals to which Einstein lent his name, the blockade was never lifted and the fascist regime imposed on Spain survived (with postwar U.S. aid) for nearly four decades. Nearly 3,000 American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade defied their government to fight with the Republic, with Einstein an early and zealous supporter.

In 1939, at the urging of the physicist and fellow refugee from the Nazis, Leo Szilard, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt to warn about German advances in nuclear research and the prospect that they might develop an atomic weapon. The letter led to the U.S. effort to build such a bomb. It remains Einstein’s most remembered public act. However, a combination of government fear of Einstein’s radicalism and his own reluctance kept Einstein from having any role in the Manhattan Project.

After the war, Einstein protested the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fred Jerome cites a 1946 interview with the London Sunday Express, in which Einstein “blamed the atomic bombing of Japan on [President] Truman’s anti-Soviet foreign policy” and expressed the opinion that “if FDR had lived through the war, Hiroshima would never have been bombed.” Jerome notes that the interview was immediately added to Einstein’s growing FBI file.

The early postwar years were marked by a manipulated anticommunist frenzy in government and business circles to support U.S. international and domestic goals. Manhattan Project scientists, who had earlier debated the use of the bomb in the months between Germany’s defeat in May 1945 and the Hiroshima bombing in August, were well versed in the issues the bomb raised. Many feared a nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. To lobby against that prospect, they founded the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists (ECAS), which Einstein agreed to chair. In that role, Einstein sought first to try to meet with Secretary of State George C. Marshall to discuss what he saw as the militarist expansion of U.S. power. He was rebuffed, but in an interview with a mid-level Atomic Energy Commission official he described Truman’s foreign policy as anti-Soviet expansionism—Pax Americana were the words he used to describe what he saw as U.S. imperial ambition. There was a substantial public response to ECAS’s antinuclear message, but, in the end, the group was unable to reach its goal of removing atomic development from the military and placing it under international control.

Another major political concern of Einstein in the 1940s was the persistence of racism, segregation, lynching, and other manifestations of white supremacy in the United States. During the war, the country had been mobilized to support the war effort, both on the battlefield and the home front with the promise of equality. In fact, however, the official message on racial justice was, at best, mixed. FDR set up a Fair Employment Practices Committee, an entity with much promise but with little power to affect discrimination in the work place. And the eleven million member-strong military remained segregated. In the aftermath of the war, economic dislocations, job shifts, and housing shortages were all dealt with in the usual Jim Crow manner: in the words of Leadbelly’s song “if you’re black, get back, get back, get back.”

The town of Princeton, New Jersey, where Einstein lived (and for that matter, its university), though only a short drive from New York, might well have been in the old southern Confederacy. Paul Robeson, who was born in Princeton, called it a “Georgia plantation town.” Access to housing, jobs, and the university itself (once led by the segregationist Woodrow Wilson) were routinely denied to African Americans; protest or defiance were often met with police violence. Einstein, who had witnessed similar scenes in Germany and who, in any event was a longtime anti-racism militant, reacted against every outrage. In 1937, when the contralto Marion Anderson gave a critically acclaimed concert in Princeton but was denied lodging at the segregated Nassau Inn, Einstein, who had attended the performance, instantly invited her to stay at his house. She did so, and continued to be his guest whenever she sang in New Jersey, even after the hotel was integrated.

In 1946, in the face of a major nationwide wave of lynching, Paul Robeson invited Einstein to join him as co-chair of the American Crusade to End Lynching. The group, which also included W. E. B. Du Bois and others in the civil rights movement, held a rally in Washington at which Einstein was scheduled to speak. Illness prevented that, but he wrote a letter to President Truman calling for prosecution of lynchers, passage of a federal anti-lynching law, and the ouster of racist Mississippi Senator Theodore G. Bilbo. The letter was delivered by Robeson, but the meeting was cut short when he told Truman that if the government would not protect blacks they would have to do so themselves. An uproar followed, but Einstein, in his letter, agreed with Robeson, writing, “There is always a way to overcome legal obstacles whenever there is an inflexible will at work in the service of a just cause.”

Einstein was willing to use his fame on behalf of social justice, but steadfastly refused to accept honors his celebrity might have brought his way. There was one exception, however. In May 1946, Horace Mann Bond, president of Lincoln University, a historically black institution in Pennsylvania, awarded the scientist an honorary degree. Einstein, accepted, spending the day lecturing to undergraduates and talking, even playing, with faculty children. One of them was Julian Bond, then the young son of the university’s president, who later went on to be a leader in the civil rights movement and is now chair of the NAACP. The press ignored the event, but, in his address Einstein said, “The social outlook of Americans…their sense of equality and human dignity is limited to men of white skins. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape complicity in it only by speaking out.”

That impulse to political commitment led Einstein to take action on both the domestic crisis in race relations and the simultaneous Cold War-fostered nuclear menace. It also led him to support the new Progressive Party along with his old compatriot Thomas Mann and his friend and neighbor Ben Shahn—famed for his paintings on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, among many others with political themes. The party, formed by the left wing of Roosevelt’s old New Deal coalition, including radicals, socialists, and communists, was established as a vehicle to run former vice president Henry A. Wallace for president in 1948. Einstein especially admired the party’s stand against Jim Crow and lent it his prestige and endorsement, being photographed with Wallace and fellow third party supporter Paul Robeson. The latter two campaigning in the South, despite violent attacks on them, refused to appear before segregated audiences or stay in Jim Crow hotels. With Einstein’s support, Wallace also called for the international control and outlawing of nuclear weapons. In the end, however, a mix of anti-Soviet jingoism and Truman’s belated promises of liberal, New Deal-type social programs caused the collapse of the Wallace movement. Truman’s surprise reelection removed whatever barriers to the accelerating Cold War and the ideological repression that accompanied it.

Some among Wallace’s supporters chafed at his party’s failure to move beyond New Deal liberalism. They thought the party should have taken explicitly socialist positions on questions like public ownership of basic industries, for example. Among those who held such views were Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy, founders of this magazine as a venue for ongoing comprehensive analysis and commentary from a socialist and Marxist perspective. Einstein applauded the founding of Monthly Review, and, at the request of Huberman’s friend Otto Nathan, wrote his essay, Why Socialism?, for the first issue in May 1949. Together with Einstein’s celebrity, the article’s clear statement of the case for socialism in logical, moral, and political terms drew attention to the birth of this small left-wing magazine.* In the hostile political climate of that time, the article surely provided necessary encouragement both to the authority and the circulation of this magazine.

At the end of the Second World War Einstein was also drawn to the crisis of European Jewry following the Nazi genocide. Self-identified as a secular Jew, at least since his first encounters with anti-Semitism as a child, he was an intimate observer and intermittent victim of this ultra-nationalist disease and reacted to it as he did to other hate crimes. As early as 1921, when he made his first trip to the United States to raise funds for the establishment of Jewish settlements in Palestine, he sought solutions to the impending catastrophe confronting Europe’s Jewish community. He resisted growing legal and extra-legal restrictions on Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, supported (with little success) Jewish migration to the Americas, and advocated for the creation of what he and others called a “Jewish national home” in Palestine. As such he was identified with Zionism, a label that does not precisely fit but that he did not actively avoid. Nonetheless, he separated himself from Zionist jingoists and bigots including Vladimir Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, and often from mainstream Zionists like Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion. In 1930, Einstein wrote, “Oppressive nationalism must be conquered…I can see a future for Palestine only on the basis of peaceful cooperation between the two peoples who are at home in the country…come together they must in spite of all.” He went on to support a binational Jewish and Palestinian state both before and after the war.

In 1946, with hundreds of thousands of European Jews still “displaced” and with the victorious allies unwilling to absorb even a portion of the refugee population, Einstein appeared before an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, calling for a “Jewish homeland.” The Zionist establishment seemed to have intentionally misread this as a call for Jewish sovereignty, so with help from his friend Rabbi Stephen Wise, he clarified his position. Jews, he said, should be able to migrate freely within the limits of the economic absorptive possibilities of Palestine, which in turn should have a government that made sure there was no “‘Majorisation’ of one group by the other.” Resisting Wise’s demands for a more forceful statement, Einstein replied that a “rigid demand for a Jewish State will have only undesirable results for us.” Radical journalist I. F. Stone praised him for rising above “ethnic limitations.” (Einstein later became a charter subscriber to I. F. Stone’s Weekly.)

Nevertheless, like many Jewish radicals—including many socialists and communists—Einstein had difficulty overcoming his emotional ambivalence about the Zionist project and ultimately applauded Israel’s establishment. Given the often inconsistent response of some radicals to Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians after the 1967 war, it is difficult to guess how he would have responded. But he was clearly concerned with the implications of Jewish settlement on indigenous Palestinians; it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that he would have been appalled by the four decades of oppression of the latter by Israel.

The mid-century “red scare” occupied much of Einstein’s last years. He wrote, “The German calamity of years ago repeats itself.” Watching Americans lose themselves in the suburbia- and Korean War-driven affluence of the early 1950s, Einstein deplored the fact that “honest people [in the United States] constitute a hopeless minority.” But determined to fight back he looked for a forum—and found one in a reply to a 1953 letter from a New York City school teacher who had been fired for his refusal to discuss his politics and name names before a Senate investigating committee. Einstein wrote to William Frauenglass, an innovative teacher who prepared intercultural lessons for his English classes as a way of overcoming prejudicial stereotypes. Einstein exhorted “Every intellectual who is called before the committees ought to refuse to testify…If enough people are ready to take this grave step, they will be successful. If not, then the intellectuals deserve nothing better than the slavery which is intended for them.” The letter was national front-page news and had its desired effect. The movement to resist the witch hunt grew stronger. Einstein was supported by voices as distant as that of philosopher Bertrand Russell, who wrote to the New York Times from London when they published an editorial disagreeing with Einstein, “Do you condemn the Christian Martyrs who refuse to sacrifice to the Emperor? Do you condemn John Brown?”

Shortly after the Frauenglass affair, another unfriendly witness, Al Shadowitz, told Senator McCarthy that he was refusing to testify saying “I take my advice from Doctor Einstein.” McCarthy went ballistic, but, ultimately, the contagion spread both to the Supreme Court, which in 1957 put the brakes on the red hunters (one of the cases involved MR founder Paul Sweezy) and to young New Left students who, beginning in 1960, began to literally break up committee hearings, often with caustic satire and ridicule. It was only ten years after Einstein’s letter that Martin Luther King Jr. also employed civil disobedience to fuel the modern civil rights movement.

In 1954, in response to the denial of security clearance to his colleague, the wartime leader of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and other violations of the freedom of scientific inquiry, Einstein wrote, with typical humor, that if he were young again, “I would not try to be a scientist or scholar or teacher, I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler, in the hope of finding that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”

Einstein also undertook other, more difficult and potentially more dangerous political acts.

Perhaps none attracted as much international attention as his effort to intervene in the case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In 1953, Einstein wrote to trial Judge Irving Kauffman pointing out that the trial record did not establish the defendants’ guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” He also noted that the scientific evidence against them, even if accurate, did not reveal any vital secret. When he received no response, he wrote to the president with his views. Truman also did not respond, so Einstein released the text of his letter to the media and later wrote to the New York Times asking for executive clemency. Tragically, in this circumstance, Einstein’s celebrity was to no avail. The Rosenbergs died in Sing Sing’s electric chair on June 19.

Two years earlier, in 1951, when his friend W. E. B. Du Bois was indicted for his pro-peace activities on the trumped up charge of being a “Soviet agent,” Einstein, along with Robeson and civil rights heroine Mary McLeod Bethune, sponsored a dinner and rally to raise funds for Du Bois’s defense. Du Bois’s lawyer, the fiery radical ex-Congressman Vito Marcantonio, managed to reduce the trial to a shambles even before the prosecution had finished its case. But had the trial continued, Marcantonio planned to call Einstein as the first defense witness.

Perhaps no one had been more pilloried or isolated during the “red scare” than Einstein’s great ally from the struggle against lynching, Paul Robeson. Attacked as much for his militant stands against white supremacy as for his radicalism and his call for pan-African independence, Robeson had become a virtual non-person in his own country, denied an income, venues for concerts, and the right to travel. In 1952, in a very public act to break the curtain of silence around Robeson, Einstein invited him and his accompanist Lloyd Brown to lunch. The three spent a long afternoon discussing science, music, and politics, all subjects of mutual interest. At one point, when Robeson left the room, Brown remarked about what an honor it was to be in the presence of such a great man. To which Einstein replied, “but it is you who have brought the great man.”

Einstein’s last years were taken up with both private and public acts of resistance. He used his still considerable network of acquaintance and influence to try to find jobs for those, who, like Frauenglass and others, who had been fired for non-cooperation with investigating committees. And in 1954 he permitted the celebration of his seventy-fifth birthday to be the occasion for a conference on civil liberties fight-back by the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (ECLC). The committee had been formed in response to the failure of the American Civil Liberties Union to defend Communists and to take on civil liberties questions raised by the Rosenberg case. The conference, with speakers including I. F. Stone, astronomer and activist Harlow Shapley, sociologists E. Franklin Frazier and Henry Pratt Fairchild, and political scientist H. H. Wilson, launched ECLC on a forty-six-year trajectory defending freedom of expression, the rights of labor, and multifaceted campaigns for civil rights.

It is difficult to know how to conclude this brief and necessarily incomplete summary of Einstein’s politics. Not discussed here, for example, are Einstein’s lifelong commitments to pacifism and to some sort of world order, nor his long association with the physicist and Marxist Leopold Infeld. Einstein was also deeply committed, as were a number of other left-wing scientists, to mass education in the sciences as a tool against obscurantism and mystical pseudo-science, often used then—and again today—in aid of political and social reaction.

Days before he died on April 18, 1955, Einstein signed what became known as The Einstein-Russell Manifesto. In it, the theoretical physicist and the philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell, go beyond vague moral arguments for pacifism. Instead they posed political choices: “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

Einstein was a radical from his student days until his dying breath. In the last year of his life, ruminating about the political affairs of the day and his world outlook, he told a friend that he remained a “revolutionary,” and was still a “fire-belching Vesuvius.”

Note on Sources and Suggested Further Reading

Fred Jerome, The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist (New York: Saint Martin’s Press/Griffin, 2002); see also Fred Jerome, “The Hidden Half-Life of Albert Einstein: Anti-Racism,” in Socialism and Democracy 18, no. 2 (http://www.sdonline.org/33/fred_jerome.htm).

Jerome’s important work uses the huge FBI-compiled file on Einstein, not only to expose Hoover’s machinations as well as the covert mechanisms and techniques of character assassination, but as a vehicle to introduce readers to the much hidden activist radical and socialist the scientist was. Forthcoming in July is Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, Einstein On Race And Racism (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press).

Two useful biographies are: Jeremy Bernstein, Einstein (New York: Viking Press, 1973); and Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (New York: Avon Books, 1984), the standard biography, but with almost no mention of Einstein’s politics other than Zionism.

Books by Einstein for the general reader include: Ideas and Opinions (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1995); The World As I See It(New York: Citadel Press, 1993); Out of My Later Years (New York: Gramercy Books, 1993); and (with Leopold Infeld) The Evolution of Physics (New York: Free Press, 1967), still the most accessible and the best description of the progression from Newtonian to modern quantum mechanics and relativity.

Notes

* This narrative makes extensive use of research and insights found in Jerome’s book (its full title is The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist [New York: Saint Martin’s Press/Griffin, 2002]), for which this writer is grateful.

* This article has been frequently reprinted in Monthly Review over the last half-century and can be found on the MR website at http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einst.php.

Democrats mimic GOP sleight-of-hand March 20, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Health.
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Friday, Mar 19, 2010 17:20 EDT

They’re selling huge giveaways to insurance companies and Big Pharm as reform that helps the middle class

By David Sirota, www.salon.com

Ever since Thomas Frank published his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP’s. The healthcare bill proves they’ve found one.

Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans’ sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat-cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock.

First, their leaders campaign on pledges to create a government insurer (a “public option”) that will compete with private health corporations. Once elected, though, Democrats propose simply subsidizing those corporations, which are (not coincidentally) filling Democratic coffers. Justifying the reversal, Democrats claim the subsidies will at least help some citizens try to afford the private insurance they’ll be forced to buy — all while insisting Congress suddenly lacks the votes for a public option.

Despite lawmakers’ refusal to hold votes verifying that assertion, liberal groups obediently follow orders to back the bill, their obsequious leaders fearing scorn from Democratic insiders and moneymen. Specifically, MoveOn, unions and “progressive” nonprofits threaten retribution against lawmakers who consider voting against the bill because it doesn’t include a public option. The threats fly even though these congresspeople would be respecting their previous public-option ultimatums — ultimatums originally supported by many of the same groups now demanding retreat.

Soon it’s on to false choices. Democrats tell their base that any bill is better than no bill, even one making things worse, and that if this particular legislation doesn’t pass, Republicans will win the upcoming election — as if signing a blank check to insurance and drug companies couldn’t seal that fate. They tell everyone else that “realistically” this is the “last chance” for reform, expecting We the Sheeple to forget that those spewing the do-or-die warnings control the legislative calendar and could immediately try again.

Predictably, the fear-mongering prompts left-leaning establishment pundits to bless the bill, giving Democratic activists concise-yet-mindless conversation-enders for why everyone should shut up and fall in line (“Krugman supports it!”). Such bumper-sticker mottos are then demagogued by Democratic media bobbleheads and their sycophants, who dishonestly imply that the bill’s progressive opponents 1) secretly aim to aid the far right and/or 2) actually hope more Americans die for lack of healthcare. In the process, the legislation’s sellouts are lambasted as the exclusive fault of Republicans, not Democrats and their congressional majorities.

Earth sufficiently scorched, President Obama then barnstorms the country, calling the bill a victory for “ordinary working folks” over the same corporations he is privately promising to enrich. The insurance industry, of course, airs token ads to buttress Obama’s “victory” charade — at the same time its lobbyists are, according to Politico, celebrating with chants of “We win!”

By design, pro-public-option outfits like Firedoglake and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee end up depicted as voices of the minority, even as they champion an initiative that polls show the majority of voters support. Meanwhile, telling questions hang: If this represents victory over special interests, why is Politico reporting that “drug industry lobbyists have huddled with Democratic staffers” to help pass the bill? How is the legislation a first step to reform, as proponents argue, if it financially and politically strengthens insurance and drug companies opposing true change? And what prevents those companies from continuing to increase prices?

These queries go unaddressed — and often unasked. Why? Because their answers threaten to expose the robbery in progress, circumvent the “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” contemplation and raise the most uncomfortable question of all:

What’s the matter with Democrats?

© 2010 Creators.com

Nuremberg Revisited: Obama Administration Files To Dismiss Case Against John YooPublished December 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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(Roger’s Note: a couple of points to mention: that the Bush Administration torture policy and the Obama Administration complicity do not begin to match the scope of the Nazi holocaust does not make them any less guilty of serious crimes against human nature.  And of course, it was not Nazi German justice that brought war criminals to account at Nuremberg but rather that of the victorious Allies.  For the government of the very same nation that committed war crimes to bring its own officials to justice for such crimes would set a new precedent.  In the world of realpolitik we don’t really expect that to happen.  Why then, do we press for justice?  I leave it to the reader to answer that important question for her or himself.)

1, December 9, 2009

http://jonathanturley.org/2009/12/09/obama-administration-files-to-dismiss-case-against-john-yoo/

John Yoo is being defended in court this month by the Administration. Not the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration. As with the lawsuits over electronic surveillance and torture, the Obama administration wants the lawsuit against Yoo dismissed and is defending the right of Justice Department officials to help establish a torture program — an established war crime. I will be discussing the issue on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.

The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoo’s work at the Justice Department. Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice — even if it is to establish a torture program.

In its filing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department insists that there is “the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict.” Instead it argues that the Justice Department has other means to punish lawyers like the Office of Professional Responsibility. Of course, the Bush Administration effectively blocked such investigations and Yoo is no longer with the Justice Department. The OPR has been dismissed as ineffectual, including in an ABA Journal, as the Justice Department’s “roach motel”—“the cases go in, but nothing ever comes out.”

The Justice Department first defended Yoo as counsel and then paid for private counsel to represent him (here). His public-funded private counsel is Miguel Estrada, who was forced to withdraw his nomination by George Bush for the Court of Appeals after strong opposition from the Democrats.

Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, who was effectively blocked in contesting his abusive confinement and mistreatment as part of this criminal case and in a habeas action. The Bush Administration brought new charges to moot a case before the Supreme Court could rule. The Court previously sent his case back on a technicality.

It is important to note that the Administration did not have to file this brief since it had withdrawn as counsel and paid for Yoo’s private counsel. It has decided that it wants to establish the law claimed by the Bush Administration protecting Justice officials who support alleged war crimes. They are effectively doubling down by withdrawing as counsel and then reappearing as a non-party amicus.

The Obama Administration has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions. The third of the twelve trials for war crimes involved 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People’s Courts of Nazi Germany. It would have been a larger group but two lawyers committed suicide before trial: Adolf Georg Thierack, former minister of justice, and Carl Westphal, a ministerial counsellor.

They included Herbert Klemm, who was sentenced to life imprisonment and served as minister of justice, director of the Ministry’s Legal Education and Training Division, and deputy director of the National Socialist Lawyer’s League.

Oswald Rothaug received life imprisonment for his role as a prosecutor and later a judge.

Wilhelm von Ammon received ten years for his work as a justice official in occupied areas.

Guenther Joel received ten years for being an adviser (like Yoo) to the Ministry of Justice and later a judge.

Curt Rothenberger was also a legal adviser and was given seven years for his writings at the Ministry of Justice and as the deputy president of the Academy of German Law

Wolfgang Mettgenberg received ten years as representative of the Criminal Legislation Administration Division of the Ministry of Justice,

Ernst Lautz (10 years) had been chief public prosecutor of the People’s Court.

Franz Schlegelberger, a former Ministry of Justice official, was convicted and sentenced to life for conspiracy and other war crimes. The court found:

‘…that Schlegelberger supported the pretension of Hitler in his assumption of power to deal with life and death in disregard of even the pretense of judicial process. By his exhortations and directives, Schlegelberger contributed to the destruction of judicial independence. It was his signature on the decree of 7 February 1942 which imposed upon the Ministry of Justice and the courts the burden of the prosecution, trial, and disposal of the victims of Hitler’s Night and Fog. For this he must be charged with primary responsibility.

‘He was guilty of instituting and supporting procedures for the wholesale persecution of Jews and Poles. Concerning Jews, his ideas were less brutal than those of his associates, but they can scarcely be called humane. When the “final solution of the Jewish question” was under discussion, the question arose as to the disposition of half-Jews. The deportation of full Jews to the East was then in full swing throughout Germany. Schlegelberger was unwilling to extend the system to half-Jews.’

It was the “ideas” that these lawyers advanced that made the war crimes possible. Other officials were tried but acquitted. All of these officials used arguments similar to those in the Obama Administration’s brief of why lawyers are not responsible for war crimes that they defend and justify. Bush selected people like Yoo to justify the war crime of torture. If they had written against it, the Administration might have abandoned the effort. The CIA director and others were already concerned about the prospect of prosecution. The Obama Administration’s brief revisits Nuremberg and sweeps away such quaint notions. Indeed, the brief for Yoo could have been used directly to support legal advisers Wolfgang Mettgenberg, Guenther Joel, and Wilhelm von Ammon.

If successful in this case, the Obama Administration will succeed in returning the world to the rules leading to the war crimes at Nuremberg. Quite a legacy for the world’s newest Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Defenders of the Administration insist that the brief does not expressly gut Nuremberg or reference war crimes. Of course, that is the point. The brief does not make any exception for liability for legal advice when it is part of a torture program or war crime. When combined with the Administration’s refusal to appoint a special prosecutor for the torture program (and the President’s promise that no CIA employees would be prosecuted), the brief closes the circle: there will be no criminal or civil liability for the war crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

The only reference to substantive criminal prosecution is in the following abstract statement:

That is not to say that the actions of a Department of Justice attorney providing advice should go unchecked. Department of Justice attorneys, if they abuse their authority, are subject to possible state and federal bar sanctions, see 28 U.S.C. § 530B, investigation by both the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General, as well as criminal investigation and prosecution, where appropriate. If Congress believes that additional avenues of recourse are necessary in cases where Department of Justice attorneys provide legal advice regarding matters relating to war powers and national security, it could enact appropriate legislation. Given the sensitivities of such claims, and the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding matters of national security, however, this is a clear case where “special factors” strongly counsel against the recognition of a Bivens action.

“[W]here appropriate” are the key words. The Administration has already blocked criminal prosecution for torture. More importantly, this case is about Yoo’s involvement in creating that program. However, even in assisting in the establishment of a torture program, the Administration insists that there can not be civil liability (let alone criminal liability). If the Administration wanted to maintain the rule created at Nuremberg, it would have stated clearly that no privilege or law protects a lawyer who is assisting in the establishment of a war crime or torture program. Of course, the Administration has already said the opposite. Obama and Holder have stated that “just following orders” is a complete defense for CIA employees (here).

The effort to ignore the clear position of this Administration shows the dangers of a cult of personality. Just as conservatives ignored Bush’s violation of core conservative values on the budget and big government, some liberals are ignoring Obama’s violation of core liberal values on civil liberties and privacy.

For the DOJ brief, click here.

Obama’s Failure as a Leader July 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, War.
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Roger Hollander

www.rogerhollander.com, July 22, 2009

To quote John Lennon, “Imagine!”  Imagine Barack Obama giving a nationally televised speech on health care reform.  In it he outlines the advantages of a single-payer plan.  He gives the statistical evidence to demonstrate the enormous savings by eliminating private health insurance.  He discusses the German, French, British and Canadian systems.  He acknowledges some drawbacks, but shows clearly how they achieve the fundamental objectives of universal accessibility, choice, and cost savings.  He directly challenges the medical, health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and exposes their high priced media propaganda for what it is: distortion and lies.  With most American already having a predisposition towards universal coverage, and with the myths dispelled and replaced with hard undeniable facts, the pressure from the public on Congress to achieve a single-payer option would be irresistible.

 

 

Barack Obama wouldn’t be President of the United States today if he hadn’t been the pragmatic, hard-ball, Chicago-bred politician that he is.  His failure, or his inability, or his lack of will – call it what you like – to withdraw from the country’s imperialist (criminal and destructive) war adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan or to hold the Bush administration accountable for its high crimes and misdemeanors is eminently predictable and in entirely in character.  That many expected more, a hell of a lot more, is due entirely to his campaign rhetoric, which was calculated and for the most part fraudulent.

 

But this is no reason to not render critical judgments about the Obama presidency despite the fact that we are still quite early into his tenure.  There is no doubt that we can expect more of the same.  There is a principle to the effect that the practical should be judged by the ideal, and not vice versa.  Following this principle is the keystone of leadership.  President Obama violates this principle on a daily basis.

 

Obama knows what leadership is.  Candidate Obama demonstrated the epitome of leadership as he led the nation to an electoral victory over a McCain/Palin ticket that had the potential to give the country a government even more disastrous than that of Bush/Cheney – virtually inconceivable but true. 

 

He gave the country its first Afro-American president.  However, once elected, he cast off the leadership role as a snake sheds its skin.

 

President Obama is fond of saying something to the effect of not letting the perfect get in the way of achieving the possible.  Politics is the art of the possible, as common wisdom has it.  In other words, judge the ideal by the practical, which is to my mind a cynical and nihilistic form of non-leadership.

 

In a sense, a leader’s role is to remain to a large degree above the fray.  A leader reflects the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people.  A genuine leader is not a power broker.

 

In the U.S. system of government, the Congress makes laws which, once agreed upon by both houses, are presented to the President to sign into law or veto.  Apart from skewing factors such as massive corporate lobbying and the infamous Bush “signing statements” that allowed the President to ignore laws passed by Congress, the system as it has evolved does generate legislation, for better or worse.

 

A president’s role can vary between staying out of the process until a piece of legislation reaches his or her desk, and active participation in creating legislation and stick-handling it through Congress.  In modern times presidents have leaned more towards the latter role, thereby sacrificing their capacity to lead rather than to broker.

 

I would suggest that the proper role for Obama or any other president is to communicate to the general public and to the members of Congress his vision on any given issue that is in the best interests of the nation.  In the case of health care reform, for example, that would be for a single-payer option, which is what Canada and European industrial democracies have had in place for decades or longer (and which, despite being virtually ignored by the mainstream media and subjected to massive campaigns based upon outright falsehoods, most Americans believe in).  But since that is the “perfect” solution in Obama’s frame of thinking, it is “off the table” presumably so as not to hinder a less than perfect but “realizable” option.  This is the way of the defeatism, it is not leadership.

 

In other words, if Obama were a leader rather than a manipulator, he would go over the heads of Congress and speak directly to the people, and let Congress take the consequences for its action or failure to act.  This might entail short term risk (that a flawed reform or no reform at all would result), but surely is the only road to genuine reform in the long term.  Leadership is about taking risks; but what is ironic, not to mention tragic, is that by taking the path of power brokering a deal, the only possible results are either a much less than adequate reform or total failure.  It is also ironic that the entirely self-interested neo-con (Republican) opposition will go for the jugular on the compromised, brokered solution as if it were the ideal solution (so, why not go for broke if you are going to be viciously attacked in any case?).  The pragmatist will argue that the less than adequate reform is an incremental step to genuine reform.  This indeed might be the case were it not for the fact that bastardized reforms are the result of catering to special interests (in the case of health care reform the AMA, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries), who having been victorious in fending off genuine reform will only remain further entrenched and less likely to be defeated in the future.

 

In feudal times there was in some senses a positive relationship between kings and subjects vis-à-vis confrontation with the ruling nobility.  At times a serf could go over the head of his Lord and appeal to the king for justice.  I am no lover of monarchy and only offer this as an analogy.  A president who was a genuine friend of the masses and an ally in their struggles with enormous economic interests and compromised legislatures would be a sight to behold.

 

The problem, of course, is that the President is just as compromised as the legislatures with respect to the funding required to gain a nomination and to launch a successful presidential campaign.  What I find so insidious about the Obama (full disclosure: I voted for him, the alternative was too scary, but I can understand those who bit the bullet and voted for Nader) is that he promoted himself and catapulted himself to the presidency by pretending to be a leader.  I have to confess that in spite of my better judgment, there was a part of me that wanted to believe him.  This may have been naïve on my part, but at least I kept it to myself.

‘The Responsible Left': Funding Obama’s Expanding Wars June 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Thursday, June 18, 2009 by RebelReports

The cowardly Democrats who checked their spines at the door to Congress when they voted Tuesday try to defend their flip-flop on war funding. Frankly, it is embarrassing.

by Jeremy Scahill

Over the past few days, we reported on how the White House and Democratic Congressional Leadership waged a dirty campaign to scare up votes to support another $106 billion in funds for their wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, several of the so-called anti-war Democrats who left their principles at the House coat check on their way in to vote Tuesday are trying to explain away their hypocritical votes.

New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, who voted against the war funding in May—when it didn’t matter—only to vote Tuesday with the pro-war Dems, sounded like an imbecile when he made this statement after the vote: “We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support.” What planet is Weiner living on? “Wrapping up the wars?” Last time I checked, there are 21,000 more US troops heading to Afghanistan alongside a surge in contractors there, including a 29% increase in armed contractors. Does Weiner think the $106 billion in war funding he voted for is going to pay for one way tickets home for the troops? What he voted for was certainly not the “Demolition of the 80 Football-field-size US Embassy in Baghdad Act of 2009.” To cap off this idiocy, Weiner basically admitted he is a fraud when he said the bill he voted in favor of “still sucks.”

Jan Schakowsky, who has done some incredibly important work on Blackwater and the privatized war machine, also voted against the supplemental in May, but switched her vote on Tuesday. “I do believe my president is a peacemaker,” Schakowsky said. “I’m going to give him what he wants.” A peacemaker who is expanding war? Moreover, what happened to the system of “checks and balances?” If Congressmembers, especially anti-war ones like Schakowsky, start just giving the president “what he wants,” then where is the peoples’ voice?

How are these people sleeping at night?Obviously these folks are partisans or else they wouldn’t be Democrats, but this “Dear Leader knows best” mentality is cultish. Republican Rep. Ron Paul, who, whatever one thinks of him, has been consistently opposed to these wars, put it best when he rose on the floor Tuesday to speak against the war funding: “I wonder what happened to all of my colleagues who said they were opposed to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder what happened to my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration. It seems, with very few exceptions, they have changed their position on the war now that the White House has changed hands.”

One “anonymous” Massachusetts lawmaker told Politico that those Democrats who voted for the war funding and IMF credits are “what we call the responsible left.” Barney Frank, another flip-flopper on war funding, compared the anti-war left to the Rush Limbaugh right-wing, saying, “They have no sense of reality.” Perhaps Rep. Frank should ask the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who lobbied intensely against the war funding he supported if they have “no sense of reality.”

As previously discussed, this vote was a crucial test—because the White House and pro-war Democrats actually needed to get some ‘anti-war’ legislators to vote with them or the bill would have failed—in determining which Democrats have a spine when it comes to standing up to the war and which are just party operatives with their principles and votes up for political bidding.

While the White House reportedly told some Democrats who voted against the war, “you’ll never hear from us again,” Obama has made it a point this week to intervene to defend those hypocritical “anti-war” legislators who voted with him. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn was one of the 51 Democrats who voted against the funding in May and then consciously misplaced his principles Tuesday. Cohen was targeted for his hypocrisy by activists, spurring President Obama to issue a statement to local media in his district praising Cohen:

The White House Press Office called the Washington bureau of The Commercial Appeal late Wednesday afternoon offering the statement after anti-war liberals across the country derided Cohen as a “fraud” and one who deserved a place in the “Hall of Shame.”

“Congressman Cohen is a leader in the United States Congress and a strong voice for the people of Tennessee,” Obama’s statement declared, adding that Cohen’s vote will “ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to protect our country.”

What is particularly telling is how Cohen doesn’t even pretend his vote had anything to do with principle or representing his constituents. It was simple partisanship. “Maybe [Obama] just wanted to respond to people who helped him,” Cohen said. “Yes, I was surprised but I’ve been in the president’s corner on several occasions and it’s good to have him in my corner.”

All of this sounds, frankly, corrupt. Instead of using cold hard cash, the White House threatens to pull the rug from under dissenting legislators and offers its support to those who cede their conscience to the president’s agenda. So much for change.

This spending bill is likely to sail through the Senate where there is no group even vaguely resembling the ever-shrinking anti-war crowd in the House. Once again, here are the Democrats who turned their backs on their pledges to vote against this war funding:

Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal (MA), James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner.

 

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

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