Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poem: Baltimore

kids stranded



the police






to go

Monday, April 27, 2015

Phil Woods' poem: the Sixties

  Rampant police murders revealed, time after time, some filmed, the latest Freddy Gray of Baltimore, his back broken "mysteriously" in police custody:  Black Lives Matter! has now forced this issue into public debate (covered even in the Times here).


     Bush launched the Iraq War;  an anti-war protest, around the world, including in many places (New York, Madrid, Barcelona) occurred in the millions.


     There is a dynamic here, in the 60s and today (there is a lot of protest taking place), which Phil Woods captures in "The Sixties":

Remember that swirling furious energy
of the mid-Sixties. Phil Ochs singing
his JFK song “Crucifixion.” TV reports
from jungles of Vietnam. Helicopter
gunships, wounded being flown out.
A naked child running down the street
burning from Napalm. Eric Burton
singing “I've got to get out of
this place.” Undertow, burning ghettos,
some kind of seductive madness
bound up with the violence, the
destructive feeding the new but
yanking it down into its opposite. Both
Bill Moyers & Richard Goodwin consulting
shrinks. What do you do when
you think the President has gone
round the bend? Guys in kaki
listening to Hendrix in one ear
while listening for sniper fire
with the other. Burning villages
& killing water buffalo to feed
the body count. Tough, experienced
reporters going to what they called
“The Five O'clock Follies.”
Crafted lies issued by the Embassy
which the VC nearly breached
during TET in 68. And when
the violence & war wound down
social change advocates discovering
it was much harder without
that scale of madness feeding,
shockingly, both the creative
& the destructive. And where
oh where are we now?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joseph Hutchison's "A Marked Man" at DU Thursday evening 8pm

    Joseph Hutchison is a fine Colorado poet (the poet laureate currently) and his poem, in 9 voices, on Silas Soule, "A Marked Man" will be performed in Reiman Theatre in Margery Reed Hall at the University of Denver tomorrow at 8pm.  Ed Osborne directs the actors of Living Room Theater in this performance on the 150th anniversary of Soule's assassination.  Soule is as much a hero of that period, leading 5 other officers at Fort Lyon who refused to join the Sand Creek massacre - honored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho spiritual healing run every year - as John Evans, John Chivington and their settler/followers were monsters ("it is doubtful that beings in human form" can have done such things, said Senator Benjamin Wade for the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War in 1865).



Captain Silas Soule's testimony made him a marked man.
Captain Silas Soule's testimony made him a marked man.
National Park Service
Silas Soule was killed on the streets of Denver on April 23, 1865. No one was ever charged with his murder, but a plaque at 15th and Lawrence streets honors the captain, then serving as the young city's provost marshal, who'd refused to let his men participate in the Sand Creek Massacre and later provided Congress with details of the horrors he’d seen on November 29, 1864. That's when volunteers led by Colonel John Chivington killed as many as 200 members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes at a peaceful camp along Sand Creek. As thanks for his courage, Soule was murdered by Chivington supporters.

Soule is also remembered in “A Marked Man,” a touchstone poem in the book Marked Men, by Joseph Hutchison, who was named Colorado’s poet laureate last year. Hutchison, who works at the University of Denver, has been teaching a course this month on Sand Creek, and for the third and final class, “A Marked Man” will receive a theatrical performance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. Ed Osborn, producer/director of Living Room Theatre, will return to the recently renovated Reiman Theater in historic Marjorie Reed Hall at the University of Denver — a stage he last acted on as a DU student in the ’70s — with eight other actors forThe Power of Character: A Performance of "A Marked Man."

Not only does the date have resonance — it’s the 150th anniversary of Soule’s death — but so does the location: The University of Denver’s predecessor was founded by Chivington and territorial governor John Evans a few weeks before the Sand Creek Massacre. Evans was ultimately forced to resign for his role in Sand Creek. Over the past two years, DU has been grappling with its founders' ugly legacy, even commissioning a lengthy report that found Evans had created the climate that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible. The school is continuing to decide how Evans should be remembered — and "A Marked Man" is a good start.
This has been a busy time for Hutchison, as April is National Poetry Month, “and I said yes to maybe too many things,” he admits. But working with Osborn has “been an education,” he says. “I formatted the poem for him in script format. It was really amazing to me, once you start thinking in terms of speakers, how the structure of things changes…”
See for yourself when this piece of living history is presented. Tickets are $20 at
Joe Hutchison, Colorado's poet laureate.
Joe Hutchison, Colorado's poet laureate.

Iran - the Imperial Congress versus the President, the American people and a common good

     Obama's negotiation with Iran avoids following the blind Netanyahu/neocon attack, attack, attack syndrome.  Having fostered three losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - now four counting the new war against IS - and with no troops to send, they nonetheless want to bomb Iran.  The result - a larger Middle East War, chaotic, throwing, over the next 15 years, nuclear armed and racist Israel into more isolation and desperation - is likely to be very dangerous.


     In the modern era, the American Congress never balances Executive Power to stop aggression.  With individual exceptions like Wayne Morse and Barbara Lee, Senators are ever new fools for Presidential aggression in Vietnam or Iraq (including Senator Hillary Clinton).  Looking backwards, their caution/cowardice and corruption are nakedly visible.


    This pattern is so stark that it is called, even by students of American politics, the "Imperial Presidency".  But irony of ironies, as Peter Beinart suggests below, suddenly, in a gesture of constitutional awareness about the balance of powers, the Right, including feckless Democrats like Charles Schumer and every single other one on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is baying for war in chorus with Netanyahu.


    Congress only has guts to carry out its constitutional responsibilities, not when the people call for it (Americans are overwhelmingly against aggression against Iran, notably Jews - about 80% in recent polls), but when Sheldon Adelson, the Casino magnate bankroller of Netanyahu (he actually puts out a free pro-Netanyahu newspaper in Israel) and Mitt Romney (2012 election), offers up his money (as do the Koch brothers et al), many Senators line up, their hands out...


     The Senators, including Democrats, are staggering drunks, so high on the drugs of American militarism and war, that they think, no matter how much evidence comes in from the Middle East, how much opposition from below, that more and more foolish aggression is the only way to go.


     In this context, Hillary Clinton looks pretty good, outflanking both the Senate Democrats and even Rand Paul,  previously decent on foreign policy, who is running for President to the Right on Israel.  Paul was one of the 47 signatories of Tom Cotton's bizarre letter to Iran, insisting that Congress would scrutinize any "deal" the President and European powers made to limit Iranian pursuit of nuclear arms.  


     Note: Hillary may run to the moderate side - in this case, breaking with her old imperial pattern - on foreign and domestic policy (polls shows Rand Paul beating her in Pennsylvania;  there is no haven for her previous "3:AM militarist" self...).  If she does, this is pretty good - it probably commits her to be less warlike (if she is not crazed like President Lyndon Baines Johnson who outflanked Goldwater's militarism - accusing him of wanting escalation - to be reelected, while already planning escalation in Vietnam) and should be supported (see Bill Tremblay here).


    Mainstream American politics, in this age of financial dominance and the war complex, has become a march to the Right, except when there is democratic protest from below or exhibits what I call a right-wing two step about war.  Expansionist, authoritarian and racist Republicans scream for war, torture and burying the Senate Report on CIA torture, and most Democrats, afraid of being "unpatriotic," emulate them.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blumenthal, Menendez, Schumer et al, are prize examples of this.


     But Obama resisted Netanyahu's efforts to lobby on behalf of Romney (Romney gave his foreign policy over to a foreign leader, a former colleague in speculation) during the 2012 campaign, and refused to bomb Iran. The normal path for a President is to outflank his domestic opponents to the Right, wage war (see my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? ch. 1)

        In contrast, Obama is still resisting Netanyahu's bizarre incursions on American public debate.


      The Times' reporters, in the two columns below, particularly Peter Baker, are airheads on the far Right and have little grasp of the political consequences of what is going on (the reporting pages of the Times, as opposed to the editorial page, are often notable for a reactionary slant).


      On the contrary, Obama wants greater influence for the Empire in the Middle East by opening to Iran, siding with it and Assad against IS and dialing back US reliance on reactionary Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The latter policy leaves America more and more isolated and despised by ordinary people in the Middle East and elsewhere.  But Obama's is smart power-balancing - "offshore balancing" in neorealist rhetoric (Mearsheimer), opening new possibilities aside from war as opposed to  - being the biggest military bully on the block who seeks to conquer and eat everything, loses and chokes...See Jon Stewart on Dick Cheney's latest fulminations, typical of the Right, here.


        Obama's policy has the extraordinary virtues of a) not involving large numbers of US troops in a further expansionary war in the area (Obama still uses the Joint Special Operations Command secretly and with no oversight, still fires drones to murder innocent civilians in countries with which the US is not at war such as Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia...), and b) not risking, over time, nuclear war launched by Israel not so much to "defend itself," but to maintain its foul, immoral and illegal oppression of the Palestinians.


   The pattern Obama seeks to establish preserves peace (against larger war, more destruction, pitting reactionary Sunnis, backed by the US and Israel, as with the Saudis in Yemen, ever more bitterly and dangerously against Shias, and possible extinction).  It does not deserve to be derided as just an imperial tactic (I have been reading the interesting dispute on Michael Schwartz's blog - see the useful note from Louis Esparza below), but recognized as a new opening, with potential for calming - producing peace and stability - in the Middle East.


    Will the US continue to do awful imperialist things abroad?  One has but to look at American corporations at home and think about what they do with even less restraints of conscience, constitutionality and mass protest. Only movements from below abroad and in America - democratic internationalism - will deter awful American capitalism from being...capitalist.  Just listen too Rand Paul and the rest of the tea party about poor folks here - taking away food stamps from children to succor the ultra rich while  gibbering about "individual responsibility"  (the unnecessary suffering is not the victims', but their responsibility) is their theme song - and you will get the picture. These policies are just that much worse abroad (harder to organize any push back in America...)


     Despite his useful worries about the gigantic prison complex and the Pentagon arming of the police even in sleepy Ferguson, "Rand" Paul increasingly lives out the creepiness of Ayn Rand for whom he was named, the parasite who sees working people as "parasites" (she is the bizarre goddess domestically of the tea-party).    


      Only mass nonviolent anti-imperialist movements, probably revolution, could make US foreign policy good.


    And yet Obama, unusually for a President of the Empire (as an outsider, one who grew up in Indonesia, has a Kenyan father and is African-American) spoke rightly of defensive or reasonable Iranian grievances with the US to Thomas Friedman - see here - in a way that no other mainstream politician would have done.   He does exaggerate their danger.  US aggression surrounds them on two sides; the map from Louis below says aptly that their existence "threatens" surrounding US military bases...

    Iran has aggressed against no one in modern times.  The Houthis are a shia force in Yemen, but not one closely bound to Iran.  Iran says it is not offering them even military aid.  If Iran were, it would be a poor imitator of the US (who armed Saudi Arabia and Israel?) and Israel (who financed Hamas initially as an alternative to the PLO).  Mercifully, the Saudi regime is suddenly seeking peace in Yemen, murdering fewer civilians.  One can perhaps detect again here Obama's steadying hand (for not inflaming sectarian conflict in the Middle East, for working to stabilize the area).


     Obama is willing to open a new, potentially less bloody and US- and world-destroying path in American policy.  This is pretty good and ought to be supported.


    This policy threatens the racist regime in Israel which seeks to gobble up Occupied Palestine (has an intense death wish), but benefits ordinary Israelis who, in fact, need a stable and peaceful Middle East and to stop the new "transfer" (ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians.


    Those, particularly the odious Democrats, who have sided with Netanyahu to sabotage diplomacy on behalf of war, need to hear from everyone that their policy is an outrage.  And to be challenged as Beinart suggests below and, hopefully, defeated.


      No victory satisfies the mad neocons (see Phillip Weiss's quotes from the Straussian Bill Kristol, a man frozen in a time warp (with Harvey Mansfield at Harvard in the 1980s worshipping Churchill, as a leader of the Project for a New American Century making up lies for the aggression in Iraq...).  Kristol and the Wall Street Journal realize that the Senate's seeming victory in the Iran case, nonetheless, freezes the opposition until the agreement about nuclear weapons is negotiated, and then leaves a more limited time frame.  And Obama could still veto any attempt to sabotage the deal.


     In addition, perhaps the precedent of an Imperial Congress will eventually restore some balance in foreign policy from the left and part of the tea-party  (it will take a great popular movement in 2016 and after to defeat the warmongers; still from Barbara Lee to Walter Jones to Rand Paul (sadly, once upon a time), there is some greater sanity, some effort to restrict unending US aggressions,  unwillingness to do offshore balancing. Obama is currently taking the lead for this option.


      If Kristol is right, Obama, again mercifully, seems to have outplayed, while seeming to lose, the reactionary/Netanyahu opposition.


      But negotiations with are delicate.  Still, Mohammed Javad   Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran (and former DU student) wants to calm the explosion of violence (Sunni/Shia), egged on by American wars, in the Middle East (IS is completely the creation of the war in Iraq, down to the Provisional Coalition Authority which discharged all of Saddam's officers, making them desperate for employment against the invading army...)


     Rarely are cases as clear in American politics (in any politics), the dangers so great, the alternatives so stark.

  • ***
H/t to Michael Schwartz and Louis Esparza 

This chart makes clear who the aggressor in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East is.

  • 15 Apr 2015
  • The New York Times

President Yields, Allowing Congress Say on Iran Deal

Bipartisan Pressure on Obama — Measure Would Make It Hard for Him to Lose
Republicans and Democrats form an unusual alliance

WASHINGTON — The White House relented on Tuesday and said President Obama would sign a compromise bill giving Congress a voice on the proposed nuclear accord with Iran as the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee, in rare unanimous agreement, moved the legislation to the full Senate for a vote.

STEPHEN CROWLEY/THE NEW YORK TIMESSenator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday 
after a briefing with administration officials on the bill giving Congress 
a role in the proposed Iran nuclear deal.

An unusual alliance of Republican opponents of the
 nuclear deal and some of 
Mr. Obama’s strongest Democratic supporters 
demanded a congressional role as 
international  negotiators work to turn this month’s 
nuclear framework into a final
 deal by June 30. White House officials insisted 
they extracted crucial
 lastminute concessions. Republicans — and 
many Democrats — 
said the president simply got overrun.

“We’re involved here. We have to be involved here,” said 
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin 
of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, who 
served as a bridge between the 
White House and Republicans as they negotiated changes 
in the days before the committee’s vote on Tuesday.
 “Only Congress can change or permanently modify 
the sanctions regime.”

The essence of the legislation is that Congress will 
have a chance to vote on 
whatever deal emerges with Iran — 
if one is reached by June 30 — but in a 
way that would be extremely difficult for
 Mr. Obama to lose, allowing Secretary
 of State John Kerry to tell his Iranian 
counterpart that the risk that an agreement 
would be upended on Capitol Hill is limited.

As Congress considers any accord on a very short
 timetable, it would essentially 
be able to vote on an eventual end to sanctions,
 and then later take up the issue 
depending on whether Iran has met its own 
obligations. But if it rejected the 
agreement, Mr. Obama could veto that legislation — 
and it would take only 34 
senators to sustain the veto, meaning that 
Mr. Obama could lose upward of 
a dozen Democratic senators and still prevail.

The bill would require that the administration send 
the text of a final accord, 
along with classified material, to Congress as soon 
as it is completed. 
It also halts any lifting of sanctions pending
 a 30day congressional review, 
and culminates in a possible vote to allow or forbid
 the lifting of congressionally imposed sanctions in 
exchange for the dismantling of 
much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. It passed 19 to 0.

Why Mr. Obama gave in after fierce opposition 
was the last real dispute of what became a rout. 
Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Mr. 
Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, 
but had decided that a new proposal put together 
by the top Republican and Democrat on 
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made 
enough changes to make
 it acceptable.

“We’ve gone from a piece of legislation that the
 president would veto to a piece of legislation that’s 
undergone substantial revision such that it’s 
now in the form of a compromise that the 
president would be willing to 
sign,” Mr. Earnest said. “That would certainly 
be an improvement.”

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and 
the committee’s chairman, 
had a far different interpretation. As late as 11:30 a.m.,
 in a classified 
briefing at the Capitol, Mr. Kerry was urging senators 
to oppose the bill. 
The “change occurred when they saw how many 
senators were going to 
vote for this, and only when that occurred,” Mr. Corker said.

 Mr. Cardin said that the “fundamental provisions” of the 
legislation had not changed.

But the compromise between him and Mr. Corker did shorten
 a review period of a final 
Iran nuclear deal and soften language that would make 
the lifting of sanctions 
dependent on Iran’s ending support for terrorism.

The agreement almost certainly means Congress will muscle 
its way into nuclear 
negotiations that Mr. Obama sees as a legacy-defining 
foreign policy achievement.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this month, and House 
Republican leaders have promised to pass it shortly after.

“Congress absolutely should have the opportunity to review
 this deal,” the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, said Tuesday.
 “We shouldn’t just count on the administration, who 
appears to want a deal at any cost.”

White House officials blitzed Congress in the days after the framework 
of a nuclear deal was announced, making 130 phone calls to lawmakers, 
but quickly came to the conclusion that the legislation could not 
be blocked altogether.

Moreover, officials increasingly worried that an unresolved fight could 
torpedo the next phase of negotiations with Iran.

 “Having this lingering uncertainty about whether we could deliver 
on our side of the deal was probably a deal killer,” said a senior 
administration official, 
who asked for anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

Under the compromise legislation, a 60-day review period 
of a final nuclear agreement in the original bill was in effect 
cut in half, to 30 days,
 starting with its submission to Congress. But tacked on 
to that review 
period potentially would be the maximum 12 days the 
president would 
have to decide whether to accept or veto a
 resolution of disapproval, 
should Congress take that vote.

The formal review period would also include a maximum of 10 days 
Congress would have to override the veto. For Republicans, that
 would mean the president could not lift sanctions for a maximum 
of 52 days after submitting a final accord to Congress, along 
with all classified material.

And if a final accord is not submitted to Congress by July 9, 
the review period will snap back to 60 days. That would prevent 
the administration from intentionally delaying the submission of 
the accord to the Capitol. Congress could not reopen the 
mechanics of a deal, and taking no action would be the 
equivalent of allowing it to move forward.

Mr. Corker also agreed to a significant change on the terrorism language.

Initially, the bill said the president had to certify every 90 days that Iran 
no longer was supporting terrorism against Americans. If he could not, 
economic sanctions would be reimposed.

Under the agreement, the president would still have to send periodic 
reports to Congress on Iran’s activities regarding ballistic missiles and
 terrorism, but those reports could not trigger another round of sanctions.

The measure still faces hurdles. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, fresh off 
the opening of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, 
dropped plans to push for an amendment to make any Iran deal dependent 
on the Islamic Republic’s recognition of the State of Israel, a diplomatic nonstarter.

But he hinted that he could try on the Senate floor.

“Not getting anything done plays right into the hands of the 
administration,” Mr. Rubio said.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, abandoned an amendment 
to make any Iran accord into a formal international treaty needing 
two-thirds of the Senate for its ratification, but he, too, said it 
could be revived before the full Senate.

Mr. Earnest said the president also wanted no more changes. “We’re asking 
for a commitment that people will pursue the process that’s contemplated 
in this bill,” he said.

Democrats had implored Mr. Obama to embrace the legislation.

“If the administration can’t persuade 34 senators of whatever party
 that this agreement is worth proceeding with, then it’s really a bad 
agreement,” Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat on the 
Foreign Relations Committee, said. “That’s the threshold.”

To temper opposition to the deal, Mr. Kerry, Treasury Secretary 
Jacob J. Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz gathered with 
senators Tuesday morning in a classified briefing, after a 
similar briefing on Monday for the House.

But the administration met firm opposition in both parties.

The agreement “puts Iran, the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,
 on the path to a nuclear weapon,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of 
Arkansas, as he emerged from the briefing. “Whether that’s a 
matter of months or a matter of years, that’s a dangerous outcome 
not just to United States and allies like Israel but to the entire world.”


The Atlantic

Where Are the Anti-War Democrats on Iran?

Liberal doves need to find candidates who can bring Congress's foreign policy into line with the desires of the American people.