Thursday, January 31, 2008

Applauding the Surge

In his State of the Union address, Bush said that while some Americans questioned the effectiveness of the surge, the terrorists knew who was winning. Apparently Hillary Clinton stood and applauded. While short term military success is always possible - no one would seriously question the ability of the worlds most powerful military to clamp down and momentarily crush the Iraqi insurgency - the problem is that in the long term occupation is occupation and none of the political, social, or economic crisis facing Iraqis have been solved. As long as Americans troops make a mockery of Iraqi sovereignty and self determination, the insurgency will survive even if momentarily crushed. Think of Algiers. The Washington Independent has a well researched and insightful article dealing with the "success" that both Democrats and Republicans have attributed to the surge.

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Aries Dela Cruz Responds to Spec

Expressing the outrage of many on campus due to Spectator's recent position on the ROTC, Dela Cruz who is VP of the Columbia Queer Alliance not only rips apart the ethical basis of Spectator's argument, but points to the real material consequences that policies like Don't Ask Don't Tell have for gays and lesbians in the military. He also points towards the consequences of implicating the university of the ravenous military-industrial complex. Make sure to read this excellent rebuke to a horrendous staff editorial.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spectator Chooses Militarism over Human Rights

Today's Spectator features an outrageous and dangerous editorial advocating the return of the ROTC to campus. Aware of their reactionary stance, the Spec attempts to display the "liberal" credentials of their position by opening with a reference to the recent Democratic Party debate in which all candidates said they'd support cutting funding for schools that refused to allow the ROTC on campus.

The spurious logic that ROTC candidates are "marginalized" on campus was not unexpected. Marginalization is a problematic term, precisely because it can be misapplied to situations such as this. People of African descent can be said to be "marginalized" because we live in a racist society which has structurally oppressed and exploited them, from slavery to the modern ghetto. Is America an "anti-military" society, in the same way that it is a racist society? It would be laughable, if such an idea were not so dangerous, it's absurdity so stealthy at a time of war and blind patriotism. If any cultural or ideological tendency predominates in American society, it is towards militarism, and jingoist authoritarianism. I have no sympathy for the "marginalized" future officers of one of the most globally-hated, destructive, and overpowering organizations of violence in human history.

However, he truly scary thing about the Spec's position is its appeal the the exceptional value and importance of the military in American society. Apparently, the military is in "a different category altogether" and thus the ethical standards which apply to businesses and all other institutions cannot be held against the military. This naive worship of power, this blatant militarism, the willingness to sacrifice human rights (the equality of all persons regardless of sexual orientation) to a supposedly higher value (the "integral role" of the military "in American culture and society") has dangerous implications. Would Spec be willing to sacrifice other human rights? If the military proscribed African Americans or Jews from joining, would they still endorse the return of ROTC? It is the basic structure of the argument, that lesser values have to be sacrificed to the "integral" importance of the military since it is "in a different category altogether." Would we sacrifice democracy for the military? What else would we sacrifice? Spec needs to think about the ethical implications of its mode of argumentation. This blind militarism is historically associated with the authoritarian Right, with fascism. Here is the most offen section in full:

Those protocols should be enforced against businesses and other institutions, but the U.S. military is in a different category altogether. For all its faults, the military has too integral a role in American culture and society to be summarily banned from campus.
This of course has been a huge coup for the pressure groups who have worked for the return of the ROTC. If Spec wishes to have any ethical or political currency, it must retract this deeply offensive and morally repugnant editorial and offer a formal apology to all who value human beings more than the military.

Email Spectator's Editor in Chief: Tom Faure,

Email Spectator's Opinion Editor: Miriam Krule,

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Monday, January 28, 2008

New Issue Just Released!

Here it is! The second issue of el participante. We've already made huge strides since the last issue.

We have:

Karina Garcia, "We Have our Name for a Reason" - a reflection on the formation and mission of Lucha from Lucha's former chair

Johanna Ocana, "A New Year For Lucha" - Lucha's new chair setting forth her vision

Rudi Batzell, "Problems in Discourse" - offers a critique of the way the idea of "community" has come to function as a euphemism for race and racism.

Wyatt Ford, "Democracy and the University" - examines just what campus "democracy" means in the age of corporate universities

Jake Matilsky - "Building the Anti-War Movement," - reflects on the current malaise, and the lines which continue to divide us

Tina Musa, "Starving Gaza" - examines how the actions of Israel since Hamas was elected have collectively punished the Palestinian people

Also - we have the "Core Curriculum" with an excerpt from Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, and a pretty exciting calendar of events.

Please download, read, print, and distribute!

Read this doc on Scribd: elparticipante-1-2

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Upcoming Event: The Struggle for Immigrant Rights

SOL - Student Organization of Latinos - is putting together an event featuring students and teachers from Prince William County in Virginia, the site of recent clashes over immigrant scapegoating and racial profiling. Check out the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and this local news source for more information.

There are some powerful videos on youtube, listed in recommended viewing order here:

Check out the first video:

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PSL Launches Presidential Campaign

The Party for Socialism and Liberation has announced that Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear will be the PSL's presidential ticket this election cycle:

Unlike the corporate-funded candidates who say the war in Iraq will end "some day" in the distant future, Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear, running on the presidential ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), have been building a movement of millions of people to demand U.S. out of Iraq NOW! They have helped organize the biggest demonstrations against the Iraq war in the last few years. Click to read more about the PSL campaign.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

TONIGHT: Forum on National ID Card and Civil Liberties

Your Papers Please: What the Real ID Act Means for American Values

Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.
New York Society for Ethical Culture
2 W. 64th St.
New York, NY 10023

Free Admission

Participants include:

State Senator Eric Schneiderman , (D-Upper West Side)
Ed Ott, Executive Director, New York City Central Labor Council*
Jim Harper, Member, Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and
Integrity Advisory Committee, and Director of Information Policy
Studies, Cato Institute
Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause New York
Valerie Lucznikowska, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

The attacks on Americans' civil liberties in the aftermath of
September 11th continues. Passed by Congress in 2005 with no
meaningful debate, the Real ID Act attempts to create America's
first-ever national ID card system. Under the Bush Administration's
vision, a Real ID card will become an internal passport for Americans
and part of everyday life--a way to keep track of your movements, your
activities and your lifestyle.

For more information, contact

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ANSWER Coalition Calls Protest Next Weekend

Under the banners "End the Criminal Israeli Siege of Gaza NOW!" and "Stop the Collective Punishment of the Palestinian People!" the ANSWER Coalition has call for major protests in Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Anaheim.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, joins with the National Council of Arab Americans, Free Palestine Alliance,Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Palestinian American Women's Association, Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition and other anti-war and progressive organizations in calling for emergency protests demanding an immediate end to the Israeli blockade and siege of Gaza. Protests will take place on January 25-26 at Israeli embassies, consulates, U.S. federal buildings and other locations.

More than 1.5 million Palestinian people living are suffering from life-threatening shortages of food, medicines, fuel and other vital necessities, caused by the Israeli military's sealing-off of one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Gaza City is blacked-out at night, including hospitals. Doctors must examine
patients by candlelight.

Stay posted for updates on actions in New York City. Lucha will certainly be mobilizing people for this.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times has noticed the symptoms of revolt against the collective punishment inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israelis.

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New International Socialist Review

With several articles on Iraq and the Middle East, and an interview with Tariq Ali, the new ISR is worth checking out. Concerning a topic brought forward quite well by Rahel in an piece for the Eye and discussed on this blog, Sharon Smith discusses the limits of "identity politics." Also notable is the discussion of the recent defeat of the constitutional referendum in Venezuela, a topic el participante hopes to take up in the coming months.


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Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

To honor King's leadership of a mass movement and the vision of a better society which motivated the grass roots rebellion against segregation, racism, and inequality - here is his final chapter from his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community. King proposes the guaranteed income as the first major step towards eliminating poverty. You can read the entire final chapter here. He writes that:

This proposal is not a "civil rights" program, in the sense that that term is currently used. The program would benefit all the poor, including the two-thirds of them who are white. I hope that both Negro and white will act in coalition to effect this change, because their combined strength will be necessary to overcome the fierce opposition we must realistically anticipate.

Our nation's adjustment to a new mode of thinking will be facilitated if we realize that for nearly forty years two groups in our society have already been enjoying a guaranteed income. Indeed, it is a symptom of our confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest. The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however miniscule, through welfare benefits.

John Kenneth Galbraith has estimated that $20 billion a year would effect a guaranteed income, which he describes as "not much more than we will spend the next fiscal year to rescue freedom and democracy and religious liberty as these are defined by 'experts' in Vietnam."

The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

Also, United Students Against Sweatshops has launched a special MLK Jr Day appeal to support the workers at New Era Cap, the company that exclusively supplies Major League Baseball. After workers attempted to form a union to confront racial discrimination and abusive working conditions, the company fired nearly 20 workers and has been stalling complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Send a letter to MLB, New Era, and more right here.

The civil rights era is not over, and the civil rights struggle has only begun, as has the struggle for a society without poverty, war, occupation, and exploitation.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rashid Khalidi on the Charlie Rose Show

On 16 January, Columbia's Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Rashid Khalidi appeared with Martin Indyk on the Charlie Rose Show, in a segment about President Bush's recent trip to the Middle East.

Martin Indyk was the ambassador to Israel under the former Clinton administration, and currently the Director of the Brookings Institute Saban Center for Middle East Policy; should Hillary Clinton win the 2008 election, Indyk will more likely than not return to the White House as an important Middle East policy maker.

The discussion focused primarily on Bush's recent attempts to secure a peace treaty between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Indyk, although repeatedly reminding viewers that he is a harsh critic of President Bush, had nothing but praise for this last minute, end-of-term effort to further the "peace process." Professor Khalidi was more critical. He argued that, going as far back as the first Bush administration, US policy has only "exacerbated the problem," and called for a fundamental shift in US Middle East policy. Unless the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories end "very quickly," Khalidi argued, a two-state solution will be impossible.

Later on, the discussion moved towards Iran. Professor Khalidi, in a few sentences, demonstrated the utter illogicality of the US policy towards Iran:
"Talking to people is not a reward. We talked to the Soviets from the beginning of the Cold War to the end of the Cold War. They had the capacity to destroy this society, they had an ideology that was completely contrary to capitalist democracy, and the United States managed to talk to them, day in, day out. Why can't we talk to the Iranians? I don't understand it."

Indyk's comments, meanwhile, further illustrated the remarkable similarity between the Middle East policy of the Bush administration and the past and (potentially) future Clinton administrations. Like Bush, Indyk hears a dangerous "message" being broadcast from Tehran, a message of "violence, terrorism, defiance of the international community"; Indyk's only complaint is that Bush would be more tactful and strategic in his response to this very real threat.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Take Action!


The University is conducting a review of its rules of conduct and disciplinary procedures. Activists familiar with the disciplinary procedure, such as those who were punished for taking non-violent direct action against Jim Gilchrist's hate-mongering and were subsequently attacked by the thugs invited as special guests can testify to the fact that these rules and procedures are the opaque, arbitrary, unfairly administered, involve intimidation, and lack any sense of due process or proportionality. Punishments were given without ever making explicit the exact nature of the infraction or violation. The email, characteristically, was buried in the nonsensical tripe sent out by the Columbia College Student Council.

On behalf of the University Senate, I would like to invite you to apply for a student position on the University Rules of Conduct Committee. The University Rules of Conduct Committee will review and propose changes to Columbia University's Rules of Conduct and will provide students a rare opportunity to influence disciplinary policy at Columbia (for more information regarding the current code of conduct, please visit:

In the interest of full disclosure, we do expect the committee to require a significant time commitment in the upcoming semester. Candidates must submit a letter stating their interest in the committee and relevant background (i.e. prior student leadership, experience in drafting or interpreting rules, familiarity with disciplinary board proceedings, etc) as well as individual contact information.

Please submit candidate letters to Andrea Hauge ( by January 25th at 5pm and include "Rules Committee" in the subject line of the email.

After winning a very significant case against the New York City Park Service allowing large demonstrations on the Great Lawn of Central Park, the ANSWER Coalition is taking the campaign to Washington DC to make sure that people can control and are allowed to protest and demonstrate in the great public spaces of the nation. ANSWER is following in a long tradition,
reaching back to the court battles of the Industrial Workers of the World in defense of free speech on city corners and public spaces, battles that gave real substance to the empty legal language of free speech. Speak out and tell the National Park Service to respect public spaces and the right of the people to assemble!

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NP Special Section on Latin America

New Politics has long been one of the voices of the socialist, non-aligned left. Their Winter 2008 addition, partially available online, and fully available through Proquest and Columbia Libraries, offers coverage of Latin America as one of the few regions in the world where neo-liberalism is overtly confronted, challenged, and explicit alternatives are being put forward in concrete and immediate propositions.

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Upcoming Events


The International Socialist Organization is hosting a discussion on Pakistan and the "War on Terror featuring Deepa Kumar, media studies professor at Rutgers University and author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike.

Come join a discussion that will grapple with:
  • Who killed Benazir Bhutto?
  • Is democracy at stake in Pakistan ?
  • What are the connections to the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan ?
  • What are the presidential candidates saying or not saying about the unfolding crisis in Pakistan and why?
Thursday, January 17th, 7 PM
City College of New York
North Academic Center (Main Building) Rm. 211

The Answer Coalition is showing the award winning film "AMANDLA!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony."

AmandlaFriday, Jan. 18, 7pm
2295 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
(at 135th St.)
2/3 or C/B to 135th street
$7 donation suggested

Amandla! (2002) is one of the first documentaries about the fight against apartheid in South Africa. More importantly, it tells the story in a way that is inspirational, funny, factual and humanizes the struggle.
The film was the most decorated film at Sundance 2002, where it won the Audience Award for Documentaries and the Freedom of Expression Award.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tomorrow: Tribute Concert for Dave Cline

David Cline was a highly decorated, disabled Vietnam War combat veteran. Returning stateside he became active in the Oleo Strut coffeehouse near Fort Hood, Texas, as described in "Sir! No Sir!" the award-winning documentary about GI resistance. He served as a national coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War for more than 20 years. As President of Veterans For Peace 2002-2007, he oversaw tremendous membership growth and helped start Iraq Veterans Against the War. He also co-founded the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign.

Joining Stephan in the show are Randy Credico, Bryan & Maryc, Brian Jones as "Dave Cline" the Bush Chain Gang with Lori Purdu, Joel Landy, Ron King, Steve Bloom, Jackie Sheeler, John McDonagh, Sgt. Geoff Millard, Michael McPhearson & Veterans for Peace.

Sunday Jan 13, 2-6 pm, at CONNOLLY's,121 W. 45th Street, between Broadway & Sixth Ave.
Auction, 50-50 Raffle, Free Refreshments, Cash Bar & dining.

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

December New Left Review

Perry Anderson, one of the giants of the New Left in Britain, offers this lengthy but worthwhile overview of the last seven years in terms of high politics - defined in terms of the rise of neo-liberalism to unprecedented hegemony, the rise of China as the workhouse of the world, and the disarray and fragmentation of opposition movements within the United States and Europe. Anderson's outlook is remarkably bleak, and its open endedness seems to indicate that his personal political evolution is in flux after years of staunch defense of a hard left Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. The end of the essay looks at the recent large scale interpretations of Nairn, Hardt, Negri, and Bull - and insists that much remains to be done if the slogan "another world is possible" is to be more than an empty, cathartic chant.

Although Anderson's piece is by far the most important, the NLR issue also has some interesting analysis of the early anti-Zionist writings of Hannah Arendt, as well as of contemporary political developments in France under Sarkozy and the further disintegration and despair of the French Socialist Party.

Unfortunately, you will have to use your uni or the columbia network to access the article.

Perry Anderson, "Jottings on the Conjuncture"

NLR Table of Contents

A point which will no doubt raise some eyebrows both within the left and without, Anderson contends that the American invasion of Iraq should not be seen as a logical strategic outgrowth of American imperialist, capitalist, or oil interests. Rather, he argues that the middle east is the one region which has not been integrated into the rational hegemonic strategic policy of American neoliberalism. The "Israeli Lobby," not class, imperialist, or corrupt private interests explain the Iraqi invasion. Further, 9/11 while obviously having additional causes and origins, cannot be imagined in the absence of the American policy of overwhelming and unconditional support for Israel. While some view Israel as an agent of American imperialism in the Middle East, Anderson argues that in fact, the Israeli lobby has effectively destroyed ability of American policy makers to pursue a rational course of neoliberal imperialism in the region. Although Anderson's account is compelling, it is brief and remains superficial. What do you think?

Is America's pro-Israel policy a logical extension of its desire to impose neoliberal conformity as the global hegemon? Or does Zionism actually distort, and undermine a rational policy of American influence and dominance in the Middle East? Is Israel an agent, or a confounder, of American global power?

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