Arguing about the Afghan War: The Nation 12/18

The Best Argument for the Afghan War — and What’s Wrong with It:

For those of us on the left, the best argument in favor of the Afghan war is not Obama’s claim that we need to stop Al Qaeda from returning to its bases in Afghanistan. . . . The best argument is that we have an obligation to the Afghan people – especially to the feminists, secular teachers, labor organizers, health workers, democrats, all those working to build a secular, civil society. We encouraged them to help create a real alternative to religious fundamentalism. It would be wrong now to abandon them to the Taliban.
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Bob Dylan’s Weird Christmas Album: Nation 12/13

Fans have been puzzled and troubled by Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album. To help figure out what Dylan is doing, we turned to Sean Wilentz — he’s the official historian at the official website, and he also teaches American history at Princeton. He’s written many books, including “The Age of Reagan.”

Q. “Christmas in the Heart” opens with “Here Comes Santa Claus,” a Gene Autry song which, I have to say, is one of the most annoying holiday songs ever written, even before Bob Dylan sang it. “Hang your stockings, say your prayers” — is this a joke?

A. It’s not a joke at all. This is Bob Dylan looking back to his own childhood. He sings the songs that he heard as a kid in Hibbing. He’s recalling that time and those songs and that spirit.

The way Dylan sings “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” it sounds like a threat, a reason to lock your doors. . . .

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Howard Zinn, “The People Speak”: Nation 12/8

The first time HOWARD ZINN”s now-classic book A People’s History of the United States appeared on TV was in “The Sopranos” on HBO, when Tony’s teenage son A.J. came home from school with a copy of the book and told his parents that, according to Zinn, Columbus was a slaveowner and murderer. Tony got mad, and replied, “In this house Columbus is a hero. End of story!”

That was 1999. This Sunday, Dec. 13, Zinn’s “The People Speak” – the documentary inspired by his books A People’s History and Voices of a People’s History — will be broadcast on the History channel at 8 PM/7 Central. . . .

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From Grant Park to Afghanistan: The Nation 12/1

When Barack Obama gave his victory speech on election night last November, he picked Chicago’s Grant Park – the legendary site of the battle between anti-war demonstrators and Chicago cops during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. According to campaign manager David Axelrod, Obama chose Grant Park to “symbolically overcome the damage done to American idealism forty years before.”

In 1968, Grant Park had dramatized the fratricidal split between Democrats over Vietnam. On the night of Nov. 4, 2008, Obama was suggesting all that had come to an end. The party was united and victorious.

But Obama’s speech tonight at West Point, announcing the escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, raised anew the specter of Grant Park in 1968. Once again a Democratic president is making a deeper commitment to an unwinnable war. . . .

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Water on the Moon/Money for NASA: The Nation 11/14

“Water found on the moon,” the headlines said – water that “could be used for drinking,” the LA Times reported, possibly enough for “future astronauts to live off the land.” . . .

A modest proposal: forget about sending people to the moon to drink the water there, and instead spend the $3 billion a year on improving the drinking water here on earth.


Berlin, Israel, Mexico: Three Walls. The Nation 11/2

It’s being called “the most ambitious commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany”: “The Wall Project” in Los Angeles — and its political message will surprise many. Artists commissioned by the organizers have promised works that draw analogies between the Berlin Wall and the wall the Israelis have erected along the border with the West Bank, and the wall the US has erected along the Mexican border.

That’s not exactly the sort of thing Ronald Reagan had in mind when he stood in Berlin in 1989 and said “Tear down this wall!”
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UC Budget Protests Draw Thousands: The Nation 9/25

Thursday’s “Day of Action” against draconian budget cuts at the University of California campuses brought thousands of people to rallies at all ten campuses.  At UC Berkeley, 5,000 students and workers, along with many faculty members, rallied at noon.  At the same hour at UCLA, 700 students and workers and a few faculty members gathered at Bruin Plaza.  And 500 rallied at UC Irvine, which Time magazine described as “normally placid.”

The normally placid UC Irvine is where I teach.

The best sign I saw at the UCI rally read “If I wanted to go to a private school, I would have been born into a rich family.”

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Obama’s CIA on Campus: The Nation 9/28

The CIA-off-campus protests of the 1980s may need to be revived — this time addressed to President Obama.  The administration has asked Congress to establish a new “intelligence officer training program” at colleges and universities.  The proposal, buried in the 2010 intelligence authorization bill, would invite schools to apply for grants for courses that would “meet the needs of the intelligence community.”  Students taking the courses would have to receive security clearances. . . .

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Wal-Mart’s Story: L.A. Times Sun. 8/16

Bentonville, Ark., may be unknown to most Americans, but it is the center of the world for some 750 corporations that manufacture consumer goods — because Bentonville is the legendary home office of Wal-Mart, and those corporations want to sell their products to the world’s largest retailer. It’s also the largest private employer in the nation, operator of 4,200 stores.  Bentonville is a key to understanding the success of Wal-Mart, historian Nelson Lichtenstein argues in his terrific book, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.  . . .MORE in the LA Times Sunday Book Review HERE

Hawaii Prepares for N. Korean Attack: Nation 6/19

Vacationing on Kauai, the westernmost of the Hawaiian islands, the only question most tourists ask is which beach to go to today – but visitors and locals alike were startled by Thursday’s news from Washington: a North Korean missile is now aimed at Hawaii, and Hawaii’s missile defenses are being fortified.

Does that mean it’s time to cancel the luau and get on the first plane home?

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