Ted Grimsrud

November 2008 Links

November 28, 2008

For over 40 years, Jonathan Schell has set an extremely high standard for advocacy journalism–especially in his coverage of the Vietnam War and nuclear arms race. His book The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, is an indispensable (and in some senses hopeful) treatment of the obsolescence of war in our modern day. He has some insightful (and quite discouraging) reflections on our recent presidential campaign and the diminishment of our democracy. One of his money quotes is this: “It would be a great mistake to imagine that the quarrel between the Democrats and the Republicans is a fight between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. The Democrats have allowed themselves to be drawn deeply into the shadow world. The choice between the parties is too often a choice between the greater illusion and the lesser.  In this fight, as in the fights to preserve the Constitution and the law, the Republicans are the party of usurpation, the Democrats of abdication. (Together they are well matched, and make a deadly pair.) Indeed, the full capture of the political realm by the propaganda arts has been bipartisan.”

All kinds of red flags in relation to the recently announced US-Iraq security pact. On the one hand, it does signal a greater possibility of an end to the US occupation, but the time line is much longer than Obama’s campaign promises, the people of Iraq likely will strongly oppose it for that reason, and the ignoring of Congress by the Bush Administration in formulating this pact sets another dangerous precedent of executive usurpation of power.

The latest wisdom from Noam Chomsky–the transcription of a speech he gave recently called, “What Next? The Elections, the Economy, and the World.”

Chris Hedges is an important social critic and journalist. I find myself agreeing with him most of the time but finding his tone and tendency toward over-generalizations annoying.  Both the positive and the negative are apparent in this essay written shortly after the election where he warns of the dangers inherent in the dumbing down of America.

November 27, 2008

A fascinating article telling about a group of pro-gay activists associated with the organization Soul Force that is visiting various evangelical colleges attempting to engage campuses with issues of equal rights, et al.

With the various world crises related to costs and accessibility of food, the policies and general philosophy toward food issues taken by the new Obama administration take on immense importance. Journalist Michael Pollan has written insightfully on food issues.  Here are some of his current thoughts concerning current political possibilities.

Dahr Jamail has emerged in recent years as a major social critique and reporter, earning his reputation first of all as a fearless truthteller on the ground in Iraq following the American invasion. Here is his latest take on dangers and opportunities facing the Obama adminstration–and why progressives need to work hard to push Obama to deliver on his promises for change.

A sharp and perceptive critique of the notion that Obama is surrounding himself with “non-ideological” cabinet members and other leaders. This “non ideology” is actually an ideology of business as usual for corporate America and our political leaders.

Probably the biggest challenge Obama will face, should he actually want to move the world toward genuine peace and bring about genuine change in Washington, DC, and around the world, is to wrest power from the Pentagon and the broader military-industrial complex–at least according to Frida Berrigan, military analyst extraordinare and daughter of peace movement icons Phil Berrigan and Liz McAllister.

November 24, 2008

Do we have a religious left in the United States?  Do we need one?  Is one possible?  Jeff Sharlet says, no, yes, and yes.  This is his preface to an interesting new book, Dispatches From the Religious Left.

And what about the religious right?  It’s not going away–but who will lead it now?

Angela Peacock joined the military as an idealistic 18-year-old.  Now, 11 years later, she describes herself as “tired, very broken, isolated, and damaged goods.”  She tells why.

The Mormon Church gained attention for its involvement in passing California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8.  However, this is only one part of the increased politicization of Mormon faith–a direction that is including making common cause with conservative Muslims around the world.

One of my favorite political writers is Mike Davis.  Here’s a thoughtful piece that suggests what the priorities should be for the Obama administration.

November 21, 2008

A notable feature in the just-completed political campaigns, which I by and large have welcomed, has been an attempt by politicians in the center and center-left (e.g., Obama) to address issues of faith and to refuse to cede the moral/spiritual high ground to the Christian right. But here is a thoughtful expression of concern about those who are left out: the “atheists, agnostics, and secularists.”

Several years ago progressive pundit Thomas Frank wrote an engaging and much-discussed book, Whatever Happened to Kansas, that has played a major role in efforts to discern the rise and on-going power of the alliance between the religious and political right wings.  Frank has more recently published a follow-up, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, that critiques what it alleges to be intentionally destructive efforts of the Bush administration to diminish governmental effectiveness in addressing society’s needs (while also profiting mightily by diverting public moneys into corporate hands).  In this review of The Wrecking Crew, NYU law professor Jefferson Decker finds plenty to criticize in Frank’s book (largely concerning execution) but also provides a good summary of Frank’s basic argument and its validity.

November 18, 2008

We have a new word in our society, “Islamophobia.” Here is a discussion of how the mainstream media in the US tolerates and even perpetuates Muslim-bashing.

Years and years ago I heard Frances Moore Lappe speak and was impressed with her argument that the world produces enough food–the reason we have hunger has to do with politics and how the food is distributed. Here is a recent article by her suggesting our recent food crisis stems not from a lack of food but corporate profiteering and maldistribution.

November 16, 2008

Investigative journalist Robert Parry, thankfully, continues to point out the responsibiity that George W. Bush, who after all is still our president, plays in the economic mess the United States faces.  He is appropriately critical of mainstream journalists’ tendency to let Bush off the hook.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, gave an inspiring presentation at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Chicago on November 2.  I have read Tikkun from its inception now over 20 years ago, but this is the first time I have heard Lerner in person.  His talk drew on recent work Tikkun has been doing on what they are calling a “Spiritual Covenant with America.” It’s worth a read.

November 15, 2008

In the United States, it’s called “Veterans Day.”  In Britain, it is “Remembrance Day.”  In practice, the two terms are practically synonymous.  But perhaps the British label opens the door for the kind of remembrance that raises questions about war rather than simply celebrating them (as generally happens over here).  At least, this is what British theologian Simon Barrow did on November 11.  Barrow’s colleague Jonathan Bartley also took the opportunity to raise some worthy questions.

Back in early October, The Nation published an article, “Ten National Security Myths Debunked,” as an attempt to demonstrate how the U.S. has gone wrong–and the article is clear that Democrats as well as Republicans have bought into these myths. By challenging these myths, we may have hope with the Obama administration that at least some movement back from the abyss our current policies have brought us to may be possible.

One of the more recent updates of the situation in Iraq from the December 4, 2008, New York Review of Books.  This is a pretty mainstream analysis from a writer (Joshua Hammer) embedded with American troops drawing on two recent publications by a mainstream media journalist and by a former Marine; nonetheless, while there is some cautious optimism the overall picture remains quite grim.

November 14, 2008

Red flags already that the “change” brought in by the new Obama administration will not reflect the changes desired by the American electorate.  Naomi Klein analyzes the problems with language of a “smooth transition” that might actually be masking continued capitulation to the corporate forces that created our current economic crises.

Here are some perceptive reflections on how the “religious left” might proceed in light of the Obama election from “Pastor Dan.”  I am not sure that I agree with him that Obama is the “dream candidate” of the religious left (especially in light of Obama’s seeming enthusiasm for military action in Afghanistan).  However, he makes many good points….

Some wise thoughts on how Barak Obama is neither a savior nor an anti-christ.

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