Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fall Foliage in the Park

Standard

Fall is one of my favorite seasons in NYC. I have been noticing the leaves changing color on my daily dog walks through the park. The color shift starts off with the yellows and gradually moves towards orange tones and eventually red. Every day I make a mental note to take a few pictures before it is too late but I never manage to stuff the camera in my pocket before the dog and I are out the door. I finally remembered.

I removed some of the old links on the left side of the page and added some new ones (Your Friend in the North, Standpoint and Left Hawk). You probably read the New York Sun published their last newspaper earlier in the month. I’ll keep the link as long as the website remains active.

Here is a selection of posts from various blogs:

Airforce Amazons discusses The language of victory

Arms and Influence on the debates between Bing West, Nir Rosen and others regarding the role of journalists in war.

Bob from Brockley provides a roundup of items from Labourstart

Contentious Centrist continues coverage of the Milan Kundera affair.

Elder of Ziyon reports on Egypt’s Siege of Gaza

Norman Geras’ (Normblog) thought about “Zionists”. He thinks a bit more here.

Marko Attila Hoare (Greater Surbiton) on Fascism and Hatred of Women

Ami Isseroff (ZioNation) on Intermarriage. More here and here.

Anthony Julius (ZWord) False Confessions: How Anti-Zionists Incriminate Zionism

Edward Lucas (Standpoint) asks What Should We Do About Russia?

Bill Roggio (Long War Journal) U.S. Strikes Kill al Qaeda Operatives in Pakistan and more here.

Sultan Knish ponders Where is All That White Liberal Anger Coming From?

Dodds and Stark on the McCain Campaign

Standard

Read these posts by Roland Dodds (But I am a Liberal!) and Daniel Stark (The Stark Tenet) on the McCain campaign and the future of the Republican party. They saved me the trouble of posting something.

Roland writes:

Unfortunately for McCain, his candidacy has failed on two fronts: not only has it furthered a split in the Republican Party between its socially conservative rightwing base and its center, but McCain has also failed to energize the moderates, independents, and ‘mavericks’ he needed to win what everyone predicted to be a close election. This failure is likely to expose a rift in the Republican Party that has been a long time coming…

I think it’s also obvious that the Republican Party is headed for a dark period, regulated to being a weak opposition within government as the various factions within the organization battle for control. In my assessment, its already looking bad for the moderate wing, and the lackluster support individuals like myself have given McCain in recent months is unquestionably going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the party loyal. The religious base will argue that the Party should have never drifted from a godly focus; the libertarians will say that interventionists and big government supporters are what brought the house down. Buchannan and his ilk will doubtlessly just blame the Jews. Lord knows where the Commentary neoconservative types are going to find themselves in this conflict, as they have surely been apologists for Palin and her many shortcomings as of late.

Daniel has a different perspective, arguing:

McCain was already working in a harsh political environment this election cycle, from a dissatisfied base, being a more center candidate for President, an unpopular President who shares the same party as him, an economic crisis, a neutralized issue (i.e. Iraq), among other things (you can add Palin as VP choice if you like). If McCain loses (which everyday seems more likely), you have a long list to choose from for the reason why. My money is on the economy.

As a unaffiliated moderate I make my choice on a variety of factors. John McCain scores enough points for me to receive my vote. From his foreign policy outlook, his stance on Iraq, his free trade record, his pragmatic bi-partisanship, his involvement in military issues for over twenty years and the fact we are currently in two wars, that he would preside over a divided government, that he can take on his own party on certain issues, that he has a record to run on, that he believes in federalism (even when it comes to social issues), that he calls for greater transparency in foreign aid we give out, that he has a long history of rejecting purity tests, that he rejects torture…that he is the right person at this present time to be President of the United States. Barack Obama doesn’t even compare.

Like Daniel, I am voting for McCain because I think he is the best candidate. Like Roland, I am more than a bit worried about the direction the Republican party is heading in, especially in the event of a McCain loss. I am not a registered Republican but based on what I am reading, I have a strong feeling party stalwarts will blame the loss on McCain’s centrism.

Unfortunately there is no faction in the Republican party analogous to the Democrat’s “Blue Dog Coalition“. The Blue Dogs are a moderating influence, preventing the liberal wing from dominating the party. In the case of the Republicans, most of the moderate Republicans have been driven out, at least at the national level.

To outsiders it seems like the Republican party is tearing itself apart. On the inside there is a struggle to determine which direction the party will move in the future, which faction will dominate. As others have written, the Republican party coalition crafted by Reagan was a stool with three legs, the social conservatives, fiscal/economic conservatives, and defense hawks. I would add two additional legs, nativists and libertarians. These constituencies often have contradictory policy preferences. For example, libertarians who support homosexual rights and social conservatives who want to ban gay marriage or economic conservatives who support free trade and nativists who want to close down the borders. Yet Reagan was somehow able to bring all of these groups together.

ADDED:

Donald Douglas (NeoConstant) Conservatives in Crisis

Rick Moran (Right Wing Nuthouse) Remaking the Rightroots

American Forces Attack al Qaeda Cell in Syria

Standard

United States Special Operations Forces crossed the Syrian border in an operation targeting the home of Abu Ghadiyah, leader of an al-Qaeda-linked Syrian network that smuggled jihadists, arms and money into Iraq. In February (2008) the U.S. Treasury Department identified Abu Ghadiyah as head of al Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI’s) facilitation network:

which controls the flow of money, weapons, terrorists, and other resources through Syria into Iraq. Former AQI leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi appointed Badran as AQI’s Syrian commander for logistics in 2004. After Zarqawi’s death, Badran began working for the new AQI leader, Abu Ayyub Al-Masri. As of late-September 2006, Badran took orders directly from Masri, or through a deputy.

The attack was conducted by four helicopters with accounts varying whether ground forces were involved. The NYT cites an unnamed source claiming “two dozen American commandos in specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters…fought a brief gun battle with Abu Ghadiya and several members of his cell.” Syrian witnesses describe two Arab men taken aboard helicopters and flown out of the area. The Associated Press notes:

U.S. authorities have said Abu Ghadiyah’s real name is Badran Turki al-Mazidih, an Iraqi in his early 30s who served as al-Qaida in Iraq’s head of logistics in Syria since 2004. His job included providing foreign fighters with passports, weapons, guides and safe houses as they slipped into Iraq and made their way to Baghdad and other major cities where the Sunni insurgency was raging.

In the past weeks, U.S. forces in western Iraq have been stepping up their efforts to control the flow of foreign fighters over the Syrian border. Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, describes Syria as “a transit station for al Qaeda foreign terrorists on their way to Iraq.” While the numbers of foreign fighters caught and killed in Iraq has been on the decline since the advent of the surge and the Sunni Awakening, the region where the operation occurred has remained a primary route for money, weapons and men supporting the Sunni insurgency. As long as he stayed in Syria, Abu Ghadiyah remained out of reach of U.S. and coalition forces. That is, until Sunday.

Syrian officials condemned the attack as an act of “serious aggression” and government controlled newspapers claimed the U.S. had committed “war crimes.” The Russian government, set to sell new missile systems to Syria, has accused the United States of “fuelling dangerous tension in the Middle East”. This attack sends a clear message to the Syrian government: If you are providing safe passage for terrorists, the U.S. will take unilateral action.

Milan Kundera, Communist Informant?

Standard

Was anti-authoritarian novelist Milan Kundera a communist informant? Did he rat out Miroslav Dvoracek, a Czech spy for the West? The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes claims a team of historians and researchers discovered a document written by the Czech Communist police, identifying Kundera as the individual who informed on Mr. Dvoracek. Dvoracek was subsequently imprisoned for 14 years. Kundera denies the allegations.

Read more at:

The Contentious Centrist: here and here

The Economist

NYT

Sign and Sight

Political Cults: NATLFED

Standard

I was involved with a variety of organizations on the radical left for close to fifteen years. Some were genuinely enjoyable (working with a radical press) others less so (attending meetings at the “revolutionary collective”). But the craziest experience, one that led me to challenge the alphabet soup of revolutionary organizations in the U.S. (what Ron Radosh terms the “leftover left”), was my time spent volunteering with a front group of the National Labor Federation.

The front group, or “entity” in cult jargon, will remain nameless. Like so many San Francisco Bay Area radical sects, they promoted an ultra-left, anti-imperialist line. What made them stand out was the services they provided in the community including food and clothing distributions and medical care. As a young urban radical, dedicated to the struggle for social justice™ and eager to work with a local, community-based organization, I called a number in their newspaper and arranged to meet with representatives of the organization. We met at their office. They talked about their projects (many), their need for volunteers (great), and the possibilities for organizing in Oakland (endless). What they failed to mention was this was not an independent organization, it was part of a larger group called the National Federation of Labor (NATLFED), a group that I later found out was a political cult.

At my first meeting they claimed the organization was independent and community supported. I wondered how they could pay for an office, publish a newspaper, and pay their staff? Did they get government grants? They said they refused government funding and all of the people in the organization were volunteers. Then they slowly let you know the organization is part of a larger organization of “strata-organizing entities” seeking to “organize the unorganized.”

Entities? Strata-organizing? WTF? If it sounds strange, it is. The organization operates with a vocabulary laden with acronyms and arcane terminology. Here are some examples from The Essential Organizer, NATLFEDs bible:

benefits program: Claimed program or programs for organizing people as members and providing them with medical, dental, legal, food, and clothing.

blue-sky briefing: Meeting held in an open field to avoid feared electronic eavesdropping.

cadre: A committed, Provisional Communist Party-dedicated member of the cult. “A cadre’s life goal and the organization’s goal are the same. A cadre’s lifestyle is the same as the organization lifestyle.” — The Essential Organizer

canvassing: A term common to all political groups for soliciting support. NATLFED canvassing is unique in its strident demands on front volunteers and cult members to canvass, and for the strident tone of canvassers toward potential donors. NATLFED canvassing can be door-to-door, or it can be street tabling — if the latter, often in front of banks and supermarkets.

Central Committee: Governing body of the Provisional Communist Party.

constitution: Putatively governing document of the cult. The Essential Organizer actually has more day-to-day relevance. The constitution includes a death penalty and says that you may criticize and leave the organization only within your first year, after which either is forbidden.

DOT: The time a NATLFED member has been committed to the inner organization, as distinct from the time the person was simply volunteering.

entity: A front of the national organization. Entities solicit resources for themselves and for the national organization, and recruit volunteers into cult membership. Publicly called a mutual benefit association.

The Essential Organizer: The secret, micromanaging organizational manual of NATLFED.

FIIN: Financial input, a form or system for managing expenses and income. Also a technique to raise money: “A FIIN tactic.”

FOP: Friend of the Party. Aware of the Provisional Communist Party and in agreement with its politics, but not ready to join.

member: NATLFED calls “member” someone who signs up to be part of a mutual benefit organization. Such “members” are little involved: they still have normal lives and are barely indoctrinated with the public goal of the group (to organize without revolution), never mind the secret goal (to organize with revolution). Cult watchers would call “members” people who accept the secret goal of the group and have structured their lives around it. NATLFED calls such people cadre.

mutual benefit organization: Public name for a recruiting entity. MBAs claim to be unionlike groups offering benefits to the needy in exchange for membership of $0.62 a month (said to be the average wage of a farm worker in the early 1970s). MBAs beg donations of cash or supplies from local residents and businesses. The needy receive negligible aid, however, and when they do get aid they are expected to return the favor with exhausting support of the MBA. Most resources are kept by the organization. When aid is given, it is to maintain the illusion of MBAs as charitable to the poor, or to propagandize, as in free mass Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners followed by lectures about strata organizing.

National Labor Federation: the network of local entities. NATLFED is a fraction of the Provisional Communist Party, the central, controlling core of the cult.

NOC: East Coast base of national operations for NATLFED. Pronounced “knock”; stands for “National Office Central.” Located in Brooklyn. Often called the Cave in press reports, but “cave” is a police term for any suspected group’s headquarters, and reporters have talked more to police more than to cult members. One room of NOC is indeed called the Cave, though. See also COSHAAD.

OPS: Operations manager. Also synonym for “operations” in general.

propaganda: “Information released at a time or a manner to sustain, create, or enforce an effect. Example: for us to write in the newsletter nice things about reformist groups is propaganda, because by doing it we hope that the reformists realize we are willing to talk to at least establish polemics . . . even if they are ignorant, self- serving assholes . . . or think we are, whatever the current dialectic of position may be.” — The Essential Organizer.

Provisional Communist Party: The core of the cult. Centrally governs all branches of the greater organization, of which NATLFED is its largest and most active fraction. Only committed, viable party members are officers of an entity, but volunteers of an entity may know nothing of the Party or even of NATLFED. Also known as the Communist Party of the U.S.A, Provisional; Provisional Party of Communists, the Formation, etc.

The front groups do not let you know anything about their connection with NATLFED when you walk in the door. Nor is NATLFED mentioned on any of their literature. Over time, they let volunteers know a little here and there and start to lay on a heavy pressuring technique along the lines of, “the world is going to hell and unless you become a full-time volunteer (cadre) it will only get worse!” For stubborn people like me, the more they laid it on, the less I volunteered. When I stopped completely they would call me three or four times a week but eventually cut back to calling once a week, then once a month, then they gave up. Others were sucked right in by this badgering. I met more than a few people who basically admitted, “yeah, they are crazy but they are doing really good work in the community.”

Reflecting on my experiences with radical groups in the U.S. I began to wonder, why do people get involved with political organizations that are so far on the margins? Do they believe the far-out goals of these groups will ever be attained? Or do they join for the sense of belonging and identity these groups provide? I think the latter plays a much larger role than most recognize.

[Read the FBI files on NATLFED and LARGO, a related group]

nejalogo.gif

[Logo of the National Equal Justice Association, or, NEJA. The organization’s money laundering wing or entity in cult jargon.]

Part II: Inside NATLFED (coming soon)

Indymedia Activist Killed by Fellow Leftists?

Standard

Brad Will, an activist for the Independent Media Center (IMC) of New York, was killed in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2006 while covering protests organized by the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca—APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca). The APPO, New York IMC, and other left-wing media immediately placed the blame on pro-government paramilitaries (see pic. below).

However, the Mexican government recently charged three individuals affiliated with the APPO, Octavio Pérez, Juan Moreno, and Hugo Colmenares, with Mr. Will’s murder. Rather than examining the government’s evidence against these men, leftists claim the arrests are clearly part of a “broader crackdown” on anti-government activism in Oaxaca and the entire country. The Friends of Brad Will website maintains Mr. Will was killed by Mexican officials and is calling for a hunger strike at the office of New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

You can read a report in the NYT here. I find it interesting that the reporter refers to the loons at Indymedia as “left leaning” (rather than anti-capitalist and anti-American revolutionaries) while using the term “thugs” to refer to the right-wing paramilitaries. What do you expect from the paper that refuses to call terrorists by their rightful appellation?