Mark Karlin

Noam Chomsky’s Political Analysis Comes to Life in Graphic Novel

What was the importance of the Occupy Movement? What lessons does it hold for future activism? What is the importance of solidarity movements? Truthout interviewed Jeffrey Wilson about the answers to these questions that he learned from Noam Chomsky.

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A CIA Coup Set the Stage for the Conflict With Iran

Before the theocratic government of today's Iran, there was the brutal Shah. Before the Shah, the CIA overthrew a pro-Western government that had been democratically elected. Mohammad Mossadegh was the prime minister and his US-backed downfall in 1953 was the spark that set in motion the conflict with Iran today. In this interview, Medea Benjamin sheds light on this seminal incident with Iran. She also explores the nation's history and politics.

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Climate Change Refugees Face Militarized Borders

As more and more climate-ravaged communities are forced to relocate by droughts, floods and superstorms, the business of fortifying borders is booming. In his new book, Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, Todd Miller travels around the world reporting on the corporate border militarization cash grab, and the emerging movements for environmental justice and sustainability. The hi-tech militarized barriers between developed and undeveloped nations are increasing. Built to keep out refugees driven by economic and political need, these borders are now faced by those fleeing the ravages of climate change, author Todd Miller tells Truthout in this exclusive interview.

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"A Resource of Hope": Powerful "Voices" Anthology Turns 10

Since Zinn's death in 2010, Arnove - an author and editor - has helped keep Voices of a People's History alive through readings, and now, in an expanded edition with timely additional content.

Truthout recently discussed the book, which serves as a vital, energetic and inspiring companion to Zinn's breakthrough book, A People's History of the United States, with Arnove.

Mark Karlin: Voices of a People's History is so expansive and revelatory, it is only appropriate to begin by discussing a normally undisclosed aspect of the colonial revolt against Britain. The book has a section devoted to documenting the economic and social inequality that existed among the colonial settlers and the revolutionary army. That, I am sure, comes as quite a surprise to many schooled on the myth of a nation founded as egalitarian, don't you think?

Anthony Arnove: Howard was attentive to many aspects of US history that tend to be ignored or deliberately downplayed. But he was especially attuned to class conflict. The common metaphor of the United States as a family conceals sharp divisions that have always existed. And, as you point out, it wasn't just that those conflicts existed between the colonial settlers and the indigenous population, whom they systematically dispossessed and slaughtered, or between the colonial population and the millions of slaves they forcibly brought here to work and die under the most brutal conditions.

There were also different class interests among the colonialists, among those who fought in the revolutionary army. And the founders were acutely aware of the dangers posed by the different interests of the landless majority if they organized. They had to find ways to ensure that those with property and wealth dominated the new nation they were forging.

That's why, in "Voices," we include some of the voices such as Plough Jogger, who took part in Shay's Rebellion, and Joseph Plumb Martin, a soldier who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776 and served in New York and Connecticut during the American Revolution, who express their frustrations at their ill treatment and the desire for a different social order.

Backing up in history, BuzzFlash recently posted a video of Viggo Mortensen reading a letter detailing the brutality that the Conquistadors visited upon Native Americans. Did anything come of Bartolomé de Las Casas's appeals to the Spanish royalty?

That's such a powerful reading. The great filmmaker John Sayles actually helped us craft the version we use in live performances. He read in a very early performance in New York and helped us edit the selection that is in the book, taken from his remarkable book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, into something that works so beautifully on stage. Given the scale of destruction wrought by the conquest of the Americas, the sale of reforms Las Casas was able to urge pale in comparison. And we also should remember that, at one point, he urged using African slave labor rather than enslaving the native peoples of the West Indies, a position he later regretted.

Mortensen's reading, which was shown on "Democracy Now," was extremely powerful. What effect do you think the live presentations of the speeches and essays has on audiences?

I am extremely moved myself when taking part in live performances of Voices and struck at how enthusiastically and emotionally people respond. On paper, honestly, it seems rather boring: people watching a group of actors and musicians reading or singing "on book" (with a script in hand), without any costumes or staging or any of the other apparatus of the theater. When we organized our first reading in 2003, we half expected it would be a bust or maybe just a one-time event. But it was electric and galvanizing for people to come together and experience these voices speaking from the past so powerfully to our situation today.

The book has 25 chapters, and their titles and content offer an alternative vision of a nation that was founded upon equality for white male property owners and pretty much inequality for everybody else: people of color, women, the poor, non-heterosexuals. Is it fair to say Voices of a People's History speaks for the majority who were not beneficiaries of US independence?

A "history for the rest of us" is not a bad way of describing it. But it's more than just whose voices are included in Voices; it's how that history is told. One of the major faults of Great White Men history (or, if you are a bit more sensitive, Great White Men and a Few Great Others, Since We Are So Great and Inclusive, Whatever "Mistakes" We Made a Long Time Ago and Let's Move On . . . history) is that it leaves most students and readers utterly alienated from the process. Howard's emphasis on people's history, a bottom-up view of how change happens, was that unknown people, groups of people and not just individuals, oppressed people, dispossessed and abused people, make history. And that is a dangerous idea to those in power.

From how frequently the topic is interspersed in the book, the US certainly appears to be a nation that can't turn down a war. How is this related to the growth of the United States empire?

One of the themes of Voices is that the US empire has a very long history. It doesn't begin with 1898 and the conquest of the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and beyond. You have to talk about the invasion and occupation of Mexico in the 1840s (something that is important to remember as we consider the war on Mexican immigrants and the militarization of the border today). You have to look at the westward expansion of the colonies and settler-colonialism and the exercise of "Manifest Destiny."

But what's truly striking when you look at this history is the consistency of the rhetoric of benevolence, selflessness, "spreading democracy," opposing tyranny, defending human rights. One of Howard's main aspirations as a historian was to teach people about the lies used in past wars so they would be far less likely to believe politicians and military officials when they announce yet again our need to send people to kill and be killed in the name of "democracy."

Needless to say, the struggle for women to reach full equality with men continues today. Voices includes a feisty, wry recollection of a speech that Sojourner Truth gave around 1850 advocating women's rights. A spirited performance of the remarks can be found on You Tube, read by Kerry Washington. Would you comment on the spot-on wit when she orated:

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How America Continues to Suffer the Male Rage of the 'White Wing'

Is there hope that the ugly, hateful era of the angry white male might come to an end in the United States?

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Thom Hartmann: The Memo That Started a Corporate Heist of Our Government

Narrated by Thom Hartmann, and produced and directed by Donald Goldmacher and Frances Causey, Heist: Who Stole the American Dream in Broad Daylight? is a comprehensive dissection of the evolution of corporate control over the federal government. Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote that Heist "has the virtue of taking the long view of a crisis that recent films like Inside Job and Too Big to Fail have only sketchily explored. It makes a strong case that government regulation of business is essential for democracy to flourish."

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Evidence Emerges That GOP Leader Tried to Use Petraeus Affair to Hurt Obama Before Election

Amidst the sordid details of the high-ranking CIA sex scandal (that has now spread to an investigation of Jill Kelley, the woman who complained of being harassed by Gen. David Petraeus's mistress (Paula Broadwell), being involved involuminous and questionable e-mail exchanges with the current commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen), one important political factor has emerged in the last day: Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appears to have tried to put pressure on the FBI to advance the investigation, with the likely goal of an October surprise scandal that would have potentially harmed Obama's chance of re-election.
The Wall Street Journal  and The New York Times provided insight into the Cantor involvement, with the Journal noting in the beginning of a November 12 article:
A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe.
After being blocked from the case, the agent continued to press the matter, relaying his concerns to a member of Congress, the officials said.
New details about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the case suggest that even as the bureau delved into Mr. Petraeus's personal life, the agency had to address conduct by its own agent—who allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman involved in the case prior to the investigation.
The Journal went on to reveal that the "The [shirtless photograph] agent is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI, according to two officials familiar with the matter."
A quick recap is called for here.  Some time earlier this year, the unidentified FBI agent filed an agency request to investigate alleged threatening e-mails from the mistress of Petraeus (then C.I.A. director) to one Tampa Bay resident Jill Kelley, a married socialite who is a "volunteer liaison" (whatever that means) with one of the most top secret military units (based in the Tampa area).
The agent who sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley, via a mobile phone one presumes, was obviously a close friend of hers.
Jane Mayer of the New Yorker takes the political dimensions of the story from there: 
The [New York] Times uses the word “murky” to describe what happened next, and there are many puzzling aspects. But according to the Times, at the end of October, a week or so after the F.B.I. investigators confronted Petraeus, an unidentified F.B.I. employee took the matter into his own hands. Evidently without authorization, he went to the Republicans in Congress. First he informed a Republican congressman, Dave Reichert of Washington State. According to the Times, Reichert advised this F.B.I. employee to go to the Republican leadership in the House. The F.B.I. employee then told what he knew about the investigation to Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader. Cantor released a statement to the Times confirming that he had spoken to the F.B.I. informant, whom his staff described as a “whistleblower.” Cantor said, “I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee who was concerned that sensitive, classified information might have been compromised.” But what, exactly, was this F.B.I. employee trying to expose? Was he blowing the whistle on his bosses? If so, why? Was he dissatisfied with their apparent exoneration of Petraeus? Given that this drama was playing out in the final days of a very heated Presidential campaign, and he was taking a potentially scandalous story to the Republican leadership in Congress, was there a political motive?
According to the Times, Cantor said he took the information, and “made certain that director Mueller”—that is Robert Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I.—“was aware of these serious allegations, and the potential risk to our national security.” This is a strange way to explain his contact with the F.B.I. on this matter, because it is almost inconceivable that director Mueller was not already aware that the bureau he runs had examined the e-mail account of the director of the C.I.A., and, further, confronted him in person. Such a meeting between the bureau and head of the C.I.A. would have been extraordinary, and it is fairly unthinkable that Mueller wouldn’t have been consulted. So what information was Cantor conveying when he got in touch with Mueller?
The New York Times reports of an interesting wrinkle in the political implications of the conduct of the "shirtless" agent who seemed to be pursuing Mrs. Kelley and "advocating" on her behalf with keen interest: "Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his 'worldview,' as the [F.B.I.] official put it, he [the "shirtless" agent] suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama."
Normally, it should be noted, the FBI does not become involved in investigating adulterous affairs of government officials unless there is proof that national security has been compromised.
The unidentified "shirtless" F.B.I. agent now under investigation -- and his end run around the bureau through Eric Cantor during the days leading up to Election Day -- raise more serious issues than adulterous sex in terms of what appears to be a last ditch effort to influence a national election.
Fortunately, Cantor didn't bully F.B.I. Director Mueller into an October Surprise revelation of Petraeus having had an adulterous affair.  More may come out, given that Broadwell may have a penchant for wanting people to know that she has inside information (including her questionable public claim that the C.I.A. was holding prisoners in Benghazi) -- and that there are questions of whether any classified information was revealed or rendered vulnerable.
But it would take a leap of unjustified faith to believe that Eric Cantor's telephone call to the head of the F.B.I. on Halloween was not an attempt to force the salacious scandal of lust (as it stands at this moment) to the front pages before the election.
Fortunately, global warming's October surprise -- Hurricane Sandy -- trumped Cantor's inappropriate meddling into an FBI investigation for opportunistic political purposes likely aimed at influencing an election.

Joan Walsh on College Educated Progressives' Prejudice Against the White Working Class

Joan Walsh, the former editor of Salon (and now editor at large), has in recent years become the go-to MSNBC commentator on working class issues. Born into an Irish middle class family in New York, she offers a personal and analytical perspective on why so many white working class families defected from the Democratic Party. Her viewpoint on blue collar politics is insightful at a time that the progressive movement is still wrestling with how to rebuild the New Deal coalition in a contemporary format. 

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