Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sam Graham-Felsen stands for what?

Behind the bar, in the corner, hangs a Communist Party flag that Sam and Kieran bought on their trip to Russia the summer after sophomore year.

Starting with campaign news. "Sam" hanging the Communist Party flag is Sam Graham-Felsen
and the above is from Daniela J. Lamas's June 2003 "The Four-Year Path to a Quincy Suite" (Harvard Crimson) when Sam Graham-Felsen was a student at Harvard. His roommates gift him with a guitar (the article informs) and he passes on Marx (Karl, not Groucho). Sam is, of course, the "official campaign blogger" for Obama. He apparently started that job very early judging by the drools he published at The Nation over his man-crush. What brings the two together other than Sam's starry-eyed desire? Who knows?

I just returned from Paris, where I spent four days with the leaders of the student movement against the new employment law. I got a bird's eye view of the whole operation, and I'd like to clarify a few things that the mainstream media has gotten completely wrong.

That's Sam writing in 2006. The title is "What’s Really Happening in France" and apparently his need to clarify led him to republish his Nation article elsewhere. For example, the article was published in the May/June 2006 volume of Socialist Viewpoint. For those not up date on every periodical out there, the journal explains "Who We Are:"

The Socialist Workers Organization was formed to advance the revolutionary Marxist political program in the United States. Our members are long time active participants in the socialist and labor movements. We agree with Karl Marx that society is divided into social classes whose interests are irreconcilable.
The capitalist ruling class of the United States exercises a virtual dictatorship not only over American society, but also over the entire world. This capitalist class rule is the basic cause of the poverty, wars, and the degradation of the natural environment.
We advocate workers' power to solve the pressing problems that plague our society--homelessness, hunger, AIDS, the lack of health care for those who can't afford it, the poor quality and lack of resources for public education and other public institutions, and the destruction of the environment.
We believe that people have the human right to freedom, justice, and sharing of all the resources available for the makings of a good life. This means the right to jobs, decent housing, food and health care, and every aspect of education, clean water, air, and earth.
Workers power is the answer!
Working people are the overwhelming majority of the population and the ruling capitalist class is only a handful. They hold a monopoly over the media and the institutions of culture that create "public opinion" -- the printed and electronic mass media, as well as all public and private educational institutions. In the final analysis, however, capitalists rule by military and police force and violence.
To break the stranglehold of the capitalist minority over all of society, workers need their own political institutions. Workers and their unions need to break definitively with Democrats, Republicans, and other capitalist parties, all of which are dedicated to preserving and advancing the capitalist system of social, economic and political injustice.
Socialism, the ownership and democratic control of the means of production by the working class, and the removal of profit from the system of production, is the aim of Socialist Viewpoint, which reflects the political views of the Socialist Workers Organization. Socialism is the prerequisite for the next stage in human development that will end class oppression and exploitation for all time.

That's an interesting credit for an Obama campaign staffer to have, especially one tasked with 'getting out the message.' In 2005, attending a conference of the Democratic establishment, Sam puzzled some with his attack on the conference (which included his boss Katrina vanden Heuvel among its participants). What was he seeing that Matt Singer wasn't at the Campus Progress National Student Conference and why? (As Singer notes in the comments to his post: "But this whole article clearly begs the question: Is Sam describing his own editor as a sell-out?")

Long before Sam officially joined the campaign, he was doing work for it, such as lavishing Barack with praise -- two examples would include "This is a Social Movement" (The Nation, May 2006) and "Obama Steps Up on Iraq" (The Nation, February 2007). Shortly after joining the campaign, he took offense publicly when someone dared to question Barack's lack of plans (MyDD). Why is it such a problem for Obama to reveal plans? (As Taylor Marsh has often noted, Obama supporters are instructed to persuade voters by offering testimonials and avoid discussing policy -- instead, they're supposed to respond to any questions about policies by referring people to Obama's website.)

Sam once felt he was all grown up enough to tackle Noam Chomsky and offer this tidbit of 'wisdom': "And if he wants to convince Americans, he's simply got to tone it down." The still wet behind his ears offered, "Chomsky is almost 75 years old and he has a choice to make: he can continue to radically dissent to his heart's delight, or he can try to win a broader audience and actually change things." Now, yes, it is laughable that Sam, who has still accomplished nothing in his life, wants to lecture Noam Chomsky about Chomsky's lifetime of work but grasp the message Sam's sending which is "Tone it down, trick people a little, and you can get them over to your side." Isn't that the same problem he had at MyDD when pressed on actual plans by Obama?

And exactly what is a Democratic candidate doing with a staffer who acts as the campaign's public face when the staffer is featured in a Marxist publications? All of the above is public information. I could add a great deal of private information but we'll stick with the public information and wonder exactly how Sam made it onto Obama's staff and, considering all the above, why anyone should trust a word Sam says? His problem with Chomsky wasn't Chomsky's beliefs, he just felt they could be watered down to trick people. If Sam believes, as the magazine he published in does, that "Socialism is the prerequisite for the next stage in human development that will end class oppression and exploitation for all time," would he tell people straight or water it down with a lot of hope and change buzz words?

New topic . . .

The Army admitted about one-fourth more recruits last year with a record of legal problems ranging from felony convictions and serious misdemeanors to drug crimes and traffic offenses, as pressure to increase the size of U.S. ground forces led the military to grant more waivers for criminal conduct, according to new data released yesterday.
Such "conduct waivers" for Army recruits rose from 8,129 in fiscal 2006 to 10,258 in fiscal 2007. For Marine Corps recruits, they increased from 16,969 to 17,413.
In particular, the Army accepted more than double the number of applicants with convictions for felony crimes such as burglary, grand larceny and aggravated assault, rising from 249 to 511, while the corresponding number for the Marines increased by two-thirds, from 208 to 350. The vast majority of such convictions stem from juvenile offenses. Most involved theft, but a handful involved sexual assault and terrorist threats, and there were three cases of involuntary manslaughter.

The above, noted by Lloyd, is from Ann Scott Tyson's "Military Waivers for Ex-Convicts Increase" (Washington Post) and those 'waivers' have been wonderful for recruitment numbers, less wonderful for the actual service. The most famous waiver admission was in the news Saturday. From Brett Barrouquere's "Former G.I. challenging lethal injection" (AP):

Attorneys for a former member of the 101st Airborne Division charged with murder and rape in Iraq say he can challenge the federal lethal injection procedure even though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the method used by nearly three dozen states and the U.S. government.
Former Pvt. Steven D. Green may challenge how execution administrators are trained and how drugs are administered if he is convicted.
"While use of the specific chemicals in the Kentucky protocol was approved, the legal issues in lethal injection as a method of execution go beyond the types of drugs used," wrote Green's lawyers, federal public defenders Scott Wendelsdorf and Patrick Bouldin, along with attorney Darren Wolff.
Green is scheduled to face trial on April 27, 2009. Green, 22, of Midland, Texas, faces a possible death sentence if convicted on 16 charges that include premeditated murder and aggravated sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty in November 2006.

Steven D. Green should never have been allowed in the military (and if his attorneys are smart, that's part of the defense they'll mount). He had a long history of problems with the law. The military didn't care. They had a recruiting goal to make. Green denies involvement in the the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer and the murder of her parents and five-year-old sister but all others who have already admitted guilt (in military courts, only Green will face a civilian court) have testified that Green was the ring-leader (and the one who killed all four). After Abeer and her family were murdered, the crimes were blamed on 'insurgents.' The US military knew nothing about them and they discharged Green -- apparently for anti-social behaivor and that's without knowing a thing about the war crimes. Green was completely unfit to serve. (And, again, that's an argument his attorneys should be making.) That he and the others were able to sneak off base and conduct war crimes goes to how very little supervision was being offered. When you're bringing people in on 'moral waivers,' you've especially got a requirement to provide supervision. (Again, an argument Green's attorneys should make.) They took someone with a troubled childhood, multiple run-ins with the law (he joined while in jail after his latest arrest) and trained in what exactly? The same training they'd give every other recruit? Green wasn't every other recruit, he was someone brought in on a waiver and it seems pretty clear if he and others are sneaking off base, engaging in war crimes and then coming back to base and getting drunk that there was no supervision.

Here's AP this morning on the topic of the waivers:

Under pressure to meet combat needs, the Army and Marine Corps brought in significantly more recruits with felony convictions last year than in 2006, including some with manslaughter and sex-crime convictions.
Data released by a congressional committee shows the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.

What's being done with recruits with waivers? They can't be put through the same training and offered the same supervision. That's not enough. When you're bringing criminals to the service, you're putting everyone at risk that serves with them as well as everyone who inhabits in any area they are stationed in. The others sentenced for the war crimes say Green was the ringleader and they have no known no past criminal histories. They're adults, they're responsible for their actions, but what was done to protect them from Green's influence? Was anything done?

The flacks for the US military don't like to reference Green. When they talk about any problems with recruits brought in on waivers, they create this myth that those are the ones going AWOL and deserting. They declare, over and over, publicly that it's these waivers that have led to the largest increase in in AWOLs and desertions since Vietnam. Were that lie true, and they pretend it is, right there you have a reason to cease the waiver program. If these waiver programs mean that people are being trained and then checking out, it's not cost-effective for the military to continue the program. The reality, of course, is that the waiver program isn't responsible for the self-checkouts.

With some reality on AWOLs, this is from Rick Rogers' "Marine couple back after days astray" (San Diego Union-Tribune):

A newlywed Marine couple living in Escondido created a national stir when they went missing for days, only to surrender to military officials last week after making a cross-country trip.
Lance Cpl. Margaret McMahon-Reid, 20, and Pfc. George Reid II, 22, abruptly left their apartment and the Marine Corps on March 31. Their relatives feared the worst. The couple turned themselves in after reaching Reid's home state of North Carolina.
McMahon-Reid has resumed her duties at Camp Pendleton. Her husband is being held in the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, where he is stationed. Marine officials wouldn't explain why one spouse is behind bars and the other isn't.
They also haven't said whether the couple would be punished. If Reid and McMahon-Reid are charged with going “absent without official leave,” or AWOL, their case would hardly be unique.
For a variety of reasons, at least 640 Marines based in California -- most of them from Camp Pendleton -- have landed in military court since June 2005 because they went AWOL, according to an analysis of Marine dockets by The San Diego Union-Tribune. Those records showed at least 30 AWOL proceedings in the past month.

Lastly, Nan Levinson's "The power in their pain: Iraq war veterans create art to protest" (Boston Globe):

"Hi ho, rock 'n' roll, grab your weapon, get ready to roll," sings Drew Cameron, a 26-year-old artist and Iraq veteran, as he loosens the tie on his Army dress uniform.
more stories like this
" 'Cause you will be going to war," he continues in a steady tenor, pulling dog tags from under his shirt.
"So early, too early, too early in the morning." He jerks the chain from his neck, holds the tags at arm's length, and drops them to the floor. They clink as he walks off stage.
"Cadence," Cameron's brief performance, follows "I am who survived forgive me," a bruising spoken-word piece delivered by Aaron Hughes, 26, another artist-activist-veteran, at the Green Door Studio in Burlington, Vt.
Cameron and Hughes, members of the antiwar organization Iraq Veterans Against the War, are among a small but growing number of American vets who are using their experiences in Iraq to explore the interrelation of art and political resistance. Their performances last April, captured in a video by Justin Francese, are on view in "Experiencing the War in Iraq," a multimedia exhibit of artwork from both military and civilian perspectives that will be at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River through May 3.

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