Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘History & Politics’

Are the Olympics good for us? MARK PERRYMAN has some ideas

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Why the Olympics Aren’t Good for Us, and How They Can Be

Mark Perryman reminds us there’s much to critique in the modern Games.




From Why the Olympics Aren’t Good for Us, and How They Can Be:

“Each Olympic Games is indivisible from the political, economic, social and cultural forces that shape it. The Olympics change as the world changes…

“In many ways the current era in Olympic history began at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. Four years previously the USA had failed to persuade most of the world to join it in boycotting the 1980 Moscow Games… Prior to that in 1976 the Montreal Games had been a huge loss-making commercial disaster for the city, and 1972’s Munich Games had been marked by terrorism. Something had to change if the Olympics were to survive. The early 1980s was the era of Reaganomics, and California was US President Reagan’s home state. What better place than Los Angeles to put the stamp of corporate America on the Five Rings and transform a symbol that was fast becoming damaged goods?

”This was the first Games where the profit motive was paramount. Sponsorship, endorsement, and product-placement deals were all signed with the global multinationals. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Mars Bar were the kind of brands that could provide the huge sums demanded. For such global products the Olympics provided the perfect promotional platform. This commodification of the Games inevitably had an impact on the athletes too. They demanded, with some degree of justification, that as their sporting efforts now sustained a highly profitable enterprise for a self-perpetuationg International Olympic Committee (IOC), they should have a share of the spoils. In 1986, two years after Los Angeles, the strict Olympian code of amateurism was summarily abandoned… Both processes, commericializaiton fo the Games and professionalization of the athletes, have been key to the dramatic trnasformation of the Olympics into what they are today.”


Further Reading

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“‘Finks’ Explores the Blurred Line Between Propaganda and Literature” JOEL WHITNEY in Truthdig

Friday, August 5th, 2016

“Finks examines CIA influence over Western writing.”

To read more, visit Truthdig

MEDEA BENJAMIN interviewed on Russia Today

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

“Just one case of many abuses that Saudi workers are suffering from.”

To read more, visit Russia Today

“Iranian Revolution” BEHROOZ GHAMARI endorsed by Vijay Prashad

Monday, August 1st, 2016

“Reading @orbooks forthcoming novel about the Iranian revolution. Wonderful read.”

To hear more, visit Twitter

“July in Books: Small Press New Releases” WALTER MOSLEY listed in Entropy

Monday, August 1st, 2016

“Folding the Red into the Black on Entropy Mag’s Small Press Books”

To hear more, visit Entropy

What does Doug Henwood’s MY TURN reveal about the tensions on display at the DNC?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Hillary in Her Own Words

The question remains whether Hillary Clinton is the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be—or simply a hawkish corporatist.



On Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders both took the stage to voice their support of Hillary Clinton. Both the First Lady and Senator Sanders, perhaps to the disappointment of the latter’s fervent supporters, spoke strongly about why they believe Hillary deserves votes.

The First Lady was adamant that Hillary was the only candidate for the job, saying, “And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility—only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States. And that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.”

Senator Sanders, on the other hand, struck a different note. “[T]he case he made for Clinton was less about a visceral appeal to liberal values than a dry, logical chain of argument that led (somewhat joylessly and amid boos) to the conclusion that Clinton deserved to be the nominee,” wrote Glenn Thrush of CNN. That was before Sanders tweeted on Monday:

Some suggested the tweet belies the fact that Sanders is more interested in keeping Trump out of the White House than putting Hillary in it.

The incongruous messages from the First Lady and Senator Sanders—one of full-fledged support and character endorsement, the other of resignation and necessity—reflect the anxieties of many voters on the left for whom Hillary Clinton is seen as the last remaining option, an alternative to Donald Trump who is not as progressive as they might like; that, as Doug Henwood points out in My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, “The case for Hillary boils down to little more than her alleged inevitability.”

Which begs the question, is Hillary the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be? Or another hawkish, corporatist politician?

In My Turn, a critique from the left that catalogs the rumors, policy complaints, and ideological alignments that have dogged the candidate throughout her career, Henwood allows Hillary’s words to speak for themselves:

“As a shareholder and director of our company, I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else.”

—June 1990, at the annual stockholders’ meeting

“For goodness’ sake, you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t represent banks.”

—March 1992. In her youth, Hillary interned at a radical law firm in Oakland, which, in Carl Bernstein’s words, was “celebrated for its defense of constitutional rights, civil liberates, and leftist cases.”

“Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”

—April 2002. The “deadbeats” she’s referring to are former welfare recipients who’d (briefly, in many cases) found low-wage work.

“It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.”

—June 2011, to an audience of senior executives from U.S. companies and officials from the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

“I love this quote. It’s from Mahatma Gandhi. He ran a gas station in Saint Louis for a few years.”

—January 2004. She later apologized, explaining it as a “lame attempt at humor.”

“The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than expected from the average citizen of the United States.”

—Written in 1974, as a staff lawyer drawing up the rules for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.


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Revolution on the streets of Tehran, 1979: read an excerpt from REMEMBERING AKBAR

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Photograph © Maryam Zandi


The news comes that in Tehran people have taken up arms and are taking over all the government buildings, including the state radio and television. They are storming the prisons and letting the political prisoners out along with thieves and murderers. Dark smoke is rising in different parts of the city. We gather outside along the road to Tehran and listen to a portable radio.

“Citizens of Tehran,” the announcer reads the latest declaration of the martial law authorities, “a curfew will be enforced from 4 o’clock this afternoon.”

It is already past 4:00 pm.

“In order to protect your lives and property, our brave troops are under strict orders to shoot without consideration subversive elements who defy this directive.” The radio played military marches and repeated the declaration. The workers at the General Electric plant were still demanding their back-pay.

The planning committee could not agree on a plan. Mohammad insisted that we had to stay there with the workers.

“The revolution will triumph,” he pleaded, “with or without us. No matter who rules the country, these workers will demand the same things.”

I was sympathetic to Mohammad, but could not ignore the bloodshed in the city. “We need to be there,” I said tersely. “What will we say when people later ask where were we during the uprising? What prison doors did we break? What military base did we conquer? What government building did we take over?”

Mohammad realized that he could not win this quarrel. He remained, while the rest of us headed back to the city to rejoice in the final triumph of the revolution.

Mohammad would be executed three years later.

Read More

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CODEPINK’s MEDEA BENJAMIN unravels the U.S./Saudi tangle

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia seem to have very little in common. What is the origin of their strange alliance?

Over a period of decades, the United States has supported a regime shown time and again to be one of the most powerful forces working against American interests.



What is the origin of this strange alliance between two countries that seemingly have very little in common?

Why, over a period of decades, has the United States supported a regime shown time and again to be one of the most powerful forces working against American interests?

Let CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin be your guide to unraveling this massive, and deadly, conundrum.

With extremism spreading across the globe, a reduced U.S. need for Saudi oil, and a thawing of U.S. relations with Iran, the time is right for re-evaluation of our close ties with the Saudi regime.

Kingdom of the Unjust ships in August. Pre-order now.


In other CODEPINK news, protesters interrupted last week’s Republican National Convention with banners in support of refugees. Via Jezebel:

“We’re here to say we don’t like the language coming out of the RNC presumptive nominee’s campaign with regards to the anti-Muslim rhetoric and the anti-immigration rhetoric,” Code Pink demonstrator Toni Rozsahegyi told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, July 17. The Times reported that many anti-Trump protests began during the weekend, preceding the convention’s kickoff.

Dressed as Lady Liberty to honor the labor of immigrants and refugees, Rozsahegyi explained, “our country was made on [their] backs, and we love refugees. They’re welcome here. And if we want to stop having refugees, we need to end war.” 1


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1 Jezebel, published 18 July 2016

“Medea Benjamin: Why Is Government Downplaying Saudi-9/11 Docs After Keeping Them Secret for Years?” MEDEA BENJAMIN on Democracy Now!

Monday, July 18th, 2016

“You talked about the dry run that was in 1999. It was actually two Saudis that were on their way to a party at the Saudi Embassy, with tickets paid for by the Saudi government, that tried to get into the cockpit twice, with an emergency landing, and then the FBI decided not to further investigate it. You mentioned Thumairy. Thumairy was allowed to go back to Saudi Arabia. When he was interviewed again in Riyadh in 2004, he denied that he had any contact with the hijackers, despite being presented with phone records. There are so many connections between individuals related to the Saudi government and these hijackers that it’s hard to even see why the U.S. government, whether it’s under the Bush administration or the Obama administration, continues to consider Saudi Arabia an ally. Of course, if you look deeper into it, you see things like $97 billion worth of weapon sales, so there’s a lot of money involved in this alliance.”

To hear more, visit Democracy Now!

“Narco Politics: the Political Economy of the Drug War” CARMEN BOULLOSA and MIKE WALLACE reviewed by CounterPunch

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

“A Narco History does a commendable job of laying out the various players who came to power in the modern day Mexican drug cartels.”

To read more, visit CounterPunch

“A Lit’r’y Coup”: an excerpt from FINKS

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

When the literary élite was sustained by the C.I.A.

The secret organization better known for its coups, assassinations, and spying activities underwrote literary and cultural institutions such as The Paris Review—often with the complicity of their editors and publishers.



From the introduction to Finks:

In early 1966, Harold “Doc” Humes, one of the founders of The Paris Review, wrote a well-intentioned ultimatum to George Plimpton, another founder. Having left it to Plimpton to run the famous magazine long before, Humes was floundering. Living in London, where his wife Anna Lou had left him over the holidays, he was dogged by bouts of extreme paranoia and convinced that he was under surveillance. According to Anna Lou, he believed that the bedposts in his London home recorded whatever he said, and that the recordings were then played directly for Queen Elizabeth.

Yet in his March 1966 letter to Plimpton, he was clear and reasonable, writing that Peter Matthiessen, another Paris Review founder, had just visited London and had told Humes an astonishing story. During his stay, Matthiessen had admitted that “The Paris Review was originally set up and used as a cover for [Matthiessen’s] activities as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Humes continued,

He further said that you [Plimpton] knew nothing about this until recently, that in fact when he told you your face “turned the color of (my) sweater” which I hasten to inform you is neither red nor blue but a very dirty grey-white, my having worn nothing else since my wife left. It precisely matches my spirits; they get greyer every day.

Humes even sympathized. “I believe Peter when he says he is properly ashamed of involving the [Paris Review] in his youthful folly, and, true, this was all 15 years ago. BUT…”

Humes was just one of The Paris Review’s larger-than-life personalities. The magazine received early praise from American publications like Time and Newsweek, and also from magazines and newspapers all over Europe. It helped launch the careers of William Styron, Terry Southern, T.C. Boyle, and Philip Roth, among others. It threw legendary parties where, for decades, actors like Warren Beatty and political and cultural figures like Jackie Kennedy would rub shoulders with New York City’s writers and book publishing rank and file. Its editor-in-chief Plimpton was already a best-selling author, a friend of the Kennedys, one of Esquire magazine’s “most attractive men in America,” and, according to Norman Mailer, the most popular man in New York City. His personal entourage drew attention, too. A 1963 Cornell Capa photograph shows a group assembled for one of the famous cocktail parties in Plimpton’s apartment. In the picture are Truman Capote, Ralph Ellison, Humes, Matthiessen, Styron, Southern, and Godfather author Mario Puzo.

. . .

Arguing that an association with secret institutions like the C.I.A. would inevitably lead to “rot,” Humes advised Plimpton that, for the integrity of the magazine, he should make Matthiessen’s ties during the magazine’s founding public. Citing Edmund Burke’s line “that it is enough for evil to triumph that good men do nothing,” Humes wrote, “I have deeply believed in the Review and all that we hoped it stood for, but until this matter is righted I feel I have no honorable choice but to resolutely resign. Even if I have to split an infinitive to do it.” He went on to suggest that Matthiessen might” laugh the matter off in print in a manner calculated to restore our tarnished escutcheon…” Under these circumstances, he would stay. Barring that, however, “I should like my name removed from the masthead. I’m sure it will not be missed.”

In attempting to inspire his colleagues to come clean, Humes cited an opinion that grew increasingly common as revelations of the C.I.A.’s vast propaganda apparatus were published in Ramparts magazine and The New York Times in 1964, 1966, and 1967. Namely, that any association with the super-secret spy agency—notorious for coups, assassinations, and undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism—tainted the reputations of those involved. Humes pressed the point forcefully. “Since this was apparently a formal arrangement, involving his being trained in a New York safehouse and being paid through a cover name, then without doubt the fact is recorded in some or several dusty functionarys’ [sic] files in Washington or around the world that our hapless magazine was created and used as an engine in the damned cold war…” He continued,

although Peter is not [to] be blamed for a paranoid system that makes victims of its instruments, nevertheless what of Styron?… What of half the young writers in America who have been netted in our basket? What color would their faces turn?


Of interest: Rear Window, Julian Stallabrass on the C.I.A.’s covert funding of Abstract Expressionist painters during the Cold War.


Further Reading

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“With Friends Like These…” DOUG HENWOOD reviewed by The Indypendent

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

“Progressives will find many new reasons to dislike Clinton after reading this sordid expose.”

To hear more, visit The Indypendent

Roundup: PATRICK COCKBURN on the Chilcot inquiry

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

The Chilcot inquiry is an unmistakable and damning indictment of Tony Blair’s Iraq War policy—but will it make a difference?

Veteran war reporter Patrick Cockburn has spent years covering the unfolding disaster in the Greater Middle East. In light of this week’s report, his analysis is proving indispensable.



Quoting at length from Patrick Cockburn‘s column in the Independent:

“By an accident of history, the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War is appearing at a critical moment in British history. The war was the first great test this century of the ability of the British powers-that-be to govern intelligently and successfully and one which they demonstrably failed. The crisis provoked by the vote to leave the European Union is the next crisis of similar gravity faced by these same powers and, once again, they appear unable to cope.

“Britain’s politicians and senior officials have traditionally had the reputation of making fewer mistakes than their rivals, but their inability to grapple with these crises is a sign that this period may be drawing to an end. The Chilcot report will presumably provide evidence about why Britain made so many mistakes before and during the Iraq war, but is unlikely to explain why it went on making them in Libya and Syria.

“Britain’s rulers periodically admit that they got many things wrong in Iraq, but they tend to be unspecific about what these were or what practical lessons can be learned from British military involvement there between 2003 and 2009. This ignorance is wilful, stemming from a conscious or unconscious sense that, if Britain admits to real weaknesses and failures, it will be seen as a less valuable ally by the US and others whom Britain is trying to convince of its continuing political and military strength.

“One way of looking at the Iraq conflict is to see it as a disastrous attempt by Britain to make war on the cheap in conditions which were far more risky than those launching it imagined. To prevent fragile support for the war eroding further, bad news was concealed or glossed over to the point that propaganda took over from reality.

“It was comical but chilling in the early years of the war to see Tony Blair and other British ministers, sometimes protected by helmets and body armor, travelling by helicopter from Baghdad International Airport to the Green Zone because it was too dangerous for them to drive along the short stretch of road between the two. Despite the necessity for these security measures in the heart of the Iraqi capital, they would then blithely state that the insurgents were on the run and a majority of Iraqi provinces at peace, a claim they wisely made no attempt to validate by a personal visit and in the knowledge that journalists could not disprove without grave risk of being murdered.” 1


BBC Radio also called on Cockburn to contextualize the inquiry’s findings in the greater British political landscape. Cockburn:

Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary … made a magnificent resignation speech in 2003 before the beginning of the war, saying, ‘look, the military strategy for overthrowing Saddam Hussein is that he’s militarily very weak, there won’t be much resistance; but the justification for this war is that he is a threat to us all—and you can’t have it both ways. So from the very beginning there was a contradiction. And Cook also says, ‘well it’s very unlikely he has militarily significant WMD’. It turned out he had none. But that’s something that could and should have been known at the time, and probably was instinctively known. So the threat was exaggerated to the point that it just becomes untrue. 2

And later, on BBC Radio Five Live, Cockburn charges that Blair, on Iraq, “has always been a bit detached from reality,” but that the “single-minded focus on Tony Blair as the evil architect of the whole war and almost a scapegoat for everything that happened is simple-minded and a bit deceptive. You have to look at what happened to British policy in general.” 3


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1 The Independent, published 4 July 2016
2 BBC West Midlands Radio, broadcast 7 July 2016
3 BBC Radio Five Live, broadcast 7 July 2016

“It was not possible, he concluded, for an impoverished black man in the Deep South to become a writer at that time. It’s hardly easier now. ” WALTER MOSLEY for The New York Times

Monday, June 20th, 2016

“It was Leroy’s dream to write for the popular pulp magazines. He even sent a cowboy story to a magazine — only to see it published a year later, under someone else’s name. He gave up. It was not possible, he concluded, for an impoverished black man in the Deep South to become a writer at that time. It’s hardly easier now.”

To hear more, visit The New York Times

“Timely, insightful, and passionately argued” CARMEN BOULLOSA and MIKE WALLACE reviewed in Los Angeles Review of Books

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

“Narco History, a timely, insightful, and passionately argued short volume, is essential reading to understand why both Mexico and America have been ravaged for over a century by cartels, politicians, and gangs. The authors aren’t starry-eyed about legalization (although they support it) because they fear that drug cartels, such as Guzman’s Sinaloa, could become corporations and sell marijuana or other drugs legally on the market. What’s required for a wholesome change in Mexico’s dysfunctional political structure is “a complete dismantling of the anti-drug regime.” Tragically, at present, there’s too much money to be made for the war to stop.”

To read more, visit The Los Angeles Review of Books.

“She is very bellicose” DOUG HENWOOD interviewed on Tablet Mag

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

[On Hillary Clinton]: “She is very bellicose, aggressive, very pro-military. When she was Secretary of State she was by far the most aggressive member of the Cabinet.”

To read more, visit Tablet Mag.

On the death of MICHAEL RATNER, our author, shareholder, and friend.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

OR Books is deeply saddened to hear today of the death of our author, shareholder, friend and comrade Michael Ratner. An exceptional man in so many ways he was resolute in standing up for justice, freedom and equality, doing so always with intelligence, generosity and a lovely, dry wit. Like many others, we will greatly miss him. Here he is, with his co-author and friend Michael Smith, talking on Democracy Now about his book Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder.

“The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human rights abuses in El Salvador” RAYMOND BONNER for The Nation

Friday, April 15th, 2016

“The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.”

To read more, visit The Nation.

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