Giving Thanks for Political Disagreements

How a Would-be Thanksgiving Argument Can Help Birth a Revolution
by Sam Husseini

It's become something of a cliché: Many people dread Thanksgiving in part because they have to break bread with friends -- and especially relatives -- who they adamantly disagree with politically. 

One is pro-immigration, the other wants to build a bigger wall, etc. 

But what if this annoying encounter was actually a blessing?

I don't identify as either a Democrat or a Republican, but I recognize that there are millions of people who identify as "Democrats" for some good reason and there are lots of people who identify as "Republican" for good reason.

Thing is, those "good reasons" mostly have to do with how bad the other party is.

And a further rub is that many rank and file Democratic voters and Republican voters agree on certain core issues: They are sick of Wall Street and big business domination. They are skeptical of perpetual wars, etc. This is in spite of the fact that the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties are deeply tied to Wall Street and back perpetual wars, occasional rhetoric to the contrary.

Can the Religious Left Take Down Nuclear Weapons?

Pope Francis will travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this weekend. On Sunday, he will give a public address at the ground-zero site of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. He is expected to give the clearest articulation yet of the Vatican's position, since 2017, that condemns the "very possession" of nuclear weapons. This is something Plowshares activists have been arguing -- and acting upon -- since 1980.

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Prosecutor E. Greg Gilluly railed to the jury as he held up a copy of Daniel Ellsberg's book -- The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner: It was evidence, but not "for the truth of it." Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia only grudgingly allowed the book to be entered into evidence since the seven activists, who could face decades in prison, had left it at Kings Bay base which houses the Trident submarine nuclear weapons arsenal on the Atlantic coast.

In her testimony, Plowshares defendant Clare Grady of the Ithaca, New York Catholic Worker community tried to explain to the jury the motivation and urgency of the group: US government is using nuclear weapons daily as a gun pointed at the head of the planet. But even as she spoke, she had a series of legal guns pointed at her own head. She and her fellow defendants had been threatened with contempt if they disobeyed Wood's edict not to cite evidence or legal arguments that might result in acquittal. As law professor Francis Boyle  warned before the trial: “This is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp and a railroad all put together.”

So, Grady and the six others -- the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 -- pleaded with the jury to look to their conscience. The activists were following the biblical edict to turn swords into plowshares, after all. But the jury seemingly didn't crack open either Ellsberg's book or their hearts, deciding on guilty verdicts on all four counts, including conspiracy, destruction of property and depredation, against all seven defendants in under two hours late last month.

Defendant Elizabeth McAlister, the 79-year-old widow of Phil Berrigan from Jonah House in Baltimore, who donated her own blood for the action said: “The government has set up a religion of nuclearism. It is terrifying and dead, dead wrong. It is a form of idolatry in this culture." 

If that seems like hyperbole, consider that Wood allowed prosecution witnesses to state -- under oath -- that they could "neither confirm or deny" the existence of nuclear warheads at the base. The defense had objected to this -- which had been allowed in prior trials of Plowshares activists -- in pretrial motions, but as with much else, the prosecution got away with things without so much as an objection being heard by the jury. Thus Wood effectively denied the central empirical reality of the case, that Kings Bay houses six Trident submarines each submarine can carry 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles designated Trident D5. Each of those missiles can carry up to eight 100-kiloton nuclear warheads -- about 30 times the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb. All the while, the defense was effectively dismissed for acting on their "subjective" beliefs.

Plowshares History Talk by Art Laffin

Plowshares History Talk 

(Talk by Art Laffin given on Oct. 22, 2019 at evening support gathering during  the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 Trial at St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, Brunswick, Georgia. This version Includes some slight revisions. Audio is here. Laffin is member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C. He is also editor of the two-volume work Swords into Plowshares, which has a forward by the late Father Daniel Berrigan.)


Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max

Presidential candidate Joe Biden is adding lies on top of lies to cover up his backing of the Iraq invasion.

At last night's ABC/DNC debate Biden lied about his Iraq record, just like he did at the first two debates.

In the July debate, Biden claimed: “From the moment ‘shock and awe’ started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress.”

When he first said that, it received virtually no scrutiny except for Mideast scholar Stephen Zunes, who wrote the piece "Biden Is Doubling Down on Iraq War Lies." Zunes outlined much of Biden's record, including his insistence in May 2003 -- months after the Iraq invasion -- that “There was sufficient evidence to go into Iraq.”

At last night's debate on ABC, Biden claimed that he voted for the Iraq invasion authorization to "to allow inspectors to go in to determine whether or not anything was being done with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons."

But the congressional vote happened on October 11 (see Biden's speech then). And by that time Iraq had agreed to allow weapons inspectors back in. On Sept. 16, 2002, the New York Times reported: "U.N. Inspectors Can Return Unconditionally, Iraq Says." (This was immediately after a delegation organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy -- where I work -- had gone to Iraq.)

Now, independent journalist Michael Tracey, who interviewed Biden in New Hampshire recently, reports that Biden made the ridiculous claim that he opposed the invasion of Iraq even before it started. Said Biden: “Yes, I did oppose the war before it began." See Tracey's piece: "Joe Biden's Jumbled Iraq War Revisionism" and video.

Film "Official Secrets" Points to a Mammoth Iceberg

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in "period pieces" such as "Pride and Prejudice," so her playing the lead in the new film "Official Secrets," scheduled to be release in the U.S. this Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted -- the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq -- is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history. 

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. I should say from the outset that having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date. "To date" because the wider story still isn't really over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about Iraq. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act -- a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which has in recent years been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.  

“One America" -- To What Ends?

The report is 121 pages. I've delved into it. I could immerse myself in it and write a dissertation, but who would read it? For a short piece, it's enough to just look at the cover -- and consider how this administration uses this issue as cover.

"One America in the 21st Century" is the title. Not "Finally Overcoming Racism." Not "Towards an America of Equality." "One America" -- is that really the point? Should that be the goal of this race initiative?

National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. We are called to "overcome the burden of race." In some respects, the people -- their very genetic makeup and heritage -- is implicitly viewed as a threat to the great goal: "One America." Is that more important than reaffirming our humanity with regards to ethnicity? Indeed, humanity is viewed at best as a mere lever, a tactic for national unity, just as racial diversity is viewed as a means to economic success.

"Radical": Frank Lloyd Wright interviewed by Mike Wallace

I came across this wonderful pair of interviews with Frank Lloyd Wright years ago. They are on the website of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. While their site has transcripts of the interviews, there seems to be no easy way of linking to them, so I've posted their transcript here, while making a few corrections. See my piece "Frank Lloyd Wright, Used by GOP, Since His Actual Ideas Are So Little Understood."

Video is also on youtube, but audio isn't as good:

WALLACE: Good evening, what you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris. (OPENING CREDITS) 

WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of one of the most extraordinary men of our time. You see him behind me, he is eighty-eight-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the greatest architect of the twentieth century. And in the opinion of some, America's foremost social rebel. According to a story in Life Magazine not many years back, fellow architects have called him everything, from a great poet to an insupportable windbag. The clergy has deplored his morals, creditors have deplored his financial habits, politicians, his opinions. And we'll get Frank Lloyd Wright's views on morals, politics, religion and architecture in just a moment. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree we feel sure that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast. 

WALLACE: And, now to our story. Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright hail him as a man one hundred years ahead of his time. Now, eighty-eight years old, he is still designing homes and buildings which are revolutionary, including plans for a mile-high skyscraper for which he's had no buyers yet. But just as radical as Frank Lloyd Wright the architect is Frank Lloyd Wright the social critic. Mr. Wright, before we go any further, I'd like to chart your attitudes specifically, by getting your capsule opinions as an architect or as a social critic of the following: First of all, organized Christianity. 

WRIGHT: Why organized it? Christianity doesn't need organizing according to the Master of it, the great master poet of all times didn't want it organized, did he?. Didn't Jesus say... that wherever a few are gathered in my name, there is my Church?