Let’s Hear the Trump Phone Call Tapes

By Tom Motko (September 27, 2019)

Perhaps an allegory: In 1971-72, I was part of a mission gathering tactical intelligence in what would become the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. This was pretty important stuff because the right intercept at the right time could save the lives of other poor suckers like me trying to survive their obligatory year in the shit.

We were getting nice clean tapes of our intercepts and, in one intercept, I’d recognized a code that might have some fairly immediate importance. I highlighted the tape and sent it back most riki-tiki by courier chopper to Bien Hoa.

I had to hop a slick in from the bush about a week later and stopped by the main shop, curious about what the intercept had actually contained. The guys thought it odd I’d highlighted the tape and, when I pulled the transcription, I saw why. The transcribers, Vietnamese soldiers, had indicated the tape was quite garbled and unintelligible. I was outraged. I pulled the tape and went out to the transcription trailer after midnight. The tape was clear and easily transcribed. I was relieved to find it didn’t contain any critical intelligence after all but…what if it had?

I brought the matter to the attention of the NCOIC of the main shop, showing him the two transcriptions side by side. I made a formal complaint. Before I headed back out to the river patrol base, the sergeant let me know my complaint wasn’t going anywhere. He was apologetic, but, “We can’t embarrass our allies.”

Well, this is all to say, I WANT TO HEAR THE TAPES.


Greta Thunberg’s Speech Will Be Iconic

By S. (September 25, 2019)

I’ve always wondered how speeches become iconic and why some speeches are remembered. Would I recognize a famous speech when I first heard it? Did those people who first heard “ask not what your country can do for you” or “I have dream” understand the historic import?

I remember “Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall”. It felt like empty political posturing.

George HW Bush’s “read my lips” speech is remembered ironically.

I don’t remember anything from Clinton or Bush Jr.

I’m also surprised that I can’t remember any of Obama’s speeches. Perhaps that is because Obama’s rhetorical skills were undermined by his staunch defense of untenable status quos.

I think Ms. Thunberg’s speech is going to make history not just because she had a great platform with this event, but because she eloquently and passionately said what so many of us were thinking. It’s a pure message, unencumbered by real politik or compromises. She truly spoke truth to power (it’s regrettable how much that phrase has been over used) and I think we should echo her words far and wide.

The Anemic Left Fails the Structure Test in the Face of Trump

By Mark Rudd (September 23, 2019)


Well, the Stench came to Albuquerque on September 16. He filled an auditorium in Rio Rancho with about 7000 people and more hanging around outside. He and his crowds got considerable coverage on the 10 o’clock tv news shows, but there was little to nothing about our rally back in Albuquerque at Old Town’s Tiguex Park, where we countered the Stench’s hate with the slogan “A New Mexico for All.”

The Journal did report that there were about 700 there and about 200 more anti-Trump protestors up in RR. My estimate was in the range of 1000, maybe even a few more, at the rally at Tiguex called jointly by the Democratic Party and a smorgasbord of issue-based mass movement organizations involving immigrants, the lgbt movement, women, Native American and environmental groups.

Although it was a pretty nice feeling at the rally, listening to politicians and others call for the Stench’s defeat, the truth of the matter is numbers count. 7,000 vs. less than 1,000. Eek! No wonder everyone I talked with today about the rally yesterday used the adjective “anemic.”

I don’t mean anemic in terms of anything but numbers. Militancy, excitement, willingness to take risks or disrupt or shout against the Stench, I’m not considering. Just numbers attending the rally.

The union movement has a concept called “structure test.” It means every time you go public with an event such as a demo or rally or in the case of unions, a card campaign, the results in numbers show how strong your organization is. You always want those numbers to go up. Down is very bad. The structure you’re building can’t bring people out.

(An exception might be the Albuquerque Women’s March in January, 2017, which had an estimated 10,000 people; the next year there were 5,000, which is still an acceptable showing, given that the organization was new and there would be a natural drop-off due to an inevitable normalization of life under fascism. The big test is how many the Women’s March will bring out in January).

The structure test last night didn’t look so good.

The crowd tended older, a lot of white people with a decent portion of younger and browner mixed in . Women predominated, both up on the stage and in the crowd.

Women are the only demographic group in New Mexico who have shifted their consciousness as a group, a significant number of whom have decided to organize for power. The far-right crazies knew they wanted power, they’ve been working at it for decades, tirelessly and strategically. Now women are gaining control over the NM Democratic Party, following the model laid down by the right in capturing the Republican Party. They’ve been electing good women to office.

Women have reorganized the Party. They’ve entered into active leadership positions, such as running committees, chairing campaigns, captaining precincts and wards. They figured out, en masse, that the goal is power and the means to power is through elections.

Stephanie Garcia Richards would not be our first women Land Officer, nor would Deb Haaland and Xochitll Torres Small be in Congress without women power. (I suspect that Ben Ray Lujan, whom I respect for his organizational skills, has underestimated the power of New Mexican women. My money is on Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who, with the critical support of women in her campaign, has a good chance to take the primary in June and go on to become NM’s first female senator).

The anemia on display yesterday, is a symptom I think, of the fact that ONLY women have caught on as a group. Other demographic groups haven’t shifted consciousness yet, haven’t concluded that it’s time to change their lives and organize for power.

I’ve pondered the question of why it’s so hard for most of us on the left to figure out that the goal is power. Basically, I think, those on the left are people who avoid telling other people what to do, who follow a live and let live attitude. Plus, power is ALWAYS compromised and it’s necessarily dirty. So our default status is to avoid power by not recognizing the need to work for it.

This, of course, left a great vacuum that the wrong people were only too glad to fill. They are in power now because we neglected to organize for power. It’s that simple. Since we represent the large majority of public opinion–people want health care, jobs, decent education–all we need to do is organize for power. Get out the vote. What could be simpler?

While we were abdicating power we did a lot of other things, many of us choosing work and careers that held the society together while it was being looted by the rich: we are medical workers, teachers, social workers, public interest attorneys, or work for non-profits. But it didn’t matter because the Trumps of the country were going for power.

The poor numbers yesterday are an indication that our organization leaves a lot to be desired. Not enough of us have joined in, have figured out that our lives depend on our working for power.

Most of us are hoping that the Stench will be defeated in November, 2020, and that we can then go back to our normal real lives. That’s only wishful thinking: if the Stench loses, his most rabid supporters will reach for their guns. Am I the only person who’s noticed the gradual and continual ratcheting up of violence?

If something like civil war breaks out in this country, our movement’s chances of survival are not based on our fire power, far from it. Nor on who’s president. Only if we have the local and state power to control and rein in the police, who are naturally inclined to intervene on the side of the fascists, can we win. Law over politics.

Which brings us back to electoral power. We gotta have it.

Another big test is coming Friday, when high school organizers bring people out to protest climate extinction. It’s a global day of action, but my attention will be in Santa Fe and at Robinson Park in downown ABQ to see the first structure test of this new demographic’s organizing. Whatever happens Friday, the follow-up demonstration will tell us even more.

Friday’s rally against extinction is an absolute necessity for power, a pre-cursor. The momentum-driven mass movements around issues are necessary complements to the movement to transform the Democratic Party.

It’s happening, but how quickly?


We Need More Imagination in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

By Joe Lowndes (September 12, 2019)

It’s really interesting how this Franzen essay has either been affirmed as a kind of honest reckoning, or vilified as a kind of a privileged defeatism, by so many people I know and respect politically.

I don’t love the piece, but I think Franzen is getting at something productively uncomfortable by arguing that the belief that we can avoid an unutterably brutal future is an anxious wish, one that might prevent us from really acknowledging what is before us.

Against some of the eco-modernist insistence that we can preserve our current way of life, he asks, essentially: what tools do we need – culturally, ethically, politically – to live in an inescapably altered future?

But his answers are entirely inadequate to the radical questions he raises. A more civil society? Better law enforcement? Defense of “democracy?”

Here he betrays his own anxious wish for a lost world of bourgeois liberalism, as if the system he wants to defend bears no responsibility to ecological collapse we will face, and that so many are already facing. He knows that we cannot go back, but he stops short of helping us imagine how to go forward, beyond a kind of micro-politics of community self-care.

It seems increasingly clear that – while doing all we can now to stay the worst outcomes of climate catastrophe – we will be eventually be forced to choose between authoritarian and violent forms of resource-hoarding and rule; or new (or perhaps very old) forms of mutual aid, care, and collective self-organization.

Franzen is right to ask us to move past our frozen state of melancholia, to be alive to the horror of collapse as a way to make living meaningful. But perhaps ironically for a novelist, his imagination fails us.

joe lowndes

A Glimmer of Hope on September 11

By Mark Naison (September 11, 2019)

As I watched the Twin Towers fall from the my 6th Floor Seminar room in Dealy Hall at Fordham, I knew that our country would be tested as it never had been since the multiple crises of the 1960’s

Would we come out of this terrible ordeal , which would include the deaths of friends, co-workers, and family members, with our hearts hardened to the suffering of those following different traditions than our own, or would we come out of it more open minded and compassionate?

The jury is still out on that issue. The unity that followed those awful events has dissipated, and we live in a country where many people are filled with rage, at war with their own neighbors, as well as people who do not think they way they do.

Yet all is not lost. We are not beyond redemption

So I ask this: Let the heroism and unselfishness of so many people that day, of individuals not in uniform as well as first responders, offer a model of how we can be better than we ever thought possible, both as individuals as as a country

I honor my friends who died when the Towers collapsed, some of whom were fellow coaches in Brooklyn CYO basketball, but I also honor the transcendent possibilities of compassion and generosity that were revealed that day, and in the days that followed.

At a time when we see, on a daily basis, too many people drawing on their worst instincts, let us find the best in ourselves the way so many people did on that tragic day

Peace to all.


When I Meet Young People who Want to be an Obama

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (August 5, 2019)

The problem isn’t that Obama bought a 15 million dollar house. What else are you going to do with the money?

The problem is:

a)  that you all thought he was ever going to do anything for Black people that would jeopardize the family  buying a 15 million dollar house.

b)   he did it as a public servant who could have pushed for policies for Black communities, but pushed for policies that led to a 15 million dollar house, instead.

When I meet twenty year olds who want to be Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I am heartened. Ella Baker, I’m down. When I meet twenty year olds who want to be Huey Newton or Fred Hampton. I am heartened. Bayard Rustin. Same deal. When I meet 20 year olds who want to be Angela Davis. I think, right on. I hope they read her older stuff. However, when I meet twenty year olds who want to be Barack or Michelle Obama, I’m always sad, and I back away, with my hand on my wallet. 

I also keep my kids away from those people.