Circumstances of Jill Stein’s Hofstra Arrest: “Symbolic” of What CPD Has Done to Democracy

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party’s candidate for President and Vice President, you may have heard, were arrested a little over a week ago as they attempted to confront representatives of the Commission on Presidential Debates on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on the eve of the second official Presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. What you may not have heard about are the actual circumstances of the arrest.

In a suit for injunctive relief filed on October 22 in Circuit Court in Palm Beach, Florida, to prevent that night’s third official debate from occurring at Lynn University in Boca Raton without inclusion of third parties, Stein’s attorney related the salient details of that arrest:

24.  On October 16th, 2012, less than one week ago, the United States Presidential Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and her Vice-Presidential running mate, Ms. Cheri Honkala, were arrested for being on the grounds of the site of the Presidential debate which was scheduled to take place approximately seven hours later.

25.  Dr. Stein arrived on the grounds of Hofstra University at approximately 2:00pm in order to speak with defendant Commission for Presidential Debates to request that she and other “third party” candidates be allowed to participate in that evening’s Presidential debate. Fifteen minutes after making that request to a representative of defendant Commission, Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were approached by local police and the Secret Service, at which time they were handcuffed, taken to a remote detention facility/wharehouse/ especially set up to house “protestors”, where they were forced to remain for over eight hours while tightly handcuffed to metal chairs until such time as the debate between the only two candidates “invited” to participate in the debate was over.

26.  When Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were finally “un-hancuffed” from the metal chairs and released, they were sent out into the cold night in a remote location with no notice to their lawyers or staff of their release.

27.  Dr. Stein’s comments concerning her arrest, handcuffing, and incarceration are, in essence, the basis for this injunction. Upon her release, Dr. Stein stated: “It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that’s what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy.”

We know the suit failed in its primary purpose to stop the debate.  But I hope you will take a minute and think about what happened to Stein and Honkala on the afternoon and evening of October 16. Think about these two women, candidates for president and vice-president,  on the ballot in 38 states with their Republican and Democratic opponents, handcuffed with plastic restraints to metal chairs for eight hours in an “undisclosed location,” like common criminals or terrorists.

This is what American democracy in 2012 looks like.

This Was a Foreign Policy Debate?

I made a comment to Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser in an online chat this afternoon about the debate last night:

It’s likely that Romney’s limitations [in last night’s debate], which kept him trying to drag the subject back to domestic politics, owe to real limitations and inexperience. I don’t know why Obama was so ready to oblige Romney’s fallback to safety and follow him there. Nor do I understand why Bob Schieffer restricted most of the discussion to the Middle East and the military, as though that’s all the foreign policy worthy of being discussed or that Americans are capable of caring about. What about climate change, energy and geopolitics, immigration, drug war policy, the Eurozone and currency wars? This was the least informative debate in memory, except it did tell us almost too much about how vacant the discourse in the US has become, especially among the political class.

Kaiser replied:

Good comments, thanks. But I think both candidates are convinced that domestic issues will be much more important in voters’ final decisions than any concerns about foreign affairs.

The discussion is over, but here is how I respond to Kaiser:  Why have a foreign policy debate at all if it’s understood that the candidates and their campaigns don’t think it’s important to the voters and the media are willing to go along with them on that? Who was this debate for? Who are any of these debates for?

If you want to hear candidates actually talk about the stuff of foreign policy–how politics and economics in the US relates to politics and economics in other countries around the world–you have to watch democracynow.org’s Expanding the Debates, in which Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman allowed the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s  Rocky Anderson to respond to questions Bob Schieffer put to the president and Mitt Romney. (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson declined Democracy Now’s invitation. )  It’s doubtful, if you watched the official debate only, that you’ll have learned very much at all, given the extremely limited subjects discussed and the frequent derailments with domestic politics. But it’s almost guaranteed you will learn something watching the expanded format.

A Sufi View on the Proper Islamic Response to “Innocence of Muslims”

Sheik Imran Hosein is an Islamic scholar of the Sufi tradition, born in Trinidad and educated in Pakistan and Europe. He’s been a diplomat in his native Trinidad and Tobago and imam at a Long Island masjid, among many other accomplishments.  His academic specialty is Islamic eschatology, which, like Christian eschatology, concerns the end times. He gives a hint of the flavor of his scholarship at the end of the video posted above, the final segment of a three-part interview with a British vlogger who calls himself 108Morris108.

I’m posting the video here because, in a sense, Sheik Hosein answers a comment from Sreenivas on a previous post marveling at the audacity of Islamic protests against the film Innocence of Muslims in Libya and Pakistan. I have to say I think  Sreenivas’s main point about the irrationality of the attacks is hard to argue against. And in fact, Hosein expresses a similar disdain for what he suggests is a non-Islamic reaction that, without reflection and in pure reflex, lashes out violently at the wrong targets. He suggests the protestors behave like puppets on a string being yanked by their enemies. Protestors should peacefully target their own governments, he says, as the Tunisians and Egyptians did in the spring of 2011. Why? Because their governments are enabling the enemies of Islam.

Oddly, he criticizes governments in the Arab world (namely Saudi Arabia) that are lending moral and other forms of aid to the Syrian rebels. Is it because he thinks the Syrian rebellion is essentially violent and “un-Islamic?” Actually, he implies that it’s because the Syrian government, whatever evils it has done in the past, is a steadfast bulwark against Israel. And here is where the Sheik’s eschatology comes in. Just like George W. Bush, the imam believes end times are nigh.

What a mad world we live in!

Underdog Democratic Opponent to Entrenched CA Reactionary Responds to Homophobia Charge

David Secor, who is running as a Democrat in California’s 50th Congressional District based in San Diego against Republican stalwart Duncan Hunter, has replied at length to my previous post. I’ve decided to highlight it as a blog post unto itself rather than hope it will be read in the comments section. I recommend reading the previous post  first to get a sense of what exactly the candidate is responding to.  I won’t comment on Secor’s response here but will, rather, yield the floor to him and respond later.

Before I turn the blog over to Secor, I want to thank him for taking the time to explain himself. I also want to say a word about why I think this dialogue is important. This conflict interests me because it points to some of the less visible strains running through progressive discourse in the US. Here are two “opponents” (I refer to Secor and Mike Flynn) who inhabit more common ground than this personal antagonism between them would suggest, notably on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) that Secor refers to here. But beyond the personal disagreement is a political one, over the notion that the system as it stands is capable of change or whether a new counter-system is required to effect real, meaningful change.  This is a conflict that has raged on the left for a long time–and on the right, as well–but only recently has it come to be a vital, relevant debate beyond the merely academic.

So thank you, again,  to David Secor for his contribution to this dialogue. It follows in full after the jump: Continue reading

Jill Stein on Change: Not Just Something to Believe In

If Pres. Obama and the Democrats talked this talk and walked this walk, they would be giving me something to vote for. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Jill Stein of the Green Party is giving me.

Who’s the Status Quo Candidate?

Since David Corn and Mother Jones (with the help of James E. Carter IV and an an0nymous videographer) have exposed Mitt Romney as a major spoiled preppy ass, the Republican presidential nominee and his cheerleaders on the right are valiantly trying to make lemonade with the explanation that Romney’s rant against the 47% who pay no income tax was actually a eulogy for personal responsibility. He has even said that most Americans “would like to be paying taxes” (unlike himself?). On the other hand, Romney is also using this “teachable moment”  to criticize the notion of what he and his Republican parrots (or puppeteers?) disparagingly refer to as “redistribution,” which they claim Obama once professed to “believe in”   during a speech at Loyola University in 1998.  (“[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot,”  they say Obama said.) Continue reading

Not So Innocent: How “Desert Warriors” Became “Innocence of Muslims”

Curious about how the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” was ever made? The writer Neil Gaiman has one take on the story from a Georgia (former USSR)-born actress and friend of Gaiman’s named Anna Gurji. Here’s a little taste:

My character Hilary was a young girl who is sold (against her own free will) by her parents to a tribe leader known as GEORGE. She is one of his (most likely, the youngest) brides in the movie.
The film was about a comet falling into a desert and different tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it for they deemed that the comet possessed some supernatural powers.
The movie that we were doing in Duarte was called “Desert Warrior” and it was a fictional adventure drama. The character GEORGE was a leader of one of those tribes fighting for the comet.
There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set. I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the US artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this “Desert Warrior”. Continue reading

Blasphemy, Islam and Free Speech: A Twittersation

This afternoon, I had a very interesting conversation with Shabbir R Hassanally on Twitter about events of the last week in Libya and Egypt.

This raging mess in American relations with the Islamic nations, which has, as Michelle Obama might say, “revealed” more about both candidates’ character and abilities in foreign policy than either may have wished for, was alleged to have begun when a trailer for an intentionally inflammatory anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of the Muslims” made in California in July was translated into Arabic and posted on YoutTube. Thus, it became known to Egyptian Islamists who consequently rioted at the American embassy, starting a chain reaction of anti-American protests around the Middle East and beyond. According to the New York Times, the fatal attack on Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi was the premeditated work of a Libyan paramilitary group with links to al-Qaeda that took advantage of the chaos over the riots against the film to execute a planned attack in retaliation for the drone-strike killing of a Libyan-born Qaeda official.

Huffington Post reports that the auteur behind the offensive film is one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian-born Coptic Christian with a background that includes bank fraud and possibly meth manufacturing among  other enterprises. Though the story is weird and complicated, it seems Nakoula, in cahoots with a group of radical right-wing Christian Islamophobes, hired a bunch of actors to shoot a script they were told was about a fictional character. After the cheapie was shot, Nakoula dubbed in the offending dialogue denigrating Mohammed as a clueless sex maniac, pedophile and with various other Nakoula-like interests. When the story broke on the afternoon of September 11, Nakoula’s identity was not yet known. He was hiding behind the pseudonym “Sam Bacile” and claiming to be an Israeli-born American who was working with contributions from a hundred Israelis. In the Muslim world, word spread quickly that Israel and the US had colluded on the film, that it reflected not just the opinions of a nutty director but official US policy, as dictated to it by Zionist Israel. Why Nakoula tried to implicate Israel in his offense is not known (as far as I know). (Was he trying to give the Apocalypse a little boost? If so, maybe he succeeded better than he expected.) Continue reading

Unhappy Anniversary

DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images

What an awesome image this photo is! (To get the full effect, click on it.)

The Twin Towers were not terribly beautiful when they stood over lower Manhattan for the thirty years of their lives: just two big awkwardly long rectangles on their sides stretching far above everything in their surroundings. They were  iconic, of course, but they achieved their stature cheaply, just by virtue of being the tallest things around.

In death, however, the Towers’ architecture has achieved a powerful iconicism of chaos and doom. The twisting, torn shards of its wrecked lattices look like ghostly hands reaching weakly for help, or bombed-out miniature cities–in a way, fractals of the larger destruction around them. How utterly ruined they were on that day! How totally devastated was their straight, clean sharpness!

The man in this photo, according to its official AFP caption, is calling out to see if any survivors answer. Patriots will quickly note the most alive looking object in the image: the American flag yet waving in the smoky sunlight. Eleven years on, you have to wonder what became of the land and home it represents.

Obama: The Lesser or the More Effective Evil?

AMY GOODMAN: … I want to ask Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, as you talk about Obama, President Obama, being the more effective evil, are you saying it would be better to have Romney in the White House?

GLEN FORD: No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that with Romney in the White House, even Dr. Dyson and others, many others, would join in the resistance to austerity, the resistance to war. Apparently, they cannot muster the energy to do that under a Democratic president, under the first black president. It’s their behavior that does in fact facilitate these austerity assaults and these war—this warmongering, because they don’t resist it, and they accept it as something that is a fait accompli, that is an inevitability. But what our obligation is, is to resist austerity. I do not accept that Obama has to make these so-called compromises. I don’t think their compromises; I think they’re part of his overall plan to have a grand accord with the Republicans. But if you accept that, then you’re saying that the Democrats could not on their own stop these assaults on Social Security. And that’s just not true. But they cannot be expected to stop these assaults on entitlement programs if there is a Democrat president in office who is putting his bully pulpit and his immense prestige within the party itself towards these compromises. That’s what Obama has done. That’s how he facilitates it. And, yes, if you do not—if you do not have an effective critique, make effective demands against this president, then he will go on his right-wing-drifting merry way.

Debate on Bemocracy Now! between Glen Ford and Michael Eric Dyson on Pres. Barack Obama and the 2012 DNC

Here’s some more food for thought–or an alternative preparation of the recipe Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party proferred in the last post–pertaining to the question of whether a vote for Obama advances or obstructs a progressive/leftist agenda. The author and editor Glen Ford makes a consistently strong case throughout his debate with Georgetown sociologist Michael Eric Dyson against giving the president full-throated support and for telling the truth about his effectiveness in pushing further the agenda of the 1%. “We say that he is the more effective evil,” Ford says of Obama, “because he is able, being a Democrat, to accomplish more of that right-wing agenda than the Republicans ever could.” If you doubt this bald statement, I highly recommend watching the debate in full. Ford’s case against the president as progressive, in domestic and foreign affairs, on Social Security and “national security,” is devastating and difficult to refute.  (Certainly, as Conor Friedersdorff at the Atlantic astutely noted, Professor Dyson had difficulty refuting it.) Continue reading