Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snopes Destroys Wayne Allyn Root's "Obama Never Went to Columbia" Insinuation

Some two years ago, Wayne Allyn Root insinuated that Obama never went to Columbia, simply because Root never met Obama at Columbia, and didn't know anyone who did.

In October, 2009, an email went viral on the internet, spreading that theory while citing Root.

I've now learned that in February 2010, Snopes.com addressed Root's insinuation. The famous debunking site not only cites people who knew Obama at Columbia, it also cites Root as a source for the rumor.

Of course, Root is also described as the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential candidate. I guess Root's supporters should praise Root for getting the LP brand out there, however embarrassing the context.

From Snopes.com:

"Most expressions of this rumor feed off the statement (referenced in a Wall Street Journal editorial) that 'Fox News contacted some 400 of [Obama's] classmates and found no one who remembered him' and a statement made by Wayne Allyn Root (the Libertarian Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee who also attended Columbia at the same time as Barack Obama) that 'I don't know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don't have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia.'

"...it isn't true that 'no one ever came forward from Obama's past saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc.' Those who have attested to having daily personal experience with him during his time at that school include:

"Friend and roommate Sohale Siddiqi, whom the Associated Press located and interviewed in May 2008.

"Roommate Phil Boerner, who provided his recollections of sharing a New York City apartment with classmate Barack Obama to the Columbia College Today alumni publication and the New York Times in early 2009.

"Michael L. Baron, who taught the year-long honors seminar in American Foreign Policy that Barack Obama took during his senior year at Columbia and recalled in an NBC interview Obama's "easily acing" the class and receiving an A for his senior paper on the topic of nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union.

"...other external evidence documents Barack Obama's presence at Columbia from 1981-83, including:

"An article by Barack Obama published in the 10 March 1983 edition of Columbia's Sundial school magazine.

"A January 2005 Columbia College Today profile of Barack Obama as a Columbia alumnus.

"A Columbia College press release from November 2008 identifying him as "the first College alumnus to be elected President of the United States.

"Finally, the fatal flaw in the 'Obama didn't go to Columbia' theory is that he couldn't have been admitted to Harvard Law School in 1988 without having received an undergraduate degree. ... yet his time between the end of his Columbia days in 1983 and his entering Harvard Law in 1988 is accounted for ... and no other school claims him as an alumnus, nor does anyone purport to have encountered him as a classmate or student at any other college or university during that period."

Read the Snopes article.

But I guess the important thing is that Root is getting on Fox News. Who cares if Root's claims are ridiculous or not? Certainly not the Fox News audience.

Unfortunately, some Libertarians think the LP should likewise sink to that level if it will help the LP "get votes."

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Play Criticizes Torture in the "War on Terror"

Robert Johnson of the New Jersey Star-Ledger reviews An American Rendition, a new play that tackles America's pro-torture policy in the "War on Terror":

"Americans would rather not consider the suffering of people water-boarded, beaten and deprived of sleep as part of our government's so-called war on terror.

"Choreographer Jane Comfort tackles what she calls this 'collective unwillingness to look' in 'An American Rendition,' a grimly mocking work of contemporary dance-theater coming to the Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College on Saturday.

"The piece recalls the by-now much publicized activities of government agents who sequestered individuals without trial and have subjected them to practices explicitly prohibited under U.S. and international law.

"While 'An American Rendition' focuses on the plight of a fictional character mistakenly detained and transported to a U.S.-operated black site, the piece ironically juxtaposes the gruesome incidents of his captivity with weirdly light-hearted scenes inspired by reality television."

Read the rest of the article.

Also read: Pentagon Possessed: A Neocon Horror Story.

Ernie Hancock Makes Love, Not War

Ernie Hancock finds a campaign theme in his run for Libertarian Party national chair against the pro-war Wayne Allyn Root.

Do I endorse Hancock for LP Chair? Actually, I'd be happy with Anyone But Root.

PS: Is Root not pro-war? Is he truly antiwar? Then surely, he'll loudly and unambiguously condemn the current wars at the Tea Party. Yes?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Progressives Who Oppose -- and Support -- War

With his permission, I reprint the following from Monterey Libertarian Party activist Lawrence K. Samuels:

Are progressives changing their view on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Until recently, I saw some reluctance among liberals to criticize Obama's foreign policies. During one antiwar rally in 2009, we were asked not to display any "Obama-bashing" protest signs, although everyone there was deeply opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This attitude began to change when we planned a March 20, 2010 Peace Rally in Monterey. This protest was held to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

I had volunteered to organize the protest for the local Peace Coalition (comprising 23 member organizations).

The event turned out well. Our keynote speakers were liberal Bill Monning, the California Assembly member from the 27th district, and libertarian David Henderson, professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School. Both were crowd pleasers.

Despite these antiwar progressives, a problem arose when I went on a radio show to promote the Peace Rally.

For years, I had been a monthly guest on KRXA, a progressive radio station, to discuss war, libertarianism, and liberty. A former affiliate of Air America Radio, KRXA 540 AM has always been supportive of antiwar views and activities.

This time I got a shock. During the show, host and co-owner Hal Ginsberg began to wonder if the Iraq War might now be justified. His point was: If Iraq begins to act like a democratic nation in the next few years, then maybe President Bush might have been right to invade the nation. This thinking was also expressed in a recent New York Times editorial.

After explaining his position more, Ginsberg asked me what I thought.

I said it does not matter if democracy sprouts roots in Iraq. We cannot force democracy or freedom on people in any country. As a libertarian, I recognize no higher value than individual liberty. But under the non-aggression principle, I oppose coercion -- even to impose something I value highly.

Non-aggression is the essence of liberty. It would be hypocritical to use military force and government edicts supposedly to make people free. Only people have rights, not governments.

I observed that in Iraq's 5,000-year history, the people have never had a culture that supported a decentralized government of open markets and individual rights. The Iraqis have instead supported strong men and empires.

Ginsberg said he did not buy that argument. He indicated that democracy is so important that our government might be obligated to bring it to every nation.

Of course, this was President Bush's keystone argument!

It is discouraging to see progressives become fuzzy over our imperialistic wars. The New York Times recently editorialized in support of Obama's expanding war in Afghanistan.

Not long ago, almost every progressive leader and newspaper voiced harsh words for Bush's war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that Obama is in charge, that antiwar sentiment is changing. It appears that it is okay for a Democrat administration to engage in war, but not for a Republican one.

As I have always said, we should always put "principles over party." We need to be consistent supporters of peace, not distracted by political pragmatism.


Lawrence K. Samuels is editor and contributing author to Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Peacenik Challenges Representative Jane Harman in Democratic Primary

I got an email from Peace Action West, which said:

"Marcy Winograd...is putting up a strong peace challenge in the Democratic primary to a previously untouchable Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) in Los Angeles. Winograd is making an issue of Rep. Harman's record of staunch support for the war in Iraq, and forcing her to fight for her party's nomination. For too long politicians like Jane Harman have coasted through elections, and have not had to answer for their reckless support for war.

"This year is a chance to change that, and with your help, we can make an issue out of war in the 2010 elections. Please click here to give what you can today."

I don't know much about Winograd. I gather that she's a progressive who supports single payer health care.

Even so, registered Libertarian Party members who live in Harman's district may want to re-register as Independent (i.e., no party affiliation), so they vote in either the Democratic and Republican primaries. I think those are still the rules.

I don't know how soon before a primary election you'd have to re-register in order to be eligible to vote in that election. However, I'm sure California's Secretary of State knows.

Libertarians don't have to vote for Winograd in November. But either way, a Democrat will carry that district in November, and on the peace issue, Winograd would be an improvement over Harmon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Obama Slows Military Aid to Israel

Libertarian Party officials, and Wayne Allyn Root, claim they want to end foreign aid, but Obama has taken one small step in that direction (despite his frequent ten steps back).

The World Tribune reports on March 18, 2010:

"Officials said the U.S. military was ordered to divert a shipment of smart bunker-buster bombs from Israel to a military base in Diego Garcia. They said the shipment of 387 smart munitions had been slated to join pre-positioned U.S. military equipment in Israel Air Force bases.

" 'This was a political decision,' an official said.

"In 2008, the United States approved an Israeli request for bunker-busters capable of destroying underground facilities, including Iranian nuclear weapons sites. Officials said delivery of the weapons was held up by the administration of President Barack Obama.

"Since taking office, Obama has refused to approve any major Israeli requests for U.S. weapons platforms or advanced systems. Officials said this included proposed Israeli procurement of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E."

For Obama to trim (or at least, slow down the delivery of) foreign military aid to Israel is consistent with the official position of the Libertarian Party.

I wonder if Libertarian Party national leaders or Wayne Allyn Root will commend Obama for taking a libertarian position on this issue?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ignorance Is Strength: Pentagon Conquers Non-Existent Afghan City

Can our foreign policy and corporate media get any more Orwellian?

It seems the Pentagon's widely-reported conquest of the city of Marjah was, well, the city doesn't actually exist.

Gareth Porter reports:

"For weeks, the United States public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan war against what it was told was a 'city of 80,000 people' as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marjah was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centers in Helmand.

"It turns out, however, that the picture of Marjah presented by military officials and reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as an historic turning point in the conflict.

"Marjah is not a city or even a real town..."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Libertarians Protest the Balkan (Serbian) War in the 1990s

Many Americans, even many antiwar activists, have forgotten Clinton's Serbian War. This is partially because many "progressives" supported that war, since it was Clinton's war. 

Libertarians can be proud that many of them did oppose that war. Antiwar.com was founded in response to the Balkan Wars.

Below are some photos from a Los Angeles protest in opposition to U.S./NATO actions against Serbia.  I'm not sure of the date, except that it's the late 1990s.

I think this protest (which I did not attend, or even know about at the time) was probably organized by an ethnic Serbian group.  It doesn't appear to be a specifically libertarian protest. Yet there was a Libertarian Party presence.

These photos originally appeared on the Los Angeles County Libertarian Party website.  By the time I took over as that site's webmaster, the photos had already been delinked, yet were still on the server.

For the sake of reminding people of the Libertarian Party's consistently antiwar history, I bring readers this "blast form the past."

I think that's California LP activist Mark Selzer on the right.

There's Mark again, on the right. Note the anti-Clinton tone of this antiwar protest. Progressives who imagine that war is a Republican thing, or a Bush invention, should pay especial attention. War has always been a bipartisan project.

Here's a banner equating Clinton to Hitler. This is the 1990s, before the "Bush = Hitler" posters of the post-9/11 era. Conservatives who imagine that such extreme language is a Democratic thing, or a Moveon.org invention, should pay especial attention. Using tough language against American presidents has always come from all political leanings.

Today's "Reform faction" Libertarians fear using such strong language, at least against Republicans.

That's a Serbian flag on the right. Sadly, antiwar protests disproportionately draw support from the currently attacked ethnic group, instead of from all Americans.

That "Kosovo is Serbia" sign suggests the man holding it is a Serbian nationalist rather than a peacenik. He's likely upset that the U.S./NATO were engaged in stragetic bombing to support Kosovan secession.

Note the sign equating NATO bombings with genocide.

Again, note the strong language. Clinton is called a "Mad Dog" and the "Butcher from Little Rock."

And NATO is equated with a terrorist organization.

The politics behind the 1990s Balkan Wars and breakup of Yugoslavia are too complex to discuss in one post -- and I don't claim to understand it all. But all of us should bone up on history. Especially history as recent as the 1990s. 

Read up on the Serbian War. Who supported it? Who opposed it? Why? How does it relate to our current wars? How many contradictions and hypocrisies, on any and all sides, can you identify?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Left-Right Antiwar Meeting, Part 5

On Antiwar.com, David R. Henderson reports in detail on the recent Left-Right Antiwar Meeting.

Non-partisan meetings like this are hopeful, partially because of the failure of any political parties, large or small, to do anything.

The Democrats are continuing the "Republican" wars, and they may yet attack Iran.

And the Libertarian Party is hopeless. Most of the national LP's leadership, and its unofficial mouthpiece, Wayne Allyn Root, focus on the economy, and ignore the current and upcoming wars. No wonder many LP members suspect that, in their hearts, Root and much of the LNC, is pro-war.

Antiwar libertarians need to cooperate more with antiwar activists of every political persuasion. Liberal, paleoconservative, independent, progressive, Constitutionalist, doesn't matter.

If the LP can't get its act together, and be more loudly antiwar, then antiwar libertarians should withhold their votes and donations from the LP.

Yes, stay in the LP and try and change it from within, if you're so inclined to do. But do not "build the party" until it proves morally deserving of your votes and money.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Left-Right Antiwar Meeting, Part 4

Kevin Zeese of Voters for Peace sent this additional update over the Google Groups Peace Movement on February 26, concerning the Left-Right Antiwar Meeting:

Here are some more views of the right-left antiwar conference, these from people on the right side of the spectrum. Daniel McCarthy, a senior editor of the American Conservative, wrote his views here. As you can see, a side benefit of the conference was discussion of corporate personhood, the role of corporations in politics and campaign finance. He did an addendum focused on the corporate personhood issue.

One of the youth who attended from Young Americans for Liberty, Matt Cockerill, published his views of the conference.

More will be coming out of the conference and I will share it as it does.

My goal is not to turn people out for demonstrations. We've had mass demonstrations before and during the Iraq War -- large, excellent ones -- but they did not stop the war or prevent it. I'm not convinced that is the strategy we need to pursue. I'm not against such demonstrations, but they are not sufficient and probably not the critical ingredient to our success.

I also don't expect a lot of change to show in Congress immediately from this effort. The Republicans and Democrats in Congress are not prepared to end the current wars and our goals are not limited to the current wars. There is no peace movement to speak of to get them to change their views.

I see the peace movement as quite tiny at this point, with confused leadership, needing a longterm building strategy. Finding ways to heighten traditional conservatives and libertarians on the right side of the spectrum so they draw more conservatives away from the neocons and other war-supporters is only part of the strategy of building. We also need to outreach to many groups -- academics, unions, enviros, women... the list goes on and on. For all these groups, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, a clear message against war and the negative consequences of Empire is needed.

And we need to organize on a congressional district level so that people can work locally and have a national impact. This is a longterm, not short-term effort that should be measured in years, not in months. Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex in 1961 and Smedley Butler described the beginnings of American Empire during his service from 1890s to the 1930s.

This will not be undone quickly. It is going to take ongoing persistence. That is what I am building for.

-- Kevin Zeese, Voters for Peace

Left-Right Antiwar Meeting, Part 3

Kevin Zeese of Voters for Peace sent this additional update over the Google Groups Peace Movement on February 25, concerning the Left-Right Antiwar Meeting:

Sorry we did not videotape the event. We did not want to hinder discussion, wanted people to feel free to speak freely without fear that the whole world would see it. We did however take notes, had several people taking notes, and we will summarize the event probably as part of a book that will come out about across the political spectrum views on war and Empire.

There is only one luncheon speaker, otherwise every speaker was limited to five minutes so that we can have more dialogue than monologue. We succeeded in that, probably 3/4 of the even was discussion. So, there were no key note speakers, other than Nader at lunch.

Just because someone is a vet does not mean s/he cannot be against war. One of the more effective antiwar activists in American history was Smedley Butler -- the most decorated Marine in history who served for 34 years in the military. When he left he reflected on his career and wrote War is a Racket and described himself as a racketeer for big business. He lectured around the country against war, consistently.

I've also found some of the members of Iraq Vets Against the War and members of Veterans for Peace to be excellent anti-war pro-peace speakers.

The people in the room -- whether libertarian, conservative, liberal or progressive -- are not people who will become antiwar the next time war fever hits the nation. They are people who have written and spoken about war for a long time. So, I do not see about them changing their views "when the chips are down." Quite the opposite. I expect these will be the types who will speak up. These are not people who are stopping the bleeding of losing wars, these are people who oppose war. That is the core nucleus we need to build from.

If you are right and people cannot change their views than how will policy ever change? Why is education of Americans on the costs of war and Empire worth doing at all? I don't believe peoples views are set in stone. There is too much misinformation on which views are based. Getting out accurate information showing people how Empire undermines security, the economy and the rule of law is the antidote to misinformation.

-- Kevin Zeese, Voters for Peace