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Mendocino County Today: February 16, 2013

Justine & Michael Toms
Justine & Michael Toms

MICHAEL TOMS of New Dimensions Radio has died from diabetes at age 72. Toms cashed in on the national narcissism known as the “consciousness movement,” interviewing “spiritual” people, many of them celebrities, who talked about how finally attuned they are to the planetary influences that make them so doggone nice. Toms would murmur assent and throw out his own woo-woo affirmations, and a rollicking great galactic good time was had by all. Toms hustled these conversations to non-profit radio stations whose comfortable demographic is prone to prolonged examination of their own fine feelings. The profits from the tapes he pedaled on air without paying for advertising went to Toms and his wife, Justine who, for years, lived in the Ukiah area, Mendocino County being a kind of rural redoubt for charlatans of all types.

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A READER WRITES: “That would be HORRENDOUS if the AVA was only on-line! Surely people who bought the paper in Yorkville will now buy it in Boonville or Philo? And is there no where else to sell them in Hopland? Real Goods? We would be happy to pay $1.50 per paper- would raising the price help? (it's easy to find an extra $1.50 a week, harder to come up with the “bulk” sum once a year...and, we prefer buying the paper once a week at Lemons rather than waiting for the PO to get it to us in a timely way...)oh please, not only on-line!! (as I sit here at the computer in Ukiah, at the LIBRARY! been without a computer 2 months now! new one is coming, but jeez, I sure wouldn't want to have to use it for the paper- I hate reading on-line! no electronic reading “gizmos” for me!!) take care.”

NO DANGER of us moving solely into cyber-space any time soon, although we're being shoved in that direction by larger forces we've discussed before. Hopland-area readers can now buy the paper at the Hopland Ale House, a perfect venue in that you can enjoy a quality beer or two as you linger over the lively columns of marching gray.

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FROM THE SACRAMENTO BEE’s recent story on the just-completed Governor-ordered audit of State Parks after the 2012 discovery of $20 million in hidden unused funds:

(http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/15/5192590/california-state-parks-had-hidden.html )

“As a result of these findings, the auditor concluded that the department was ‘premature’ in deciding which 70 parks to close – given that it could not demonstrate that the closures would actually save the required money. In addition, it found that the cost estimates officials did rely on were as much as a decade old.”

STATE SENATOR NOREEN EVANS issued the following statement Thursday in response to the State Auditor's Report on Parks 2012:

“The auditor's report confirms my ongoing criticisms and concerns that parks failed to use the criteria developed by the legislature in 2011 which led to the premature proposal to close 70 state parks. Further, the Department of Finance transferred money between funds which should have triggered notification to the legislature and the public. To have reaffirmed today that these false reports go back at least 21 years is disturbing and was entirely avoidable had appropriate oversight been in place. The votes I - and every other member of the legislature - cast in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 budgets were based on flagrant overstatements that were never disclosed to the public, nor the legislature. I reaffirm my commitment to protect and preserve every California state park. With this information and the anticipation of the second half of the auditor's report due later this year, I will continue my efforts through legislation this year to again mandate satisfactory oversight within the parks department. In the meantime, I will eagerly await the responses from parks and the Department of Finance following the auditor's recommendations. Lastly, I renew my offer to work directly with the governor and his newly appointed director of parks to ensure the legacy we leave for our state parks is worthy of the beauty, opportunity and grandeur befitting of this Golden State.”

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MENDOCINO COUNTY was scheduled to be in federal court on Tuesday, February 19th, for a hearing on its motion to quash the federal subpoena for County marijuana records. The hearing has been put over yet again, this time until March 19th when it is set for 2:30 in Courtroom 3 of the Northern District Court in San Francisco.

THE FEDERAL SUBPOENAS have demanded “any and all records” pertaining to the County's medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, which had been amended to allow medical marijuana collectives to buy permits to grow up to 99 plants from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. Originally, 9.31 allowed 25 plants per parcel.

THE 99 PLANT program began in June 2010 and ended in March 2012 when the U.S. Attorney's Office threatened legal action against the permitting program.

THE FEDERAL SUBPOENAS want all County communications regarding 9.31, including communications regarding third-party medical marijuana garden inspectors and pertinent records held by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.

THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY of course has urged the County to fight the federal demand for information on the County’s attempt to make a few public bucks off its most prevalent agricultural export crop.

THE COUNTY announced back on December 11th that it had hired San Francisco attorney William Osterhoudt to represent the County; Mr. O subsequently filed the motion to quash the federal subpoenas on the grounds that they are “overbroad and burdensome” and an “improper intrusion” on the County's and the State's autonomous authority. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors maintains that its 9.31 records are confidential.

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SHANE BARRETT, 41, of Willits, was arrested early Friday morning near Lincoln, Nebraska on suspicion of transporting more than 80 pounds of marijuana. Barrett was arrested after a check of his driver’s license showed that he was wanted on a warrant alleging drug possession in Sonoma County. Officers found a bottle of hydrocodone tablets and 40 packages of pot in the truck. Barrett is being held in the Lancaster County jail.

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THERE’S ALWAYS THE LOCAL ANGLE. Or at least it often seems so. Remember Maureen O'Connor, the first female mayor of San Diego, and her husband, Jack in the Box mogul Robert O. Peterson? With other members of the family, including Maureen’s sister, Mavoureen, the O’Connor sisters and their wealthy husbands invested heavily in Coast real estate, buying up the Mendocino Hotel and the Heritage House. Maureen, out of office now for nearly a decade, is in the news for allegedly losing an estimated $1 billion dollars to video-poker machines, that vast loss coming partly from a charity established by her late husband. O'Connor sold the Heritage House for $19.5 million but has alleged that she was the victim of fraud in the sale to a German-based bank.

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SEVERAL INCREDIBLE STATEMENTS were made by Caltrans officials on Friday in a Santa Rosa Press Democrat story about the Bypass protest and Warbler’s tree-sit on the southern end of the planned construction.

• “Work on the bypass, which would eliminate a long-standing traffic chokepoint on the North Coast's major north-south route, is to begin at the end of the month, said Phil Frisbie, a Mendocino County Caltrans official.”

Wrong. Whatever numbers you use, Caltrans, the opponents or anywhere in between, there’s absolute no chance that the Willtis Bypass — which won’t even Bypass the Highway 20 traffic because there’s no longer a Highway 20 interchange in the plans — will “eliminate a long-standing choke point.”

• “Frisbie, however, said Caltrans had looked into the Railroad Avenue corridor and found it wanting, primarily because it would require the removal of homes and would interfere with planned operation of the rail line.”

1. A few homes never stopped Caltrans in other highway projects, and it’s hardly a reason to rule out an otherwise good option. And 2. The only people who “plan” to operate the rail line are the Democratic Party Hacks at the North Coast Railroad Authority who run it. The rail corrider would have been a much better route, and cheaper and wouldn’t have required all the environmental and farmland damage that the current plans do.

• “The project is really a result of Caltrans being overly sensitive,” City Councilman Bruce Burton said. “This project clearly reflects the input of those (environmental) agencies more than the engineering and usefulness of the design.”

Wow.

1. Caltrans has been “overly sensitive.”

In a way that’s true because of all the money Caltrans has spent trying to “mitigate” environmental problems. But their “mitigations” are mainly to substitute non-wetland farmland for wetlands that would be destroyed if the Bypass is ever built (which it won’t be). They spent a lot of money out of the Bypass budget, reducing the money left for construction and getting no actual mitigation at all.

2. Dealing with the “input” of “(environmental) agencies” does not show any “sensitivity” (over or not under), nor does it represent any kind of actual environmental benefit — it’s purely a paperwork exercise among far off bureaucrats who wouldn’t know Little Lake Valley if they sunk into it.

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MR. PRESIDENT, THE DOCTOR IS IN. Unfortunately It’s Noam Chomsky — An Interview With Noam Chomsky, One Of The Leading Dissident Intellectuals In The World

by Denis Rouse

Intro – You’ve probably never heard of Noam Chomsky and that’s exactly how the powers that be want it to be because Doctor Chomsky has been speaking and writing truth to power for a long time now. He’s 84. He’s a distinguished professor of linguistics and philosophy at M.I.T. where he has taught for 50 years. He is the author of one hundred books, my favorite being “Deterring Democracy” because it woke me up to the fact there’s been a dark side of American foreign policy I had never focused on before. My first impression of the professor’s office will always be illuminated by the prominence of two framed portraits, one of Bertrand Russell, the other of Archbishop Oscar Romero, with quotes, Russell’s being “Three passions simple but overwhelming strong have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind” and Archbishop Romero’s “To educate is to create a critical spirit and not just to transfer knowledge.” When the professor entered his office and seated himself at his desk which seemed at some risk of being inundated by a tsunami of books piled behind him, my blood pressure soared, already at redline thanks to an earlier caffeine overdose at an MIT coffee shop across the street with DaVinci draftings on the wall. I thought at that moment to compliment him to try to cut the tension so I said, “Professor, you’ve been an inspiration to me, you imbued me with a critical spirit, a longing to know more 20 years ago.” Apparently underwhelmed by my magnanimity, the stern faced no-nonsense professor said, “Okay, let’s go.” And so we did.

NoamChomskyProfessor Chomsky, what initially inspired you to pursue scholarship in the science of linguistics?

“Do you really want to know the answer? It was kind of an accident. When I went to high school, I went to an academic high school and it was a horrible bore. I could barely wait to get out and when I looked at the college catalog and it looked exciting. So I figured it was going to be great. I was going to take all these great courses. Almost every one I took turned out to be a high school course and it was really boring. After about a year I was thinking about dropping out. I happened to run into a faculty member and through political contacts (we shared political interests), he happened to be the leading linguist in the country, so he suggested (I suspect he was probably trying to get me back into college) so he suggested I take his son’s graduate courses, which I did, and then started taking graduate courses in some other fields and got interested in them and it went on from there. Things did strike me about linguistics as soon as I began studying them. For example, one thing I remember, I was studying Arabic and the professor of Arabic was a leading scholar, a very distinguished person, and we became close friends. He was an antifascist immigrant from Italy. He once pointed to me something in Hebrew. I knew the bible practically by heart. He pointed out to me something I had never realized and nobody had ever noticed; that the first words of the bible, the first couple of few words of the bible are mistranslated and mistranscribed. Hebrew doesn’t have vowels. Vowels were put in about the 8th Century. The people who put in the vowels just made a mistake in the first three words. What they put in is grammatically impossible. And this has gone on for 1200 years and nobody’s noticed it. I’m thinking there has got to be something interesting in this field. There’s got to be some puzzles to look for.”

I recently read an essay in the New York Review of Books written by a professor of philosophy in which he said, “Our language is never adequate to describe absolute realities.” It struck me because I’ve always had the notion that truth and reality are synonymous, that the human problem is watching the movie through the flawed prism that is our senses. With that in mind I asked Professor Chomsky what he thought.

“I don’t know what absolute realities are. You mean the kind of thing physics describes? Tries to describe? Yes, they require significant modifications of our vocabulary, our terminologies, our ways of thinking and so on. So if that’s what he means by absolute realities then sure, you can’t use ordinary language to describe them. But the fact of the matter is much simpler than that. I mean every science, every technical discipline, even the study of history; you know as soon as you begin to pursue it with any seriousness, you see that our ordinary language, concepts and terms are just not adequate. They have to be refined. So you begin to develop a specialized vocabulary and conceptual system, and in the more advanced sciences it becomes quite extreme. If you look at a modern physics journal, it uses a lot of English words, but usually the significant ones are used with quite different meanings. But that’s natural. Normal language is not a device for describing what I think he means by absolute reality. It’s a means of getting along in the world. It reflects our thoughts, interests and concerns. And in fact if you really look closely, even simple notions, like what we think of as a tree, or water, or a person or something are very complex categories in human thought and language. They don’t have simple characterizations in physical terms and that’s true, no reason to be surprised by it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

What initially fueled your passion to become so deeply involved examining US foreign and domestic policy?

“It goes back to childhood. Actually the first article I wrote was when I was about 10 years old about the rise of fascism in Europe, specifically about the fall of Barcelona which had just happened so I know about when it was. But it was essentially concerned with the fact that Austria, Czechoslovakia were falling under fascism. Take a child, I didn’t know much about American foreign policy and how that was involved, but I learned later. But by the time I was a teenager I was very much involved and concerned about it.”

When I was 10 years old I was catching lizards and putting frogs in my sister’s bed.

The next question I had for the professor regarding the contentious issue of global warming, he still sitting there behind his desk with an imperturbable expression on his face, was phrased with an obvious bias that the planet is doing whatever it wants to do without any effect from human activity no matter how noxious much of it is. To wit, its mid-January 2013 where I live on the high plains of NE CA as these words emit from my Windows 7, where I’ve lived now for twenty years after fleeing Malibu, it was twenty below zero yesterday morning, there’s a foot of snow atop everything here including the deeply frozen earth itself, and it’s been snowing off and on since October. Talk to any farmer here, many of whom have been here for three generations, and tell him the sky is falling and he’ll laugh in your face.

Anyway, to the question to the good doctor: “Professor, a video came to our attention recently in which two MIT professors and a host of other climatologists cite that natural cyclic activity such as solar events are the drivers of global weather and that humanity has no effect upon it. Is this a case of the media manufacturing consent?”

“Well there are a few people who believe that, including a few reputable scientists at MIT, actually I won’t put it that way. They say there’s room for skepticism about the major scientific consensus. On the other hand, there’s another group of climate scientists, the Climate Science Program, which is a major program of very important scientists, and they also dissent from the consensus but on the opposite side. They say it’s much too conservative and over and over they’ve been proven accurate. Now getting to the media, they present the debate as between two groups, 98% of the scientists and the doubters. But try to find some mention of the very large number of scientists, including leading climatologists who would argue the consensus is much too conservative, that the reality is much worse and have been repeatedly proven correct. Now they make it to the news rarely. So for example, one case was last summer when measurements were taken at the end of the melting of the Arctic ice and they were pretty alarming, enough to have a front page story in the NY Times. In fact they quoted the head of the M.I.T. client science project who said the consensus is much too conservative, that things are much worse. But that fact barely enters the discussion. The only discussion is the one you mentioned between people who raise various skeptical reasonable doubts and the overwhelming mainstreams who say it’s fairly definite. Then there are the other substantial groups who say, yeah, it’s definite but it’s much worse than what you think.”

Jason, my favorite nephew, the esteemed publisher and creative director of Malibu Magazine, then asked Professor Chomsky if he could elaborate upon why he thinks the issue is being under reported by the media.

“It’s very much under reported. Just before talking to you I happened to be reading the MIT tech review. They keep quiet, pretty moderate. But they have a section on global warming and they offer advice to Obama, not critical, but they point out what is true, and they say we have four years before we might get to a tipping point where its irreversible. And irreversible means effects are going to escalate so it’s really dangerous. Why isn’t it being reported? Well, for one thing there are huge propaganda campaigns to try to undermine concern for it. It’s pretty open, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Petroleum Institute and others. Now it’s that they’re running campaigns to try to convince people the effects are uncertain, takes away jobs. And you can see it in the Republican platform. Well the Republican Party isn’t really a party anymore. It’s just a voice for big business. And the platform said, “We don’t know much about global warming so we should so more research.” That’s utterly ludicrous. That’s the bigger point of view. They’re interested in short term profit. And it’s not a matter of the individual. The same CEO who’s running these propaganda campaigns may in his private life be contributing to the Sierra Club. You know they’re not stupid. They can read. They know just as much as the rest of us. But in your capacity as a manager or director of a corporation your job is to maximize short term profits, you don’t pay attention to what are called externalities (effects on others). That’s just part of market systems. Every transaction has negative externalities. But one of the externalities in this case is the fate of the species. We’ve got a system institutionally designed for suicide and it’s going to be hard to break out of it.”

What about a carbon tax? If you’re a big business producing too much carbon you can trade it but some critics say that helps big business but puts a tremendous burden on small business.

“Yeah, but in a market system, which in my view is a crazy suicidal system, you’re going to have to put negative incentives of some kind to control fossil fuel production, otherwise we’re lost. I mean a real carbon tax, like taxing for carbon emissions would make a lot of sense but how you’re going to get that through a business run government is hard to imagine.”

You spoke clearly in 1999 about the need for more treatment, education and prevention of illegal drug use instead of incarceration. Are we making progress?

“Illegal drug use is a major problem because the so called war on drugs that has been going on forever is actually a race war. It was designed that way particularly during the Reagan administration. Nixon kind of revitalized it, but at least in the case of Nixon, who was the last liberal president, he had a substantial program for prevention and treatment which is known to be more effective than any form of punishment. For Reagan it was simply a war against African Americans. It was designed that way from beginning to end. From the discretionary activities of the police to work down in the ghettos instead of the White suburbs where drug use is just as high, to the sentencing which is highly discriminatory and extremely punitive. So a poor kid in the ghetto who happens to have a joint can get a much worse sentence than a wealthy drug user. And in fact if you take a look drug use is not higher among African Americans than among whites. Probably the highest use of illegal drugs is among White college students and the White middle class but they’re the least punished. Reagan himself was an extreme racist and you can see it in all sorts of ways. He spoke of a Black woman in a Cadillac being driven to a welfare office to steal our money. I just came naturally to him, like ostentatiously eating lettuce during the lettuce boycott, it was just his nature. Take a look at incarceration. Around 1980 U.S. incarceration levels were roughly within those of other industrialized societies but since then its shot way up despite declines in the crime rate. It’s just part of the race war.

“Reagan kicked it off but Clinton escalated it. Incarceration rates soared during his years and he worsened it with a “one strike and you’re done” policy. Our system is not a rehabilitating system like a penal system ought to be. When people come out they’re lost. A kid is put in jail, comes out ten years later and is given ten dollars and he re-enters an environment where there’s nothing he can do except become a criminal. What he’s learned in jail. There are no jobs. He’s kept out of public housing. He can’t vote. So you permanently criminalize people. And of course it continues to escalate. Actually it was similar to what happened after Reconstruction. The Civil War gave Blacks rights on paper and for about ten years it more or less worked partially at least. There was still a lot of poverty but something began to work. By 1877 there was a compact made between North and South putting an end to Reconstruction and the South was essentially given license to do whatever they wanted and what they did was criminalize Black life. If a Black man is standing on a corner he’s arrested for vagrancy. If he looks the wrong way at a White woman he’s arrested for attempted rape. Maybe the fine is ten dollars but the man can’t pay it. The judges are corrupt. And once he’s in the system he’s in there forever and becomes part of a large workforce. It’s been called “slavery by another name” by the Atlanta bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal who wrote of it. It created a wonderful work force, much better than slaves from the employers’ point of view because it was free labor supported and provided by the government. We’re familiar with it from chain gangs in the agricultural system but it was much worse than that. Much of the industrial revolution of the late 19th Century came about with criminalized slave labor and it lasted nearly up to the Second World War. So if you look at African American history, 400 years, we’re back into the effects of a major race war that’s called instead a war on drugs.”

Do you see a connection with growing violence associated with street drugs, pharmaceuticals, guns and continuing federal and state cutbacks of mental health services and treatment?

“Sure, mental health is very much underfunded. There are people who are known to be risks, serious risks to themselves and others, and there are just no facilities for them. The hospital beds for example are way below what they ought to be. Treatment is way below what it ought to be. And this goes back to what I said about Nixon. I mean he at least had treatment and prevention programs.”

Until Reagan wiped them out?

“Yes, but the idea of allowing mental health patients to return to the community had a point to it. There are plenty of people who can be functional in the community who shouldn’t be hospitalized but they have to be monitored, somebody has to be sure they’re taking their medication, And I mean that’s true of just the elderly. My brother’s a doctor and he takes care of a lot of elderly patients. He told me one of the main problems is just making sure they know what their medicines are, that they know more than just “oh that white pill over there” which a lot do but they have to be monitored by somebody in the family. And for mental health patients somebody has to be making sure they’re keeping to their drug regimen. Like they say, bipolar patients can function perfectly well and if they are under medication they really don’t have any problems. But they may decide not to take their medication and it can have harsh effects unless there’s plenty of monitoring and therapy associated with it.”

We had a tragedy in our family. A bipolar lady who committed suicide.

“Because she stopped taking her drugs?”

Yes, exactly.

“These are things that can be controlled but it takes care and we’re not a caring society.”

Speaking of mental illness, we’ve gone from an inherent constitutionally guaranteed right to “bear arms” to a nightmare of gun violence in this country. Do you see a road to solution here?

“Well we should bear in mind that that constitutional right which everyone talks about now is four years old. It doesn’t go back to the Second Amendment, it goes back to 2008 when the ultra-right Supreme Court decided to reverse centuries of precedent and re-interpret the Second Amendment in a way in which it was never interpreted before and to me it’s pretty dubious. So now everyone from Obama to the N.R.A says it’s our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Yeah, for the last four years. So it’s not God given. American crime rates are pretty much normal; robbery, car theft and so on except for homicide and suicide with guns which are way above other countries. It’s partly our gun laws. You can walk into a Wal-Mart and buy an assault rifle, but it’s also due to a very strange culture that has to be dealt with on a deeper level. This is a frightened society. It always has been. It shows up in the Declaration of Independence (oh no, professor, we’ve just been weepy at the Bunker Hill memorial at ground zero of the American Revolution and you’re telling me American culture is strange?) People read it like they read prayers. They don’t pay attention to what the words really say. If you take a look at what they actually say, it’s mind-boggling. Jefferson wrote a passage where he lists his charges against King George III. One of them is a charge that he unleashed against us merciless Indian savages whose known way of warfare is to commit arbitrary murder and destruction. Well, you know Jefferson was living here; he knew it was the murderous English savages who were doing most of the killing. It’s true the Indians didn’t just lie down, they did plenty, but overwhelmingly it was colonists’ crimes that were exterminating the Native Americans. This is in the Declaration of Independence. People believed it. Merciless Indian savages will be at their doors. There’s a theme in popular American literature and it’s been well studied, a constant theme, it’s that we’re about to be destroyed. We’re going to be destroyed by merciless Indian savages (who we’re exterminating). We’re going to be destroyed by the Negroes. They’re planning slave revolts and they’re going to kill our males and rape our women. It goes right on until today when you have someone like Rand Paul, who I assume has a functioning brain, who is organizing to oppose a UN treaty to control the proliferation of small arms because (facetiously) it’s a plague all over the world, mostly American arms are killing all sorts of people, in Mexico alone, most of the arms are from the United States that are killing tens of thousands of people. So there’s an attempt to control it. Why does he want organizers to oppose it? Because it’s an insidious campaign by the United Nations and the socialists Obama and Clinton to take away our guns so the UN can come and conquer us. I mean if anyone said this in another country they’d be put in a lunatics file. You know, but it’s widely believed in the United States. The state of Indiana a couple of years ago had to tear down highway signs because rumors started going around that the numbers on the signs (I guess for encoding maintenance scheduling) were a code for black helicopters working for a UN plan to commit genocide upon the American people. They had to tear down all the signs and replace them. It’s kind of a paranoid pathology. It’s very deep. Plenty of people have guns because they think they need to defend themselves, even against the federal government. Plenty of people think they need guns because what are you going to do when the feds come? Yeah, a gun is going to do you a lot of good when the feds come. It’s a deep rooted part of American culture, a very frightened society with incredible security, but frightened and terrified, and that’s not easy to overcome. You remember the head of the NRA recently said we need armed guards at every school and a poll indicated the majority of Americans agreed with him. Can you imagine a culture where you want to send your children to a place where armed guards are standing around? That’s what you want your children to think the world is? The idiocy of it, the first person to be killed would be the armed guard.”

Israel/Palestine: Your well documented position on this issue raises another question, and please forgive me if this seems harshly put, How is it possible that a people who were loaded into box cars by a fascist regime not long ago can commit the same atrocity upon their neighbors, the Palestinians? What needs preface here is that we share Russian Jewish immigrant heritage. Your father was a Hebrew scholar. I went to temple with my grandfather wearing his tallis as a boy; I went to Hebrew school for a while. My parents were proud of Israel. They went there in the fifties to plant a tree. I can’t help but wonder how they would react to the foregoing were they still here.

“An old friend of mine, who died recently, was an Israeli who was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen. He managed to escape and got to Israel. He became Israel’s leading human rights activist for Palestinians, for women’s rights and other things and his view was look, this kind of thing shouldn’t happen to anybody not just this shouldn’t happen to me. But unfortunately that’s not the general attitude. And in fact it’s worse among those who didn’t undergo the suffering. So it takes the American Jewish community, which I grew up in, we didn’t undergo the suffering, but these are the people taking the most rabid position your question poses. There are some things they don’t bother looking at. Like how come, simple question, after the war was over, there were still a large number of survivors, not huge, most of them were killed but there were survivors and they were living in concentration camps the Truman administration investigated and found that the people living in the camps were essentially living under the same conditions as under the Nazis except there weren’t any death chambers, how come they’re not here? I mean, if asked, half the population of Europe would have come here if they had a choice. If you had offered the choice to people in the concentration camps where do you think they would have wanted to go? Well, they weren’t offered that choice for a lot of reasons but one reason is the American Jewish community didn’t want them; the whole American community didn’t want them, either being anti-Semitic, anti-refugee and so on. There were a couple of immigration bills trying to get through but the American Jewish community just didn’t lobby for them. The only ones who lobbied for it was the American Council for Judaism, which is anti-Zionist. They did lobby for bringing in Jewish refugees. But the main American Jewish community, the people I was old enough to be part of at the time, they just didn’t want them here. They wanted to send them to Palestine. And what happened in the concentration camps is not pretty. The Zionist emissaries from Palestine essentially took over the camps and controlled them. And they used a lot of pressure like control of food and other things to coerce them into going to Palestine. The reason was they had a principle that able bodied men and women had to be shipped off to Palestine, as good human material, mainly as cannon fodder for the coming war, not their choice. And the American Jewish community cooperated. So if we want to think about the victims, it’s always a good idea to look in the mirror. How come we didn’t try to help them? I mean there’s talk about why the allies didn’t do something about Auschwitz. Why didn’t we do anything when we could?”

Iran and nuclear weapons: Is it not the height of hypocrisy to demonize Iran in this regard when the country is surrounded by nuclear armed states including Israel which alone has never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?

“Worse than that it’s under threat by nuclear powers, Israel and the United States and in fact the US occupies two countries on their borders. That’s a very hostile country the US which is threatening them with bombing. Yeah, that’s the height of hypocrisy. There’s a lot more to the story than that. One of the most interesting elements of American media behavior and intellectual opinion is centered right now on this issue. First of all, who thinks Iran is a threat? It’s mostly a western obsession. The Arab populations don’t think so. The Arab dictators think Iran is a threat and that’s all that’s ever quoted here, but the populations don’t. They don’t like Iran but they don’t think it’s a threat. They regard the threat as being Israel and the United States and that almost never gets reported. The rest of the world apparently doesn’t regard Iran as much of a threat. The biggest countries like India and China are improving relations so it’s a western obsession. Well the second question is, is there anything you can do about it? There’s something very straight forward if you think it’s the gravest threat in the world and political leaders here say it’s to move toward a nuclear free zone in the region. Now that’s supported by virtually the entire world. In 2010 at the nonproliferation treaty meeting there was agreement that there would be an international conference in Finland to carry forward programs to institute a weapons free zone. In early November Iran said they agreed to attend. Within about three days Obama cancelled the conference. So the conference didn’t take place. And the reasons Obama gave were the same as Israel’s. We have to wait until there’s peace in the region and so on, in other words, never. There was not a single word about this in the American press. Right after this the United States carried off a nuclear weapons test. Lots of protest from Iran, from Japan, from elsewhere and also not reported. And then there was a meeting in Washington. I don’t think it was reported here but it was reported in the Israeli press, and with a lot of enthusiasm, because the participants in the meeting who were people like Dennis Ross and other advisors to Bush and Obama said that now we can go ahead and bomb Iran because diplomacy is failing. All of this is happening in complete silence. People can’t protest this if they don’t know about it, and almost nobody can know about it unless they run their own private research projects.”

As a practical matter, how do you disarm Pakistan, India and other nuclear powers?

“Well, you can take steps. Hey, how do you disarm the United States? I mean we have a legal obligation to get rid of nuclear weapons. In the World Court in 1996 it was asked to provide an opinion on Article 6 of the nonproliferation treaty which requires nuclear powers to undertake good faith negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons and their judgment was that it’s a legal responsibility. Furthermore there’s another interesting but unmentionable fact. Of all the nuclear powers, the United States and Britain have a unique responsibility to do this. There’s a very straight forward reason. When they invaded Iraq they tried to provide a thin legal cover for it, and if you look at the legal cover which is a joke of course, they appealed to a Security Council resolution in 1991 that called on Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and they said they hadn’t done it. Well now what happened to that claim? What’s more interesting is that same resolution says that all signers commit themselves to establishing a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, so of all the countries in the world, Britain and the United States have a special obligation to do this and they’re the ones blocking it and you just can’t talk about it in the United States.”

Regarding capitalism, how do you address those who believe it’s the only system that’s workable because it fundamentally replicates aspects of nature like competition and survival of the fittest?

“Really, then how come it’s only existed for a couple of hundred out of a hundred thousand years? First of all, it’s not capitalism; a capitalist society would self-destruct in five minutes. I think because markets are so self-destructive. It’s kind of state capitalism. So take that computer you’re using. You use the internet. And where did that come from? It didn’t come out of enterprise; it came out of the state system. Most technology, all the way back, has come out of this very dynamic state system. The state system keeps this capitalist system which is so unpredictable from self-destructing. When the financial institutions, which were pretty much unregulated, did exactly what is expected in a capitalist system, mainly try to make as much money as they could, not giving a damn what happened to anyone else, the state moved in and rescued them. When you deregulate a capitalist system it self-destructs.”

What kind of system can replace capitalism?

“A democratic system, back to control of production by the workers and communities. It takes work but having a parliamentary democracy is perfectly feasible. Goes back to the 19th Century. Those were the basic ideas of the labor movement. They’re being implemented to an extent right now. It could happen. It’s a big change.

Last question, professor, and thanks again so much for this opportunity to speak with you. Do you see a connection with what many social critics refer to here as a culture of violence and a foreign policy that seems to perpetuate war?

“It’s not implausible but I don’t see how one can say more than that. There’s no shortage in history of warlike behavior of states. Just look at Europe for many centuries until 1945 when Europeans recognized that the next time they play their game of mutual slaughter will be the last. So from then on we keep to attacking those who cannot strike back – not for the first time, needless to say.”

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