The End of Dictators


One after another they are falling as the tide of non-violent revolution sweeps the Middle East and drowns the racist myth that Arabs don’t want freedom and democracy.  But so far it has been relatively easy as the low-hanging fruit of corruption has been picked off. The tough slog is now on.

First in Libya, where the Qaddafi clan, surrounded by the dictator’s North Korean and East German trained cadre of female bodyguards, and supported by their African mercenary shock troops, seem prepared to hold on until the last bullet. They will be swept aside soon, but not after a lot of bloodshed and the Qaddafis will probably die before being able to retire in exile on the billions they have stashed in offshore accounts.  

Algeria appears poised to be next in line, but the military thugs who run that dictatorship, after years spent eliminating the Islamists, have had considerable practice at suppressing dissent and they too will make a painful exit.

The toughest nut probably with be the Assads (the lions) of Syria. They are a minority clan with a ubiquitous secret police apparatus who have demonstrated their ruthlessness against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Sunni majority by killing thousands in leveling the city of Hama. Governing by what is known as the Hama rules, the accidental heir to the dynastic dictatorship, a London-trained ophthalmologist Bashar al Assad, looks like a mild-mannered technocrat but he will kill as many as it takes to keep the hordes at bay.  

The two exceptions to the new rule are the Iranian and Chinese regimes. They will hang on longer in part because they were challenged prematurely. The Chinese Politburo learned from Tiananmen and have bribed the younger generation with material opportunity and distracted them with nationalistic pride, but beneath the surface dissent festers.  The theocratic thugs, who have captured the Iranian revolution, have also tried to nip history in the bud by brutally striking back against the Green counter-revolution but their days are numbered too.

What I take comfort in is that the alienated and irrelevant left can’t blame it on the CIA who totally missed the boat and are on the sidelines while history is being made. And on the right the bankruptcy of our neo-liberal free market ideology could not be more apparent as the revolutionaries fighting for freedom today are overturning the crony capitalist oligarchies that America has not only supported, but has become.

What is hopeful however, is what is happening in Wisconsin.  A revolution is beginning to take place in America against the corporate plutocracy and their theocratic and free-market fundamentalist lackeys in Congress.  America citizens are taking to the streets in Madison against the Koch brothers funded fraud mounted by the Republican right who are on a totalitarian bent to create a one-party corporate serfdom of uneducated debt slaves. 

But it looks like the passive consumers who lost their jobs to outsourcing and can no longer go to the malls, are becoming active citizens fighting back against the establishment the ruined the economy, then fleeced them to reward themselves. Adding insult to injury, the Kochs political front men are now forcing them to give up their pensions and healthcare in the name of reducing the deficit created by tax breaks for the rich.  While the rest of America, except Wall Street, is being asked to tighten its belt, will more and more citizens step up and refuse to take it any more? I think they will and it looks like it is beginning to happen.

On The Right Side With The Wrong People


Some of my friends have given up on me. Many of them just sigh with resignation that I just don’t get it. Others who were the first on the block to pronounce with perverse triumphalism, that “Obama is just like Bush”, shun me like a political leper.

Meanwhile I get indignant emails from angry listeners demanding that I justify my support for the president. But I am not an Obama supporter. I am a journalist trying to find out what is going on. I am not now, or have ever been, a member of anyone's cheer squad.

Here is a FACT to ponder...140 million voted in 2008 and only 75 million voted in 2010, thus allowing the Republican wrecking crew to take power in governorships, State Houses and the House of Representatives to break Unions, give what's left away to the super rich and ban abortion etc. I suspect most of my critics are among the many pissed off progressives who feel abandoned by Obama. But isn't it also true that Obama has been abandoned by progressives and is getting support where he can.

Who has his back? The left have left the field so why are they complaining that they are losing the game and the score is stacked against them? Elections have consequences. You get the government you deserve.

True, two years later Obama did not inspire those who showed up in 2008, so if you are looking for perfection then you made the right choice. The problem is that the bad choice won, making the good the enemy of the perfect.

Sure the decrepit democratic machine has been turning out that tired old tune for decades, warning that you have to vote for us otherwise crazies will take over the Supreme Courts. Well they have, and along with the totalitarian right and their Tea Party brigades, funded by billionaires, they WILL reshape America.

They are doing it now and this is a one-sided game that until Wisconsin, they have been winning by default. There is no doubt they have invented straw men like the “liberal elite” and the “liberal media”, but they DO have contempt for progressives. They DO want to eliminate liberals, not debate them, but destroy them!  

So my side is sitting on their hands nursing their hurt feelings while the motivated minority are driven to the polls by boiling hatred, stoked by bilious billionaires and their junk yard dogs on Fox and right wing radio.

What is the cost of punching your ticket every two years for democracy? Is voting a virtue to be protected and given only after considerable courtship. Or is it a practical duty to maintain an imperfect balance. Is it such a sacrifice? Is the choice between a gutless moderate and a corrupt corporate hireling or a venal and vindictive theocrat, too difficult to make or too much of a sellout?  Tell me.

Finally some recognition for Gene Sharp


It is great to see Gene Sharp on the front page of today’s New York Times and perhaps this belated recognition will spur some donations his way.  As the article points out, his Albert Einstein Institution is running on empty but still he manages to spread the word and shake the world.

When you consider the so-called Royal Family in Bahrain huddled inside their palaces as the tear gas wafts over the walls and Colonel Qadaffi lashing out at protesters as his secret police fill the overflowing prisons, it does indicate today’s bankruptcy of our political left/right labels. 

Since Gene Sharp is on the enemies list of the Burmese generals who are generally despised on the left, and has been denounced by Hugo Chavez who is often admired by the left and endlessly worshipped at Pacifica radio, you might ask for some more precision in political labeling.

Unlike fundamentalists, whether they are Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Marxist, Libertarian or Scientologist, I welcome deviations from the text and inconsistencies, otherwise known as the human factor.  I operate on the much simpler political theory of “would these assholes jail my friends?” And the answer is they all would.  Except perhaps for the Libertarians, who would bore them to death. 

With that in mind, I would like to invite you all to the UCLA/Hammer Forum in Westwood a week from today, Thursday February 24 at 7 PM for a free public forum on “Cuba After The Castros”.  Our speakers are a revolutionary compatriot of Castro’s, Max Lesnik, whose Miami newspaper was bombed eleven times by the fanatical Cuban exiles who have controlled our foreign policy like the tail of the junk yard dog wagging a giant poodle.  And joining him will be Annie Bardach, the acclaimed biographer of Castro and his regime.  She will offer a more critical view I suspect and I will learn a lot I expect, and so will the audience. 

So please come and ask questions, unless you are one of the 9/11 “truthers” who try to hijack these public events.  To them I offer a quote from Winston Churchill who described fanatics as “those who can’t change their mind and won’t change the subject”.

The Unknown Revolutionary

Today I was privileged to speak with the man who has inspired the revolutions that are sweeping the Middle East with his tracts, texts and tactics.  A quiet American, unlike Graeme Greene’s hapless hero, he is largely unknown and unheralded in this country, and instead of wrecking the world for the empire, he’s wrecking the empire to save the world and America too.

But to young revolutionaries around the world he is known as the Godfather of nonviolent revolution. He is also very well known to the dictators and the secret police of regimes around the world, from Putin’s Russia where his books are banned; to Iran’s State TV which portrays him as the CIA mastermind behind the Green Movement, now back on the streets of Iranian cities getting beaten up by theocratic thugs as we speak.

Today I was joined by Dr. Gene Sharp who is the founder of and Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution and the intellectual force behind the theory and practice of recent revolutions in Serbia, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain and others to come. He is also the inspiration for the Burmese in their struggle against one of the world’s most repressive regimes and his prolific work has been translated into Burmese, Karin and countless other languages.

While Gene Sharp arguably does more good for America and its reputation around the world than the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon combined, he receives no support from the U.S. Government. 

But he is making history while the U.S. Government fumbles in confusion on the sidelines, trapped in George W. Bush’s fabulous misadventures, repeating the folly that Shelley’s poem evokes, “I am Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!”

As Gene Sharp inspired young Arabs to topple their mummified regimes, we pour our treasure and most of our diplomatic, military and intelligence resources into the desert sands.

While we waste thousands of lives and uncounted billions on the lost war in Iraq and the losing war in Afghanistan, Gene Sharp operates on a shoestring and makes his work available for free on the Albert Einstein Institution’s website.  And countless young revolutionaries around the world are using his nonviolent methods to depose despots and dictators, theocrats and thugs, pretenders and potentates, colonels and criminals.  Toppling regimes like dominoes, many of which our government has long supported.

I hope you visit Gene Sharp’s website at and offer your support and honor the work of this quiet American who is creating a storm abroad.  Get to know the contribution and legacy of this man who is unknown in his own country but is changing the world.  And who knows, maybe we can apply Gene Sharp’s strategies and tactics here at home and restore a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The Saint Valentine's Day language massacre


“And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no, not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now, because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.”

Why do I bother finding the best and brightest experts closest to the scene to analyze in depth what is going on in the world when we have Sarah Palin to do it for us? Clearly a handler wrote the sound bite line that was supposed to be “we need to know what America stands for so we know ‘whom’ America stands with” but she managed to massacre it along with the rest.

And you don’t think she’s qualified to be our next president? You don’t think our game show American Democracy would elect her over a smart and talented black man? You don’t think our bankrupt public education combined with the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs that are being replaced by low-paying jobs in service industries has created an ill-educated underclass? And when times get tough, as the smart black man said, people cling to their guns and their religion.

Maybe you believe that when more people vote our politics move to the Left? But I think the opposite is true and when you add the pain of the recession to the fear of the demographic marginalization of poor white America, you get President Palin, who is just like us.

With the neocons filling her empty head with talking points and the Koch brothers stuffing her purse with money, who will show up at the polls? 140 million voted in the 2008 election that Obama won. Only 75 million voted in the 2010 elections that the Republicans won by default. Will the young first time voters and pissed-off and petulant progressives show up in 2012? Will anger win over hope?

Back in the real world I was impressed by what NPR’s Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos had to say to me yesterday about the secular social network of young tech-savvy Arabs strategizing across the Middle East for political reform. The New York Times has a lead article about it today and it is something we need to dig into. In the meantime have a happy Valentine’s Day.