Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 13, 2013

Wild Strawberries

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 12:29 pm

All my life I have been cursed by bad and vivid dreams, with the occasional nightmare so frightening that I wake my wife up with my screams. They usually involve space aliens, ghouls of one sort or another, apocalyptic flooding, etc. For a long stretch a couple of years ago I dreamed about blizzards in New York taking place in August.

But every so often there is a pleasant if puzzling dream.

I just woke from one that “starred” me and Boomer and Carton. They may have entered my dreams since I had my headset on tuned to their radio show at 6am when I woke up briefly. I then went back to sleep with their voices feeding my sleeping brain.

Boomer is Boomer Esiason, a former professional football player now in his early 50s. Carton is Craig Carton, a 44 year old “shock jock” who plays Jerry Lewis to Boomer’s Dean Martin. I only listen to them (or Don Imus) because WBAI, the leftist Pacifica affiliate, has become unlistenable. According to Doug Henwood, their finances are in such bad shape the station might be sold.

So getting back to the dream, I am in a minivan with the two sports radio personalities driving around Woodridge, the tiny village where I grew up in upstate NY.  They are discussing the signing of Bob Feller with a local baseball team in New York, either the Mets or the Yankees. I try to straighten them out, insisting over and over again that Bob Feller pitched in the mid-50s. He couldn’t possibly still be able to play baseball. They pointed to a strapping young lad in the back seat to refute me.

As we toured around my hometown (I had no idea what brought them there), I was struck by the ultramodern buildings that had cropped up seemingly overnight. They looked like the ones that dominate Abu Dhabi.

After a while, I asked them to stop the car since I saw wild strawberries at the side of the road except that they were growing on a bush rather than from the tiny plants near the ground in their natural state. I plucked up a bunch to give to Boomer and Carton but strangely they had turned into blackberries. I noticed a tiny worm wriggling around that I gingerly removed before presenting them with the fruit.

And then—the climax of the dream—I saw Silver Lake once again. I cried out with joy: “This is the lake I used to go fishing with my father. It was the only time I felt like his son.” I was born when my father was in Europe fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. They say that fathers have trouble bonding with their children when they are born in their absence. When you consider that my father was a cold, silent type to begin with, this only deepened the alienation.

In the 1970s the lake became dead as a result of overfishing and pollution. Eventually they drained it and filled it with dirt so as to make a foundation for a housing development.

The Silver Lake of my dream was a kind of platonic ideal of a lake, like something out of a French impressionist painting. Even now, as I sit typing this post, I can see it in my mind’s eye. There are people fishing everywhere, including an elderly Sikh with beard and turban—just like one of the men I interviewed on Tuesday night.

December 8, 2013

Watching the Detectives

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:57 am

Nice girls, not one with a defect
Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct
Red dogs under illegal legs
She looks so good that he gets down and begs

She is watching the detectives
Ooh, he’s so cute, she is watching the detectives
When they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot
They beat him up until the teardrops start
But he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart

–Elvis Costello,  Watching The Detectives


If Bill Bratton’s record in Los Angeles is any guide, New York will see little dramatic reduction in the police tactic of stop-and-frisk but improved targeting and community relations will soothe resentment.

New York’s newly named police commissioner presided over a surge of stop-and-frisk while running the LA police department but softened the political impact by reaching out to black and Latino community leaders.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who was elected on a promise of curbing the controversial tactic, appears to be calculating his appointee will finesse but not end it. Critics say the policy in its current form unfairly targets young minority men, an accusation which dogged the outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Bratton, 66, who served as New York’s police commissioner from 1994 to 1996 before moving to LA, repeated his support for stop-and-frisk in a briefing to reporters on Thursday, saying it should be used in correct doses, like chemotherapy.

The Guardian, December 7, 2013

* * * * *

The Daily News of Los Angeles
April 30, 2008 Wednesday


By Rachel Uranga Staff Writer

Facing a civilian oversight commission skeptical about LAPD’s investigation of racial profiling complaints, Chief William Bratton said Tuesday he will launch a wide-ranging review of police practices.

Members of the Los Angeles Police Commission said during their meeting Tuesday that they were baffled by internal LAPD findings that no officers engaged in racial profiling, despite hundreds of complaints in 2007.

Commissioner John Mack, a longtime civil-rights activist and former head of the Urban League, ticked off the complaints, scoffing at investigators who cleared hundreds of officers of wrongdoing.

“Racial profiling, 322 allegations and a big fat zero (sustained). Discrimination, one sustained. Ethnic remarks, 150 and nine (sustained). Gender bias, 18 to 0,” he said.

“This is a great police department, great leadership, but in my opinion there is no perfect institution, and I just find it baffling that we have zeroes in these categories.”

In response, Bratton said he will conduct a national survey of the practices and outcomes of other big-city departments. He also will ask federal monitors who oversee the LAPD’s consent decree — which came about because of the Rampart corruption scandal — and other inspector generals for protocols on how to handle allegations of racial profiling.

“I am not seeing anything here that is much different than I see in the rest of American policing,” he told the commission.

“This is not a racist department, not a homophobic department, not a brutal department, it’s not a corrupt department,” he said after the meeting. “Does it have some officers that may be some of those things? Possibly. Quite likely, though we work very hard to find them if we can. However, their numbers are very small, if they do exist.”

Bratton also defended the department’s findings, saying his study will show the results are accurate.

“It is a state-of-mind issue,” he said. “It is something that is being taken seriously by (the commission) and the department, but there may not be any common ground on this issue.”

The remarks come as the department’s own complaint system is under heavy scrutiny by civil- and immigrant-rights groups who say it needs to come under civilian oversight.

In February, the Inspector General’s Office found that in half of the 60 cases it examined, the LAPD failed to properly investigate complaints of serious police misconduct. In some cases, investigators ignored key witnesses and inaccurately reported statements.

“For key complaints — discrimination and racial profiling, excessive force — the number of sustained complaints remain implausibly low for a department of this size,” Peter Bibring, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the commission. “The picture painted is of a broken complaint system that the public cannot be asked to place trust in.”

The department has not in recent memory confirmed an allegation of racial profiling against an officer. A confirmation can lead to anything from an admonition to termination, said Cmdr. Rick Webb, head of Internal Affairs.

Under the consent decree imposed more than seven years ago, the LAPD had been forced to monitor traffic stops. Though 2006 findings found more Latino and African-Americans were searched or asked to get out of their cars, the results were inconclusive.

Last September, the department revamped how it determines if an officer targeted someone because of their race or ethnicity. Investigators must now ask officers if they knew the race of the person before the stop, what the basis of the stop was and other factors, including lighting that helps determine the context of the encounter and an officer’s state of mind.

“We take it very seriously,” Webb said. “We investigate these seriously.”

This year, the Police Commission approved in-car video cameras to monitor officers in South Bureau, and the department expects to expand the program.

On Monday, eight civil- and immigrant-rights groups called on the department to turn over complaint investigations to civilians.

In a letter to the commission, the group, including the ACLU, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Korean Resource Center, argued that a civilian process would ensure complaints are fully investigated.

“People only trust their police department if they believe the police department takes problem conduct seriously,” the group wrote in the letter. “This does not appear to be happening.”

Tim Sands, head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s union representing more than 9,000 officers, sharply disagreed and blasted Mack and Commissioner Robert Saltzman, who also expressed skepticism of the LAPD’s complaint process.

“It’s a circular type of logic that two commissioners believe that just because a complaint is made against an officer, that an officer has to be convicted of doing it,” he said. “They are taking the attitude that they are guilty before proven innocent. I am disappointed.”


September 26, 2013

My Alexa rating

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 9:17 pm

I just heard from the head moron at TNS who told me that my Alexa rating was 17,913,494. He was looking at an out-of-date link. Here’s the current information for louisproyect.org, a domain I pay $100 per year for since the old one was being treated as spam by the fucked-up Facebook software. For comparison’s sake, Richard Seymour’s blog is ranked 1,534,088 globally. Kasama Project is 974,688. You’d think that a group blog like TNS would rank closer to Kasama that has similar aspirations. My guess is that most people on the left are not that interested in grad student drivel and Baathist propaganda.

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 5.13.18 PM

February 12, 2013

Mike Gonzalez and the ideological priesthood

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:17 pm

Mike Gonzalez

A faction in the British SWP calling itself “In Defense of our Party” was declared in early January. It was formed to strengthen democracy in the party, issuing a warning about how “false polarisation and caricature will only obscure this process.” It also called for an “end to the punishment of party workers who have expressed concerns over the dispute.” It does not mention what kind of punishment is being meted out but I strongly doubt that is of the corporal nature.

What fascinated me was that Mike Gonzalez was one of the sixty SWP members who had come on board. Gonzalez functions as the party’s guru on Cuba, writing very much in the same vein as Samuel Farber, which is to say heavily reliant on Cubanology scholarship such as Carmelo Mesa-Lago’s. Gonzalez is not only an expert on Cuban ills. He has served as master diagnostician of what went wrong in Nicaragua under FSLN leadership in the 1980s and has more recently focused on the vain hopes pinned on Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.

Gonzalez, an Emeritus Professor of Latin American Studies at Glasgow University, belongs to a hoary tradition that came out of the Left Opposition in Soviet Russia. Based on a critical examination of the sins of Stalinism or state capitalism, the Trotskyist or post-Trotskyist group will know which mistakes to avoid. In many ways it is the Marxist equivalent of those training films they used to show to draftees in WWII on preventing venereal disease. One look at the penis of someone with advanced syphilis is enough to make you want to wear two condoms, not one.

But somehow the thousands of pages that Mike Gonzalez has written did little to prevent Alex Callinicos, Charlie Kimber and Martin Smith from acting like pint-size versions of Fidel Castro. At least with the Cubans, there has been the open recognition that centuries of a macho culture suffused with sexism, racism, and homophobia has left its imprint and that struggle is needed to create a more just society. But how in hell does the leadership of a group of a couple of thousand people trained in Tony Cliff’s “socialism from below” philosophy end up acting like a bunch of bureaucrats insensitive to the demands of a female comrade that her alleged rape be properly investigated? I don’t think it is an adequate explanation to say that Tony Cliff wrote some nonsense about feminism in the 1980s—reminiscent I should add of what Gus Hall wrote in the 1970s. You don’t have to have a fully evolved consciousness to understand that you don’t ask such a comrade about her drinking habits, her sexual experiences, etc.

Since that faction was declared, there are signs that things have degraded further. The faction associated in the left public’s mind with Richard Seymour and China Mieville just issued a statement titled “Stop the Bullying” that states:

Comrades across the party have been heckled, shouted down and intimidated at aggregates and branch meetings. When they have complained about this they have been heckled, shouted down and intimidated. Young comrades have received nasty messages from those much older than them. They have been threatened with violence.

Threatened with violence? How does an organization that treats Tony Cliff’s writings in the same fashion that the Catholic Church treats the Sermon on the Mount end up threatening people with violence? The answer is obvious. In both cases, you are dealing with institutions that are governed more by expedience than principle. Whether you are a Cardinal in Rome or a full-timer in London, you have material interests that sometimes clash with lofty ethical, political or religious beliefs.

And what really boggles the mind is Alex Callinicos’s warning that faction members face ‘lynch mobs’ of angry members if the debate continues after the special conference. Even if this is only a metaphor, what kind of fucked-up metaphor is that to use? Maybe the CC comrades should watch “Django Unchained”.

Unfortunately all institutions are susceptible to abuse of the sort that is taking place in the SWP. What occurs to me, however, is that the lofty ideological basis upon which such “vanguard” groups are built paradoxically sets it up for violation of its core beliefs.

When you develop a theory such as “state capitalism”, it becomes a kind of litmus test used against the rest of the left and as such logically implies that you are superior to it. This is not that different than the warring sects of Hasidic Jewry, all based on a particular interpretation of the Talmud and loyal to its founder or the founder’s male descendant. The same arrogance that is directed toward “opponent” groups often carries over to the rank and file of your own.

Such groups necessitate a priesthood that is keeper of the faith. Only those who have fully mastered Cliff-thought (or Cannon-thought) are fully capable of steering the party through the white-water rapids of bourgeois society. One false move to the left or the right and the boat capsizes, thus leaving the world bereft of the leadership it needs to challenge the capitalist order.

In my view people are not megalomaniacs prior to assuming leadership of a group like the SWP. It is only the heavy mantle of responsibility of being the “Lenin of today” that makes you a tin-pot dictator.

In my view we need to unite everybody on the left however they view the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales. Everybody can agree that the embargo has to end and that the 5 Cuban political prisoners in the U.S. should be freed immediately. But on the questions of how Cuban society is organized and how the population deals with the contradictions of trying to build a just society in an unjust world, that can be dealt with in the back pages of a theoretical magazine.

But the most important task facing the left is to unite across ideological lines and to build a leadership based on its ability to have led people in battle, not on their priestly grasp of what went wrong in the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, Angola ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

January 26, 2013

Zeytinyağli pişiriyorum

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:21 pm



November 17, 2012

Busted by the sociobiologists, and busting back

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

Irven DeVore

For Irven DeVore, this picture explains Hugh Hefner’s deal with 21 year old women

Four days ago I got this comment on my blog from one Claire DeVore beneath an article on Napoleon Chagnon:

I am curious about your photo copyright. My agency represents Doctor Chagnon I have no record of your requesting use of the final image. Please contact me at cdevore@anthrophoto.com

I had used a photo of Chagnon that turned up in a Google image search, just as would most bloggers. Furthermore, the photo was not retrieved from www.anthophoto.com but from the Boise State College website, without any attribution to Ms. DeVore’s company there. In any case, I did not care that much about using that particular photo so I replaced it with another and then followed up with a message to her.

I already replaced it, assuming that the photo in question was used in the article you commented on. Btw, I got it from the Boise State website, not yours. There was no copyright notice there, as far as I know. I should add that I am very respectful of intellectual property. After all, what would our wonderful world of capitalism be without it?

Apparently the crack got under skin since she followed up with this:

Capitalism?  Hardly.  My website doesn’t make a profit.  I keep it running to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples we worked with.  I lived with the !Kung San when I was seven years old.  “Profits” are sent back to the Kalahari People’s Fund for many of those images.

As to Nap’s photo I try to keep a tight hold on those for obvious reasons, after the Tierney attack.

Thank-you for removing it.


Claire DeVore

This bit about living with the !Kung San and the reference to “Nap” intrigued me. Who were these people? A trip to the website turned up three names in what is apparently a family-run operation:

Nancy DeVore – Image Procurement, Billing, Professional Services
(617) 868-4784, ndevore@anthrophoto.com

Dr. Irven DeVore – Professional Services
(617) 868-4784, idevore@anthrophoto.com

Claire DeVore – Image Procurement, Pricing, Billing, Research
(617) 484-6490, cdevore@anthrophoto.com

From what I can gather, Nancy is the wife of Dr. Irven DeVore, a Harvard professor emeritus, and Claire is their daughter. Acting on a hunch, I googled “Irven DeVore” and “Napoleon Chagnon” and turned this up:

Chagnon, who retired this year as a professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, still retains his eminence in the field. Irven DeVore, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard, says, “Chag was both first and thorough. First in the sense that very, very few anthropological studies have been carried out by an anthropologist who was first on the scene. Thorough in the sense that Chag has visited at least seventy-five Yanomami villages on both sides of the Venezuela and Brazil borders. I cannot think of a comparably thorough survey among any cultural group by any anthropologist. Chag gathered very detailed and documented data on the villages–so much so that another investigator could study the same population and come to a different conclusion. Chagnon’s study was ‘scientific’ in the best sense of the word.”

This is from Patrick Tierney’s November 6, 2000 New Yorker article on Napolen Chagnon that would get a full-blown treatment in  “Darkness in El Dorado”. This book triggered a huge debate that divided anthropology between Chagnon supporters and those who agreed with Tierney, even with qualifications.

I wrote a series of articles on Chagnon, including the one that had the photo Ms. DeVore wanted removed. I think her problem (and more likely that of Chagnon and Professor DeVore) was more with the text than the picture, as the first few paragraphs would indicate:

When I first got word of the Jared Diamond/New Yorker magazine scandal, I could not help but think of Napoleon Chagnon and the Yanomami. Just around the time that the Marxism list was launched, a big fight broke out among anthropologists over Chagnon’s fieldwork with the Amazon rainforest Indians provoked by the publication of Patrick Tierney’s “Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon”. Sides were drawn in the profession between those pro and con Chagnon, who at least unlike Jared Diamond had professional qualifications in the field. In doing some preliminary research on the Chagnon-Tierney dispute, I have learned that some experts in the field without any apparent axe to grind have faulted his research.

I plan to revisit the controversy in light of what I have learned about evolutionary psychology, particularly through my reading of Jared Diamond’s “The Third Chimpanzee” but want to start off by posting some excerpts from the fifth edition of Chagnon’s “Yanomamo”, a book that was titled “Yanomamo: the fierce people” in its initial publication in 1977. Given all the controversy his research has generated, it is understandable why he would have dropped the term “fierce people”, especially since the global perception that they are facing extinction. It would be like writing a book in 1940 titled “The Aggressive Jew”.

Now that my curiosity was piqued, I wanted to see what this guy Irven DeVore was about. I couldn’t imagine that he was as bad as Chagnon (who could be?) but wanted to see where he stood in the oft-compromised world of anthropology.

On May 11, 1993 the Washington Post had a survey article on new glossy magazines devoted to making scientific issues understandable to the unwashed masses. One of them was Omni that was launched by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. In an issue devoted to “Sex and Violence among the Primates”, there was an expert the magazine interviewed who assured its readers that sex and violence against women is in our genes. Just look at the mating habits in monkeys, “particularly certain species wherein the female gives sex exclusively to one male in exchange for protection from other males” in a manner “eerily similar to certain human relationships.”

That expert was Irven DeVore. No wonder why he would take the side of a total dick like Napoleon Chagnon.

DeVore’s views on male domination were spelled out in a series of articles on the baboon, whose aggressive behavior among males and male domination over females supposedly is the key to human society.

This typically biological determinist approach was dismantled in an Autumn 1991 issue of “Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”, published by the U. of Chicago. Titled “Baboons with Briefcases: Feminism, Functionalism, and Sociobiology in the Evolution of Primate Gender” and written by Susan Sperling, it takes on the male domination is in our primate genes theories almost always written by males.

Early sociobiological views of the evolution of human gendered behaviors incorporated primatological data and viewed males and females as having differential reproductive strategies. Because of the presumably greater “investment” of female primates in infant rearing, female behaviors were viewed as selected because they advanced a female’s chances of gaining male protection during vulnerable periods for herself and her offspring (offspring are seen as fleshy packets of shared genes). Females frequently were pictured as conservative, coy, and passive. By contrast, it behooved males to inseminate as many females as possible, thus forwarding their attempted genetic monopoly of the future. [E.O.] Wilson wrote: “It pays males to be aggressive, hasty, fickle and undiscriminating. In theory it is more profitable for females to be coy, to hold back until they can identify the male with the best genes. Human beings obey this biological principle faithfully.” DeVore and other sociobiologists have maintained that the sexual and romantic interest of middle-aged men in younger women and their presumed lack of interest in their female age cohort stem from selective pressures on male primates to inseminate as many fertile females as possible [emphasis added].

No wonder Bob Guccione would want to interview Irven DeVore on women. One can just as easily imagine him as a frequent guest at the Playboy mansion especially in light of “the sexual and romantic interest of middle-aged men in younger women and their presumed lack of interest in their female age cohort stem from selective pressures on male primates to inseminate as many fertile females as possible.”

Dr. DeVore puts himself forward as an expert on everything primate and human. When feminist students at Harvard demanded a Women’s Studies program, he opposed them—stating that the class he taught on social relationships should be sufficient. I doubt that they were assuaged in light of his observations in an April 1986 issue of Science magazine:

Soap operas have a huge following among college students, and the female-female competition is blatant. The women on these shows use every single feminine wile. On the internationally popular soap Dynasty, for example, a divorcee sees her ex-husband’s new wife riding a horse nearby. She knows the woman to be newly pregnant, so she shoots off a gun, which spooks the horse, which throws the young wife, and makes her miscarry. The divorcee’s own children are living with their father and this woman; the divorcee doesn’t want this new young thing to bring rival heirs into the world to compete with her children.

Whole industries turning out everything from lipstick to perfume to designer jeans are based on the existence of female competition. The business of courting and mating is after all, a negotiation process, in which each member of the pair is negotiating with those of the opposite sex to get the best deal possible, and to beat out the competition from one’s own sex…. I get women in my class saying I’m stereotyping women, and I say sure, I’m stereotyping the ones who make lipstick a multibillion dollar industry. It’s quite a few women. Basically, I appeal to students to look inside themselves: what are life’s little dilemmas? When your roommate brings home a guy to whom you’re extremely attracted, does it set up any sort of conflict in your mind?

To my readers with kids in high school: don’t waste your money sending them to Harvard. They’d be better off at a good state college, especially one that does not have imbecile sociobiology professors eager to shove sexist theories down their throats.

January 28, 2011

Israeli film maker threatened with death

Filed under: middle east,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:10 am

NY Times January 27, 2011, 5:40 pm

Israeli Journalist Reports Death Threats Over Gaza War Film


Israeli soldiers expressed regrets over their conduct in Gaza in a new documentary.

Nurit Kedar, an Israeli documentary filmmaker, told Channel 4 News of Britain on Thursday that she had received death threats following the broadcast of her latest film, a report on Israeli soldiers who expressed regrets over their own conduct during the war in Gaza two years ago.

The 13-minute documentary, made for Channel 4 News, was posted online on Wednesday. In response, Ms. Kedar said: “I have had phone calls saying, ‘You should be hanged,’ and calling me a traitor. People have sent me messages calling for me to be expelled from Israel, saying I am a traitor to my mother and father.”

The Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday that a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London had complained about the film. Among the embassy’s objections was the weight Ms. Kedar’s film gave to the use of the word “cleanse,” by a young tank commander she interviewed. The commander said that before his unit went into Gaza, the soldiers were told: “We needed to cleanse the neighborhoods, the buildings, the area. It sounds really terrible to say ‘cleanse,’ but those were the orders.”

According to The Chronicle, the Israeli spokesman said the word was mistranslated, that it was “used by soldiers to describe when they are not under threat during a search, the nearest equivalent being ‘clear.’ ”

Before the film was broadcast, the embassy gave this statement to Channel 4 News:

Unlike much of the region, the open society within Israel allows for all allegations such as these to be aired and investigated. Israel has already authorized over 100 separate investigations into the operation and five broader investigations, and close to 50 criminal investigations are also taking place.

All this in the context of having to respond to over 12,000 missiles raining on our citizens — such an operation could unfortunately never be flawless given these circumstances.

Our judicial process is renowned across the world for its independence. This is a country, after all, which holds even the very top of society to account, as has been proven in recent days. This is Israel in the 21st century, a flourishing democracy, thriving amongst a desert of tyranny in the Middle East.

January 21, 2011

Sins of South Beach

Filed under: crime,literature,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 9:34 pm

I return to NYC tomorrow after a wonderful time in South Beach, especially the time spent with Alex Daoud, the author of the must-read “Sins of South Beach”. I plan to write a longer and more analytical review but this amazon.com review I wrote should be sufficient to persuade you to get your own copy.


If “Sins of South Beach” accomplished one and only one thing, namely to show how corruption works in politics, then author Alex Douad would have performed an enormous service to our country. There is hardly a week that passes by without someone like Tom DeLay being sentenced for money laundering. Americans really need to know how and why such a thing happens.

As someone who spent 18 months in a federal prison for bribes taken while mayor of Miami Beach, Douad is uniquely positioned to describe his own sins and those who he came in contact with, including some of the area’s most powerful politicians, real estate developers and bankers. Given the power of some of these individuals, it is something of a miracle that the book was ever published. It is also all the more remarkable given that it is likely the very first book ever written by a politician who has fallen from grace. In light of the state of American governance, this honest, insightful, courageous and beautifully written memoir is worth all the self-serving memoirs of public officials put together, including that of George W. Bush.

But “Sins of South Beach” is more than this. It is also a spell-binding tale that is written with a experienced novelist’s touch, one in which the reader can’t wait to get to the next chapter to find out what happens to the tarnished hero Alex Daoud. Indeed, this is the kind of book that would have made me miss a subway stop in my hometown New York City. But here in South Beach, where I am vacationing, the same thing happened. I took the book down to the beach with me with the intention of spending two hours under the sun while getting the low-down on what was happening here in the roaring 80s. But I became so riveted by the action that I lost track of the time and got myself a good sunburn! Oh well, that’s a small price to pay for getting immersed in such a gripping tale.

As someone with a background in politics and law, Alex Daoud is a remarkably gifted writer. “Sins of South Beach” has a cinematic quality, evoking “The Godfather” in some ways as well as classic tales of an honest man seduced into doing wrong, like “Double Indemnity” or “Body Heat”. In Alex Daoud’s case, the seducer was not a beautiful woman but a wealthy establishment in Miami Beach that bought and sold politicians like they were condominiums. Although the author is unsparing with himself, one cannot but note that the bribes he took harmed nobody except the rich men who were buying favors, and for whom such monies were almost pocket change. By comparison, Jack Abramoff hurt Indian tribes and non-unionized sweatshop workers in his quest to achieve wealth and power.

It should be understood, however, that Alex Daoud does not try to whitewash his career here. Despite being mayor at a time when Miami Beach was making great strides forward as an art deco cultural center and a fabulous place to spend a vacation, the book is focused almost totally on his sins. They say that Catholics are great both at sinning and at confessing. When a Catholic (a Lebanese Catholic in Daoud’s case) has a talent with the pen, such as St. Augustine’s Confessions, the result can be a classic of literature. While it would be a bit much to compare Alex Daoud to St. Augustine, I can say with conviction that this is the finest memoir by a public official that I have ever read and a book that I will recommend to friends and associates for the rest of my life.

July 21, 2010

From Jeff Newelt, the editor of the Pekar Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 7:58 pm

Harvey Pekar to be buried next to Eliot Ness — If any fans of Harvey would like to donate needed funds to help defray the costs of everything from groceries to granite, they can PAYPAL a donation to Harvey’s wife Joyce Brabner, and donate to HPEKAR@aol.com at PAYPAL.

July 12, 2010

North Star: a tribute to Peter Camejo

Filed under: revolutionary organizing,socialism,Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:36 pm

North Star
A Tribute to Peter Camejo
by Louis Proyect

Book Review

ed. Louis Proyect’s tribute is based on his own experience and recollection as well as his reading of Peter Camejo’s unfinished memoir published posthumously, North Star: a Memoir, Haymarket Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1931859-92-9.

(Swans – July 12, 2010)   In November 1969, I was ready to drop out of the Socialist Workers Party in New York City just two years after I joined. Although I had no political disagreements, I felt alienated from the organization. I was in a kind of limbo that most people with regular jobs experienced. Unless you were a student at a place like Columbia University where all the action was going on or a full-timer with a sense of mission about being a “professional revolutionary” in Leninist terms, it was easy to feel like a fifth wheel.

Just before I had steeled myself to turn in my resignation and become a “sell-out” to bourgeois society, the organizer called me into his office to ask me to take on an important assignment. The Boston branch was out of step with the rest of the party and required reinforcing with “solid” people who would work with the organizer Peter Camejo to “turn things around.” Feeling a sense of validation that had escaped me before, I said yes on the spot. This would be my introduction to a comrade who I can describe as one of the major influences on my political evolution over the past 30 years. It was thus with a keen sense of anticipation that I turned to his posthumous memoir North Star, a book that not only captures his winning personality but also the ideas that transformed me.

Before moving up to Boston, I knew Peter only by reputation. Apparently, he was one of the few Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members who had won a following among the broad left, especially in Berkeley where his leadership in the Telegraph Avenue struggle of June 1968 had helped to cement his reputation. After the cops had attacked a rally in support of the French strikers, the movement mounted a counter-attack to defend the constitutionally protected right to protest. Although there was a considerable amount of violence, Peter played an important role in making it clear that the cops were responsible and not the protesters. His description of the confrontation would be especially useful to young people today grappling with the problems of black block machismo that have served to muddle the message of anti-globalization protests.

After seeing the power of a united left in the battle of Telegraph Avenue that included the Black Panther Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and thousands of unaffiliated radicals and progressives, Peter began to think about how “out of touch” the left, and Trotskyism in particular, was with “the reality of what it would take to build a mass current for social justice.” He found himself becoming more and more aware of how detached it was from American realities:

We were so disconnected from our own history that to join our organization and remain active, a member had to become interested in and invested in the internal factional struggles of socialism in Russia and Europe. This was important but couldn’t serve as the framework for a mass movement for social change.

He doubted that a single party member could name the first candidate of the Liberty Party, the original third party in American history formed to oppose slavery. It was also unlikely that any had ever read Frederick Douglass’s newspaper “The North Star” that would eventually become a symbol of the kind of broad left that Peter sought to build.

read full at: http://www.swans.com/library/art16/lproy62.html

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