It is as though feminists have collectively forgotten how much blood Hillary has on her hands.

Hillary Clinton cast the single most influential vote in support of the Iraq War. Once this champion of progressive democrats supported the war, it shifted the norm and made it “OK” for other democrats to follow in her footsteps. After almost five years of bloodshed, torture abuses, uncovered Bush Administration lies, and disintegration into civil war, Hillary has never once apologized for her role in sending in the bombers. She  says she was duped by Bush Administration lies, but isn’t it her job as a politician to cut through the crap and demand hard facts when making such a weighty decision? At the time you did not have to be genius to recognize that major pieces of the Bush Administration’s argument for war did not fit together.

Hillary seems to be just as much of a war hawk when it comes to Iran. Her decision to support the labeling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization was a clear nod to those in office who salivate at the thought of bombing this country as well.

And when Israel rained down cluster bombs on Lebanon in July, with weapons provided by the U.S., Hillary was standing there on Capital Hill gleefully delivering a war speech in support of the invasion. Meanwhile, the rest of the world spoke out against Israel’s excessive aggression.

Hillary has unflinchingly supported wars and acts of aggression that kill women and children and destroy their homelands. The Iraq war, the July invasion of Lebanon, the threat of Iranian war contribute to the hyper-militarization of these societies and strain their social fabric, with conservatizing and wholly reactionary effects. Women in these countries bear the greatest burdens – holding together their families in times of conflict, dealing with upswings in religious and tribal violence, and in the case of Iraqis in Syria, sometimes being forced into sex work to keep themselves and their children from starving.

And then of course, there are the deleterious effects the war has on women’s interests domestically. The bloated defense budget has left no room for vital social programs that could benefit women and children. Women are forced to deal with the hyper-masculinization of a society that has become addicted to war as the sole means of solving disputes. And of course there are the countless U.S. youngsters who have died fighting in Iraq, the mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and aunts who have grieved them, and the young women who have been left to raise their children alone.

 

Last time I checked, these were not feminist ideals.

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My celebrity crush on Jon Stewart is officially over. The man is a scab, having crossed the writers’ picket line, even though he, himself, is a member of the WGA. And everyone knows that scabs are not sexy.

 

What does it say that this doll of progressive America has turned his back on the writers’ union? This man made his career off of championing himself as the underdog progressive voice on mainstream T.V. He made fun of the Bush administration like a giddy schoolboy. He wasn’t afraid to speak out against big media for selling out to corporate interests. His criticisms of the Iraq war were irreverent and hard-hitting. And he berated any guests that did not fit in the category of progressive.

 

And let’s admit it – everyone had a crush on him. My 87 year old Jewish grandma had a crush on him. My stoner roommates had crushes on him. Even my fancy lawyer boss had a crush on him. He was a high-profile charmer, at a time when progressives in America were in dire need of a high-profile charmer.

 

But he had to go and turn his back on the writers who helped him build his career. Mr. Stewart would not be who he is today without the witty lines and irreverent one-liners churned out by his trusty writers. And those who made him rich were merely asking for a small piece of the new technology fortune and a little more respect for their hard work.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Jon Stewart is not the only celeb who crossed. Of note are other late night start like Jimmy Kimmel, who gleefully called the writers’ strike ridiculous, and Colbert, Jon Stewart’s trusty sidekick.

 

But the thing that really hurts with Stewart is that it looked like he would hold out. People like me thought he really believed in respecting workers.

 

When progressive champions like him cross, it does untold damage to the writers’ strike, not to mention the labor movement as a whole.

 

Articles today report that during his show he seemed torn about having returned to work.

 

Perhaps progressives should feel torn about having supported him in the first place. Stewart’s jokes were funny and at times morally incisive. But being a comedian gave him much room for vagueness. And his actions show where his real politics lie.

 

Perhaps he was never anything more than another charming talking head who is willing to sell out his principles to further his career.

 

And people like that are no crush-worthy.

The U.S. labor movement is not dead. It is just fumbling for a new role for itself in a changing society.

Thanks to the increasingly transparent housing bubble, the U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse.

Markets are expanding overseas; factories are gravitating towards countries with the cheapest labor pools (i.e. non-union).

Laws like Taft-Hartley have rolled back the rights of union members, including the semi-sacred (in my book at least) right to strike.

The list goes on. The point is that things are changing, and not in the favor of working people in the United States. In order to survive and thrive, unions must react to this shifting current.

Some more cynical unions, like SEIU, are attempting to join forces with the companies whose members they represent, championing those once derided “labor-management partnerships” that exchange management cooperation for a practically ineffectual union. The logical conclusion of this is is Andy Stern standing next to Lee Scott, Walmart CEO at a press conference, both of them shaking hands and grinning widely.

Some unions like the United Auto Workers, are trying to fight this shifting tide, in a futile attempt to preserve well-paying manufacturing jobs for U.S. workers. While the UAW strike was awe-inspiring, it ended with a disappointing thud, leaving everyone wondering what really can be done in the face of seemingly unstoppable economic forces.

Many unions are simply focusing on sectors that cannot be exported overseas, scrambling to represent nurses, janitors, and hotel workers. Some unions make the connection between the sectors they represent and the social issues they invoke, taking up the causes of immigrant rights and healthcare and education reform.

None of these tactics, in and of themselves, is enough. In order to truly fight for their members, labor unions must fight for all working people and the issues that affect them. This means fighting to change the economic tide, rather than simply adapt to its shifting currents.

As long as there are poor countries with cheap labor pools, capitalist manufacturers will export U.S. jobs, leaving workers in the states increasingly vulnerable to the failing economy. As long as corporate interests continue to erode workers’ rights at home and abroad, union power will be diminished. As long as capitalist actors are allowed to move through the world unhindered, wreaking havoc in the name of free trade and economic development, no worker anywhere will prosper. As long as economic actors build an economy based on cheap labor and expensive speculation, no worker anywhere will be safe.

In an increasingly global world, workers everywhere find their fates intertwined. Capitalist manufacturers will always gravitate towards the lowest common denominator of labor standards. Conditions in the U.S. and abroad will continue to sink until labor unions start to seriously engage in transnational organizing and build the power necessary to keep transnational corporations at bay.

The U.S. labor movement is not dead. It is merely floundering in the face of a changing society and a budding opportunity – to build a global labor movement that confronts the beast of global capitalism head on.

It is a daunting task. It is labor’s only hope.

One of the surest ways for a high-profile celebrity to send his/her reputation and career plummeting is to say something racist in public. When Michael Richards, A.K.A. Kramer, exploded in a bizarre racist tirade, it made delicious fodder for big media for weeks. When MSNBC host Don Imus made some racist comments about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team, he was fired faster than he could say, “But I didn’t really mean it.” And now that Dr. James Watson’s racism is out in the open, his former colleagues and admirers are standing in line to criticize him, and he is being uninvited from prestigious speaking events and may even be retroactively denied the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

How refreshing that, in modern U.S. society, no one is spared a public lashing for saying something racist, no matter how famous they are. Isn’t it great that people care so much about ending racism that racist language can turn once loved celebrities into public punching bags?

 

Actually, I find this trend extremely confusing. Last time I checked, we still lived in a society rampant with racism; it is deeply embedded in our society—manifested in social institutions, public discourse, and cultural norms. And people are silent about it; in mainstream U.S. society, structural racism is invisible. So why is it that the second a celebrity says something racist, people jump all over him/her? Why can we see one form of racism but not the other?

 

Think that racism is not alive and well in this society? Just look at the prison system. We live in a society that systematically incarcerates people of color at far greater rates than their white counterparts, mostly for nonviolent, drug-related crimes. African Americans and Latinos together represented 63% of all of those incarcerated in 2002 and over 12% of all black men between ages 25 and 29 are incarcerated. African American men are jailed for drugs at far greater rates than white people, even though there is no evidence that African Americans use drugs more than whites.

 

Also, take hurricane Katrina. The U.S. government stood by and watched as thousands of black people were killed and displaced. Not only were rescue efforts criminally insufficient, but black people were labeled as the criminals – rumors flew about rapes in the superdome, and black people were identified as lawless looters and were even shot at when they tried to cross a bridge into more “civilized” white territory. Now, over two years after the flooding, the U.S. government is refusing to deliver adequate aid to victims of the storm, and the New Orleans local government is tearing down local affordable housing.

 

The list goes on and on. Gentrification, war on Iraq, the Jena trials—these are all made possible by deep racism. In light of this, it seems that we have far more to talk about than a handful of racist celebrities. Yet, tabloid-worthy criticism of individuals seems to dominate the mainstream discussion. Criticism of racist celebrities gets far more play than discussion of racist institutions and cultural trends. And while people stand in line to criticize a racist celebrity, the people who head the institutions that are responsible for systematically locking up black people, or letting thousands of black people die, still hold onto their jobs and reputations.

 

The disconnect between the outright criticism of racist pop icons, and the comparative silence abut the more deeply embedded, structural racism in society, reflects an alarming inability to see past the obvious and deliciously gossipy. When a person says something racist, the message is sparkling clear; there is no need for investigation or analysis. And when that someone is a celebrity, this new information becomes instantly juicy. Big media eats this up, and in so doing, dumbs down public discussion.

 

But investigation and analysis are just what we need. Real understanding of racism in U.S. society requires attention to nuance and willingness to call major tenets of U.S. society into question. It requires that white people question their own complicity in a racist system and that they listen to the experiences of people that have been targets of racism. When public discussion of racism amounts to little more than finger pointing at racist celebrities, the implication is that the rest of us are not racist; that racism is an individual problem; and that by weaning out the racist ones, we are doing real anti-racist work.

 

In no way do I condone the racist comments made by these celebrities. I think that it is important to criticize anyone who uses racist language. And I recognize that, for many people, hearing racist language from such famous people can be disturbing, disgusting, and traumatic. What I am arguing is that the discussion should not stop here. When a celebrity says something racist, it should be an occasion to examine racism in society more deeply—to make other, deeply embedded, forms of racism more visible.

I am one of the many radical, idealist youths, who, fresh out of college, trekked my way to the Washington, DC progressive world, to get a job at a nonprofit that could, hopefully, reconcile my desire to improve the world with my desire to make a living. When I got there, I thought I was unbelievably lucky to actually get paid to do work that falls within throwing distance of my political beliefs. Now that I have finished my one and only year in the DC nonprofit world, I must say I am a bit disillusioned.

During my time in that city, I learned that the DC nonprofit system is a tangled mess of good intentions, damaging compromises, and political contradictions. In a capitalist society, DC nonprofits must do what it takes to survive – often by making their goals, agendas, and cultures palatable to funders, and by narrowing in on niche social change markets – a distinction that is always somewhat arbitrary. In this nuts and bolts city, nonprofits focus on getting things done within their narrow fields, drowning out much needed discussions about political ideas and visions. The survival of the organization, furthermore, often becomes an end in itself, making it rather difficult for nonprofits to admit when they have outlived their usefulness. While many DC organizations start out with radical intentions, once they have been processed through the nonprofit system, they often no longer pose a threat to the status quo.

Recently, there has been an explosion of criticisms of the “non-profit industrial complex” coming from left magazines like Adbusters, and even former nonprofit organizations like Incite. And while it is exciting that this issue is being thrown out into the open for open criticism and analysis, we are still left with the question: what do we put in its place?

There are undeniable advantages to being a part of the nonprofit industrial complex, namely, survival. Volunteer activists must scrape together what little free-time they have outside of their regular jobs to devote themselves to their cause. Not only is this exhausting, but it simply does not give them the time and resources they need to develop their movement to the point that it can be at all effective. Becoming a nonprofit, and getting funding, allows you to have an office, supplies, and time to spending working on an issue.

But there are other models for funding radical projects. Organizations could do what labor unions have been doing for years: build membership and collect member dues. Not only will this provide funding, but it will also provide a base of support for an organization’s efforts and give its members a measure of ownership of the project. Nonprofits could also have an entirely separate business just to fund its efforts, like a cafe or a bookstore. This would allow it to act with total autonomy; it would not be beholden to any corporate foundations. Another option, though it might seem somewhat impractical, is that certain “legitimate” nonprofits could act as front groups for more radical nonprofits. They could solicit funding and then secretly embezzle it to fund more radical projects.

We live in world with complex problems that demand thoughtful, nuanced solutions. We cannot afford to base our plans of action on what gets the most funding. We need to start building models for organizing and agitation that allow us to truly act on our beliefs without compromise. While there are undeniable advantages to securing funding for radical projects, there are also considerable costs, and we must ask ourselves, Is it worth it?