Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wingnuts Denounce "Tin-Foil Hat" Liberals While Embracing Paranoid Conspiracy Theories

By MARC McDONALD

Browse any right-wing blog or listen to wingnut radio these days and you're confronted by a steady stream of angry voices denouncing "tin-foil hat" liberals and their "conspiracy theories."

The wingnuts are convinced that we liberal "conspiracy buffs" believe in some far-out things.

According to the wingnuts, we believe that Bush lied America into war. And we believe that the 2000 and 2004 elections weren't honest. And we suspect that maybe the White House puts the interests of Halliburton over the American people.

Pretty wacky stuff, huh?

The only problem is that a majority of the American people have similar questions these days. Which I guess means that America has become a land of tin-foil hat wearers.

However, there's a rich irony with the wingnuts denouncing conspiracy theories. After all, these people wrote the book on conspiracies. You won't find a more paranoid group of people in the nation.

The fact is, wingnuts believe that just about everything is part of a conspiracy these days.

Global warming is a liberal conspiracy. The media is a part of a liberal conspiracy. Iraq War opponents are part of a liberal conspiracy. Anyone who questions Bush is conspiring to harm America. And polling companies that show that Bush has a low approval rating are part of a liberal conspiracy.

According to the wingnuts, even the U.S. Navy was part of a liberal conspiracy, when it awarded John Kerry military honors that he didn't really deserve.

And the latest liberal conspiracy, according to the wingnuts, is that we're secretly working to shut down their beloved Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of wingnut radio.

This paranoid behavior on the part of the wingnuts is nothing new. In fact, it reached a fever pitch during the Clinton administration. Back then, talk radio and the wingnuts were constantly embracing every wacky anti-Clinton conspiracy that came down the pike.

According to them, Clinton conspired to "murder" Vince Foster. Clinton also murdered Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died in a "mysterious" plane crash. As Arkansas governor, he conspired to murder dozens of people who "knew too much." And when he wasn't busy murdering people, he was raping women left and right.

I rarely can bring myself to admit that the wingnuts do something better than the Dems. But in this case, I'll make an exception. Liberals' "conspiracy" theories are definitely no match for the wacky conspiracy theories on the Right.

And when the wingnuts aren't accusing us of far-out conspiracy theories, they're accusing of something called "Bush Derangement Syndrome."

Apparently, it seems, we hate Bush for no particular reason. And our hatred is therefore irrational. To dare suggest that maybe Bush had something to do with the fiasco in Iraq, we're guilty of a serious case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Here, again, though, the Left simply can't compare to the wingnuts, when it comes to unhinged hatred.

After all, even the fiercest progressive critics of Bush are no match for the foaming-at-the-mouth, mad-dog crazy Clinton haters of the 1990s. We're seeing a revival of these nutcases today, as they prepare to go after Hillary Clinton.

There's a big difference between the Left's hatred of Bush and the Right's hatred of Clinton, though.

We progressives hate Bush for lying America into an illegal, reckless, immoral war that has seriously damaged America's standing in the world.

By contrast, the wingnuts hated Clinton for: what, exactly? Lying about a blow job?

I mean, even the fiercest of Clinton's critics have now quietly tip-toed away from the wild charges they made against Clinton in the '90s.

Are there still wingnuts out there who really believe Clinton murdered Vince Foster? If so, they're strangely quiet about it, these days. After all, immediately after the Clinton era ended, I didn't hear another word about that crazy conspiracy from the wingnuts.

But I get the feeling that, even after the Bush era ends, there will still be many progressives who'll continue to seek answers and justice for the White House's very real crimes in the nightmarish years since 2000.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

U.S. Government’s Own Official Web Site Lists Vice President's Office As Part Of "Executive Branch"

By MARC McDONALD

So now Dick Cheney is claiming his office is not an "entity within the executive branch."

Hmmm, Cheney had better inform USA.gov, about this startling development. It seems they've been misleading the public.

And what is USA.gov, you might ask?

I'll let the site speak for itself:

"As the U.S. government's official Web portal, USA.gov makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the Web."

USA.gov's "Federal Executive Branch," section includes information for the public about all the offices and departments that made up the Executive Branch. And right there, under the Executive Office of the President section is a helpful link to the Vice President's official home page.

Dick Cheney needs to get on the phone and inform the U.S. government's own official Web site that it is giving the public misleading information about his office.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Violent Rhetoric About The Clintons Falls On Deaf Ears At Secret Service---But Watch What You Say About Bush

By MARC McDONALD

Right-wing nutcase Michael Graham's latest controversy---in which he said he wanted to see someone "whack" the Clintons in a Sopranos spoof isn't the first time he's used violent rhetoric when discussing the Clintons. In 2003, Graham said of Hillary Clinton: "I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron."

Such inflammatory language is nothing new for the right-wing. Recall how Ann Coulter once wrote that the debate over Bill Clinton should be about "whether to impeach or assassinate."

Recall also the comment by Jesse Helms in 1994: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."

Or G. Gordon Liddy's comment in 1995, when discussing how he'd used stick figures of the Clintons for target practice. "Thought it might improve my aim," he said.

I guess the right-wing nutcases excuse the above inflammatory comments as "humor."

The problem is, the Secret Service isn't an organization known for its sense of humor.

What's baffling is that right-wing nutcases can continue to use violent inflammatory language when discussing the Clintons and face no repercussions.

But when you talk about George W. Bush these days, you really need to watch what you say. Or else, you're going to get a visit from the Secret Service.

Case in point:

In September 2005, a North Carolina high school teacher assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights."

One of her students took a photo of Bush and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's down sign with his own hand next to Bush's picture, which he photographed and pasted onto a poster.

The student took his film to a local Wal-Mart to be processed. The Wal-Mart promptly called the police, who turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

On Sept. 20, 2005, two Secret Service agents showed up at the high school and confiscated the poster and interrogated the teacher. At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted."

Although no further action was taken in this particular case by the Secret Service, I find it interesting how an innocent student project about the Bill of Rights could spur such a frightening and intimidating visit from the Secret Service.

And meanwhile, right-wing nutcases continue to use the nation's airwaves to spew violent rhetoric about the Clintons, which apparently falls on deaf ears at the Secret Service.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AFL-CIO: Employee Free Choice Act Will Restore Workers' Freedom to Form Unions

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Here's what the AFL-CIO has to say about the Employee Free Choice Act, a proposed bill that protects workers’ right to organize:

"America’s working people are struggling to make ends meet these days and our middle class is disappearing. The best opportunity working people have to get ahead economically is by uniting to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits. Recent research has shown that some 60 million U.S. workers would join a union if they could.

But the current system for forming unions and bargaining is broken. Every day, corporations deny workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions to bargain for a better life. They routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire workers who try to form unions and bargain for economic well-being.

The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041), supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, would level the playing field for workers and employers and help rebuild America’s middle class. It would restore workers’ freedom to choose a union by:


  • Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
  • Providing mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
  • Allowing employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

Go here to find out whether your representative voted for the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800).
Go here to find out whether your senator is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 1041).
Read the text of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Go here to learn more about the Employee Free Choice Act.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Michael Moore "Awful Truth" Segment That Inspired "Sicko"

By MARC McDONALD

If you haven't seen it before, Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth," TV series (which aired on Bravo in 1999-2000) was one of the best things Moore has ever done. It was a hard-hitting investigative series that took on many targets in American society, including corporate and political corruption, lies, and hypocrisy.

In the series' first episode, Moore took on Humana, after this "healthcare" company initially denied a man's claim to pay for a life-saving pancreas transplant.

The episode later inspired Moore to direct Sicko, his upcoming feature film, which will be released on June 29. This episode is available on YouTube, along with a number of other "The Awful Truth" segments.

Bill Hicks: "Quit Putting A Dollar Sign On Everything On This Planet"

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"Think of me as Chomsky with dick jokes," comic Bill Hicks (1961-1994) once said.

In the era of George W. Bush, we could really use another Hicks to point out the evil and hypocrisy that not only pervades the White House, but is also present in the mainstream corporate media and in the boardrooms of America's Fortune 500.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Ron Paul Update: They Haven't Marginalized Him Quite Yet

By MANIFESTO JOE

In May, I posted an article on my blog, in response to the reactions to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's performance in one of the GOP debates, called, "It's Scary When Ron Paul Comes Across As The Sanest GOP Candidate." I'll repeat, as a qualifier, Ron is a walking anachronism when it comes to domestic policy. This is a guy who would abolish the Department of Education. Yes, he's serious.

But, there is something about this longtime Texas congressman that the MSM, and even Fox News, try as they have, are unable to dismiss. He represents a small minority of libertarian paleoconservatives who somehow had sense enough to be against the Iraq misadventure from Day One.

Here's some of the latest that's come across the MSM about him: This from Saturday's Washington Post:

On Technorati, which offers a real-time glimpse of the blogosphere, the most frequently searched term this week was "YouTube."

Then comes "Ron Paul."

Rep. Ron Paul, one of the most obscure GOP presidential hopefuls on the old-media landscape, has drawn more views of his YouTube videos than any of his GOP rivals. ...

The presence of the obscure Republican congressman from Texas on a list that includes terms such as "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and "iPhone" is a sign of the online buzz building around the long-shot Republican presidential hopeful -- even as mainstream political pundits have written him off.

Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

No one's more surprised at this robust Web presence than Paul himself, a self-described "old-school," "pen-and-paper guy" who's serving his 10th congressional term and was the Libertarian Party's nominee for president in 1988.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't heard about this YouTube and all the other Internet sites until supporters started gathering in them," confessed Paul, 71, who said that he's raised about $100,000 after each of the three debates. Not bad considering that his campaign had less than $10,000 when his exploratory committee was formed in mid-February. "I tell you I've never raised money as efficiently as that, in all my years in Congress, and all I'm doing is speaking my mind."

That means saying again and again that the Republican Party, especially when it comes to government spending and foreign policy, is in "shambles." ...

Republican strategists point out that libertarians, who make up a small but vocal portion of the Republican base, intrinsically gravitate toward the Web's anything-goes, leave-me-alone nature. They also say that his Web presence proves that the Internet can be a great equalizer in the race, giving a much-needed boost to a fringe candidate with little money and only a shadow of the campaign staffs marshaled by Romney, McCain and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

An obstetrician and gynecologist, Paul is known as "Dr. No" in the House of Representatives. No to big government. No to the Internal Revenue Service. No to the federal ban on same-sex marriage.

"I'm for the individual," Paul said. "I'm not for the government."

If he had his way, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education, among other agencies, would not exist. In his view, the USA Patriot Act, which allows the government to search personal data, including private Internet use, is unconstitutional, and trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement are a threat to American independence.

But perhaps what most notably separates Paul from the crowded Republican field, headed by what former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III calls "Rudy McRomney," is his stance on the Iraq war. He's been against it from the very beginning.

After the second Republican presidential debate last month, when Paul implied that American foreign policy has contributed to anti-Americanism in the Middle East -- "They attack us because we're over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years," Paul said -- he was attacked by Giuliani, and conservatives such as Saul Anuzis were livid. Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan GOP, threatened to circulate a petition to bar Paul from future Republican presidential debates. Though the petition never materialized, Anuzis's BlackBerry was flooded with e-mails and his office was inundated with calls for several days. "It was a distraction, no doubt," he said.

The culprits: Paul's growing number of supporters, some of whom posted Anuzis's e-mail address and office phone number on their blogs.


Ron's not a guy I would seriously favor for president. But he's bringing a refreshing honesty to the GOP race, and I hope he can stay in the fray for several more months.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why GOP Bush-Haters Are Even Scarier Than The 28-Percenters

By MARC McDONALD

Over the past year, George W. Bush has gone from being perhaps the ultimate GOP wet-dream president to a politician whom even many Republicans hate.

At first glance, this ought to be welcome news. After all, we liberals have been shouting from the highest rooftops about why Bush is bad for America ever since 2000.

It's nice that a lot of Republicans have now come around to our way of thinking.

There's only one problem. If you take a look at the reason why many Republicans finally rejected Bush, it's not an encouraging sign.

After all, why did many Republicans finally turn against Bush?

Was it the illegal, immoral war in Iraq that Bush lied America into? No.

Was it Bush's blatant disregard for America's Constitution? No.

Was it Bush's illegal wiretaps? No.

Was it the disastrously bungled response to Hurricane Katrina? No.

Was it embracing torture as an official instrument of American policy? No.

Was it any one of a number of other serious violations of Bush's oath of office and impeachable offenses? No.

The scary thing is that the Republicans who abandoned Bush didn't have problems with any of the above.

They stood by Bush through thick and thin, and weren't deterred from supporting their hero, even when he dragged America's name through the mud and made us the most feared and hated nation on the planet.

No, the thing that finally ended the love affair between millions of Republicans and the Fratboy-In-Chief was their former hero's immigration policy, of all things.

I've talked to a number of Republicans over the past year and it's become apparent to me that Bush's immigration policy was the straw that broke the camel's back for them. As a couple of Republicans explained it to me last week, "We're sick and tired of all these fucking spics coming into our country."

So there you have it: torture is fine, shredding the Constitution is fine, lying the nation into war is fine. Just keep America as white as possible, and you won't get a peep of protest out of the droves of Republicans who abandoned Bush.

Like I said, Republican Bush-haters are even more frightening than the 28-percenters.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Official: Bush More Popular In Albania Than Paris Hilton Is With The MSM

By MANIFESTO JOE

There was once a novel, and also a song, called something like, Been Down So Very Damn Long That It Looks Like Up To Me. This is one theory about George W. "Bushie" Bush's mysterious popularity in the European garden spot of Albania.

In America, his approval ratings have sunk into the toilet. Here in his home state, he's below 50 percent. In parts of Europe, he's in single digits. In Italy, while he was meeting with the pope, angry mobs took to the streets.

In Albania, he got a rock star's reception. "Bushie, Bushie," they chanted. Old women kissed him on both cheeks, and the rabble reached out to muss his gray hair. He was deemed by the prime minister the greatest guest the country ever had.

History must be considered. Among Europeans, Albanians are like someone who's been in a torture chamber so long that a stretch in a minimum-security prison must seem like utopia.

These are a long, long-suffering people, beset by empires and dictators of all sorts, starting with the Romans. They were dominated by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, which made them the only Muslim-majority populace in Europe. (Convert, or split).

Mussolini's Italian fascist army overran them just before World War II (although I read that they had a little trouble with the guys with the pitchforks). After the communists took over in 1944, they had a dictator, Enver Hoxha, who made Uncle Joe Stalin seem like a bud you could sit down and have a few chilled Stolis with.

In 1967 Hoxha declared the country the world's first official atheist country, closing all the mosques. Before he died and went to Hell in 1985, he somehow even managed to piss off communist China.

Even after Hoxha died and went to Hell, Albania's luck didn't get much better. In the 1990s the country started moving toward a market economy, but their first big taste of it was nasty. This from Wikipedia:

In 1997 widespread riots erupted after the International Monetary Fund forced the state to liberalize banking practices. Many citizens, naive to the workings of a market economy, put their entire savings into pyramid schemes. In a short while, $2 billion (80% of the country's GDP) had been moved into the hands of just a few pyramid scheme owners, causing severe economic troubles and civic unrest.

So, their first experience with capitalism was a vast Ponzi scheme, and they're still enthusiastic about it? Hell, they sound like Americans to me. Maybe Karl Rove can figure out a way to make them into the 51st state. They'd be a lock for the Republicans.

I guess when you been down so long, almost anything looks like up. Even Bush.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The End of "The Sopranos" Final Episode: I Loved It

By MARC McDONALD

(Warning: spoilers follow).

It's nearing the end of the final episode of "The Sopranos," and it looks like Tony Soprano is nearing the end of the line.

Indeed, all the cliched indicators are in place. Tony has spent the entire episode, essentially saying goodbye to the important people in his life. Now, he is seated at a restaurant, along with his wife and son.

There are several suspicious looking characters in the place. One of them is a shady-looking man who keeps nervously glancing at Tony's table. He finally gets up and disappears into the bathroom, not far from where Tony's booth is.

Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," is playing in the background. The song is nearing its end. Tony's daughter is arriving late to the gathering, after having a difficult time parallel parking outside the eatery. Finally, she parks and runs across the street and opens the front door.

Tony looks up.

And then: the screen goes black.

I'm sure a lot of viewers are going, "WTF"?

A lot of them likely feeling confused and/or cheated.

But I thought it was brilliant.

No ending could have possibly topped this.

The audience was expecting some sort of concrete resolution. They wanted all the loose ends tied up. They wanted a dramatic finale. And most of all, they wanted a big, violent, climactic ending.

They wanted it to be spoon-fed to them.

But nothing beats the power and depth of the human imagination. And, so now, for all time, the ending will up to whatever our own imaginations conceive it to be. That's far more memorable than any cut-and-dried resolution could ever be.

It was a bold, creative risk on the part of the producers---and, for me at least, it worked.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Joe Klein, Who Claimed Liberals "Hate America," Now Slams Progressives' "Bile"

By MARC McDONALD

Time magazine blogger Joe Klein is upset with the way the progressive blogosphere is treating him these days. In his latest piece, "Beware the Bloggers' Bile," Klein expresses bafflement that he's been criticized by liberal bloggers recently.

Klein writes that much of the progressive blogosphere these days is "is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance."

Klein expresses dismay at his critics and tries to play up his supposedly liberal credentials. He writes that he's being unfairly targeted. As far as he's concerned, "the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered."

Wow, that's a pretty heavy charge.

There's only one problem that the supposedly reasonable and "unfairly" criticized Klein fails to point out.

The fact is, Klein himself has been guilty of the most vicious, Rush Limbaugh-like attacks on liberals in recent years.

Here's an example (as reported last year by Media Matters). On April 11, 2006, Klein declared that Democrats wouldn't find success among voters "if their message is that they hate America -- which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past 20 years."

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Klein claims liberals "hate" America. And then he turns around and claims that the progressive blogs are guilty of "intolerance" and Rush Limbaugh-like tactics because they dared to criticize him.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Angry White Male: It's Mostly About Money, But With A Spin

By MANIFESTO JOE

The modern American political phenomenon of "the angry white male" has baffled me for a long time. These are working-class and lower-middle-class guys, age ranging from around 25 to 55, who vote overwhelmingly Republican, against their true economic interests. These aren't men who own hedge funds, and it's been shown repeatedly that supply-side tax cuts at best do nothing for them, and at worst shift the burden to them in insidious ways. For them, voting GOP is like being chickens for Colonel Sanders.

But after reading a recent Associated Press report on income trends in America, comparing 1974 earnings to the most recent available census stats, I think I understand this a little better. It's mostly about wages and salaries -- but with an ironic demagogic spin.

From AP's report:

"New analysis of census data challenges the historical presumption that each American generation will be wealthier than the one before, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Economic Mobility Project.

"A generation ago, American men in their 30s had median annual incomes of about $40,000. Men of the same age today ... make only about $35,000 a year, adjusted for inflation.

"That's a 12.5 percent drop between 1974 and 2004, according to the report."


It's not easy for me to relate to the men who have been most profoundly affected by this trend. I've been in the work force since the late '70s. It wasn't hard for me to do a little better than my parents did, because we were a relatively poor family. At the time I came of age, poor kids like me were getting help that isn't so available anymore, so I got to go to a good college and graduated in 4 years.

But the following decades weren't kind to working-class, and even middle-class, white guys. A lot of the bread-and-butter blue-collar jobs were exported -- from places like Flint, Michigan, to places like Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. As more women, often with college degrees, entered the work force, and more minorities finally began climbing the ladder, The Angry White Male suddenly had competition that Pops never faced. That big promotion, or even the gold watch at 65, were no longer givens.

At the risk of seeming "illiberal" for just a moment, I have seen, and have been personally affected by, all the things that the pissed-off white dudes complain about. I've seen people hired in haste for jobs they were unprepared for, and unable to perform -- but they were still tolerated. I've seen people get promotions they weren't ready for -- but, true to The Peter Principle, they stayed there. I've seen mistakes swept under the rug time after time.

But, Angry White Dudes, let's be honest. Was it really different in 1950? If you were able to talk to the vanguard of women and minorities who were trying to break through an almost impregnable glass ceiling back then, wouldn't they be expressing the same frustrations, only worse?

But, back to the report. Upon closer examination, what becomes clear is that the puppetmasters are getting you fellas, y'all Angry White Males, to blame people who are largely in the same predicament you're in. Someone I know told me that he walked into a 7-Eleven one day and heard Rush Lardbaugh on a radio, railing against "Feminazis" and such, and the guy who had the radio on was a fortyish man in a red smock who was probably making eight bucks an hour. And he was grooving to the bashing.

The report suggests that, instead of listening to Lardbaugh's rant, this guy should have been checking out what his company's CEO makes. In the same period, from the '70s to the most recent stats:

"Chief executives' pay surged to 262 times the average worker's pay in 2005, up from 35 times in 1978, according to the report's analysis of Congressional Budget Office statistics."

A coincidence? "Free market" fundamentalists would have us believe so. The market is supposed to be some kind of primal force that, like the Ned Beatty character in Network says, mustn't be meddled with. But it's funny; they meddle with it in other countries, and to general good effect. Back to the report:

"The Pew report also found that in many countries, including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and France, there is more economic mobility than in the U.S. when measuring by the income differences between generations."

OK, thirtysomething white males, go on being angry. But please, redirect the anger at those who really deserve it. You've got some pretty corpulent swine getting a free ride on your shoulders. It's time to start blaming them, and not your co-workers who happen to be of a different race or gender. Stop listening to the demagogues.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Noam Chomsky Speaks About "Activism, Anarchism & Power"

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Here's a fascinating interview with Noam Chomsky, hosted by Harry Kreisler at The Institute of International Studies at The University of California at Berkeley, in which Chomsky speaks about "Activism, Anarchism & Power." Among other topics, Chomsky clears up a lot of the misconceptions about the term, "anarchism," (which actually doesn't mean what most people associate with this term).