Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Howard Schachman died on August 5th. Another dear friend gone. I feel like a performer in Haydn's Farewell Symphony, as most friends of my generation leave the stage one by one.

Howard was remarkable, an outstanding biochemist and a brilliant advocate for academic freedom and civil liberties. He kept at it without pause, giving a graduate seminar course on ethics in science up to and including the last of his 97 years!

I can give personal testimony to his passion and effectiveness in defense of academic freedom. One small thing of many he accomplished was to lead faculty colleagues in beating back efforts by the UC Regents in 1964 to veto my faculty appointment on political grounds. At the same time, he began a successful campaign over a two-year period to rehire a faculty member, Eli Katz, who had been fired for refusal to answer questions about his politics from the House Un-American Committee and the UC Administration.

Of course there was a far bigger story in 1964. Howard and I found ourselves standing together at the Sproul Hall steps (later officially renamed for Mario Savio) right after the last student protesters were dragged out and arrested. We got together with a few colleagues and organized the meeting later that day that formed the Committee of 200, which organized faculty support for the students. Howard was part of the leadership group that formulated the eventual Academic Senate Resolution, passed overwhelmingly, that marked the victory of the Free Speech Movement with the University's acceptance of its main principles.

There is a lot more, from opposition to the Loyalty Oath in the 1950s to the many-sided struggles against subordination of the university and academic research to corporate and military interests. Howard strongly opposed UC's ties to the nuclear weapons labs. There was no stronger voice for fairness and integrity in the scientific community than Howard's.

Above all, I miss dear friends, Howard and Ethel, both having played their parts beautifully. And the symphony continues.

Friday, August 5, 2016


I Ran the CIA. Now I'm Endorsing Hillary Clinton. Michal J. Morell, NY Times, August 5, 2016:

"I also saw the secretary’s commitment to our nation’s security; her belief that America is an exceptional nation that must lead in the world for the country to remain secure and prosperous; her understanding that diplomacy can be effective only if the country is perceived as willing and able to use force if necessary; and, most important, her capacity to make the most difficult decision of all — whether to put young American women and men in harm’s way."     M.J. Morell

"In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation."     M.J. Morell
* * *
As the wave of opposition to Trump swells, beware a dangerous undercurrent. 

More and more Americans are appalled at the notion that Trump could make it to the White House. A smashing defeat for Trump and Trumpism  — still not assured — would be a historic rejection of racism, xenophobia, and a potential "law and order" dictatorship. Now there is an undertow in the growing number of ultra-conservative and neocon power-brokers embarrassed by Trump to the point of panic. They seek to rescue their policies and political fortunes from a Trump-GOP debacle. This takes a variety of forms: the Koch brothers putting their wealth into trying to "save" Congress, more and more neocons and war hawks endorsing Hillary in the hope she will promote their aims in foreign and military policy.

The most dangerous proposition, bluntly stated by former CIA Director Morell, and more than hinted at by Hillary's campaign (and the media), is that Trump is Putin's pawn. In Trump's incoherent flood of comments, he has suggested trying to get along with Russia and has questioned NATO expansion. This doesn't turn his 'Fortress America' military bombast into a song of peace, nor make him less of a bully, nor make him a sane custodian of the 'dooms day' button. But to suggest that questioning renewed allegiance to cold war policies is un-American, that criticism of military policy is "aid and comfort" to a foreign power, surely brings back dismal memories of McCarthyism.

The fact remains that Hillary, who has embraced many progressive values in her domestic agenda and has been impacted by the Sanders uprising, has not budged from commitment to a failed and increasingly perilous foreign policy. What Morell chooses to endorse is precisely what should be feared, opposed, and changed. What the country does not need is reinforcement of the illusion of "the exceptional nation" charged with the mission of "leading" the world, "willing and able" to use force and engage in endless wars, with a president capable of deciding to "put young American women and men into harm's way".

We don't want a president whose vision of the world is based on which nations accept US preeminence and which do not. The priority should be to seek and promote the common interests of humanity, most of all preventing nuclear war and meeting the challenges of climate change. In today's torn and turbulent world, problems abound and short term fixes are rare. But people are sick and tired of commitment to endless and expanding wars. If Hillary isn't moved toward a more flexible, realistic and peace-oriented approach in foreign affairs, if the neocons and hawks are allowed to dominate, she may invite unintended consequences. Not a few Americans may see her as a president who would expand our wars and pursue the role of world policeman.

Then, the crowning travesty in this bizarre election, Trump might appear to some as the "peace candidate", not the Manchurian candidate conjured up by operatives of the CIA.