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Who Are You Calling "Gadfly"?

The late A. Robert Kaufman's letters to City Paper

Sam Holden
A. Robert Kaufman, in a photograph from 2005.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 12/29/2009

On Sunday evening, Dec. 27, I received an e-mail informing me that A. Robert Kaufman had died on Dec. 25. The local radical-left activist and perennial candidate for political office had succumbed after a protracted struggle with health complications resulting from a 2005 attack. The Sun soon weighed in with an obituary, and local news stations rolled brief packages on his life and passing, but they captured only oblique glimpses of the smart, caustically funny, relentless, and uncompromising person I most often encountered via an epic string of phone calls, voice-mail messages, and letters to the editor. Indeed, the fact that this ceaseless stream of unsolicited opinion and borderline harassment eventually trickled to a stop after the attack was, in hindsight, the first sign that he was engaged in a hopeless battle that might actually get the better of him for once.

City Paper will be providing a more formal remembrance of Kaufman in a coming issue, but it seemed that one good way to help define the gaping hole Kaufman’s passing left in the local political discourse would be to revisit some of his letters to CP over the past few years (digging back further into the print-only archives would reveal reams more). Again, smart, caustically funny, relentless, uncompromising, and pure Bob.

Sept. 19, 2007

Last Wednesday's City Paper showed great head shots of all the candidates with the exception of Mike Schaefer ("Business as Usual," Feature, Sept. 5). He was shown with a very "husky" torso. My question is, "Why did they put Michael Schaefer's face on my body?"

A. Robert Kaufman

Aug. 15, 2007

I deeply appreciate the kind (and, I might add, well-deserved) words Blaine Taylor lavished upon me ("Early Endorsement," The Mail, Aug. 1).

But it has never been my intention to keep "all us 'real,' and conventional politicians honest." Firstly because that would be a Sisyphean job. It simply can't be done. Not that "conventional politicians" are by nature psychopaths (well, not all of them anyway), but they operate in a system that, by any honest assessment, is psychopathic. It even has a name: "capitalism." In order to get themselves elected, they kiss up to the fat cats who finance the major portion of their campaigns. When it comes to legislation and executive decisions, the anti-social swine who pay the fiddler call the tune.

How else to explain the growing poverty--which breeds the atrocious rates of murder, illiteracy, addiction, filthy air, Nazi-like imperialist foreign policy, and gradual immersion of middle-income families--in the richest country in the history of the world? Teaching morality to the devil and his minions is a complete waste of time.

I'm not interested in making our ruling class merely "uncomfortable," when political disembowelment is what is called for. I struggle to help the 95 percent of American families that collectively own less wealth than the top 1 percent, unite our potentially overwhelming political superiority to take back our country, and run America, for the first time, of, by, and for the American people--not the international corporations.

A. Robert Kaufman

Sept. 27, 2006

Ned Humphrey begins his rather snide attack on Max Obuszewski ("Rad Max," The Mail, Sept. 13) with "I personally know and like Max Obuszewski." Well, I too know Max O., and I have good reason to not like him at all. However, Max is absolutely right when he argues that the U.S. is an "empire." How can Humphrey knowledgeably and honestly argue otherwise?

The U.S. is the last world "superpower." It earns its title through its unparalleled military strength. Its so-called diplomatic skills wouldn't be worth diddley were it not for the U.S. military's oft demonstrated ability to painfully punish any nation or people who don't ask "How high?" when the U.S. orders them to "Jump!"

This country has been terrorizing Third World peoples since the genocide of the Native Americans and the Middle Passage of slavery. The single purpose of American foreign policy is to maximize the profits of the international corporations that finance the Republican Party--and the Democratic Party. We've overthrown democratically elected governments or armed real terrorist coups and counter-revolutionary fascists (mostly Christian fascists!) from Guatemala and Iran in the '50s, Chile and Argentina, Nicaragua and Grenada, apartheid-era South Africa, Afghanistan, Angola, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and arguably a dozen more. According to Joel Andress in his illustrated book Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can't Kick Militarism, U.S. soldiers killed 600,000 Filipinos following the imperialist Spanish-American War.

When Bill Clinton's secretary of state Madeleine Albright was interviewed on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl reminded her that UNESCO had estimated that Clinton's sanctions and military overflights and bombings had already cost Iraqis a million lives--half of them children under 5. She then asked Albright if she thought it was worth it. Albright hesitated for a moment, then said, "Yes." She never denied UNESCO's figures. Just as most British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch, German, and Italian citizens refused to deal with their countries' imperialism, most Americans seem to be likewise in denial. "But we didn't know!" has become the universal excuse of hypocrites, the ethically challenged, and ignoramuses.

Until we stop terrorizing Third World peoples--including the Palestinians and Lebanese--Third World people will not stop terrorizing us. Not liking the tactics of those we wish to exploit is no excuse to go halfway around the world to kill them. In the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, our excuse for killing millions of Indians was that some of them massacred white men, women, and children who had invaded their land.

Incidentally, we didn't like their religion either.

"Sorry, Max," Humphrey continues. "I'll take what we have over what they're offering any day." You simply don't get it, Humphrey. Max isn't advocating what they have. He's simply trying to explain to his ignorant and pompous countrymen and -women what such people really want. And that is for us to get out of their countries!

I have a Tim Kreider cartoon from a back copy of City Paper on my apartment door. In it, two Aztec men are watching the Aztec high priest cut the heart out of an "enemy." One consoles the other by saying, "It may not be a perfect system, but it's still the best one there is." Sounds condemningly like Humphrey's "the `empire,' with all its faults, is indeed the best thing going."

A. Robert Kaufman

June 28, 2006

I was not invited by George Soros’ Open Society Institute to attend its recent weekend “wine and coffee” drinking soiree, “in the Corinthian room of the Tremont Grand Hotel,” to discuss the advantages of drug treatment and to praise Mayor Martin O'Malley.

I, of course, favor drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration for the same reason I support motherhood. But that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is:

A) Why didn’t such a conference seriously examine why the United States has the highest drug addition rate, by far, of any industrialized nation?

B) Why do so many low-income people “medicate” themselves with illegal drugs?

C) Since alcohol is responsible for 10 times more deaths every year than all illegal drugs combined, and tobacco kills about 10 times as many folks as alcohol, why is it that alcohol and tobacco are legal and heroin, cocaine, and marijuana (the most harmless of all) are illegal?

D) What kind of community and employment can such “cured” addicts expect to return to that would offer them an alternative lifestyle?

I’ve been writing, teaching, and campaigning for two decades to take the profits out of drugs and treat addiction as the serious public health problem that it is.

Addicts should be able to visit well-distributed health clinics, some open 24-7, to purchase, at cost (or at no cost to the penniless), any drug they choose.

Such clinics could provide:

A) “clean” drugs, clearly marked as to potency and without the harmful additives drug users are likely to get on the street; results: fewer overdose deaths;

B) an option to ratchet down to less damaging drugs; and

C) full treatment on demand.

What would this accomplish?

A) It would eliminate the huge profit incentive, all up and down the line, that encourages drug addiction;

B) the drug pushers would be out of business the next day;

C) addicts would not need to steal everything in sight; and

D) most drug addicts could hold down a job, just as most alcoholics and cigarette fiends do.

But none of this would work without:

A) universal health insurance;

B) all people arrested for possession or distribution of illegal drugs being released from punishment and their records expunged so that they may vote, obtain employment, and be eligible for student loans; and

C) a federal jobs and job training program, reminiscent of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps camps of the New Deal.

Perhaps now the reader can understand why billionaire George Soros’ organization didn’t want the likes of me around.

To really solve the problem it will take more than the support of a liberal billionaire, made rich by the same capitalist system that drives million to addictions. It will take a serious political movement of the tens of millions of American working people who in the not too distant future will get together, take to the streets, organize a political movement, and create a new reality.

A. Robert Kaufman

Nov. 2, 2005

I much appreciate the very complimentary letter from Edna E. Heatherington in the Oct. 19 City Paper. I also appreciated Edward Ericson Jr.’s very accurate description of our Q&A from Oct. 5.

What bothers me is the media’s use of the world “gadfly” to describe myself. To me a gadfly is an insignificant entity that annoys the ruling class. I’m a revolutionary socialist. I don’t wish to annoy the ruling class. I wish to disembowel it.

There’s no legitimate purpose for a ruling class in an advanced industrial society. It plays the same role as the biblical devil in that it exploits the overwhelming majority for its own benefit.

It’s about time the American people got together and took this country back and ran it of, by, and for the 90 percent of us who (combined) own less wealth than the top 1 percent at the top.

A. Robert Kaufman

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