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It's All Politics

Posted 1/13/2010

The article on Bob Kaufman from Jan. 6, ("A. Robert Kaufman," Mobtown Beat) states that he "was often his own worst enemy." The author should have probed a bit deeper about Bob's alleged disruptive behavior.  

As a general matter, the differences between Bob and those who accuse him of bad behavior were political. Bob's critics do not share the revolutionary outlook that Bob had. With all the energy he could muster, Bob popularized the ideas of socialism--that is, creating a society that puts the wealth produced by working people towards human needs, not towards the profits of multinational corporations. 

As Bob often said, the only way to create fundamental social change in this country is to build a movement of the working class to take power away from the ruling class. He saw no other way to create a socially and economically just society. Appeals to the ruling class don't work; supporting Democratic or Republican politicians doesn't work--both parties represent the interests of the wealthy who fund their campaigns.

Those who criticize Kaufman, at root, do not agree with this conception and instead blame Bob's alleged personality defects for their unwillingness to observe even the most elementary of democratic principles.

In the article one critic says that Bob was thrown out of the Green Party. In fact, Bob quit the party after it set up what amounted to a kangaroo court against him. He was not permitted to know the charges against him until five minutes before a hearing, so he left the meeting in protest. The party then censured him, stating that he couldn't represent the Green Party in any way. 

When Bob appealed to the state Green Party, it exonerated him. It also criticized the whole process as undemocratic and a violation of Green Party principles. The Baltimore party accepted the criticism, but refused to withdraw its censure of Bob. Understandably, he quit in disgust.

As to the Steiner affair, the people who prevented Bob from entering the meeting did not observe even the pretense of democracy.

If Bob was as disruptive as his critics allege, how did he manage to organize 180 community associations, trade unions, and ministerial alliances around the issue of establishing a publicly held insurance cooperative in Baltimore? 

I will end with Bob's own words from 2003:

My life is very Kafka-esque when it comes to dealing with Left-sectarians, who, for the past 40 years have, with minor exceptions, preferred to be cloistered in their own little worlds while having practically no impact on the rest of the community. These people will often protest that they "agree with Bob's politics," but they don't work with me or the City Wide Coalition on these politics, and their sole excuse for not "walking the walk" is that "Bob's a son of a bitch."

The fact that I'm not tolerated shows these people are more interested in their own comfort than in getting the job done. There's a lot of people who see themselves as pacifist or progressives who are very intolerant, or who are masters of passive-aggression.

Michael Melick

OK, But Who Is Buried in Grant's Tomb?

Regarding your crossword of this past week (Jonesin' Crosswords, Dec. 30, 2009): The one who spoke "Call me Ishmael" was, obviously enough, Ishmael.  Ahab said no such thing.

Justin Durel

Jonesin' Crosswords' Matt Gaffney responds: It was a dumb editing mistake, and I have a brand-new orifice in my body after receiving dozens of e-mails about this clue.

We Can Have Cleaner Water

I am a kayaker, living in Arbutus. Every chance I get, I jump on a local river or hop on down to the harbor in Baltimore. Each year I see fewer and fewer fish in the rivers, and more and more trash ("Streamlining," Mobtown Beat, Dec. 2). One morning, when the wind was completely calm, I was kayaking in the Baltimore Harbor underneath Interstate 95. The water was covered shore-to-shore with trash. There was not a 4-square-foot area that did not have floating trash on the surface. If that much trash was floating, how much else was dumped and below the surface? It brought tears to my eyes. Within an hour, a slight wind and the current moved the trash away, but living systems cannot absorb this waste stream.

I've seen human waste in our reservoirs and every manner of junk in our rivers. The Chesapeake was the world's most productive estuary, a treasure that fed the Atlantic Ocean and millions of people. Now, it is dying and the consequences are truly global.

On Dec. 7, 2009, Baltimore Harbor WATERKEEPER joined with other 11 Maryland-based Waterkeepers and the Waterkeeper Alliance in filing a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency. The petition calls for the EPA to revoke Maryland's delegated authority to administer the Clean Water Act's permitting program unless the state takes the necessary corrective action to improve its performance.

If the state of Maryland cannot use and enforce EPA and its own standards, then it should be put on notice. The laws were passed for good reasons and they must have teeth. Put some teeth in enforcement NOW.

Dianne Lafleu

Editor's note: With this issue, we welcome new staff writer Andrea Appleton. Look for her soon at a civic meeting near you. We also say goodbye to Larnell Custis Butler's Just Ask Larnell comic.

And in case you hadn't already noticed the house ads in the paper or online, we are now soliciting your valentines for our Feb. 10 issue.

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