Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Family Letter

I wrote this letter to my family on February 11, 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq. It touched off a war of words. I still stand by what I wrote.

Dear All;

I got the letter from Dad, and this is my initial response.

I believe in grassroots mobilization and in the power of organized people to confront organized money. I believe the American media make it impossible to find accurate facts and ethical opinions about the global situation. I believe we are living in a pivotal historical period which will be marked primarily by the growing ability of organized money to control information, resources and peoples’ lives. And I believe that the accelerated pace of those who wish to control the world will be matched by an accelerated grassroots organizing of those who wish to maintain human values of freedom, compassion and creativity as a tiny flame for the future, along with those who want to begin a global refocusing of people’s attention on these human values right now.

Dad sent a letter with a missive from a Catholic priest, outlining the Catholic church’s “three conditions” for a just war and the “four circumstances” which should also be taken into account. Although I’m glad for each anti-war person, whatever his or her reasons, I find this argument less than compelling. Jesus is the foundation for the Catholic Church, and all other Christian churches, and I have never heard that Jesus said in any New Testament passage: “Love your enemies, unless your circumstances fall under the four exceptions or your situation meets the three conditions.”

He just said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you....Do not judge, or you too will be judged...Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy...Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other side also...Love your neighbor as yourself...Love the Lord your God with all your heart...”

I don’t know what you all think of the Iraq war plans, other than that Mom and Dad are against it. I think the question boils down to whether you think there can be an evil more evil than war, and if so, does Saddam Hussein fit the bill? My own view is that there is no evil more evil than war, because war is just one manifestation of the human frailty that causes us to sometimes deny that other living things are just like us, and matter just as much. To initiate and conduct a war, many, many people must decide that it’s okay for the Iraqis to have their communities turned to rubble and their bodies turned to charcoal, even if we don’t think it would be okay for someone to turn the towns where we live into rubble, or turn all of you and all of your friends into charcoal.

There are no circumstances or conditions under which I would find it acceptable for someone to bomb your houses and kill you and your children. I don’t especially like George W. Bush. I’m convinced he is a tyrant and a dictator who manipulated the electoral system to gain illegitimate power, just like Hussein. I’m equally convinced that Bush, like Hussein, “kills his own people” (to the extent that a man can own people) through violent, greedy foreign policy and greedy, violent domestic policy. We just don’t have photographs of the bodies of homeless men and women who have frozen to death; desperate unemployed workers who have killed themselves, children in cancer hospitals, poisoned to death by nuclear waste.

Despite my convictions about Bush as, overall, tipped toward the evil side of the human moral paradox, I still can’t think of any circumstance or condition under which I would find it acceptable for someone to bomb the White House and turn him and Dick Cheney and Laura, Barbara and Jenna, and Condi Rice, and Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld into charcoal.
I can see the argument appealing to reasonable people, though. “We must kill thousands of Iraqi civilians, or else Saddam Hussein might kill them, or might participate in a chain of planning which would end in the deaths of thousands of Americans.”

But the logic is flawed, so long as you value each life, whether Iraqi or American, animal or plant, exactly the same. I also concur with Virginia Woolf’s statement in Three Guineas: “As a woman I have no country. As a woman, my country is the world.” The borders to me are utterly imaginary; “defending” a “nation” or a “flag” is ludicrous.

Killing does not prevent killing, and destruction does not prevent destruction.

In short, I am not safe or free now, in America, as an American. And it will not make me safer when thousands of people in Iraq are dead, and thousands more are slowly dying from the leftovers of war. No one is safe: not here, and not there. No one will be safe or free until every single person in every place is safe and free. When no one is suffering under the thumbs of tyrants and dictators (home-grown or installed), no one will have any reason to hate and attempt to harm anyone. We can’t have safety in isolation. There are no walls or metal detectors big enough or sensitive enough to keep out despair and hatred, and no bombs or drugs strong enough to eradicate them. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that.”

The counter-argument is: ludicrous idealism. That’s not how the world works. Others must have too little for the most powerful (currently Americans) to have what we think of as “enough,” and so long as we must take away the ability of others to have an absolute “enough,” to obtain our “too much,” they will hate us and try to kill us. Bush is only trying to make the world safe for American overconsumption, and that’s a pragmatic goal, shared by leaders since recorded history began.

And my response must be: we each live already what we believe, and as our beliefs change, so will our lifestyles. If Iraq had a big, strong economy and full employment, and Saddam Hussein tried to get more than half of the tax revenue poured into weapons of mass destruction and soldiers mobilized to kill us, I would want the Iraqi people to resist anyway they could: on their tax returns, in their Congress, on the streets. So I will continue to struggle to find the courage to be a tax resister, to get my views publicized and into the currently inadequate debate, to get the Congress of the land in which I happen to live to cut off the funding for murder all over the world, to lift up my voice and help fill the streets with yelling bodies, yelling that we don’t hate the world, we don’t want to own the world, we don’t want to kill the world’s people in any way, by any weapons, for any reason.

And I will continue to hope that you will do likewise, for whatever reason makes the most sense to you.

In conclusion, I think morality matters. I don’t think morality is defined “once and for all” by popularity polls. I also don’t think it’s defined “once and for all” by ancient texts interpreted by a series of Catholic priests and theologians. I think morality is a living, growing, shifting thing defined by each person making each choice he or she is presented with. And to have a firm foundation, those choices must always be made with reference to the past, present and future likely experiences of other people who will be affected: every one else, as though they are ourselves.

The American Civil Liberties Union wants me to join, “Because freedom can’t protect itself.” I think that too is less than compelling, like “conditions” and “circumstances” justifying war, like national borders. Freedom isn’t a thing in a box. The Bill of Rights is only as strong as the people who take it for inspiration in choosing their actions, not for protection afterwards. If someone wants to beat me up when I march in New York City this weekend, the Bill of Rights won’t stop them. Their own realization of our common aliveness is the only thing that will stop them.
Freedom wasn’t invented by the Founding Fathers and it won’t be destroyed by John Ashcroft and his “PATRIOT” acts. It’s at the core of all life; the yearning and striving for it is part of my understanding of God.

I don’t want a single Iraqi person to die. More importantly, I don’t want a single American person to become a killer-of-Iraqi-people by proxy.

Is there an evil more evil than war? Perhaps passive apathy or active acquiescence in the face of the threat of war.


What If?

I’ve been thinking more about this generational conflict business. It bothers me that I have fallen into a “divide and conquer” trap, that I have so much resentment about the policy and personal decisions of a handful of political and business leaders, and a slightly larger corps of wealthy middle managers in the tier just below. Why do they think it’s okay to own more than one house, while their children and grandchildren rack up billions in credit card debt to buy food and diapers?

It seems clear that the Baby Boom Generation is the first generation in recorded history to have decision-makers who do not care about the fate of their children and grandchildren. I ponder the oft-cited long view held by the indigenous people of this land: to consider, in every action, how it will affect the next seven generations. The Baby Boomers couldn’t and still can’t even manage to think about the effects of their pollution and wealth concentration and war-mongering on their own kids. I suspect it has something to do with their experiences in the Nuclear Age. They grew up doing the drills where they hid under their desks to ride out a nuclear attack from Russia. They thought the whole world was about to disappear. So why not use everything up? Why not, if it’s all going to be thrown away anyway?

It’s hard enough facing your own mortality, and fearing the deaths of those you love. How much harder it is to face the extinction of your entire species. Baby Boomers saw it coming in the form of a mushroom cloud. We, their children, see it coming in the form of undrinkable water, desertified cropland, treeless horizons and dead oceans, unbreatheable air and unstoppable cancers. But we are not ignoring our children and gathering up as much stuff as we can, here on Earth where mold and rust destroy. We are trying to get by with as little as we can, to cut back, to slow down, to heal ourselves and our neighborhoods, our air, our rivers, the soil where our food comes from.

What else is there to do, but try to lift up our voices and change our lives? I can admit to a great despair, and also a great curiosity. What if we can lift up our voices, change our lives and stop making new damage, and begin to repair the damage that’s been done? What if what we do now can avert extinction 50 years from now, and give our children a significantly better world than the mess that has been handed to us?

Anger and Strength

June 29, 2004

Anger and strength – what to do with them both? If I’m stopping myself from writing because I’m too afraid of what might come out of my fingertips then is that bad or is that good? Peace block, not doing anything, not making anything better or worse just not living.

I am sick, sick, sick of war – war talk, war stories, war plans, war coverage, war correspondence. War is not what life is about. War is about killing and life is about living and I want to live and I want to be with people who are alive, not people who are waiting to die by the war in Iraq or by the war in the big glass boxes they work in, shuffle paper in, check their stock quotes in, look at porn in, mold the plastics in, build the bombs in.

I have a five year old son and I fought against the war before it happened and all the time I fought I was thinking about him: if I help keep the 18 to 35 year olds out of war now, then someone, maybe, someone will keep my little boy out of war in a decade or so. But I failed and now the war has happened, we all failed and now the war is on the tv and in the newspapers and in the books and the politicians talk about the war and the preachers talk about the war and the photos of the blood and charcoal-people and crying, wailing, mouths open grieving fathers and widow-women talk about the war and what is worse I talk about the war and I think about the war and I write about the war all the time and still there will be no one to stand up and fight to keep my little boy from having to go and fight a war in about 10 years.

He will be fighting a war his whole life, a war to have his own life. He will go to kindergarten in about two months and I cannot keep him from going to it and I am sad, sad, sad because I remember it, I remember it well, my schooling. I remember nothing so much as the feeling of being lost and being lost, being lost in a bubble and it was invisible and no one could hear what I said out of it and I couldn’t hear what they said into it I heard the words but there was no meaning, being lost and being unable to find my way back to me and it took me years and years and by the time I found my way back to me, it was lonely because so few other people had found their way back to themselves, they were just still lost. They couldn’t pop the bubbles. And I can only be most me wheneveryone else is most their own me’s, but they’re not, so the me that I am is only a little part and I miss the rest of her, I miss the rest of her a lot, all the time.

Sometimes I hear from them, those other me’s. Sometimes there are cracks in the spackle where a living creature tries to move a little and get some air on her skin. She’ll send me an e-mail and for once I don’t send some polite “I’m fine” reply for once I really write about what’s really going on – my loving and addicted husband and my incredibly whole son whom I am about to send to prison-school to be dismembered and my terrible, terrible fears about my unemployment and my writing and the pressure all the time from the war economy to get back on the treadmill and my terrible, terrible internal pressure to stay off that treadmill at all costs and yell at the people on the treadmill to jump off jump off JUMP OFF the gears are running smoothly and the electricity is on for now but the oil is running out and the coal is running out and poison is in the air and it is you and you and YOU who are keeping the whole thing going.

Get off, get off, get off and then maybe the treadmill will stop spinning and the internal combustion noise that drives wedges of wood under my fingernails and into the cracks between my ribs-lungs and through the soles of my bare feet when the weed-whackers and leaf-blowers and lawn-mowers and chainsaws and muffler-less cars and revving motorcycles and banging trucks come around and around my house and into my open windows so that I cannot think – maybe that engine will be still. Be still. And in that stillness maybe thought will return. Maybe life will return. Maybe my cold cold heart which only occasionally heats up with love for my son and makes me hold onto the countertop and choke up a couple of strange tears before subsiding into the normal cold, cold, coldness will be warmer more often. Maybe my blocked up nose and crying ears will unstop themselves and I will take deep breaths without thinking about carbon monoxide and I will listen to the birds without expecting the next violent motor explosion and I will taste my food without seeing the chemicals lodging in the fat cells in my breasts, waiting to metastasize like the Wal-Marts and the George F. Wills who defend them, like the George W. Bushes and the “patriots” who defend him, like the terrorists and the desperate poor who join them, join them, join them every day just like my son will have to join the war in about 10 years.

The gun war. He has already joined the life war, and he is about to be imprisoned so that he cannot struggle to live again until he is 22 or 23 or 24 and by then he may be in Syria or Korea or the Sudan or Argentina, making the world safe for the men who decide for what the world shall be made safe, changing their minds and changing their words every decade or so. It isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me to feel the pain and hate my cold, cold heart and read, read, read thousands of words every day to feel less alone to feel more connected to see that experience matters, if not my own then at least the experiences of the people who write and are written about.

I looked up nihilism on the Internet today and I am so there, I am so sure that nothing matters and it is so strange because I was so not there just a month, a year, a few years ago, ever since I touched that tree, just a young tree, maybe three-inches in diameter, the trunk was, and it was cold maybe October or November in Boston and the sidewalk was going so fast under my feet and the sun was shining, maybe not brightly, maybe there were a few clouds but it wasn’t dark, no not dark by any stretch and my hand just reached out, just reached out and touched that tree. It wasn’t like a jolt of electricity. It wasn’t like the colors got brighter all around me. No bushes started burning. But my fingertips touched the bark and the tiny grooves around it and my hand curved and my palm softly grazed the trunk even as I kept walking and one was all around me and I was in it and of it at the same time, not just in it, like I had been before and not just in it like I would be the next moment, but really of it. So the whine of the chainsaws really bothers me a lot, because if there are no trees, then that avenue of connection won’t be available.

And the pictures of the war really bother me – not as much as the fact that we couldn’t stop it all the billions of people who didn’t want it couldn’t stop it – but the pictures bother me still, because when I had that moment with my hand around the tree-trunk and it was speaking to me in no words at all and I was listening completely without my ears but with my soul, so I could really feel my soul for a change, I also knew without knowing and felt without feeling that there were people on the other side of that tree, holding hands with me, and the people were not just white people in Boston, or even people in Boston of every different color, or even Americans all around my country tis of thee, or even people of European culture on both sides of the Atlantic, but people everywhere, of every color and shape and size and I saw some of them today in Newsweek.

They are very very very dark brown and live in Sudan and their 9-month-old baby boys are dying of starvation and their older little boys have little stick legs where you can see the bones, just covered with skin, and the relief agencies can’t get to them because of the wars and the helicopter in Sierra Leone just fell out of the sky and killed the relief workers today because of the wars and in the back issue of Utne reader I saw the pictures of the little very very very dark brown girls holding their little machine guns to take part in the wars and I hate thinking about wars all the time.

I want to know who are the people who make those guns. Who are the people who run the machines who spit out the little bullets and pop them into little boxes. Who are the people who load those boxes into trucks and who are the people who drive those trucks to the ports and who are the people who load those trucks onto ships with the salt-spray smell in their nose and the salt-spray taste on their lips and who are the people who steer those ships and who are the people who unload those ships and load those little boxes of little bullets onto more trucks, trucks draped with canvas covered in desert dust and flapping in desert wind. Who are the people who drive those desert trucks to camps, where more canvas flaps in more wind – some canvas over the refugees and some canvas over the refugee-drivers, the generals and the lieutenants and the guards. Who are the people who pop those little bullets into their little guns and point their little guns at the little girls’ heads and say here little girl here is your box now put the bullets into your little gun, like so, and close it up and find a target and pow pow now your cousin is dead. Good little girl.

I want to find those people and I am a pacifist and I hate violence and I believe peace must begin in that sense of connection and I believe I must even recognize that I am as connected to the little gun girls and the skinny bone boys as I am to the dark, dark brown men and the pink, pink, piggy men who make the bullets and move the bullets and fire the bullets and wave their little guns but I want to find those people and a part of me I hate wants to kill them too. A part of me I hate sees where the sucking draw of prevention lies, where the idea might take hold and put down rooting shoots and grow and fill up the brain spaces and heart spaces until it looks like it makes sense. If the gun makers are dead, no more guns. If the bullet makers are dead, no more bullets. If the war leaders are dead, no more wars. But the One part of me knows that’s not true and that I have to love the gun makers, the bullet makers, and the war makers, even as I love the little girls standing there in the hot, hot sun, bending over backwards a little on their bare feet, and even as I love the little boys, standing in the shade of the tent on their bony skinny legs.

So I fall again into nihilism how can it be how can it be how can it be that loving the tree and holding hands with the little girls means loving the gunmakers too, and working to get them to choose. Oh there it is to choose, not to make guns, to starve rather than make guns, to make butter, or paper cranes, or big smelly farts but anything anything anything other than the guns and the bullets and the bombs that make the wars go round. It cannot be. It cannot be. If I love my little pink son, whose sturdy legs have muscles and run and jump and do not show the knobbly knees and the straight smooth tibia, how can it be that I do nothing violent to keep him from entering the terrible treadmill of war, war, war. If I really loved him, surely I would become an assassin. Surely I would do anything to keep him safe. Surely I would crow in jubilation at the metal detectors at the doors of the schools and the locked door policy at his kindergarten, where everyone must register with the principal to be on the premises because that, maybe that, will prevent some bomber or shooter or other crazy not-like-us person from getting in and blowing away our children.

But I don’t. I think the locked doors keeping the children in their little prison are a terrible terrible thing. So I can’t be a nihilist. I take a position. I think think think all the time and what I sometimes imagine is that I go to the White House with my pink little son, in his mud stained little t-shirt in his little Incredible Hulk sandals, and I make my way onto the Rose Lawn, even though there are fences and secret service men everywhere. The newspaper reporters are there, and the President is there, with his pink, pink face, and his blood-stained little hands and I hold my little son by his grubby little hand and in my other hand I have a shiny loaded handgun. And I march right up to the podium and everyone is quiet and no one tries to stop me and I go up to the President and I say I know you like war. I know you don’t think about the death that war is, and I know you like to see your picture in the magazines and the newspapers and I know you like to think you are strong, and courageous, and decisive and that you take a stand and do not sway, and that you like to think your convictions are moral ones and that you are Good and they are Evil.

But this is my son, the fruit of my womb, whom I pushed through my ripped and bloody vagina until he squeezed his way into this world, bottom first breech and full of life, with his tiny little legs kicking up toward his tiny little head, and his tiny little scrotum all swollen and red. This is my son, whom I nursed at my breast and raged at in my despairing lonely mother-in-the-house mind, and who survived my depression and learned to walk and talk and not only survived but went on to become a gift child who speaks to strangers with near-complete trust and absolute interest and a total conviction that he and they are valuable, and important, and worthy of life, and to whom strangers respond with random food-gifts and toy-gifts and word-gifts about how my son my son reminds them of what is best about human beings.

And before I will allow you to use him, like you and your kind have used me and my kind for all of time, the time of wars and the time of power-plays, and the time of dominance and submission games and the time of rape and tree-killing and wise woman burning, and also the time, although we never talk about it, of mothers bearing sons and daughters and of love bringing those children up, up, up to adulthood, before I will turn over this flesh and blood this record of what I think I am, this fresh, young, tender spirit who is trying to make sense of you and of me and of our so, so different understandings of who we are and what we are all about on this planet in this life, I will kill him myself.

And I pull the trigger and my little son’s brains go splattering all over the sides of President Bush’s face and all over the secret service men and all over the newspaper reporters and foreign dignitaries and all over the lenses of the television cameras. And the cameras are rolling and every single person in the whole world sees what I have done, sees that a mother full of love for her son and love for her world and love for love has killed her only child in cold, cold blood with a cold, cold heart, just to make a point. Just to take a moral stand, just to appear to have convictions, just to escape from her nihilist trap. And I stand there, and look at my son’s little body, lying on the grass of the Rose Lawn, and I look at the crowd of people, and they look at me, and nothing is different.

My little boy is dead, and nothing is different. He doesn’t jump back up as a testament to the power of faith. He doesn’t turn into a spirit and waft over the crowd spouting prophecies. The crowd doesn’t murmur, or gasp, or scream and start running. The President doesn’t reach out a shaking hand to adjust the microphone and announce that he will now re-think his goal of world domination and world war and dividing up all the world’s six billion people into neat little accounting columns under the headings of good and evil. Nothing changes. And that’s why I don’t do it.

That’s why I do this instead.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Daily Show, Colbert Report, Boomer Greed

This morning I watched last night’s Daily Show http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/index.jhtml and Colbert Report

Jon Stewart did a piece on the cost of the war in Iraq. In 2003, before the bombing began, the Bush Administration told us it would only cost $1.5 billion to bomb the people of a country that they knew posed no threat to the United States. To date, more than $250 billion have gone into that project, and Bush just asked for another $60 billion or so. The Daily Show divided that out to say that it’s about $2,083 per American citizen. But we’re not to worry about “our” tax dollars being burned up by incendiary devices, because it’s all being financed through deficits – loans from foreign investors and governments. Instead, the bill will come to $200,000 per grandchild of today’s taxpayers, who will have to pay it all back with interest.

Stephen Colbert did a piece on the Medicare prescription drug plan that’s screwing so many people. It was a satirical PR video by the pharmaceutical industry, showing that if pharmaceuticals didn’t continue to make obscene profits from selling drugs for arthritis, anxiety, ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder, little old ladies would be stuck in their beds, being burned to death after arsonists set their homes on fire, while the President would be compelled to press the red button and blow up the whole planet. “If not for pharmaceuticals, you’d all be dead.” Then Colbert interviewed David Brooks from the New York Times, who spoke, characteristically, like an idiot, and took more than five minutes to admit that Bush’s Dubai port project makes no sense politically, even if there’s no fact-based reason to find it any less safe than the ports already are.

I am tired of the Boomers, and their shameless pursuit of profit at the expense of the well-being of all living things, now and yet to be born.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Letter to New York Times Magazine

I read Francis Fukuyama's essay http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/magazine/neo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin with great interest, and great irritation. As a member of the perpetually ignored Generation X, I am constantly frustrated by the refusal of the Baby Boomer Generation, which controls the publishing, academic and think tank industries, to make room for us to participate meaningfully in intellectual and policy debates about American foreign policy and the broader, more significant global issues confronting all of humanity - most significantly the imminent collapse of the natural world.

Instead, we are regularly treated to decrees from the likes of Fukuyama and Condoleezza Rice about how our generation and several more to follow are doomed to carry out the wishes and follow the paths chosen by Bush & Co. For example, from Fukuyama's essay: "...creating new organizations that will better balance the dual requirements of legitimacy and effectiveness will be the primary task for the coming generation." These ideologues are given loud platforms from which to spout their views on what we youngsters should be working on, despite the fact that the entire neocon agenda they espoused and have now seen enacted is morally and practically bankrupt.

America and the world would be better served by circulating the actual views held by Generation X thinkers, this author included (essay attached). The fact is, those new organizations have already been created, through movements like the World Social Forum, the World Tribunal on Iraq, and the hundreds of loosely affiliated, small, local organizations who regularly come together to oppose war, corporate-led globalization, environmental destruction and exploitation of the world's workers, and to promote policies explicitly placing human rights - outlined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights - at the center of local, national and global policy-making.

"People over profit" more or less sums up our position, and packs a great deal of meaning to boot. Capitalist "democracy" via the IMF, WTO, World Bank and American missiles is killing people and inflaming hatred, not spreading freedom or providing a decent standard of living for most of the world's people. The problem is, our new organizations - although powerful, global, effective, and growing - are apparently unrecognizable to the prior generation, because we have explicitly rejected the hierarchical, authoritarian, border-defined structures Baby Boomers and Greatest Generation members regard as legitimate. We derive our legitimacy from the energy of each participant at each street demonstration, and it's high time our views be spread further than the earshot of our fellow marchers.

If you want to move the debates beyond the stale platitudes of the neocons, publish our work. If not, quit whining about how difficult it is to see the way forward and out of the terrible mess the neocons have landed us in.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So this is what they're saving up for...


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Budget Cuts Post-2007

From the DCCC:

There has been little attention this week to the proposed cuts in domestic discretionary programs in the President's budget for years after 2007. There's a simple reason for this: documents provided by the Office of Management and Budget omitted information about proposed funding levels for discretionary programs after 2007. But the Administration's proposal funding cuts in discretionary programs for 2008-2011 - against which the cuts proposed for 2007 pale by comparison - have now come to light.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has been able to assemble information on the proposed cuts (or increases) for all domestic program categories for years from 2008-2011, using Administration computer runs that were not widely distributed and a series of tables scattered throughout the OMB budget documents. In addition, as this morning's Washington Post reports, a key OMB computer run detailing the program-by-program cuts the Administration is proposing for discretionary programs for each year after 2007 - which the Administration never intended to release - has surfaced.

A key finding from this computer run, other OMB documents, and the Center's analysis of them is that many programs that would be cut only slightly in 2007 (or even expanded) would face significant cuts in 2008-2011. THE HIDDEN CUTS IN DOMESTIC APPROPRIATIONS:OMB Data Reveal Deep Funding Cuts After 2007


The worst budget in history.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Open Letter to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

I am a very, very active grassroots activist, and I am very, very disappointed in the Democratic leadership. This country is totally falling apart, and the only people with a plan to go in a sane direction are the members of the Progressive Caucus, like Dennis Kucinich, who are routinely marginalized as too liberal. We progressives are your base; millions of Americans are living in or near desperate poverty and insecurity about food, housing, healthcare and education, and yet you keep falling for the Republican line about "class warfare" being a bad debate to have. It's not. It's in the interests of the wealthy to shut down that debate, and if Democrats don't take charge of framing the discussion in terms of human rights, you're going to lose again in 2006.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Just the facts...

"A White House spokesman says Mr. Rove doesn't remember talking to Mr. Abramoff about Tyco. A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff declined to comment on whether he lobbied Mr. Rove on the issue. A Tyco spokeswoman says the company doesn't know what Mr. Abramoff did on its behalf. A tax provision Tyco opposed eventually was defeated. "


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Open Letter to Senator John McCain

Dear Senator McCain,

I received your personal note in response to my letter about your anti-torture legislation. I wonder how you feel about President Bush's signing statement, which essentially nullified your legislation after it was passed by both houses of Congress.

I understand Karl Rove is pressuring all Republicans, especially the Senate Judiciary Committee members, to remain loyal on the domestic spying issue, or risk blacklisting. The arm-twisting must be intense, but all it will take is a few courageous Senators to generate the momentum, push beyond the farcical Feb. 6 Gonzales hearings and take Bush all the way to impeachment. Our Constitutional democracy is at stake, and even though you and I differ on many things, I think we and all Americans agree on the principle of checks and balances. We are not a dictatorship, not even in a time of war. Don't let us become one.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Open Letter to Senator Arlen Specter

Dear Mr. Specter:

Your performance today on C-SPAN disgusted me. I thought, mistakenly, that you really believed there was something amiss about all of Bush's assumption of dictatorial powers, ignoring the Congress and courts.

Then I watched a charade, designed perhaps to shore up the Republican "base" with the illusion of an investigation.

I watched you refuse legitimate requests for the witness, Alberto Gonzales, to be sworn in, thus permitting him to lie (as he has already done) and avoid future perjury charges.

I watched you supervise your Republican peers while they lobbed softball questions without an ounce of self-respect, whining about how the President is also co-equal, as if that were at all relevant.

I watched you permit Gonzales to refuse to answer even straight yes-no questions.

My only hope is that you did what you did because the Bush Administration has threatened you and your family with death if you do not comply with the charade and make this whole business pass away when the next affront appears. If so, you have my sympathy.

The whole democracy is living under a similar death threat right now, and if not for cowards like you, more Americans might wake up, get out of their houses, and demand that Bush and all his cronies step down and give our country back.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Week After 9/11

(written September 19, 2001)

Peace Plan
The American people, harboring many of the most powerful economic and political leaders of the world, must make many choices in the coming days, weeks, months and years. We must choose our role in the international community. For too long, many believe, we have been “policeman to the world” and our government has interpreted “policing” to justify countless atrocities and killings in countries on every continent. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to take on another calling, as “social workers for the world.” The largest tragedies create the biggest opportunities for bravery and change.

We have an opportunity to choose, mobilize, fund and implement peaceful solutions to international conflicts raging all around the globe. We have the emotional, spiritual and financial resources to absorb the pain of the World Trade Center bombing, recognize that we have been backed into a corner, and also recognize that for once in history, we cannot come out shooting. We must emerge changed, and respond with compassion, generosity, kindness, a high level of organization and skill, and a sincere intent to rectify the wrongs we have committed as much as we can. Our overriding goal must be to stabilize communities all over the world, so that in a generation, we will be able to join the world community as neither a policeman nor a social worker, but simply as a member, with many contributions to make and the incalculable benefits of peace to enjoy.

We in America are not all Christians, but an overwhelming percentage of us identify as Christians and many more identify as spiritual in other formal and informal ways. President Bush, during his campaign, identified Jesus Christ as his role model for leadership. We must ask him and ask ourselves: What would Jesus do? We must ask this question not to spread Christianity around the world by force, but in recognition of the fact that Jesus lived an exemplary life and taught the values of reciprocity and compassion which are the basic tenet of every major spiritual system history has ever known.

All of the spiritual leaders throughout the ages have urged the same basic actions:
Feed the hungry.
Clothe the naked.
House the homeless.
Care for the sick, wounded, children and the infirm.
Protect the earth.
Love one another.

Those are the actions we propose in this document. Those are the efforts which should receive every kind of imaginable support from those most able to provide support: the people of North America and Western Europe, who have for too long extracted the world’s resources and labor for their own benefit, by the exploitation of all other peoples.

The American people have the strength to choose this course, and even if our leaders first choose a military “solution,” we will retain the strength to choose to change their minds and change their actions. The American people, acting with conscience and faith, can choose to stop a war, even if one begins. We must make that choice: the sooner the better.

We know violence does not end violence. It only delays retaliation and forces violence to take on new and ever more deadly shapes.

We have the strength, the emotional and financial resources, the skilled people, the production capacity. Most of all, we have the organizational ability. We have voting precincts in every neighborhood that can be mobilized to choose the Peace Plan and put it into action with donations, volunteer registries, training sessions and transportation.

We have the political will also, even though we are angry and hurt. We see clearly that the cycle must be stopped, by us, who have so much that we can suffer, survive and still share. We understand that the solution means a redistribution of wealth. The American people also understand that the people who may fear losses from the redistribution of wealth -- the very wealthy -- stand to gain so much more: international stability and cooperation. They have children too. They have a stake in the future of human civilization on this planet.
We strongly believe that the overall goal of the Peace Plan is regional self-determination, not American and European control of the world. All relief work should be carried out with four basic principles in mind: teaching, learning modeling and supporting: tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, self-determination and wise resource use.

The following outlines the first five, giant, difficult but necessary and feasible steps toward peace:

I. Consult with non-governmental peace organizations to identify and redirect or abandon damaging American policies, institutions and practices domestically and around the world. These include but are not limited to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, stock exchanges, nuclear proliferation and the proposed missile defense program, the death penalty, punitive immigration laws, the Mexico City gag rule, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the US State Department and Department of Defense, interference in people’s movements and democratic transformations, environmental degradation.

Establish livable minimum wages in the US while establishing maximum wages at no more than three times minimum wage, and urge other nations to follow that example.

Redirect the excess assets held by the wealthiest people (anything above what they might have earned during their working years if paid three times the minimum wage) to relief efforts on behalf of all those around the world whose labor and sacrifice has enabled the wealthy to collect those assets.

Erase all personal and international debts. Discontinue all economic sanctions. Protect nuclear arms sites and nuclear power plants all over the world from seizure and deployment.

II. Identify resources including:
Financial: All money currently slated here and abroad for military “solutions” and the money held by the wealthy here and abroad due to the exploitation of the poor.
Material: All available food, clothing and building materials in the US, and the transportation system (trucks, trains and airplanes).
People: Trained and experienced translators, peace activists, doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, social workers, psychologists, teachers, engineers and contractors, farmers, ecologists, economists, transportation experts, and researchers in all of those fields whose work relates to disaster relief, trauma, logistics, economic, political and environmental sustainability.

III. Appoint a coordinating agency for each type of worker, for example, the American Medical Association or a similar European group, for the medical workers. Create an international directing committee, perhaps through the United Nations, composed of the leaders of each working group to plan and coordinate gathering the resources from those who have them, primarily the people of North America and Western Europe, shipping the goods and people to the areas that need them, and distributing the services and support to the people of the rest of the world.

IV. Identify needs in each area of the world, in consultation with representatives from each region. In collaboration, with UN dispute resolution groups assisting, prioritize regions and needs within the region and begin to deploy people and material to the highest need areas. Do not stop mobilizing and delivering goods and services until all regions’ needs have been met. Primary needs will include: Nutrition, Health Care and Trauma Counseling, Community Building and Leadership Development, Sanitation, Housing, Transportation, Agricultural Development and Environmental Protection, Education, Labor Law Development and Micro-Business Development.

Remember that the overall goal is regional self-determination, not American and European control of the world. All relief work should include learning, teaching, practicing and supporting four basic principles: tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, individual and community self-determination, and wise resource management. Therefore, throughout the relief effort, thought and planning should be directed toward eventual exit strategies, ways to empower individuals, communities and regions to use their own resources wisely and get along with each other and their neighbors.

V. Convene international bodies, like the various departments of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Criminal Court and others, with representatives from every community, to discuss, propose, vote, implement and monitor policies on tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, individual and community self-determination and wise resource management. Enforce the conclusions of these international consensus groups not with bombs, starvation and disease through economic sanctions, or other violent means, but with a global version of the parent and child’s time-out, perhaps the best idea ever to take hold in American society.

The time-out is based on the truth that humans are social animals. We want to be a part of our families, communities and world. We want to be trusted and taught to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. So when a person or a country acts out in anger, frustration, fear, despair or any of the other awful emotions which being human inescapably entails, we need to give them more support, not less, and time and space to cool off. We need to be near them, suffer with them, encourage them to try again to join the world community peacefully.

Above all else, we need to model self-control, kindness, gentleness and courage. We need to choose the Peace Plan, naive though it may seem. We cannot justify continuing the age-old cycle of war, with its long recorded history of absolute failure.

The Day After 9/11

(written September 12, 2001)

Dear President Bush, Congress and advisors,

I’ve been thinking about things that might make the world better, and I wanted to offer you these suggestions and ask you to bear in mind Martin Luther King Jr.’s caution that without justice, there can be no peace. I believe the recent terrorist attack was an expression of international anger at the colonialist and hypocritical attitudes of American political-economic leaders. I believe the correct American response is to grieve for the lives and time lost, and move quickly to correct the enormous global injustice -- economic, environmental and political -- that inevitably breeds such anger.

You should:

Order the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization to erase the debt of all nations requesting debt relief. Abandon all efforts to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Repeal NAFTA.

Work with US and European businesses and South American and Asian governments and workers groups to ensure safe working and living conditions and living wages for all exploited workers around the world.

Advise American and European consumers to limit consumption to basic necessities of sufficient food, clothing, shelter and transportation until the global system stabilizes. Encourage American and European consumers to use public transportation, especially those in large urban areas with good public transit systems.

Fully support the United Nations, financially and politically, in its efforts to seek and protect human rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care and livelihood and global environmental programs.

Discontinue all operations to destabilize elected governments in other countries.

Create the Department of Peace as proposed by Representative Dennis Kucinich.

Fully support efforts to broker peace between warring nations, and support efforts to safely separate and calm groups that are too emotionally overwrought to negotiate.

Fully fund international nuclear disarmament efforts and negotiations.

Ratify the Kyoto Treaty and work with the other nations to begin implementation and create review and revision procedures.

Abandon plans to create new nuclear power plants and abandon plans to step up coal, oil and natural gas energy production. Fully fund efforts to safely harness renewable resources like solar and wind, and urge Americans to conserve electricity by any means possible. Create a committee to investigate and educate the public on conservation measures.

Repeal the Mexico City gag rule, allowing medical providers in other nations to advise and provide family planning and abortion services to poor women and their families.

Enact a minimum wage of $12 per hour. Enact a maximum wage of $30 per hour, including CEO wages. Enact a maximum work-week of 35 hours, including CEO work-weeks. Re-enact the estate tax to ensure redistribution of wealth when wealthy people die.

Discontinue the drug war and release prisoners incarcerated for drug use and abuse. Fully fund rehabilitation programs and lend full support to conversion of drug-growing enterprises in other countries to appropriate regional food and textile production.

Fully fund job training programs in the United States, for those in poverty with limited skills.
Create a public works program geared toward social justice efforts, education and organic, sustainable agricultural practices. Employ people at or above the new minimum wage to do the work.

Enact universal basic health care for all Americans and undocumented workers in the US. Order government and corporate insurers to suspend funding for extreme, highly expensive and risky measures until universal basic coverage is achieved.

Enact a universal housing program, providing direct grants or low-interest loans to build housing for the homeless or ill-housed.

Adopt a more accurate economic measure than the Gross Domestic Product, debiting disasters from “productivity” figures and adding the economic value of unpaid labor and unpolluted natural resources. Consult Hazel Henderson for assistance.

Discontinue efforts to market genetically modified foods in the United States and abroad. Destroy remaining crops and seeds. Subsidize organic farming and conversion of pesticide/herbicide farms to organic farming techniques. Create a national network of advisors and supports for the conversion process.

Enact campaign finance reform to create full public financing and encourage more poor and middle-income Americans to run for office.

This is only a partial list. Please call me for more information on any of these issues and I will be happy to refer you to experts who can assist you.Thank you.

Ugly Dreams

(written July 2, 2002)

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Poetic words. They might have been strung together late at night by a college student with a set of poetic word magnets. But they were strung together by a remarkable woman living in remarkable times.

We live in these, our own remarkable times. Thousands of acres of trees are burning across the western United States, shooting flames hundreds of feet high, sustained by decades of irresponsible forest management. Hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani men face each other across the disputed Kashmir region, backed by nuclear weapons and led by leaders threatening to release those nightmares from their rusting, flimsy cages. Millions of men, women and children in Africa are crashing to earth, felled by the interlinked ravages of powerlessness, poverty and AIDS, leaving ruined human networks...families, communities...behind.

Somewhere in occupied Palestine, another enraged suicide bomber is preparing to strap on his only available response to decades of humiliation and end dozens of human lives. And somewhere in terrified Israel, another young soldier is preparing to strap on his helmet, climb into his bulldozer, and mow down a village.

The fates of huge corporations, ingeniously shackled to the backs and bank accounts of ordinary workers through the 401(k) plan, hinge on executive decisions based solely on the goal of maximizing profit. The fate of the world economy and every individual’s ability to find food, a safe, comfortable place to sleep, the means to get to school and work, hinges on those corporate fates.

The United States Congress wrestles with the largest military spending increase in decades, trying to vanquish the phantom threat of “terrorist cells” created by US military expansionism, with force, with further global military abuse. Meanwhile, American citizens’ rights to privacy, freedom of speech and assembly, access to information, due process, trial by jury, voting and separation of church and state steadily seep underground through the haunted eyes, trembling, closed lips and shaking hands of our elected leaders, into the cracks beneath Capitol Hill.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s future is our present. She dreamed of a racially integrated, harmonious nation. We live in a nation of police brutality targeted at people of color, bolstered by a judicial system weighted against people of color, perforated by prisons full of people of color. And most people of color who are not in a prison of concrete and razor wire are just as trapped in the poverty prison of poor educations, violent neighborhoods, substandard housing and medical care, unliving wage jobs, substance abuse and an almost-unimaginable psychological burden of despair. The non-white of America comprise an endangered species of our human family.
But we have no Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to People.

Eleanor Roosevelt dreamed of an end to poverty. We live in a nation with a minimum-wage of $5.15 an hour. We have rampant unemployment and underemployment and a rushing job-drain flowing into Asia and South America, where workers earn less, live poorer, and are surrounded by more toxins. We have increasing malnutrition, obesity, cancer and related diseases, a crisis-level lack of affordable housing coupled with more homelessness, and average corporate CEO salaries 500 times average worker salaries, and still rising. One of our best-performing industries is pharmaceuticals, producing medications ever-more difficult to afford and targeted ever-more narrowly to newly-treatable/ increasingly-diagnosed mental disorders: a pack led by depression and anxiety.

Eleanor Roosevelt dreamed of a world safe and nurturing to children. Child abuse remains an epidemic. Schools are failing. War is everywhere, everywhere assaulting children.

Who did Eleanor Roosevelt’s future belong to? Why were their dreams so ugly?

More importantly, whose dreams are determining our future, the present that our children will wake up to some July morning 50 years from now?

If members of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Supreme Court could make the world over to their specifications by tomorrow, we would all wake up in a world of black, choking air, and all but one in a hundred would live in a small, shabby apartment in a garbage-strewn urban neighborhood. In each populated country -- North America and Western Europe -- people would drive each day past automated factories churning out processed foods laden with preservatives, past other factories producing drugs. We would pass shops selling plastic storage tubs and home furnishings, shiny electronic devices and cars, all produced in other factories. Those factories would be merrily spewing out toxic sludge to the air and water, but mostly in a depopulated, barren Asia and South America, while the Middle East would be empty save for oil wells, and Africa would be empty save for mineral mines.

At the end of our drive, we would arrive at the day’s shop to use the designated credit card of our ‘choice,’ spend our allotment, and return home to consume, place, install or park our new purchase, hauling our old, almost-identical version, to the curb.

We would have no work to do, only consuming. Most days we would head to the cancer clinic, or mental health clinic, or asthma clinic, for drugs. Most of our time would be spent watching television, going to movies, professional sports events or theme parks, eating factory-made and chute-delivered food, or shopping.

Why? Because capitalism -- the governing principle of America despite our universal yearning for the freedom of genuine democracy -- has no use for people: living people are an impediment to pure profit, and pure profit is capitalism’s ultimate goal, the ugly part of the corporate dream. Eventually, capitalism has no use for production or consumption at all: the most profit can be made by having no labor costs, no raw materials, no factory or office, no services, no storage or shipping costs, no shops or catalogs...nothing but money dancing from one investors’ pocket to the next.

Others, outside the White House, Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court, are dreaming more beautiful dreams for the world. We’re dreaming of clean energy supplies from wind, water and sun. We’re dreaming of guaranteed basic health care and inspiring education for all. We’re dreaming of guaranteed annual incomes for every person of every age. We’re dreaming of clean, light-filled, spacious homes for every family of every size, and well-cared for parks, lakes, beaches and oceans. We’re dreaming of healthy food, carefully cultivated on farms respecting the miracle of fertility. We’re dreaming of the freedom to choose how best we can contribute to the creative growth of ourselves and the people around us, and of the justice of finding the time and support we need, to contribute our gifts to the world, made readily available to all.

Do we believe in the beauty of our dreams enough to own the future? Only our children can tell us. Look at them. What do they see right now?