tideshift

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

International Herald Tribune:

I read Sam Graham-Felsen's essay: "Where have all the protesters gone?" with a rapidly sinking heart, because he had the arrogance to declare the world's intense, and growing movement toward widespread justice and peace dead before it's even had a chance to finish being born.

I am 32, in Generation X. We are regularly described as apathetic, cynical, embittered people, jammed into despair by a realistic sense that the moral and physical worlds are being torn apart by the short-sighted profit-seeking of our parents and grandparents. Our ideas, even our physical presence in public places, are routinely ignored. We are the small, quiet cohort subsisting in the shadow of the loud, sprawling, greedy Boomers.

But when there are protests, we are there, even when the media doesn't cover the protests. When there are lobbying trips to legislators, we are there, even when the legislators politely show us the door and go back to counting corporate cash. When editorial pages smolder with impotent, righteous rage at the powerlessness of the People and the corruption of the Government, our letters are there. When local lectures, vigils and film screenings are organized, we are the organizers, and the participants.

These many actions may seem futile, but their apparent futility cuts across all generations, and we young ones are, in our own unique ways, creating new strategies through and beyond them that seem invisible right now but are, I think, on the cusp of bringing down centuries of exploitation and oppression. I think it's inevitable both because those hierarchical structures have grown too top-heavy to be supported by the masses on the bottom, and because one of our other characteristic responses to conflict and pressure is to walk away, opt out, find alternatives and live them, rather than talk about them. We're not going to carry these burdens of empire for much longer.

I identify with Gen X characteristics. I deeply distrust institutions, even while I respect the potential for the United Nations to prevent war, as it was designed to do. I know my history, even the Howard Zinn, so I am aware both of the potential for broad social change, and the incredibly high odds against it, and the cleverness of the power-elite at tamping down dissent and change agents in increasingly subtle, effective ways.

Because I am young, female, married, and a mother, despite being among the best-educated generation of women the world has ever seen, I am a writer without a publisher, a public intellectual without a public. My mind is consumed by the innumerable details of caring for children in a culture that refuses, decade after decade, to support young families and enable women like me to contribute our ideas and leadership.

But between changing diapers and throwing dinner on the table, I have developed an extremely detailed Utopian vision, complete with clean water, air and soil; organic food and community kitchens to cook it in; free neighborhood health care clinics and small, public schools and workshops open to all ages, geared toward fostering individual creativity rather than fitting all the pegs into the corporate holes. In my Utopia, the homes are small and energy efficient; the jobs are vital, fulfilling and close by; production is local; trade is fair; and the energy comes from clean, renewable resources. In my Utopia, Peace Corps volunteers are responsible for the "war on terror," drying up the sources of hatred and violence by treating people in other lands as dignified, valuable, vulnerable human beings who live, love and die, just like us.

Both because of Bush, and because of people like Graham-Felsen, I swing on a slender thread, between faith that this Utopia is not only possible, but almost inevitable, given the way the Iraq War has focused the collective mind of humanity in such an unprecedented way, and despair that those currently in power, but on the verge of losing it, are almost at the point of no return,
when it will seem to them like instantaneous nuclear self-annihilation is a good idea.

But in the faith corner, I count all the blogs and conversations and other signs, from all sorts of people all over the world, all clear that we want the same things. Our Utopian visions are virtually identical, as though something larger than all of us is pushing these ideas out through each of us.

So I think change is in the wind, despite the appearance of quiet among the young, the inability of traditional radar to pick it up, and even the likelihood that things will get worse before they get much, much better. This isn't quite like other historical upheavals. It's larger, more integrated, more organic, and few will see it coming until it's already upon us all, at which point it will seem like the most natural thing in the world, which it is.

Blowback

I wonder if the next scandal to hit the papers will be that the U.S. Government/Bush Administration is secretly funding and arming every faction of the Iraqi "insurgents," to maintain the violence there as a pretext for refusing to pull the troops out. One always comes back to the question: who benefits from the ongoing violence? Not the Iraqi people; as Chomsky pointed out, they voted into power groups that would not be compliant puppet regimes, just as the Palestinians and many other people have in recent years. The beneficiaries of continued violence and continued American occupation are U.S. military contractors, and those who believe there is still some possibility of gaining American control over Middle Eastern oil.

Peace Dividend

Finally.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Richard Heinberg

Author of "The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies."
See also: http://lifeaftertheoilcrash.typepad.com/life_after_the_oil_crash_/
On a related note, my husband got to work today by combined bicycle and carpool for the first time, and was very excited about it. Me too.

"Imposed Illusion"

This link goes to a very long essay by Noam Chomsky, well worth the reading time.

I saw The Da Vinci Code this past weekend. I had read the book years ago, and thought both were very good, even if parasitic critic types have panned both. To me, Dan Brown has picked up powerful themes of the feminine sacred and women's power within and without historical Christianity - well-addressed by Mary Daly, Elaine Pagels and other feminists and theologians - and presented them, bearing his privileged legitimacy as a man, in a popular and highly entertaining format.

His work is historical fiction; like all fiction, it carries a significant amount of truth, and like all history, it involves the selection of people, documents, artifacts and events to make a certain point and uphold a certain worldview. I happen to agree with the worldview of The Da Vinci Code: that women and the feminine spiritual energy have been overwhelmingly suppressed and virtually destroyed throughout much of recorded history, and that a resurgence of that irrepressible energy, through today's female descendants of the well-nigh obliterated, is ongoing and soon to reach critical mass.

That's how I feel on a good day, like when I saw that film, although it's interesting to note that the official Vatican position is apparently not to call for a boycott, which might stimulate interest, but to convey a mild contempt for the shallowness of Brown's work, and hope that by belittling, marginalizing, ignoring it, the novel, film and message will simply fizzle through lack of interest.

Despite feeling encouraged by the popularity of both book and movie, it leads to uncomfortable conflict with some Catholics, who argue, rightfully, I think, that the Catholic Church is often singled out for blame for atrocities that other cultural institutions have also committed. These arguments reach no conclusion; the winner-take-all format of arguments is problematic for those who can and do see the merit of many sides of any issue. I try to think through the dynamics of these arguments, believing that it might offer me some insight into why Iraq is on fire with the violent end result of such ideological conflicts and power disputes.

What I want from the Catholic church is an admission that even though that institution is not the only institution to drive women down with everything from historical erasure to witch burnings and even though women are not the only targets of such betrayals of Jesus' example, in fact many women have been destroyed and damaged by Catholic teachings and the acts of Catholic men.

I suspect what Catholics want from the general public is the exact opposite: an acknowledgement that even if some Catholic teachings led some Catholic leaders and followers to commit some atrocities, by far the greatest number of Catholics throughout history have been humble, faithful people - men and women - who have made enormous contributions to the salvation of humankind through contemplation, scholarship, practice of the healing arts and care of the souls of parishioners worldwide.

Fair enough. The problem is: who goes first? Must Catholics first admit to the reality of Malleus Maleficarum http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/ , the Inquisition, the bloody Crusades, the legitimacy of historical debate around (and suppression of evidence for) the true role of women, including Mary Magdalene, in the early Church, before non-Catholics will acknowledge the tremendous good done by the admittedly fallible human beings who have carried Christ's message of love, charity and hope forward for two millenia? Couldn't we both go at the same time? Or am I just wrong about what the conflict is about to begin with?

There are moments when it seems like a new lens snaps down over my eyes, and for a short time things really look different, although I can never sustain the new view. But today I'm in one of those phases. Having read Noam Chomsky's essay, and knowing that groups like MoveOn and Faith Voices for the Common Good, and many others, are working hard and collectively on new vision statements, statements of principle, new, concise platforms of what the left stands for and what we will work to make manifest in the world, I found myself suddenly profoundly grateful to George W. Bush.

Without his monumental immorality, ignorance of the facts of history and of current events, without his enormous egotistical arrogance and massive power grab, all the momentum building worldwide for non-violent forms of law enforcement, for clean, renewable energy technology, for universal human rights, and economies geared toward sustaining people and not profits, would be just a tiny, fledgling ripple with no chance of reaching tsunami size. Bush has focused the human mind in the collective; he's sharpened and simplified the debate; at this turning point, we either head toward univeral salvation, or univeral annihilation. There are no gray areas of complexity anymore.

We are either with him, and his narrow focus on destroying enemies without recognizing their genesis in ourselves and our American/strategic/self-interested actions, or with the terrorists - the worst, most neglected, reviled, misunderstood, dangerous aspects of ourselves wanting desperately to be respected, healed and embraced.

Bush is like Judas, in the new story, the way the new Judas is in the old story: without Judas, no sacrificial lamb. "Mysterious ways" indeed. For in a twisted way, Bush is our terrorist, and we must begin to truly respect, heal and embrace him if we are to head away from the annihilation path.

I close with a quote from the Chomsky essay:

"Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Whale Rider

I just finished watching the 2002 film Whale Rider, about a young Maori girl in New Zealand and her struggle to get her tradition-bound grandfather to realize she is the leader for their people that he has been seeking and waiting for, much of his life. But he couldn't see that she was, because she is a girl. In the end, he did see; they all will have to, and soon.

It's been a rough week. I've also been reading Elaine Aron's book - The Highly Sensitive Person http://www.hsperson.com/ after a long conversation with my brother last week. I don't take good care of myself, given how powerfully everything affects me. Very busy week, preparing for a yard sale today, trying to keep up with my kids, trying to keep up with my reading, and writing, and dishes. Now I can't remember what I did to make all that time disappear.

Tonight I saw a bit about Politics of Jesus, new book, doing well. http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=68627

The Motherhood Manifesto is also doing well; they're posting chapters for people to read on the Internet, and encouraging mothers to send in stories about our own struggles with maternity leave, child care, etc. http://www.momsrising.org/manifesto/chapter2

Eavesdropped a bit at my son's T-ball game; the women there had one horror story after another of trying to find part-time work, child care fiascos, and terrible illnesses, and quitting and finding more work, two jobs, three jobs, always a personal problem, always left to each family to muddle through and then try to block out the pain of those young child years. I try to think sometimes that our children will hear my husband and me tell stories about the old days, and they won't believe us.

"What!" they'll say. "Families with young children got no extra time off from work! Child care wasn't cheap, accessible and high quality? Every family had to cook for themselves every single night! There were no community centers for mothers to socialize! Health care was only available through employment! What kind of monsters were in charge back then? How did you manage?"

But they'll remember all those things all too well. Their mother's sanity bending and buckling regularly under the pressure - their strong, caring, anxious father stepping in to shelter them while he tries to hold down a research science job too. Even his boss recently acknowledged, in admitting it's difficult for older professionals to see their life's work shrinking, their staff members laid off one by one, that it must be even harder for the young scientists: what does the future hold for all that talent, with all those ideas, and such passion to find causes and cures for human suffering, when federal funding of basic research is eroded by war-making?

Read a letter by Dede, sister of Cindy Sheehan, aunt of Casey Sheehan, all about the torment of the Iraqi families - who have now lost more than 42,000 of their loved ones through George Bush's liberation exercise - and about the tired, tired, tired peace activists http://www.michaelmoore.com/mustread/index.php?id=654

And an essay by Greg Palast, about how Ken Lay's conviction does nothing to undo the deregulation that will continue to pinch us all and grow the corporate profits. Would that the 401(k) truly gave us all power to control the companies and ensure their good treatment of families and communities, rather than just the illusion that we share in the wealth of the real directors.

Onward.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Samantha Power at Santa Clara

Good News

A list of things the writer thinks are going our way, encouraging to those open to optimism. Not so sure, myself. Among other things, the McCain appearance at The New School was, some say, a way to shore up support among the Christian Right by giving them a photographic look at the evil East Coast liberals turning their backs on McCain...

Property Rights

When I heard Bush's voice this morning, on Democracy Now, chiding the burst of populism and nationalized resources in Venezuela and Bolivia, by saying: "I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace,'' I danced a little on that edge of berserk I seem to live on more and more. When he went on to talk about how America tries to "do something" about poverty, I began screaming obscenities at the radio and turned it off.

It was striking to see the naked truth uttered in public, however. Property rights before human rights, always. For more information, start here: http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=13708

It also reminded me of Three Guineas, the superb book by Virginia Woolf about how to stop war. The phrase that leaped to mind:

"The small boy struts and trumpets outside the window: implore him to stop; he goes on; say nothing; he stops. That the daughters of educated men then should give their brothers neither the white feather of cowardice nor the red feather of courage, but no feather at all; that they should shut the bright eyes that rain influence, or let those eyes look elsewhere when war is discussed—that is the duty to which outsiders will train themselves in peace before the threat of death inevitably makes reason powerless."

Maybe what we need to do is start consciously ignoring the Powers as a political act. There is power in organized people. There is power in organized money. And there is power in organized indifference - maybe the right kind of power to combat the organized indifference of those in Power toward poverty, sickness, hunger, homelessness, fear, despair, rage. I'm not talking about just tuning out. I'm talking about pouring all our energies into extremely local actions, neighbor helping neighbor, tax resistance, barter economies, boycotting the rigged elections, cancelling all our newspaper subscriptions, cutting off our phone service: letting the federal and the state governments wither away while we build communities block by block.

Marches and letter-writing aren't working. With every passing day, things are getting worse.

Thank you

Thank you to all the people who read this blog. Some of you send messages from time to time about things I've put up, and I should write individual thank yous, but it's just about all I can do to find time to post. Your support and encouragement mean a very, very lot to me. Thank you.

Open Letter to Senators Lautenberg and Menendez

Sent via Act for Change:

"This letter, my friend, is pissing in the wind...
This letter is pissing in the wind."

Even though I know that the entire Senate, and especially the members of the Judiciary Committee, and especially Senator Arlen Specter, are playing strawman to Bush, and will never decide to reassert authority, bring back checks and balances, and justify their existence as guardians of the Constitution, the freedom of the American people, and the ideal of individual human liberty throughout the world, nonetheless...

I'm writing you to strongly urge that you reject the nomination of General Michael Hayden to take over as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

First and foremost, General Hayden seems completely unacquainted with the text of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In January, he suggested it requires only some vague "reasonableness standard" and denied the need for probable cause based upon a warrant. This is deeply disturbing.

I also ask that you review his testimony before Congress on October 17th, 2002, in which he testified under oath that all domestic surveillance was being conducted in accordance with the FISA law. We know now, and he knew then, that the President's illegal spying program is being conducted far outside the procedures carefully spelled out in FISA. There should be a penalty for lying to Congress under oath, but at the very least this should prevent his confirmation by the Senate.

Don't bother to convey your views back to me. I don't care if you are "in the minority party," or "trying to be civil and bipartisan." Speak your minds, for a change, if you have any minds of your own left. Just grow a spine and take back our country from the imminent military dictatorship - complete with concentration camps and torture chambers for political dissenters - Bush is building, brick by bloody brick.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Benjamin Bernanke

http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/everybreath/

Some of this I don't understand, but overall, I find the Federal Reserve to be a tool for manipulating unemployment to keep wages low, and that's one of the points of this video.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

After the Riots

"There are none so blind as those who will not see." (An excellent phrase to Google, by the way.)

I begin to see Sen. Arlen Specter as a straw man, personified. It' s been a roller coaster for many months. Sometimes, he seems riled up, ready to fight Bush on behalf of ordinary citizens, uneasy with the concentration of power, determined to provide Constitutional oversight to the NSA wiretapping, the CIA renditions, the military police torture, and all the other outrages to human dignity and individual rights being perpetrated by our leaders, in our names.

But on other days, Specter is quiet, like when he refused to swear Gonzales in for testimony before the Judiciary Committee, very clearly leaving room for lies, not under oath.

And then it hit me: Specter is playing the bad cop role to Bush's good cop. Specter has no intention of ever actually leading the Senate to exertions of power. He has no intention of checking the president, or undermining the Roberts/Alito judicial interpretation of unitary executive. Specter is there like the recent Congressional briefings on wiretapping are there - to symbolically blow off public steam, to give citizens the illusion of accountability, with no need for the substance.

And when it hit me, another thought bubbled up, about the frustrated messages I pick up, here there and everywhere - "Why aren't more Americans out in the streets? Why don't they see what's going on and do something?" The wall is approaching so fast, the concentration camps are being built right under our noses, the legal protections are all gone, already. Any one of us, American citizens and non-citizens alike, can be spirited out of our homes at any time, sent to a gulag in Eastern Europe, tortured until the end of our days, with nary a peep from so many leaders and so many sheep.

It's a character flaw. The same bubbling optimism that makes Americans so appealing, personally, to so many around the world, renders so many of us willfully blind to what's happening.

We can't live in a country that tortures, and imprisons without trial. We're all about freedom and dignity!

We can't live in a country ruled by a dictator, installed by two fraudulent elections and propped up by a corrupt judicial system. We're all about one man, one vote!

We can't have betrayed the promise of our founders, and lost the Constitution that was to preserve our liberties from power-mad usurpers. We're all about spreading democracy to the unwashed masses of the world!

So I ponder the willful blindness driving the polls that ignore the practical failures of universal surveillance to say "Go ahead, spy on us if it'll keep us safe," and I ponder the bad-cop game Specter is playing, with his Greek chorus of other Senators and Representatives, and I look to Ted Rall's recent essay, at Common Dreams:

"Even if you trust this government, however, there is no way to know what form of government will rule this country in the future. Someday, and this is certain, a revolution or civil disturbance or invasion will topple the system created by the Founding Fathers in 1787. Some successor regime, run by people you don't know and may not like (and more to the point may not like you), will inherit the security apparatus currently being put into place." http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0517-21.htm

I look to Christopher Cooper's insightful take on it too: "Two out of three Americans, polls show, are out to lunch, asleep at the switch, ignorant of history, and likely to be very surprised and very unhappy when the knock in the night comes for them, rather than for the Jew in the ghetto, the Arab in the city, the wetback, the uppity black, the bums in the streets, the agitators, the misfits, the problem children. It was long ago and it was far away, and for some of you it hit before your mother was born, but it was Four Dead In Ohio, and America was killing its own right here at home, and too little too late, but we once threw out a bad president and a corrupt administration. Those guys were bad. These guys are worse."
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0518-20.htm

I ponder the upheaval all over the world - not only the people, but the migrating birds with their avian flu, the drowning polar bears, the beached whales, the scurrying furry beasts who knew about the tsunami and made it to higher ground long before their human cohabitants. And I think that the days of this American experiment can be numbered in the dozens, hundreds at most.

So I find myself increasingly wondering, not only whether the overthrow will be internal or through invasion, but what will come afterward. I like what the Argentines did.

And I dream of the best-case scenario. A giant spontaneous peaceful march to Washington, to relieve the puppets of their positions. A mushrooming of tent cities and picnics in parks, where we all roast marshmallows and hotdogs, and talk about what we want to try next.

"Whew. That was fun," we'll say. "A little scary at the end there. But an excellent founding Constitution. 200-years of fantastic case law. A few brilliant opinions by a few brilliant justices. Sure, there were some built-in flaws. Slavery was very, very bad, and institutional racism isn't much of an improvement. The corporation-as-person idea we should definitely scrap. But all in all, we did slowly expand freedoms for lots of people. We did attract the best and brightest from all over the world. By and large, we did mix everybody together, not without some violence, but not a total failure by any stretch."

Sometimes I have foreshadowing visions of a hopefully-not-to-distant evening, where I'm lying on the grass under some huge trees that no one intends to cut down for lumber or pulp, looking up at the stars through clean, clear air. And the weight of the oppression on so many of our people, and so many more of the world's people, has lifted. We've all somehow become part of a cohesive group that stretches all around the world and is finally making choices for food, and shelter, and reciprocal care, founded in love, not fear. We're agape with mutual respect. It feels so good, the cool grass, the soft night air, the starlight in my eyes, and the blood finally washing clean from all our hands.

But to get there, from here, our characteristic optimism will have to undergo a far-reaching humiliation, a humbling, and a grieving for the loss of might and hubris. What form will that take? Will we be wise enough, understand enough to go through such humbling and grief deliberately, with reflection, until we emerge from the other side, sober and connected? Will we see that there is no way out but to go further in? Or will we deny humility, or transform its message into a call for aggression, and fail again, and lose another ripening chance?

Army of Babysitters

The more I think about it, the more essential it seems. Women who are mothers (82% of women by the age of 45, or some such number) will never be able to make a concerted effort to engage meaningfully in politics until it is very, very easy to drop off the kids in a safe room, with loving caregivers, just outside City Hall, or Congressional Office Buildings, or other public spaces, so we can march in, express ideas, run for office, and make decisions about policy priorities and funding allocations. We need recruiting stations for grandmas!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CodePink Women

Hayden

I wrote Adaptability in January 2003. They are still at it; yesterday, Bush decided, as the heat and pressure in Washington around NSA spying and CIA chief nominee Michael Hayden continued to rise, to dribble out a little more information to a few more Senators and Representatives.

He did it in February when Republican Representative Heather Wilson threatened to start NSA hearings. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/08/AR2006020802294.html

Their calibration skill is incredible to behold; a few more power-brokers will find themselves on the inside, and become so pleased with their access, the crumbs granted them, that they will emerge to reassure the public, and the steam from outside will be successfully blown off, and the lid will stay on.

Adaptability

Adaptability is arguably the primary trait distinguishing humans from other species of animals. Unlike most animals, which must live in a certain climate and ecosystem for biological survival, humans have managed to adapt -- to build shelter and obtain food -- all over the globe. In many cases, human arrival has wrecked or is wrecking the ecological balance and driving the other animals away or into extinction.

But humans do more than adapt biologically. We also adapt psychologically. Those of us who survive do so because we reconcile ourselves to the state of being refugees, driven by famine or war from the environment of our birth and early rearing -- “Home” -- into new and different environments. It’s not a mental shift other animals appear to do so readily.

This adaptability may ironically be one of human-kind’s greatest obstacles to survival. I sense this now because I feel very much like the proverbial frog in the pot. In the story, a scientist gradually turns up the heat under a pot of water until the frog inside boils to death. When the scientist throws another frog into a pot of already boiling water, the frog hops right back out again and lives.

I feel that way now because as each new piece of war news comes out --- this week that Rumsfeld has called up 15,000 reserves, last week that torture is okay with the Bush Administration, two weeks ago that North Korea is taking nuclear plants out of mothball and so on and so forth back and back --- I experience a brief intensification of distress. More thinking. Less sleeping. More worrying. Less eating. More wondering and doubting: “Am I ready, able and willing to go to jail or die in the struggle to protect life?”

And then I reach a new equilibrium: “This is the way the world is: Hotter.” I cannot hop out of this pot.

And while I am realizing this adaptation tendency, so highly developed, and enjoying, bitterly, the hot shower I take every morning with water heated by non-renewable resources stolen from the earth and its poorest people, I keep thinking about the refugees shivering and starving and dying of despair, or adapting to a world without home, in refugee camps all over the world: Palestine, Afghanistan, the Congo, the Balkans.

When will enough be enough?

Will the destroyers accidentally turn up the heat too much too fast, and make all of us frogs suddenly realize we’re being boiled alive, causing all of us to jump up at once?

Or will they maintain their careful calibration -- a little news here, a little news there -- until the experiment is over and we’re all dead?

We are already refugees from everywhere.

I think it’s time to unlearn adaptability.

And I think we must all jump up from the pot at the same time, one frog with 12 billion jumping legs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Decider

Riots

As the chaos widens abroad, I find myself wondering what shape the riots will take here in America, and how soon they will begin.

Melting pot that we are, we could follow the lead of the Central and South American immigrants here, who have put on record-shattering, peaceful demonstrations in support of a path to citizenship and a recognition of their essential role in the American economy.

We could look to Argentina, where the middle class, finally ensnared by IMF austerity budgets, threw out three or four presidents in a few weeks in December 2001, banging pots, smashing bank windows, and creating neighborhood councils to take back their country.

We could look to France, where a few months ago, students aligned with trade unionists to strike, march and defeat a legislative measure that would have allowed employers to fire young workers within two years of hire, while retaining job security structures for older workers.

Then again, a few months before that, poor immigrant suburbs around Paris erupted in flaming cars, protesting the same discrimination against the young and the foreign-born, the massive unemployment, the irrelevant educational programs.

We could look to Nigeria, where Nigerian activists are sabotaging oil refineries, kidnapping and killing multinational oil workers and executives, demanding an end to corruption and that oil wealth benefit Nigerians, not Western corporations.

We could look to Darfur, where desertification and other environmental destruction have driven traditional peoples - from different traditions - into each other's territory, sparking genocide, refugee camps, rape, killing, starvation.

We could look to Nepal, with its lawyers shot during a peaceful demonstration in support of the rule of law.

We could look to Iraq, with its "insurgents," its executions, its ever-almost-ready police and military.

We could look to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with its prison riots spilling into police assassinations and bystander slayings.

We could open our eyes and look at America's inner cities - drive-by shootings, gang warfare, hopelessness and despair.

What will it look like here when the smoldering embers of violence spark and are fanned into full flame? When will it begin? What can we do to prevent it, quench it, understand it, contain it, direct it toward something less angry, less fearful, less hate-filled: more open, cooler, more accepting and inviting and nurturing and creative?

Gitmo

Been pondering the last chapter of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, "The Coming Revolt of the Guards." That's what it will take, of course. So long as the police, prison guards and military and other middle-class functionaries, are willing to cooperate in protecting the very few wealthy from the rest of us through force, threatened force, medication, or paperwork stalling, the potential for a real change in cultural values and tangible life circumstances is very, very limited.

Reading about the Halliburton detention centers, http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/february2006/010206detentioncamps.htm
and the outsourcing of spying to corporations http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2005/01/12_400.html,
placing wiretapping, satellite surveillance, arrests, interrogations and torture outside the accountability mechanisms of the now-irrelevant Congress and courts, it made me wonder: when the only American jobs available are military or military support jobs, will we progressives let our children starve to death rather than capitulate? Probably not, but what will we do instead?

Hitler-Bush comparisons are so easy to make these days. The hope is that we Americans are different from those Germans. Their bureaucratic obeisance as they carried out the Holocaust was apparently founded in Hitler's popularity, his record of lifting the German economy out of recession, and his appeals to their human desire to think of themselves as superior beings. Bush, on the other hand, is deeply and increasingly unpopular, our economy continues to sputter out, and as a culture, we are still at least a little uncomfortable with the idea of a Clash of Civilizations - Christian v. Muslim.

Yet I'm a peace activist; I think often of Dietrich Bonhoeffer http://www.dbonhoeffer.org/
We of the left, middle, and conscientious right have been able to do precious little to free the Muslim men held without charge in Gitmo these many years. When "They" come for us, will there be anyone left, with any power, to do anything to help?

Let's hope that instead of following Bush into a Hitler-esque future of militarized borders and empire at gunpoint, we see the whole gang - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and all their inner circle friends - shuffling out of the White House in orange suits and leg shackles someday soon.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More on Divine Strake

The Care Crisis

Blog Freedom!


Save the Net

Mother's Day

It was a Monday much like any other. The President had recently appointed a military general to take over spying on American citizens accused of no crime, while the Congressionally-demanded Justice Department investigation into illegal spying was abandoned after the NSA refused to give investigators security clearance.

A diplomatic overture from a large, self-respecting Middle Eastern nation was sh--canned by the Secretary of State. In Iraq, another Hummer convoy of poor volunteer Army grunts was ambushed, flipping a Hummer, killing five Americans, and wounding three Iraqi women and eight Iraqi children in a nearby apartment.

In Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military police officer finished cleaning the genital clips from last night’s interrogation, and another man with no knowledge of anything was led back into the cell for his fifty-fourth round of electric shocks in four-and-a-half years, while the Pentagon published a new set of interrogation rules announcing that some torture was bad, but some torture was okay, and that individual humans have rights but at the American President’s sole discretion.

All over the country, little old women squinted at their Medicare brochures, and punched at tiny calculators with arthritic hands, trying to decide which plan would let them eat and take their medicine.

In classrooms from Detroit to East St. Louis, black children shuffled at their desks with no books, paper or pencils, the monotony broken only by potty breaks in drafty rooms full of chipped tiles, dripping pipes, rusted sinks, malfunctioning toilets, and hardware in the floor where the stalls used to be.

In an Exxon-Mobil boardroom in Dallas, suited men with glittering cuff-links cheered their world-record-shattering quarterly profit earnings, again. They toasted each other with whiskeys from the little table in the corner, ice clinking against the sides of the cut glass.

In suburban homes from North Plainfield, New Jersey, to Muncie, Indiana, to Everett, Washington and Bisbee Arizona, men and women were getting ready for work. Housewives were plopping fat babies into high chairs for their morning cereal. Fathers with stay-at-home wives were in the showers, shaving and pondering the best route through the traffic to work. Working mothers were already on the road to daycare, eating drive-through breakfasts loaded with fat and cholesterol, and trying not to spill black coffee on themselves.

But in a tiny cul-de-sac, in a suburban development outside Minneapolis, things were not so rosy. Two women – Edith and Joanne – sat at Joanne’s kitchen table.

“Enough,” Edith said.

“I agree,” Joanne replied.

So they stood up in their sweats, and loaded their babies in their strollers, gathered up their older children, and marched out the door.

At first, it looked just like any other pair of women out for their morning power walk. But when Edith and Joanne turned out of the cul-de-sac, right into the middle of the two-lane highway into the Minneapolis commercial district, a few cars had to swerve to miss them, and the drivers honked angrily. Edith and Joanne, and their children, stuck to the middle of the road and flipped the bird at the drivers.

Their friend Maria passed them on the way to the hospital, where she worked as a nurse. She pulled over and rolled down her window.

“Whatcha up to?”

“We’ve had enough!” Joanne shouted back. “We’re going to Washington DC, and we’re going to shut down the entire country to get there. We’re going to pull every last Congressman and Senator and Commander in Chief and Cabinet member and White House staffer and judicial clerk out of their offices and onto the streets, and slap them silly and leave them in the dirt. Then we’re taking over their offices, since they only use them to fornicate with corporate executives on our backs anyway!”

“That’s right!” Edith yelled. “We’re going to pass the Community Gardening Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood gardens on every block in America. We’re going to pass the Universal Health Care Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood clinics on every block in America. We’re going to pass the Small Classes, Well Paid Teachers, Full Libraries Act of 2006, and fund neighborhood schools on every block in America! And every school will have free drop-in day care centers for kids under the age of 5, so moms can think about stuff and do stuff!”

By this time, Maria had climbed out of her car and joined Edith and Joanne, because they hadn’t stopped walking when they started talking, and she wanted to hear more. Maria opened her cell phone and called her friend Tawana, a reporter at the local television station. “And bring your camera,” Maria said into the phone, before snapping it shut.

Edith was still yelling.

“We’re going to pass the No Cars, Yes Buses, Trams and Trains Act of 2006, and fund short distance public transportation between schools, clinics, libraries, parks, grocery stores, churches and homes in every town in America!”

“Yeah!” Joanne yelled back. “We’re going to ban private cars for everything except ambulances, fire trucks, and handicapped vanpools! We’re going to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan! We’re going to pass to Do Unto Others Act of 2006, and make the Golden Rule the only rule in foreign policy!”

The traffic was piling up behind Joanne, Edith, Maria and Tawana when they finally turned off the two-lane highway, onto the entrance ramp to Eastbound 280. Then the honking really started up, as a line of cars six miles long backed up behind the women and their strollers. On they marched.

Meanwhile, Tawana was beaming footage of the mothers and children back to her television station, which was feeding it to stations all over the America, and all over the Internet. In towns large and small, other women – nurses and teachers, housekeepers and office workers, lawyers and doctors, accountants and steelworkers, seamstresses and electricians – set down their tools, picked up their children, and walked outside.

In prisons all over the land, women guards hefted their keychains and punched in their security codes, and let all the prisoners out. The black men, the Hispanic men, the poor white men, and the women prisoners marched home, and their mamas slapped them upside the head and said:

“I melted your guns and your jewelry. Quit attacking other poor folks like yourself, and let’s go get the a—holes in Washington!” So they did, and the police officers joined them as they went.

I-80, I-95, I-10, every Interstate Highway, and every feeder highway, became hopelessly snarled. The women hopped out of their cars and headed up to join the marchers. Some of the men did too. The other men sat in their cars, listened to the radio, and tried to think of what they would do without cheap gas, with no stupid job to go to, no leafblowers and weedwhackers and power tools to play with. No crappy boss’s butt to kiss.

Back on the road in Indiana, Maria was yelling to the latest recruit.

“We’ve had enough! We’re going to pass the Do What You Want, You’re Not Lazy Act of 2006, and fully fund art and woodworking studios, writer’s workshops, eco-home-building centers, solar panel factories and other good workplaces in every neighborhood in America.”

“Plus,” Tawana chimed in, “Plus we’re going to pass the F--- Your Own Bootstraps Act of 2006, and ban the use of that stupid phrase, except for people who want to make fun of the bad old days!”

“We’re going to pass the Communal Cooking Act of 2006,” yelled Susan, a Cincinnati postal worker. “We’re going to put neighborhood kitchens on every block in America!”

“We’re going to pass the Tree Planting Bonanza Act of 2006, and dig up every parking lot in the country, and plant trees on them!” shouted Peggy, a Pennsylvania horticulturalist.

Joanne and Edith and all their followers turned south on I-95 and walked along the side of the highway, past all the stopped cars and trucks. On her cell phone, Maria was watching footage of the f---ups in Washington, burning up their papers, running out into the streets, bumping into each other, screaming, tearing out their hair, and then disappearing into holes in the ground.

She was watching footage of mothers in Bhopal, India carrying their children to New Delhi to throw out the f---ups there. She was watching footage of mothers in Darfur, strapping their babies to their backs and marching out of the refugee camps to throw out the f---ups in Khartoum.

Everywhere, everywhere, mothers and children and the women and men who supported them, were taking over, and building up, and moving forward. Everywhere.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

God of Ahmadinejad, God of Bush

I read today that in the 18-page letter Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent to American President George Bush, the devout Muslim asked the "devout" Christian what the prophet Jesus Christ would think of the warmaking and killing Bush has wrought in Iraq. It's a good question, even if it comes from a man we Westerners are encouraged to believe is totally insane. I respect those dismissed as insane more and more, so long as the insulated crazies elevated to power in America (and their media apologists and propagandists) are the ones doing the labelling, and they call anyone who disagrees with them insane.

Ahmadinejad's question is a good one even though Condi et al were quick to respond to the diplomatic overture by calling it meaningless stalling tactics. That's what they said about inspections in Iraq, because they already knew the war they wanted was inevitable so long as they were in charge of starting it. They lied then, and they lie now when they say they are seeking diplomatic solutions while trashing potential diplomatic solutions. The war in Iran has already begun: all that remains is the somber Presidential declaration on prime-time television. Oceania, here we come. http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1104-26.htm

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Motherhood Manifesto

"Recent Cornell University research by Shelley Correll confirms what many American women are finding: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than nonmothers who have the same résumé, experience and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay. Study participants offered nonmothers an average of $11,000 more than equally qualified mothers for the same high-salaried job.

Correll's groundbreaking research adds to the long line of studies that explore the roots of this maternal wage gap. "We expected to find that moms were going to be discriminated against, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the gap," explains Correll. "I expected small numbers, but we found huge numbers. Another thing was that fathers were actually advantaged, and we didn't expect fathers to be offered more money or to be rated higher." But that's what happened."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Immigration

I marched outside Rep. Mike Ferguson’s offices on May Day with almost 200 courageous, American-flag-waving, cheering immigrants – men, women and small children – reminding us that no human being is illegal, demanding a path to citizenship, and opposing the unspeakably harsh Sensenbrenner bill Ferguson supported with his vote.

Many recent anti-immigrant letters to the editor (here in New Jersey) have come from people with German, Italian and other non-Lenape names. If the only people in America were descendants of the indigenous tribes who lived here before the European invasion, there would be far fewer people, and it would be a far more beautiful country – both physically and morally.

But here we all are. And it’s the foreign policy decisions of the descendants of those first wealthy, white colonists – to kill, enslave, rape the land and steal the resources of not only the native people of North America, but also the people of South America and Central America – that have forced the 12 million “illegal” immigrants now living and working here to abandon their ancestral homes and their extended families and run north.

They could not make a living “where they came from,” which is why they each made the painful decision to spend all their savings, set out in the dead of night, spend days or weeks in the desert danger, facing death from heat, dehydration and violence, to come to this country. Their desire to live is not to blame. America’s desire for ever-greater wealth, rather than sustainable, just co-existence with the people of other lands – is to blame.

The least we whites can do, to simply begin to right the wrongs of our colonial past and present, is to support the immigrants, help get them a path to full citizenship, help them organize their workplaces to increase their wages (and thereby all wages) and better their working conditions (and thereby all working conditions). It’s not about liberal guilt. It’s about real justice, recognizing that laws empowering capital at the expense of people are unjust laws, deserving only civil disobedience.

I hope that this really is the end of the 500 years of colonialism that indigenous prophets have foreseen for so many centuries. I hope there will soon be a flowering of indigenous wisdom, and that we’ll soon all live in a very different kind of world: more just, more peaceful.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Impeach

Open Letter to Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania

Dear Senator Specter -

I am glad to see that you are finally realizing what you are up against, as demonstrated by your remark: "We're undergoing a tsunami here with the flood coming from the executive branch on one side and the judicial branch on the other...There may as well soon not be a Congress. . . . And I think that most members don't understand what's happening."

Please increase your commitment to quashing the executive over-reach, and publicly call for impeachment proceedings to begin immediately. As you noted, shortly Congress will be disbanded, either by executive order, or by voluntary self-destruction. There appears to be little time to waste.

U.S. Embassy in Iraq

What's the French expression? Fait accompli?

Detention

"The immigration detention centers ought to raise a red flag, not just about nepotism and waste among military contractors, but about what our government has in store for us."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mike Ferguson

Just got back from standing in the bright sunshine with about 200 immigrant workers, all yelling and waving American flags and carrying signs - "No human being is illegal" - outside the Warren NJ offices of Representative Mike Ferguson. Lots of honks from passing trucks and cars. Pictures later...

Courageous Colbert

Thank you, Stephen Colbert.

Transcript: http://dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/4/30/1441/59811

Video: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/03/145234

Salon Article: http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/05/01/colbert/

www.thankyoustephencolbert.org

"Colbert's performance was a display of wit at its most lethally cutting. He went into a room with the most powerful man in the world and his courtiers, and he excluded them from the land of the free and the home of the brave." http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/05/03/143507.php