tideshift

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Double-Edged Sword of My Children

I am in the process of trying to change the focus of my blog, but not certain which way to go. After more than a year and more than 150 posts, I finally got some books on the subject of blogging, to learn more code and more things to do. Stay tuned for some of those changes!

I'm motivated by lots of factors, including encouraging comments by Ian over at transafixion plus thoughts about Bernice's work at Plainfield Plaintalker.

But mostly it's about trying to figure out much more concretely how things are going to work after the oil crash, the transportation crash, the housing bubble crash, the American and global recession, the next few heat waves, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires and all the other disasters that are about to completely uproot so many human beings - those who aren't already on the run from war and tsunamis and dam-building projects.

I really believe the central governments will be among the first things to collapse, and that such collapses are imminent. I can't worry about where the weapons of mass destruction are going to wind up. So that will leave us with local governments, local institutions, our neighbors. We are going to have to face global problems, but we are going to have to do it locally.

That's the thinking behind the Think Globally, Act Locally Lecture Series I've put together at my church. And that's the thinking I want to put behind my blog for the forseeable (Ahhh!) future. I want to write about the Colombian Peace Villages, and traffic calming, and all the other ways that very small groups of people are getting things ready for their children and grandchildren to live more free, less afraid, than we do.

That's where my own children come in. They are both my excuse for not doing more, and my reason for so desperately wanting to. My son is at his grandparents, and my daughter is sleeping right now. When she sleeps, it's the one hour of time I get, some days, to do this work that I care about so much. The rest of my time is spent playing with one or both kids, taking them to the library, or to get groceries, cooking for and feeding them, bathing them, doing dishes, doing laundry and trying to snatch a few minutes of reading or scribbling notes for my next few posts. And trying not to fall down and nap from exhaustion when I do get an hour to work on this stuff. Which is hard. I am so tired, so often.

I suppose I should be grateful for the little time I get, for the Internet connection, for my fingers and my mind and my education and the support I get from so many people, and my relative health, and the fact that currently there are no bombs falling on me. I am grateful, somewhat.

But I also have a constant tension, the sword of Damocles over my head: Time is running out, topsoil is running out, oil is running out, what are you doing to get ready? Dishes? Resting? Again? The sense of responsibility, so lacking among so many at the top, is overwhelming.

Ted Glick

Future Hope column, July 27, 2006

No More Oil Wars; Clean Energy Now!

By Ted Glick

As a new front in the Middle East powder keg opens up in Lebanon, as Iraq descends into what can only be called civil war, as the Taliban makes a comeback in Afghanistan and as the U.S. continues to rattle its sabers at Iran and Syria, it might make sense to step back and think more broadly about how the peace movement is ever going to turn this country away from its anti-democratic, dangerous support of repressive regimes in Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. After all, though the war in Iraq has been especially brutal and hideous, the U.S. has been throwing its weight around in this region for a long time, particularly since the end of World War II.

Iran is a good example. In the early ‘50s the United States teamed up with Britain to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and replace him with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, known for the brutal and sadistic Savak which maintained him in power for over 25 years via widespread torture and repression.

Why was Mossadegh overthrown? Because of his plans to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now known as BP.

Oil is both the bottom line and the primary interest of the U.S. when it comes to Middle East policy, and that interest has become more intense as oil reserves dwindle in the United States. Today only 3% of known oil reserves are in the USA while 60% are in the Middle East. Given what even George Bush has hypocritically called “our oil addiction,” and given the inordinate power of oil/energy corporations like ExxonMobil, five of whom are in the top 10 of the Fortune 500 biggest companies in the world, it is not surprising that the U.S. has been playing the role that it has over the last half century.

Fast forward to 2002. I was running a U.S. Senate campaign in New Jersey on the Green Party line against corrupt Democrat Bob Torricelli and multi-millionaire Republican Doug Forrester. I decided to run for this office primarily because I felt it was critical that there be forceful and visible anti-war voices opposing the Bush Administration’s efforts to use the 9-11 Al Qaeda attacks to advance their militaristic, oil-imperialistic and repressive agenda.

A major campaign issue for me was global warming. In my campaign brochure the second paragraph said, “Move towards energy independence, reverse global warming and create jobs through a crash program to get energy from the sun, the wind and other renewable fuels.”

As I campaigned through the state I found literally no opposition and much positive head-nodding when I said, “we need to shift to solar, wind and renewable energy so that we can reduce our dependence on Middle East oil and get ourselves out of that part of the world.” Regular folks of different cultures and income levels all easily saw the connection between reducing our use of oil, increasing the use of renewables and decreasing the threat of terrorism and war.

Ever since then, for the last four years, as I’ve been active in both the peace movement and the movement to slow, stop and reverse global warming, I’ve done what I could to encourage peace activists to make these connections and to encourage environmental activists to do the same, while also emphasizing the social and economic justice implications of peace and clean energy policies.

The massive April 29th demonstration in NYC a few months ago was a watershed moment. The first of the six demands on the main coalition leaflet said, “No more never-ending oil wars!” The sixth demand declared, “Act now to reverse the climate crisis and end the war on nature.” Others addressed issues like civil liberties, immigrant rights and domestic human needs.

A month later Al Gore’s global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, opened at theatres around the country, and it is having a major impact. Polls show that a large majority want action to address the climate crisis, just as they show that a solid majority wants the U.S. to leave Iraq.

It is essential that we make these connections. Activists in the peace movement need to appreciate that to the extent to which this country gets serious about energy conservation and efficiency and dramatically shifts from oil, coal and natural gas to clean energy sources like wind and solar—-a necessity if the world as we know it, and as it can be, is to survive—-to that extent will the underlying basis for oil-imperialistic wars decrease.

On April 29 a group of students from Middlebury College in Vermont carried a banner which summed it up: “No More Oil Wars—-Clean Energy Now!” This popular sentiment must find expression in government policy, and it is our job this fall to make every candidate running for Congress understand that this is what our people want. We should be circulating the VotersForPeace Pledge which declares that those signing "will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign." We should be pressuring all candidates running for Congress to say where they stand on the Climate Crisis Coalition's ClimateUSA platform. We must make visible this popular desire for peace, a rapid transition to clean energy and justice. We should oppose those who oppose this agenda and support those who support it. Until November 7th, there is no more important work.

Ted Glick works with the Climate Crisis Coalition (www.climatecrisiscoalition.org) and the Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org). He can be reached at indpol@igc.org or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.

Secret Bioterror Lab

The Secretive Fight Against BioterrorThe government is building a highly classified facility to research biological weapons, but its closed-door approach has raised concerns.

By Joby WarrickWashington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 30, 2006; A01

On the grounds of a military base an hour's drive from the capital, the Bush administration is building a massive biodefense laboratory unlike any seen since biological weapons were banned 34 years ago.

The heart of the lab is a cluster of sealed chambers built to contain the world's deadliest bacteria and viruses. There, scientists will spend their days simulating the unthinkable: bioterrorism attacks in the form of lethal anthrax spores rendered as wispy powders that can drift for miles on a summer breeze, or common viruses turned into deadly superbugs that ordinary drugs and vaccines cannot stop.

The work at this new lab, at Fort Detrick, Md., could someday save thousands of lives -- or, some fear, create new risks and place the United States in violation of international treaties. In either case, much of what transpires at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) may never be publicly known, because the Bush administration intends to operate the facility largely in secret.

In an unusual arrangement, the building itself will be classified as highly restricted space, from the reception desk to the lab benches to the cages where animals are kept. Few federal facilities, including nuclear labs, operate with such stealth. It is this opacity that some arms-control experts say has become a defining characteristic of U.S. biodefense policy as carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, NBACC's creator.

Since the department's founding in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, its officials have dramatically expanded the government's ability to conduct realistic tests of the pathogens and tactics that might be used in a bioterrorism attack. Some of the research falls within what many arms-control experts say is a legal gray zone, skirting the edges of an international treaty outlawing the production of even small amounts of biological weapons.

The administration dismisses these concerns, however, insisting that the work of NBACC is purely defensive and thus fully legal. It has rejected calls for oversight by independent observers outside the department's network of government scientists and contractors. And it defends the secrecy as necessary to protect Americans.

"Where the research exposes vulnerability, I've got to protect that, for the public's interest," said Bernard Courtney, NBACC's scientific director. "We don't need to be showing perpetrators the holes in our defense."

Tara O'Toole, founder of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and an adviser to the Defense Department on bioterrorism, said the secrecy fits a larger pattern and could have consequences. "The philosophy and practice behind NBACC looks like much of the rest of the administration's philosophy and practice: 'Our intent is good, so we can do whatever we want,' " O'Toole said. "This approach will only lead to trouble."

Although they acknowledge the need to shield the results of some sensitive projects from public view, critics of NBACC fear that excessive secrecy could actually increase the risk of bioterrorism. That would happen, they say, if the lab fosters ill-designed experiments conducted without proper scrutiny or if its work fuels suspicions that could lead other countries to pursue secret biological research.

The few public documents that describe NBACC's research mission have done little to quiet those fears. A computer slide show prepared by the center's directors in 2004 offers a to-do list that suggests the lab will be making and testing small amounts of weaponized microbes and, perhaps, genetically engineered viruses and bacteria. It also calls for "red team" exercises that simulate attacks by hostile groups.

NBACC's close ties to the U.S. intelligence community have also caused concern among the agency's critics. The CIA has assigned advisers to the lab, including at least one member of the "Z-Division," an elite group jointly operated with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that specializes in analyzing and duplicating weapons systems of potential adversaries, officials familiar with the program confirm.

Bioweapons experts say the nature of the research envisioned for NBACC demands an unusually high degree of transparency to reassure Americans and the rest of the world of the U.S. government's intentions.

"If we saw others doing this kind of research, we would view it as an infringement of the bioweapons treaty," said Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar and weapons expert at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. "You can't go around the world yelling about Iranian and North Korean programs -- about which we know very little -- when we've got all this going on."

Creating the Weapons of Terrorism

Created without public fanfare a few months after the 2001 anthrax attacks, NBACC is intended to be the chief U.S. biological research institution engaged in something called "science-based threat assessment." It seeks to quantitatively answer one of the most difficult questions in biodefense: What's the worst that can happen?

To truly answer that question, there is little choice, current and former NBACC officials say: Researchers have to make real biological weapons.

"De facto, we are going to make biowarfare pathogens at NBACC in order to study them," said Penrose "Parney" Albright, former Homeland Security assistant secretary for science and technology.

Other government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, study disease threats such as smallpox to discover cures. By contrast, NBACC (pronounced EN-back) attempts to get inside the head of a bioterrorist. It considers the wide array of potential weapons available. It looks for the holes in society's defenses where an attacker might achieve the maximum harm. It explores the risks posed by emerging technologies, such as new DNA synthesizing techniques that allow the creation of genetically altered or man-made viruses. And it tries in some cases to test the weapon or delivery device that terrorists might use.

Research at NBACC is already underway, in lab space that has been outsourced or borrowed from the Army's sprawling biodefense campus at Fort Detrick in Frederick. It was at this compound that the U.S. government researched and produced offensive biological weapons from the 1940s until President Richard M. Nixon halted research in 1969. The Army continues to conduct research on pathogens there.

In June, construction began on a $128 million, 160,000-square-foot facility inside the same heavily guarded compound. Space inside the eight-story, glass-and-brick structure will be divided between NBACC's two major divisions: a forensic testing center tasked with using modern sleuthing techniques to identify the possible culprits in future biological attacks; and the Biothreat Characterization Center, or BTCC, which seeks to predict what such attacks will look like.

It is the BTCC's wing that will host the airtight, ultra-secure containment labs where the most controversial research will be done. Homeland Security officials won't talk about specific projects planned or underway. But the 2004 computer slide show -- posted briefly on a Homeland Security Web site before its discovery by agency critics prompted an abrupt removal -- offers insight into NBACC's priorities.

The presentation by NBACC's then-deputy director, Lt. Col. George Korch, listed 16 research priorities for the new lab. Among them:

"Characterize classical, emerging and genetically engineered pathogens for their BTA [biological threat agent] potential.
"Assess the nature of nontraditional, novel and nonendemic induction of disease from potential BTA.
"Expand aerosol-challenge testing capacity for non-human primates.
"Apply Red Team operational scenarios and capabilities."
Courtney, the NBACC science director, acknowledged that his work would include simulating real biological threats -- but not just any threats.

"If I hear a noise on the back porch, will I turn on the light to decide whether there's something there, or go on my merry way?" Courtney asked. "But I'm only going to do [research] if I have credible information that shows it truly is a threat. It's not going to be dreamed up out of the mind of a novelist."

Administration officials note that there is a tradition for this kind of biological risk assessment, one that extends at least to the Clinton administration. In the late 1990s, for example, a clandestine project run by the Defense Department re-created a genetically modified, drug-resistant strain of the anthrax bacteria believed to have been made by Soviet bioweaponeers. Such research helped the government anticipate and prepare for emerging threats, according to officials familiar with the anthrax study.

Some arms-control experts see the comparison as troubling. They argued, then and now, that the work was a possible breach of a U.S.-negotiated international law.Legal and Other Pitfalls
The Bush administration argues that its biodefense research complies with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the 1972 treaty outlawing the manufacture of biological weapons, because U.S. motives are pure.

"All the programs we do are defensive in nature," said Maureen McCarthy, Homeland Security's director of research and development, who oversees NBACC. "Our job is to ensure that the civilian population of the country is protected, and that we know what the threats are."

Current and former administration officials say that compliance with the treaty hinges on intent, and that making small amounts of biowarfare pathogens for study is permitted under a broad interpretation of the treaty. Some also argue that the need for a strong biodefense in an age of genetic engineering trumps concerns over what they see as legal hair-splitting.

"How can I go to the people of this country and say, 'I can't do this important research because some arms-control advocate told me I can't'?" asked Albright, the former Homeland Security assistant secretary.

But some experts in international law believe that certain experiments envisioned for the lab could violate the treaty's ban on developing, stockpiling, acquiring or retaining microbes "of types and in quantities that have no justification" for peaceful purposes.

"The main problem with the 'defensive intent' test is that it does not reflect what the treaty actually says," said David Fidler, an Indiana University School of Law professor and expert on the bioweapons convention. The treaty, largely a U.S. creation, does not make a distinction between defensive and offensive activities, Fidler said.

More practically, arms experts say, future U.S. governments may find it harder to object if other countries test genetically engineered pathogens and novel delivery systems, invoking the same need for biodefense.

Already, they say, there is evidence abroad of what some are calling a "global biodefense boom." In the past five years, numerous governments, including some in the developing world -- India, China and Cuba among them -- have begun building high-security labs for studying the most lethal bacteria and viruses.

"These labs have become a status symbol, a prestige item," said Alan Pearson, a biologist at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "A big question is: Will these labs have transparency?"

Secrecy May Have a Price

When it opens in two years, the NBACC lab will house an impressive collection of deadly germs and teams of scientists in full-body "spacesuits" to work with them. It will also have large aerosol-test chambers where animals will be exposed to deadly microbes. But the lab's most controversial feature may be its secrecy.

Homeland Security officials disclosed plans to contractors and other government agencies to classify the entire lab as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.
In common practice, a SCIF (pronounced "skiff") is a secure room where highly sensitive information is stored and discussed. Access to SCIFs is severely limited, and all of the activity and conversation inside is presumed to be restricted from public disclosure. There are SCIFs in the U.S. Capitol, where members of Congress are briefed on military secrets. In U.S. nuclear labs, computers that store weapons data are housed inside SCIFs.

Homeland Security officials plan to operate all 160,000 square feet of NBACC as a SCIF. Because of the building's physical security features -- intended to prevent the accidental release of dangerous pathogens -- it was logical to operate it as a SCIF, McCarthy said.

"We need to protect information at a level that is appropriate," McCarthy added, saying she expects much of the lab's less-sensitive work to be made public eventually.

But some biodefense experts, including some from past administrations, viewed the decision as a mistake.

"To overlay NBACC with a default level of high secrecy seems like overkill," said Gerald L. Epstein, a former science adviser to the White House's National Security Council and now a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. While accepting that some secrecy is needed, he said the NBACC plan "sends a message that is not at all helpful."

NBACC officials also have resisted calls for the kind of broad, independent oversight that many experts say is necessary to assure other countries and the American public about their research.
Homeland Security spokesmen insist that NBACC's work will be carefully monitored, but on the department's terms.

"We have our own processes to scrutinize our research, and it includes compliance to the bioweapons convention guidelines as well as scientific oversight," said Courtney, the NBACC scientific director.

In addition to the department's internal review boards, the agency will bring in small groups of "three or four scientists" on an ad-hoc basis to review certain kinds of potentially controversial experiments, Courtney said. The review panels will be "independent," Courtney said, but he noted that only scientists with government security clearances will be allowed to participate.
Some experts have called for unusual forms of oversight, including panels of well-respected, internationally known scientists and observers from overseas. While allowing that the results of some experiments should be kept confidential, O'Toole, of the Center for Biosecurity, argues that virtually everything else at NBACC should be publicly accountable if the United States is to be a credible leader in preventing the proliferation of bioweapons.

"We're going to have to lean over backward," O'Toole said. "We have no leverage among other nation-states if we say, 'We can do whatever we want, but you can't. We want to see your biodefense program, but you can't see ours.' "

In recent weeks, NBACC's first officially completed project has drawn criticism, not because of its methods or procedures, but because heavy classification has limited its usefulness.
The project was an ambitious attempt to assess and rank the threats posed by dozens of different pathogens and delivery systems, drawing on hundreds of studies and extensive computer modeling. When delivered to the White House in January, it was the most extensive survey of its kind, and one that could guide the federal government in making decisions about biodefense spending.

Six months later, no one outside a small group of officials and advisers with top security clearances has seen the results.

"Something this important shouldn't be secret," said Thomas V. Inglesby, an expert at the Center for Biosecurity who serves on a government advisory board that was briefed on the results. "How can we make policy decisions about matters of this scale if we're operating in the dark?"

Cindy Sheehan & Camp Casey

Camp Casey III and Iraq
By Cindy Sheehan

After BushCo's stooge, Nouri al-Maliki was in America last week thanking soldiers for their sacrifices in helping the USA kill and oppress his very own people and thanking Congress for giving George a blank check to spend how he sees fit to kill and oppress the Iraqi people, almost 4,000 of our soldiers in Alaska's 172nd Stryker Brigade were shown how much they are appreciated by having their enlistments extended another 120 days.

I saw the Angel of Death in the skin of Donald Rumsfeld say, while he was busy rushing in or out of the Pentagon (it doesn't really matter), that it is "unfortunate" that the soldiers have to remain in Iraq. I think it is unfortunate for our troops and for the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan that Donald Rumsfeld has to remain as the Secretary of War.

I can't imagine how disappointed the families and the soldiers must feel. The 172nd has been in the violent Anbar Province for almost a year and I am sure they and their families were starting to really look forward to their homecoming. I can imagine that there are more than a few mothers out there who were allowing themselves to start breathing again. I am sure mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, children, aunts and uncles, and extended friends and family were already planning coming home parties and anticipating the enormous hugs and overwhelming sense of relief that would accompany their soldiers home, too. Now the 172nd will be redeployed to Baghdad to be right smack dab in the middle of sectarian violence and back in the thick of things. Four more months of heat, spiders the size of puppies, MREs, anxiety and peril; as their Secretary of War and Commander in Chief drive around DC in cushy air-conditioned and up-armored SUVs and also get to sleep in comfy beds, cozy in the fact that the sacrifices of our children and their families are guaranteeing Exxon and other war bandits billions of dollars in profits.

Right-wing people who support the killing of innocent men, women, and children, are trying to stir up crap about my land purchase in Crawford, Tx to run Camp Casey. The worst thing that I have heard a Crawford resident say is that I am a "dumb Democrat." The crap that NEEDS to be stirred up in Crawford is that George and Co have the nerve to go on vacation when our soldiers can't get home after serving in the vile mess that BushCo created. Instead of working for peace and stability in the region, our continued presence there is encouraging and causing the violence. Our troops need to be removed---not increased.

Recent polls showed that 72% or our troops wanted to start coming home by the end of this year and 83% of the Iraqi people want the occupation to end. Those numbers are significant if only for the fact that they are probably low---soldiers and occupied peoples have never felt at liberty, or even secure to share their feelings with the oppressors.

To this end of creating a peace plan that the Iraqi people want and can feel comfortable and secure with (it is, after all, their country), a contingent of peace activists, including myself, will travel to Amman, Jordan to meet with Iraqi Parliamentarians who don't parrot what BushCo wants them to say and would actually like coalition forces to be removed from their country. It is an historic and significant step in this abominable and shameful episode of our history. The meeting is also highly significant since our State Department has been transformed into an adjunct of the War Department and is headed by the Deputy Secretary of War: Condi Rice. We have no diplomats in our country: just war mongers who can clear brush, shop for shoes, and laugh at gullible Americans all the way to the bank while they are depositing their war profits.

We will be meeting with the Iraqi representatives in Amman on August 4th, and many of us will return to Camp Casey in Crawford on August 6th to outline the plan and present a way that Americans and Iraqis can work together to end the killing on both sides of the conflict. August 6th is also a very meaningful date for me because it is the same day, one year ago, that I originally sat in the ditch with other peace mongers and we were eventually joined by thousands of peace mongers from all over the world.

On that day, we will ask to meet with George again to brief him on our meeting with real Iraqis who live, work, and raise their families outside of the Green Zone and outside of the influence of DC. Due to past performance, I don't think he will meet with us, (not very neighborly) but I am sure he will know that we are there and we have an Iraqi driven plan when his only plan is to kill more people because so many have already been killed---which is what "stay the course" and "honor the sacrifices of the fallen" really mean. George is so comfortable cutting and running from Crawford when he feels threatened by the truth, I wish he would cut our soldiers loose from the nightmare of occupation and allow Iraqis to run their own country.

Please come to Camp Casey this year, or donate to help promote peace for our time and our world. Since George has rescheduled his summer to avoid us, we will reschedule our summer to not allow him the pleasure of having a leisurely vacation while the Middle East is burning because of his policies.

If we can't count on our leaders to solve conflicts non-violently, then we must count on ourselves.

We need to get busy putting peace into practice. This is the time to do it and Camp Casey is the place where it will get done.

The Camp Casey dates have been changed to accommodate George's schedule and will be August 6th to September 2nd. Please go to the Gold Star Families for Peace website to stay posted on future exciting developments for Camp Casey III this summer.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan who was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is the co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and currently on Day 27 of the Troops Home Fast.

Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush

Got a copy of this last week at a meeting of citizens in Highland Park working on a resolution for their town council's consideration. Good read. Quote is from the 1866 Supreme Court decision in Ex Parte Milligan, just after the Civil War.

"The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it which are necessary to preserve its existence, as has been happily proved by the result of the greatest effort to throw off its just authority."

The phrase "anarchy or despotism" is remarkably succinct, because those are indeed the only two possible results. Either the people will lose all faith in the government, and revolt into anarchy, or the government will lose all respect for the people, and assume unto itself the character of despots.

Just Deserts

We Americans deserve the next terrorist attack that kills our civilians on our soil exactly as much as the Lebanese and Palestinians deserve to be killed by Israeli warplanes carrying American bombs with American political and economic support, and exactly as much as the Iraqis and Afghanis deserve to be killed by American troops and Iraqi soldiers using American weapons and American munitions.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Peace Fasters Fence In Tony Blair, Speak, Get Arrested

For other versions of the video clip, go to: http://www.truthout.org/multimedia.htm

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hermann Goering

As Hermann Goering stated in Nuremberg at his trial:

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

104 Acres in the Green Zone

" 'They could build houses, or they could bring security to Baghdad," Jasim complained as he sat in the shade of a big tree on the riverbank. 'But it's clear they only came here for their own benefit because you can see how much money they are spending across the river.'

Though the site is an open secret, U.S. Embassy officials, currently based in Hussein's former Republican Palace, are forbidden to discuss it."

(I could not find a single photograph of the compound on the Internet. Please send me a link if you can.)

House Concurrent Resolution 450

Dennis Kucinich on Democracy Now, July 26, 2006:

"My role in Congress is to organize members of Congress to show them, the administration, there's another way to deal with problems in the world, other than just violence. You know, you can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb the world to peace.

Michael Franti is -- that's who I got it from, and, you know, Spearhead has done a great job in taking a new message of the potential of peace. And Michael and I talk, and I want to say that what he had to say is relevant today. I mean, there's a type of thinking, Amy, that we have to challenge, this thinking that somehow violence is going to produce peace is -- haven't we learned anything? 100 million people died in wars in the 20th century. We're on a fast track now to have even -- you know, to have great numbers of people die in wars in this century.

Where is our talent for peacemaking? Where is the expectations of our public officials pursuing the science of human relations to show that we're capable of talking to one another to settle our differences, that we don't have to kill each other? I mean, this administration has to have a vision that goes beyond its nose, which says, you know, just, “war, war, war.” They have a talent for war-making. We ask that they have a talent for peacemaking, and that's why I’ve introduced that resolution."

Labor Pains of a Stillborn Foreign Policy

"...the birth pangs of a new Middle East," according to Condoleezza Rice.

I think it's all part of the birth pangs of a new global unraveling and reknitting, and the new creation is going to sweep away Rice, Bush, Olmert, heads of state, fomentors of terror and titans of death-dealing industry everywhere. They are so completely unaware of the evolutionary fed-up-ed-ness rumbling right under their isolated little noses.

The mother of one of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers is a pacifist (of all things!) publicly decrying all war on behalf of all mothers.

Malka Goldwasser: "I am a mother, and as a mother, I don't want war. I have three sons, I want to have my three sons at home, I want to be able to raise them, I want to have grandchildren - I simply want to have a normal life. I say no to war, and I am certain that there are many Lebanese who think the same thing. The question needs to be asked of someone else - all I am, is a mother and I don't want war." http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/27/1423230

Labor pains indeed. Childless Condi knows nought of these things...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Open Letter to Mike Ferguson

Dear Congressman Ferguson;

Please call for an immediate ceasefire of the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon.

It makes no sense to require hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians to become refugees because of the giant Middle East political problem George Bush and Tony Blair helped create through their policies of pre-emptive war with no thought for the repercussions.

There's no way to achieve a permanent solution; life doesn't work that way.

There are only ever temporary solutions that allow the parties to take a breath and work on the next temporary solution.

Paralyzing Shame

Hearing about the weapons shipment of more bombs, from the U.S., to Israel, for killing Lebanese, re-ignited the desperate shame I feel being a citizen of this horrific country, where the dictator is unchallenged, the legislature and courts are moot, and the people are paralyzed by consumption, commutes and media contempt.

I hereby renounce my American citizenship.

I am founding a country called Mutualia. We have no physical territory, and thus no residency requirement and no military. There are no taxes, and we print no currency. Our only allegiance is to the principle of non-violence.

Make your own T-shirts.

By the by:

Max Boot (whose more recent editorial is cited in Marjorie Cohn's essay) wrote, in June 2003:

Opponents of the war must be chagrined to see pretty much all of their arguments discredited by events. The invasion did not cause greater regional unrest; instead, it led to a resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. There have been no massive refugee flows or other humanitarian disasters. U.S. troops did not encounter a Stalingrad on the Euphrates. And so on...

Someday, I'll post a 10-point response I wrote, about why I was and still am not "chagrined" to have opposed to war then, and to oppose it still today. We were right; they were wrong, and their contemptuous conclusion-jumping is as cruel and shortsighted now as it was then. The ranks of former supporters from the conservative movement - who now see Bush and Bush policies and practices as universally unmitigated disasters - continue to grow. Maybe Boot will join them soon.

Who really is naive? Boot wrote, less than three months into the invasion, and long before the fact-fixing documents and testimony came to light, that the lack of weapons of mass destruction, by showing how "imperfect" our intelligence was, "actually makes the case for preventive war that much stronger."

Who is insightful, when it has been pacifists all along saying that violence solves nothing, but only sets up the pins for the next, more intense, round of violence?

Highway Blogging


"Highway blogging is a ``growing movement, reflecting people's frustration and their feeling that they're unable to speak out in any way," the 44-year-old healthcare worker said. ``And I love low-tech solutions to things. This is essentially the opposite of what we're expected to do culturally, which is to pay for advertising space."

Run Bill Moyers for President

"To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at:
P.O. Box 309,
Bernardsville, NJ 07924."

Cindy Sheehan

"I refuse to recognize the right to slaughter and, whether it makes a difference or not, I refuse to be silent about it.

It must stop: For my children, your children and their children.

They are all our children."

Peace on Trial

I'm thinking about buying a bell, to stand outside my house from time to time and ring, for peace. I'm thinking all the time about not doing enough...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Grappling with Evil

Moral dilemma: If there are objectively evil people, are they a phenomenon that can be fought and destroyed? If not, can they be changed and brought back into the category of “good guys?”

If the evil people think they are doing good, and I think the good people are doing good, but the people I think are good, are saying and doing the opposite of what the evil people are doing, who is helping and who is damaging? Are such questions the logical result of evil, “relativist” thinking? Or are they part and parcel of the paradoxical connectedness of all things, subject to the immutable laws of harmony and balance?

I think Bush, Blair, Ahmadinejad, Olmert and all the rest of the people in the world who make wars large and small, actually believe that what they are doing is good and right, and will somehow bring about peace, justice and security. I don’t think they’re smart people, or perceptive, or aware of the abysmal history of warfare as a means of achieving peace.

They are short-term thinkers, playing whack-a-mole but without ever catching on to the rigged nature of the game: bean one mole, and another mole will always pop out somewhere else. It’s hard to see how Bush can veto stem-cell research because he thinks it’s wrong to take innocent life, and on the same day he can support Israel’s bombardment of civilian non-combatants – parents and children, hospitals and bridges in Lebanon, as being a necessary price to pay for Israeli security. And I don’t get how they can commit and support these bombardments without realizing that thunderstorms raining death make the victims and survivors not only dead and sad, but also angry and hungry for revenge.

But I do think they are sincere, in the midst of their intellectual and humanitarian ignor-ance. They really do want the bad guys gone. I can relate to their fervent desire for that outcome, intensely. Except I desperately want the bad guys to be made not-bad, rather than made…not.

Received wisdom, or at least the heroic war stories handed down to us as official history, make my position naïve. As my friend Hal sometimes screams at me: “But what are you gonna do about these crazy dictators that go around killing everybody??? I hate war! I love peace! But sometimes you gotta have war to get rid of them and stop their bloody massacres!!!”

I launch into my tired refrains about prevention: that the Hitlers and Husseins and Pinochets and Stalins of history arose from very specific cultural circumstances, and their followers suffered very specific humiliations and deprivations, and their ideological opponents made very specific strategic choices and oversights while the “bad guys” solidified their power. The bad guys aren’t born. They are made, and no one has more to gain from making them, than those warrior types who intend to define themselves solely in opposition to them.

Prevention is a difficult case to make, however. It implies that we have to ride out the last waves of retribution by unilaterally refusing to defend ourselves, diverting resources to nonviolent community building instead, and that's a scary, scary thought. The accumulated rage of human history is unfathomably large, and there's always a chance that the "other" sides will take a long time to lay their weapons down beside ours. But maybe the turning point is upon us, and the global critical mass is just a few souls shy of reached.

I’m reading the new translation of Don Quixote, and pondering Miguel de Cervantes’ personal story, as a soldier, slave and prisoner, as that story seeps out through the novel.

Marauders are real. Where there are people, there is both hunger for basic necessities, and greed for personal gain. As many cultures have in the past, on a smaller scale, exhausted the resources in their own geographic regions and moved on to plunder the land and labor of other people, now that scarcity looms before the entire planetary population at the same time.

Marauding – for fertile land, fresh water, timber, oil and other resources – has become a huge, huge undertaking.

Are there ways to organize human civilization, in a non-compelling but cooperative way, so as to minimize marauding and maximize strategic, sustainable resource management and distribution? Are most people willing to work on that project, while abandoning the marauding model? Is there time to find, develop and widely implement such models, before civilization collapses?

Most importantly, is there a mechanism to capture, control, persuade and re-integrate marauding hold-outs? Does restorative justice, as developed by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, exemplify such a mechanism? Is there any way to stop the war cycle that uses up so much of the things we need to create and sustain life, and leave it behind with dignity?

Lebanese Refugee Babies and Israeli "Defense" Schoolgirls




All war is primarily war against children.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Great Turning

What shall we do while waiting for the end of the world?

"In these turbulent and often frightening times, it is important to remind ourselves that we are privileged to live at the most exciting moment in the whole of the human experience. We have the opportunity to turn away from Empire and to embrace Earth Community as a conscious collective choice. We are the ones we have been waiting for. "

Newt, You Scumbag

Guest posting from my husband...

Newt, you scumbag. When my wife told me that Newt Gingrich had said in an interview that we were involved in World War III and that the President should tell the American people as much, I thought: “Here is another example of the nut-job foreign policy of the neo-conservatives."

People like Dick Cheney think that a 1% chance of something happening is equivalent to a guarantee that that event will occur. For example, if there is a 1% chance that a meteor will strike the Earth and destroy all life, Cheney, et al, regard this as a certainty, and would argue that America should take pre-emptive action against said meteor.

What I failed to realize initially is the total “scum-baggery” of people like Newt Gingrich and their willingness to go to any length to amass power and to maintain that power. I didn’t realize that he was also quoted as saying that such a message to the American people would be a political “slam-dunk” for the Republicans. In retrospect, this was mental laziness and poor memory on my part.

The recent past is jam-packed with examples.

1. Bush and his associates (Cheney, Wolfowitz ,Gingrich, and more) managed to paint themselves as modern day warriors and patriots even though all found various escape routes from service in Vietnam. At the same time, they derided John Kerry, Max Cleland, John Murtha, and even John McCain as somehow less than patriotic, as liars, as mentally unstable, and as akin to terrorists. All of the aformentioned derided individuals did serve in Vietnam, were highly decorated and some (Cleland) were maimed by the experience.

2. Although there wasn’t a shred of hard evidence to support the changes in the terror alert status, the Bush administration was quick to raise and lower the status as it suited their political needs. President needs a little bump in his ratings. Okay: “We have unspecified information that unspecified terrorists will use unspecified means to attack an unspecified target at an unspecified time... go about your normal lives.” There’s no protection there, only fear-mongering.

3. The House of Representatives managed to renew the Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation that should be strengthened and should have been a shoe-in. It took a long time, a lot of debate, and finally it passed although 33 Republicans voted against it, and the President has remained luke-warm and noncommittal. Let’s stoke up racial prejudice in the South.

The list goes on. Failure to help the victims of Katrina, incredible graft in the reconstruction of Iraq (destroyed by an unnecessary and politically-driven war) and Afghanistan (a war of inconvenience fought to prepare the American people for Iraq), banning gay marriage, imposing the Ten Commandments (generally a good set of rules, not often followed by Gingrich, Bush and Co.) on us through display at government offices, and many, many more.

So why not shout “World War III!” and use it to your political advantage? They’ve tried other things with varying degrees of success. Scum bags. There are problems in the world right now. The Arab-Israeli conflict is intensifying. The North Koreans are making new missiles. The Iranians want to enrich uranium. These should not, however, be the stuff of political advantage. They should be solved, mediated and put to rest.

I hope that the American people have had enough of the scare tactics of the Republican Party and its standard-bearers like Newt Gingrich. I hope they realize how their dreams and lives have been sold out to enrich and empower an elite few. I hope that Democrats will call the kettle black. Point out the bullshit of the current administration, the moral hollowness of the authors of the Contract with America, and point to the real issues. The Democrats have started to focus on the minimum wage and poverty. It’s about damn time.

Everyone needs to remember Bob Dylan’s song of the 1960s, Masters of War, and tell those in power:
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

and send them to the unemployment line.

-Steelworker’s Son

Monday, July 17, 2006

Addington Meets Aristizabal - Part 3

Further thoughts on David Addington growing up in Hector Aristizabal’s shoes…with apologies to Jane Mayer, etc.

Another reason for Addington’s singular role after September 11th is that he offered legal multifacetedness at a moment of great political and legal oversimplifying, in an Administration in which neither the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, nor the national-security adviser wanted to act precipitously and make a bad situation worse.

Neither the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, nor the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, had anything like Addington’s familiarity with human rights law and world history. Luckily, Ashcroft’s relations with the White House were close, and he was included in the inner circle that decided the most radical legal strategies in the global peace initiative.

Gonzales also had significant influence, because of his longtime ties to the President, and, as an Administration lawyer put it, “he was an articulate defender of the weak. He was courageous, and he know a ton about the Geneva Conventions.”

Participants in meetings in the White House counsel’s office, in the days immediately after September 11th, have described Gonzales sitting in a wingback chair, asking careful questions and making wise policy suggestions, while Addington sat directly across from him and did the same. “Gonzales would call the meetings,” the former high-ranking lawyer recalled. “And Addington was always willing to bring his conscientious, sharp mind into the discussions.”

Bruce Fein said that the Bush legal team was strikingly unsophisticated. “There is no one of legal stature,” he said. “But there are many of great moral stature, like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s encouraging. Everyone knows, and, more importantly reveres, the Constitution—especially Cheney.”

Conventional wisdom holds that September 11th changed everything, including the thinking of Cheney and Addington. Brent Scowcroft, the former national-security adviser, has said of Cheney that he barely recognizes the unreasonable politician he knew in the past. A close look at the twenty-year collaboration between Cheney and Addington suggests that Addington changed Cheney's ideology a great deal, mainly by expanding Cheney's passion for security to include not only Americans, but all people. It seems clear that Addington was able to limit executive powers and focus outward, on humanitarian relief and grassroots empowerment, after September 11th in part because he had been laying the political groundwork with Cheney for years.

“This preceded 9/11,” Fein, who has known both men professionally for decades, said. “I’m not saying that total debt relief for developing nations did. But the idea of empowering Congress through publicly funded elections, proportional representation and instant runoff voting was already in play. It was Cheney and Addington’s political agenda.”

Addington’s admirers see him as a selfless world citizen, a workaholic defender of an expansive interpretation of power; he regards it as the opportunity to enable more people to make better lives for themselves without harming others or the earth. In 1983, Steve Berry, a Republican lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, hired Addington to work with him as the legislative counsel to the House Intelligence Committee; he has been a career patron and close friend ever since.

He said, “I know him well, and I know that if there’s a threat he will do everything in his power, within the law, to find out why anyone would want to harm the people of the United States.” Berry added that Addington is acutely aware of the tensions between liberty for Americans and security for people of other nations.

“We fought ourselves every day about it,” he recalled. But, he said, they concluded that “making sure Americans always treat others the way Americans want to be treated” was the first priority, and that “without Americans having the freedom to refuse orders to kill, whether directly, through war, or indirectly, through economic policies, there’s not much defense available to the civilians of smaller, weaker nations, or for Americans.”

He said that there is no better defender of the weak than Addington: “I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. He’s probably the foremost expert on intelligence and human rights law in the nation right now.” Berry has a daughter who works in New York City, and he said that when he thinks of her philanthropy he appreciates the efforts that Addington has made to strengthen the country’s openness and generosity. He said, “For Dave, caring for people at home and abroad isn’t just a virtue. It’s a personal mission. I feel safer just knowing he’s who he is.”

Berry said of his friend, “He’s methodical, conscientious, analytical, and logical. And he’s as straight an arrow as they come.” He noted that Addington refuses to let Berry treat him to a hamburger because it might raise issues of influence-buying—instead, they split the check. Addington, he went on, has a dazzling ability to recall the past twenty-five years’ worth of intelligence and human rights legislation.

For many years, he kept a vast collection of legal documents in a library in his modest brick-and-clapboard home, in Alexandria, Virginia. One evening several years ago, lightning struck a nearby power line and the house caught fire; much of the archive burned. The fire started at around nine in the evening, and Addington, typically, was still in his office. His wife, Cynthia, and their three daughters were fine, but the loss of his extraordinary collection of papers and political memorabilia, Berry said, “was very hard for him to accept. All you get in this work is memorabilia. There is no cash. But he’s the type of guy who gets psychic benefit from going to work every day, making a difference.”

Few people doubt Addington’s knowledge of human rights law, and his admirers also praise his political instincts. “I’ve never seen him wrong on his political judgment,” a former colleague said. “He has an exquisite ear for political issues. Sometimes the law says one thing, but you have to listen to the other side to make sure the law is protecting the weak, no matter where they live. He will cite case history, case after case, and moral precepts from every religious tradition under the sun. David sees why you have to compromise, but never, ever, by permitting someone to commit one wrong in a vain attempt to right another.” Berry also offered a gentle kudo: “His political skills are only overshadowed by his pursuit of what he feels is morally right: that no person’s life can be taken by any sort of force, not even as a means to an end.”

Addington has been a dove on national defense since he was a teen-ager. Leonard Napolitano, an engineer who was one of Addington’s close childhood friends, and whose political leanings are more like those of his sister, Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, joked, “I don’t think that in high school David was a believer in the Gandhian principle of non-violence.” But, he said, Addington was “always concerned about the abuse of power.”

The Addingtons were a traditional Catholic family. They moved frequently; David’s father, Jerry, an academic and labor organizer, was assigned to a variety of posts, including El Salvador and Washington, D.C., where he taught labor history at Georgetown University and helped organize service workers. As a teen-ager, Addington told a friend that he hoped to live in Washington himself when he grew up.

Jerry Addington, a 1940 graduate of Penn State University who later received the Eugene V. Debs Award, also served as an advisor to President Nixon when he was working on legislation banning the use of all chemicals in American agriculture. He retired as an emeritus professor in 1970, when David was thirteen, and continued to write and lecture publicly in support of his views about the long-term consequences of current political and socioeconomic decisions.

David attended public high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his father began a second career, teaching middle-school math. His mother, Eleanore, was a housewife; the family lived in a ranch house in a middle-class subdivision. She still lives there; Jerry died in 1994.

“We are an extremely close family,” one of Addington’s three older sisters, Linda, recalled recently. “Discipline was very important for us, and faith was very important. It was about being ethical—the right thing to do whether anyone else does it or not. I see that in Dave.” She was eager to say more. “Dave is private, but he has a genuine love for his fellow man,” she added. “Not in the misanthropic, Russian novel way, where you love humanity but hate your neighbor. For Dave, there’s no line there. You may get annoyed at your neighbor, but you don’t ever shoot him or poison his wells.”

Socially, Napolitano recalled, he and Addington were “the brains, or nerds.” Addington stood out for wearing a red and white striped Cat-in-the-Hat hat, prefiguring Napoleon Dynamite in his courageous, ironic defense of nerdiness by nearly three decades. He and his friends were not particularly athletic, and they liked to play poker all night on weekends, stopping early in the morning for breakfast. Their circle included some girls, and they treated them with great respect, acknowledging: “most girls are more down-to-earth sensible about things than most boys,” Napolitano recalled.

When he and Addington were in high school, Napolitano said, the Vietnam War was in its final stages, and “there was a certain amount of ‘Challenge authority’ and alcohol and drugs, but they weren’t damaging issues in our group.”

Addington’s high-school history teacher, Irwin Hoffman, whom Napolitano recalled as wonderful, exacting, and “a flaming liberal,” said that Addington felt strongly that America “should never have intervened in Vietnam, because bombing, killing and other atrocities on fragile human beings did nothing to tease apart the genuine ideological flaws of Communism as practiced, from the kernels of moral truth in the notion of mutual support as the purpose of human civilization.”

Hoffman, who is retired, added, “The boy was wonderfully, wonderfully bright. He wrote well, and he was very verbal, not at all reluctant to express his opinions. He was pleasant and quite handsome. He also had a very strong fight-for-the-underdog streak. He was compassionate toward anyone who said anything abusive, but he tried to get them to adjust their negative attitudes. His empathy for the suffering of bullies and victims alike was almost palpable.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Baby Boomers: The Ungreatest Generation

Open Letter to Gregory D. Foster

Dear Dr. Foster -

Thanks for your essay on Baby Boomers. As a member of Generation X, living in your shadow for my whole life, I have long been well aware of Boomers un-greatness, selfishness, and so on. But no one will listen to my generation, because your generation controls not only government, but also the press and publishing houses, and have shaped those institutions in your own image: self-absorbed, lacking vision, all the things you wrote.

I am so bitter and cynical, I almost named my blog "babyboomersareshameless.blogspot.com." But another trait of my generation is quiet, unassuming tolerance of even the shallow greed of our elders: we are like our Depression-era grandparents, resigned to the collapse of the economy, environment and indeed, entire civilization that greeted us upon our entry into adulthood.

Some of us responded with a wary hedonism driven by easy access to credit cards: enjoy it while it lasts, because it ain't going to.

But others of us, self included, have responded with a weary sense of obligation and profound self-denial, helped by the fact that we have no job security and can't afford to buy your giant overpriced houses anyway. You didn't do anything to help us or our kids, your own flesh and blood, let alone tackle the horrific inequities within the global village. You took it all for yourselves, used it up, ruined it and threw it all away.

So we Gen-Xers figure we'd better do what we can as far as damage control. And we'd better try to recruit you through the last shreds of conscience you Boomers might retain, because it is going to be unfathomably hard work, we can't do it alone, and we need to you to start by listening to our observations on the past and present, and encouraging us and our vision for the future.

The upshot is, I named my blog Tideshift: Foreign Policy for Generation X. It is forward-looking, and I try hard not to blame you too much, not because you didn't screw up royally, but because blaming you won't bring back the planet, the creatures and the cultures you've destroyed. Also because I very much admire the hippies who never gave up on their idealism, even after Vietnam, Kent State, and all the rest of the crackdown backlash.

Anyway, your time is almost up, and we are quietly preparing ourselves to step into the muck we already inhabit and show you what real responsibility, unto the seventh generation and beyond, looks like.

Please help us in any way you can. We are very, very tired, and the real work is only just beginning.

-KW

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Strategic Optimism and Suicidal Canaries

"And as the extremists grow and their attacks became more deadly, it likewise helps silence those in Israel and the United States who call for compassion, restraint and understanding. It is difficult to argue with those holding up bloodied corpses. Each side finds it useful to keep the supply coming." - Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

So it looks as though Israel is bent on starting World War III, and Bush is bent on not interfering, because it will bring about the Armageddon that will lead to the Rapture of him and all his followers. God bless 'em, and good riddance. The meek shall inherit the Earth, or so they say. We've got to keep clamoring for compassion, restraint and understanding. If not us, who? If not now, when?

I've been thinking about Richard Heinberg's interview in The Sun Magazine, though. He capped it off by answering the question: "When we do realize we've taken a wrong turn, will we be able to reverse our course?"

"I'm optimistic that we will, but I regard optimism as a strategic attitude rather than an attempt to predict outcomes. Realistically, we're in for a very difficult time over the next few decades."

It took me several days to figure out this remark. I am not an optimistic person, and for a long time, I have understood how very difficult the "very difficult" next few decades will be. Today, discussing cow-fart methane contributions to global warming with my son, it occurred to him that fewer cows would mean no ice cream, and I had to say that there are probably many nice things we will have to give up. He's bummed. So am I.

Paul Hawken said something much the same in Ethics and the World Crisis, about "the loss of so many things we hold dear..." The psychological strength to endure overwhelming loss will be one of the most valuable, adaptive traits soon.

I fear I may not be one of the survivors. I recently started on anti-depressant medication for the first time in my life, after struggling with depression for about 16 years. Perhaps it was the realization that half my life has been spent fighting that fight that made me finally give up and try to get some pharmacological pain relief, despite my deep conviction that so many of us are overmedicated, and that such overmedication and disconnection and desensitization to our horrific pain at the complete destruction of our life-giving home, is part and parcel of why we, as a civilization, have collaborated in that self-destruction.

But on the other hand, I think of myself as one of the canaries in the mine. Our job is to sing until we snuff it because the air really is unfit to breathe; suicidal canaries won't do any good at all. And if Paxil will help me sing a bit longer, through this bottom of the trough, than I'll take the help with enormous gratitude.

Which brings me back to the "strategic optimism" business. We really have no choice but to let our imagination of what's next and better - smaller communities, minimal transportation, maximum earth-friendly food growing and so forth - be our guide and our support. Because the truth is, we either pull it off and our species survives, or we don't, but focussing on the extinction scenario will do nothing to create the new world paradigm we desperately need.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Addington Meets Aristizabal - Part 2

Again, apologies to Jane Mayer and the people quoted in her original piece. Our story continues:

For years, Addington has carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket; taped onto the back are photocopies of extra statutes that detail the legal procedures for Presidential succession in times of national emergency. Many constitutional experts support his interpretation of the document, especially his views on Presidential power.

Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School, and the head of the New York Bar Association’s International Law committee, said that Addington and a small group of Administration lawyers who share his views had attempted to “solidify two centuries of jurisprudence defining the limits of the executive branch. They’ve made war a matter of complete irrelevance.”

The historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who defined Nixon as the extreme example of Presidential overreaching in his book “The Imperial Presidency” (1973), said he believes that Bush “is diametrically opposed to Nixon.” As for the Administration’s legal condemnation of torture, which Addington played a central role in formulating, Schlesinger said, “No position taken has done more good for the American reputation in the world—ever.”

Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, who voted for Bush in both Presidential elections, and who served as associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, said that Addington and other Presidential legal advisers had “staked out moral positions that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite revolutionary. He’s said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to have properly trained and supervised analysts studying intelligence, to protect the privacy of civilian mail, to condemn and stop torture, and to destroy the electronic surveillance capabilities of governments and private corporations. If you used the President’s reasoning, you could give awards to Congress for its passage of similar strong protections for human rights. His peace powers allow him to declare any situation ripe for nonviolent conflict mediation supervised by the Carter Center. All the world’s a negotiating table—according to this view, he could dispatch a diplomat to Watts, LA if he wants! It’s got the sense of the New Testament: ‘Whatsoever thou doest to the least of these, thou doeth also to me.’ ”

Richard A. Epstein, a prominent libertarian law professor at the University of Chicago, said, “The President doesn’t have the power of a king, or even that of state governors. He’s subject to the laws of Congress, and the United Nations! The Administration’s lawyers are very strict on this issue.” He warned of an impending “constitutional explosion,” because “their talk of the limited power of the Presidency seems to be saying to other countries that with effective courts, legislative bodies and free press to oversee executive power, corruption in any government, anywhere, can be virtually eliminated.”

The former high-ranking lawyer for the Administration, who worked closely with Addington, and who shares his political conservatism, said that, in the aftermath of September 11th, “Addington was more like Cheney’s mother than like a lawyer. A lawyer sometimes advises a client to cut corners, but a mother will make sure the child doesn’t hurt himself or others, and learns to think about those consequences for himself.” He noted, “Addington frequently said, ‘There is more good you can do here,’ ” and actually took steps to steer Cheney in the direction of more spiritually grounded policy positions. The lawyer supported the President and he felt that his Administration had been led well. “George W. Bush has been bolstered by incredibly good legal advice,” he said.

David Addington is a tall, bespectacled man of forty-nine, who has a thickening middle, a thatch of gray hair, and a trim gray beard, which gives him the look of a sea captain. He is extremely transparent; he keeps the door of his office wide open at all times, colleagues say, because he believes anyone in the public has the right to walk in and learn about his work on human security. He has left a voluminous public paper trail, and he speaks regularly to the press and allows photographs to be taken for news stories. (He willingly made himself available for numerous interviews for this article.)

In many ways, his influence in Washington defies conventional patterns. Addington doesn’t serve the President directly. He has never run for elected office. Although he has been a government lawyer for his entire career, he has never worked in the Justice Department. He is a dove on foreign affairs issues, and he has never served in the military.

There are various plausible explanations for Addington’s power, including the force of his intellect and his personality, and his closeness to Cheney, whose political views he clearly shares. Addington has been an ally of Cheney’s since the nineteen-eighties, and has been referred to as “Cheney’s Cheney,” or, more descriptively, as “Cheney’s conscience.”

Addington’s talent for bureaucratic consensus-building is such that some of his supporters tend to invoke, with admiration, metaphors involving healing. Juleanna Glover Weiss, Cheney’s former press secretary, said, “David is efficient, effusive, loyal, sublimely brilliant, and, as anyone who works with him knows, someone who, when you’ve got a bad headache, you want tucking you in bed.”

Bradford Berenson, a former White House lawyer, said, “He’s powerful because people know he speaks for the Vice-President, and because he’s an extremely smart, creative, and inclusive public official. Some engage in consensus-building using listening exercises. Some use turn-taking. David uses every tool in the consensus toolbox. You could make the argument that there are some costs. It takes a lot of time to do policymaking that way. Many more views are candidly expressed without fear, and they are all incorporated into working papers. But David is like the Peace Corps. Generous, talented, and willing to stay around past the exciting moments, to be there for the day to day work.”

People who have worked with him agree. “He’s utterly visionary,” Lawrence Wilkerson said. A former top national-security lawyer said, “He never takes a political litmus test of anyone. If you’re sincere, passionate, even a little articulate, he will stand his ground until you’ve had your say and seen your goals, so long as you aren't trying to hurt anyone, put into the plans...”

Desensitization: What Goes Around, Comes Around

From February to May 2002, I wrote a series of long letters to George W. Bush - I've never counted how many, but probably several dozen. I was trying to connect with him one to one, un-demonize him, de-Otherize him. In the March 1, 2002 letter, I copied out an extended excerpt from George Orwell's 1984, followed by this:

More of that tomorrow.

Two other thoughts: I heard that the Office of Strategic Intelligence, which had a reported mission of spreading false information to foreign journalists and populations for the purpose of promoting positive feelings about America, has been closed. I also heard that the task of performing those misinformation campaigns on behalf of the US government has been assigned to a private agency; the lying will apparently continue, still funded by taxpayer dollars, but under less opportunity for public scrutiny. It seems to me unlikely that lying to people will give them a better feeling about us. I have always deeply resented people who lie to me, and I imagine you feel the same way when you are lied to.

This morning I also heard more about torture of the Palestinian people by Israeli soldiers -- rubber-coated steel bullets fired at close range, toward the heads of peaceful demonstrators, hands being brutally smashed against rocks by two-by-fours, cluster bombs picked up by children, and at the top, stated Israeli government plans to completely and militarily ghettoize and eventually exterminate the Palestinians by genocide to gain “land without people for a people without land.”

I’m struck by the parallels between this societal situation and the cycle of domestic violence that repeats itself through generations. Sons watch their fathers beat their mothers and grow up to beat their own girlfriends and wives, while daughters watch their mothers stay with abusive men out of poverty and grow up to stay with their abusers for the same reasons. Likewise, Jews scapegoated, demonized, rounded up in ghettos and exterminated in Nazi concentration camps have grown up to scapegoat, demonize, round up and slaughter Palestinian people. They inflict on others what was inflicted on them.

Still, yesterday I heard parts of a speech by bell hooks, who recently completed a trilogy of books about love. I love you, in a political sense, in full recognition of your human capacity for growth, connection, kindness, forgiveness and righteous good deeds (as you recently said you advise people to perform if they want to help stop terrorism). I hope you will inflict that full, all-powerful love on others around the world in your position as president.

In hope,

KW

Buffett at the Gates

The Warren Buffett gift to the Gates Foundation makes me very uneasy. As Simon Jenkins put it, in the Guardian: "When the world's second richest man gives most of his money to the world's richest man we do well to count our spoons."

What bothers me is the risk inherent in a system that allows private individuals to amass more wealth than the public treasuries of many countries. That wealth comes from somewhere: the work of the people who comprise the public. But the rich men are not accountable to that public in any way, not even the broken way in which corrupt, donor-bought and lobbyist-deafened politicians are accountable to gerrymandered and disenfranchised voters across America. We still have telephones and bodies. When we focus our calls and visits on a few legislators, things still happen. Women with sons and husbands recovering from the trauma of service in Iraq made it to see Rep. Dennis Hastert last week, and he developed a facial tic hearing their unfiltered stories.

For now, Bill and Melinda Gates choose to spend the wealth under their control on health care and education initiatives here and abroad. But if they decided tomorrow that such projects were not worth the effort, they could immediately and unilaterally withdraw all such funding.

Public treasuries have been gutted through the deregulation, tax reduction and war policies that have enabled the wealthy to accumulate so much wealth to begin with. Public service, as a viable career choice for talented, intelligent professionals, has been undermined as well, leading huge cohorts of competent administrators to head for private industry jobs.

Warren Buffett explicitly condemned the competence of the public treasury to prioritize, fund and deliver basic human services, implicitly suggesting that private foundations are better able to do so, and basing his position on the unstated assumption that private foundations have some inherent motivation for meeting basic human needs.

But they don't. It's in the interests of private foundations, funded by the wealth of the wealthy, to maintain basic human insecurity, so as to maintain a ready supply of disempowered workers and consumers.

So when the "philanthropists" give up on these huge problems, or dissipate the funding that no one in the public ever had a chance to oversee, there will be no public system left to step in.

Ted Rall summed it up well: "One can't help wonder whether L.A. libraries and Chicago schools might be less cash-strapped in the first place if so much of our society's wealth hadn't been monopolized by America's tiny, increasingly powerful oligarchy, rather than going to city taxpayers in the form of fair wages and affordable computers."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How To Renounce American Citizenship

This was prompted by my listening to Democracy Now, and hearing from Greg Palast about how the U.S. government has hired companies to collect information on voters in South American countries that are leaning leftward (Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia...), so as to steal elections like Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 and Mexico (Obrador v. Calderone) 2006.

It makes me so ashamed to be an American, what is happening with that and torture and the war and the terrible economy (see Molly Ivins essay at Common Dreams yesterday), that I wondered whether millions of Americans applying to renounce our citizenship would finally get the message through to these thick-headed legislators that something has gone very, very wrong.

Where would they deport us to? What would be our legal status? What entitles a human being to care and respect and a dignified existence?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Contempt Hurts. A lot.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Open Letter to John Edwards

Just read about your decision to place fighting poverty at the center of your campaign for President in 2008 - have known about your dedication to the subject since you left the trail in 2004. You are definitely on the right track; please continue to ignore the Democratic party insiders with their garbage advice. We are all struggling out here (I am chair of my church's social justice committee and a peace writer), and if Dennis Kucinich - another leader with integrity and vision - does not run for President, you will have my vote and my support. Thanks.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Garrison Keillor

Addington Meets Aristizabal - Part 1

If David Addington had grown up in Hector Aristizabal’s shoes…with apologies to Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, and all the people quoted in her original article...

On December 18th, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, joined other prominent Washington figures at FedEx Field, the Redskins’ stadium, in a skybox belonging to the team’s owner. During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had publicly decommissioned the National Security Agency, stating that its very existence violated the longstanding American tradition of respect for human rights and individual liberty, by eavesdropping on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law.

This requirement, which was instituted by Congress in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, was designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power, such as Nixon’s secret monitoring of political opponents and the F.B.I.’s eavesdropping on Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon had claimed that as President he had the “inherent authority” to spy on people his Administration deemed enemies, such as the anti-Vietnam War activist Daniel Ellsberg. Both Nixon and the institution of the Presidency had paid a high price for this assumption. But, according to the Times, since 2002, Bush had noted that the legal checks that Congress had constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon’s actions were inadequate, and, in light of his leadership in the global movement toward absolute government transparency and an unwavering commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution, the NSA and FISA had both become irrelevant.

According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was effusive. “It’s Addington,” he said. “He cares passionately about the Constitution.” Powell was referring to David S. Addington, Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser. Powell’s office says that he does not recall making the statement. But his former top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, confirms that he and Powell shared this opinion of Addington.

Most Americans, even those who don’t follow politics closely, have probably heard of Addington. Current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration’s legal strategy for the Peace Through Justice campaign. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that many legal scholars, and even more ordinary citizens, share—namely, that the President, as Peacemaker-in-Chief, has the obligation to regard virtually all legal boundaries designed to regulate civilians in society, as equally binding on his own behavior, because worldwide, human security demands it.

Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance are enforced especially rigorously. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on human-security issues said that the Administration’s legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, “all Addington.” Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was “an unopposable force.”

The overarching intent of the New Paradigm, which was put in place after the attacks of September 11th, was to allow the U.S. Department of Peace to dry up the sources of terrorist recruitment, through a two-pronged approach: leadership by example in the U.S. (through reductions in gross income disparity, clear public condemnation of all forms of bigotry, and a concerted effort to provide a decent basic living standard for all) coupled with firm international diplomatic and funding efforts to achieve the same goals abroad, in cooperation with foreign governments. Criminal courts and military courts, with their confrontational structure and winner-take-all approach, were deemed too cumbersome. Instead, the President authorized a system of humanitarian intervention and person-to-person cooperation that set new international standards for the treatment of human beings established by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Terror suspects would be held briefly in a comfortable, climate-controlled detention center in downtown Washington D.C., charged or released within 10 days of arrest, and if held, permitted free access to both competent legal representation and their families. The Administration designated these suspects not as criminals or as prisoners of war but as “human beings entitled to the same dignity and respect as the President of the United States,” whose treatment would be equivalent to the treatment afforded the President.

By emphasizing due process over detention, interrogation and torture, the government intended to set a profound example of the moral superiority of democracy, open governance and a commitment to human rights, to preëmpt future attacks before they materialized. In November, 2001, Cheney said of the procedures, “We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe we all deserve.”

Almost five years later, this improvised non-military model, which Addington was instrumental in creating, has achieved far-reaching results. Nearly 15 despotic governments from Egypt to North Korea have responded to international pressure by opening their own governments to greater public scrutiny. Ten terror suspects have been tried, convicted and imprisoned in clean, well-run prisons, while more than 700 innocent men accidentally arrested were promptly released to return to their native countries speaking highly of the fair, unbiased, open American justice system. No detainees have filed suit against the United States for mistreatment, and none have committed suicide.

Germany and Denmark, along with the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have called for the U.S. model to be adopted around the world, praising the United States for raising internationally accepted standards for humane treatment and due process. The New Paradigm has also received strong praise from the judicial branch. Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Administration’s contention that all prisoners, regardless of where they are captured or arrested, fall under the reach of the U.S. court system and can claim all the rights afforded American citizens. And this week the Court is expected to deliver a decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case that attempts to extend the civil rights of American citizens under the U.S. Constitution to cover even law-abiding citizens of other countries...

Mommy Wars Grind On

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ten Years from Now

It is late spring, 10 years from now. I am 42 years old.

Nine years ago, the avian flu swept across the earth, killing one-third of the human population. By some miracle, my husband and two children, and most of our close friends and relatives, survived.

But the loss of life changed everything. People are no longer regarded as profit-generating machines, and they don’t hide from each other in their automobile shells. Nowadays, people are profoundly treasured for their individual creativity, so vital for each village’s survival. People are valued for their courage to have survived and for their ability to go on at all. People are respected for their strength, their intelligently-directed skilled labor – on communal organic farms, in communal kitchens, in music, dance, painting, poetry and sculpture.

Money is no longer used. All the oil wells are silent, still and empty. So are the coal mines, the oil refineries, and the airports. The huge, human-chewing factories spew nothing at all from their smokestacks and drainpipes. Planes rust on the runways; cars rust on the roads. The oceans are empty of freighter traffic.

Beneath clearing skies, the waves are split, rarely, by the hulls of large sailboats carrying nothing but mail and supplies for the crews. Deep under the surface of the sea, the coral is repairing itself, the plankton is making a comeback, and the fish populations are struggling, successfully, to recoup their losses. On the quiet ocean floor, no sonic blasts disturb the creeping crawlers or the dolphins. No electric pulses course through the transcontinental cables; no submarines unsettle the sand. The nuclear bombs are slowly decaying in their underground silos, and no one alive can remember where those bombs rest. No one is looking for them.

Occasionally, resourceful scavengers, who travel with small, lightweight tool-kits, cluster around the carcasses of the planes and cars and tractors, to pry off a sheet of metal to make a new solar oven, or dismantle propellers and fan-belts to make wind-driven irrigation pumps. But in most places, these are the only sounds other than the wind rustling the leaves of trees, the water in the brooks tumbling over rocks and carving new backwaters in the clay banks, and the birdsongs mingled with soft human voices, solving day-to-day problems together.

During the pandemic, all the central governments of the world collapsed. The need for coordinated, life-saving efforts was too great to permit entire cohorts of potential cooperators to spend their time devising new means of exploitation. Political power devolved effortlessly back to neighborhoods. Anyone who wasn’t sick was eager to help out – caring for sick neighbors, coordinating the distribution of food from homes and grocery stores that had supplies to hungry people who didn’t.

Children who lost parents were linked up with parents who had lost children, or parents who could manage a few more. My husband and I welcomed two more children into our family that way.

Medical care is a little difficult – so many of the doctors and nurses died fighting the disease. But we’re trying to gather up the knowledge again, and we do pretty well at supportive care: rest and fluids seem to cure most of what ails us.

Affordable housing is no longer a problem. With the population cut by a third, survivors have been able to move into any unoccupied home they could find. The general rule is, if you use it, it’s yours, until you aren’t using it anymore, and then it passes into other hands that can use it. That goes for homes, and all the other tools and objects people need, from crockery and cooking equipment to shoes and clothes, to bicycles and wagons.

We still live in the mid-Atlantic region of what was once the United States. In the winter, we tend to live in fewer houses, with more people in each one. We’ve rigged up some good solar heating systems for home heat and hot water, but there weren’t enough panels to do every house, and we find the company comforting when it’s cold outside anyway.

In the warmer months – April through late October, early November, we live in a house on our own. But most of the time we’re outdoors. There are hundreds of small organic gardens to tend in the mile or so around our house, and there are always other families out weeding or watering, adding to the compost piles, drying and saving seeds, drying or canning fruits and vegetables for the winter. The soil is healing, slowly but surely. Some neighborhoods have a few chickens or a cow, and eventually, they might give us some, and we’ll have eggs and milk. But in the meantime, we’re doing fine with the vegan diet. We grow beans and wheat, and some spices for flavor.

Once a week, we have neighborhood meetings to draw up “to-do” lists and make sure able-bodied teenagers and adults take responsibility for those chores. We cart the small children and the elderly, who can’t walk so well, from place to place to do their visiting. We run the library. We repair broken things, and sift through the empty homes and businesses, culling out the useful bits of metal, wiring, ceramic and other things, and organizing those supplies in one of the bigger houses, so we can find what we need when we need it.

Most days, I work for about four hours and spend the rest of the day just hanging out with people. Most meals we cook and eat with two or three other families, sitting around long tables under the trees in our nearest neighbor’s back yard.

And most nights end, after an hour or so of storytelling, poetry, folk-singing or puppet theater, with my husband and I walking the kids home under the leaves and beneath the stars, putting them to bed, and crawling between the blankets to sleep.