tideshift

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why We Went to War

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Voices for a New War

Katherine Pryor's essay, posted at CommonDreams, again browbeats young people for presumed apathy in the face of the national and international crises confronting us.

My response, posted at the essay and here:

Check out the generational theories of Neil Howe and William Strauss - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss_and_Howe

In particular, it’s important that young people - Generation X and Millenials - be aware that we are NOT the same as our Boomer parents and elder siblings. Within the Strauss/Howe analysis, we have a very different role to play - Gen Xers, as “Nomads, are ratty, tough, unwanted, diverse, adventurous, and cynical about institutions. They grow up as the underprotected children of an Awakening, come of age as the alienated young adults of an Unraveling, become the pragmatic, midlife leaders of a Crisis and age into tough, post-crisis elders during a High…”

As a Gen Xer, active in social justice, I expect to spend my time working very hard but in the shadows of public life, preparing the ground for the Millenial “Heroes: conventional, powerful, and institutionally driven, with a profound trust in authority. They grow up as the increasingly protected children of an Unraveling, come of age as the Heroic, team-working youth of a Crisis, become energetic and hubristic mid-lifers during a High and become the powerful elders who are attacked in the next Awakening. The G.I. Generation that fought World War II is an example of a Hero generation.”

I don’t know how well the Boomers are doing at their “wise elder” stage, but Kucinich might be an example of that. Anyway, don’t knock us young people too hard. We can’t relive the past; similar as the current times may be to the Vietnam era, there are many, many significant differences.

NJ Occupation Project on BlueJersey

I've been working with the NJ Occupation Project a little bit, planning for the actions Tuesday and today around Senators Lautenbergs and Menendez' votes on the war funding.

Five activists were arrested at the Gateway Center on Tuesday. More likely to be arrested today. The link goes to a post at BlueJersey called "Don't Free the Newark Five."

My response, posted there and here:

Impasse

I participated in several of the organizing meetings for the New Jersey Occupation Project, aka the Newark Five, and loaned them one of the bells they've used to punctuate their readings of the names of the dead, but I'm not writing on behalf of the group. These are my personal views.
I fully support what the group is doing, although when push came to shove I decided not to risk arrest, for both personal and political reasons.

During planning several purposes were discussed. Also,the planned series of events is not over. It began with delivery of the pledges to vote against further funding to both offices about 10 days ago, to be followed by Tuesday's visit to Lautenberg's office to insist upon a signed pledge, followed by a second visit tomorrow to Menendez' office for a similar sit-in action.

One purpose for the action is the hope - which almost all the NJ folks admit is far-fetched - that the Senators' awareness that people are willing to risk arrest to make the point that the war must end, might change the Senators' views and votes on the war and the funding of the war.
I think this view is espoused most passionately and articulately by the members of the Occupation group who represent Military Families Speak Out: large groups of MFSO people have already met with both Senators repeatedly and been given hollow assurances to "just trust me," while their loved ones have spent time in, are in, or may soon go back to, the bloody mess in Iraq. Their patience has run out.

A second purpose for the action is to broaden public awareness of 1) the brutal failure of the war, 2) Democratic ownership of the war, now that they have refused to filibuster (with 41 Senators) to end the war or stop funding the war with language like the Lee Amendment (CounterPunch has done good pieces on these options), and 3) the presence of a large and frustrated American majority who want the war and occupation and privatization stopped immediately and the troops brought home, not funding for another year or two, or three.

This public awareness is to be achieved in two ways: the actual visible and audible presence of the protestors in public places related to the Senators, and the generation of press coverage by the arrests.

One of my main concerns about the passage of last week's House bill - full funding with non-binding, unenforceable timetables and readiness provisions that can be overcome with a waiver - is that President Bush might not veto it after all, and then he'll have a whole lot more money to kill a whole lot more people and broaden the mess inside and beyond Iraq and Afghanistan PLUS expanded Democratic complicity; to me, it makes no sense to rely on the assurances of a crazy person - legislators who want the war over should vote to cut off the funding, period.

Another, strategic concern is that the media is just as vested in the continuation of the war as most of the Congress (although, as an aside, I think a real push to end the war and impeach Bush may bubble up from the Republican ranks sooner than from the Dems, because it's far more in the Republican's interest to cut the madman loose and begin rebuilding the party).

The problem, in the end, is that the media is so large and so intertwined with Congress that there appears to be no way for citizens to intervene in government policy-making and no way for citizens to go around the context and critical analysis blackout of the mainstream press. TomDispatch had a good essay on this the other day - the difference between the ultimately persuasive Vietnam activism, which still provides many of the models and participants for today's anti-war actions, and the current bipartisan political class's utter imperviousness to criticism and pressure from outside its own ideological fortress.

The Occupation Project is an authentic effort to chip away at both edifices, and as such, it's worthwhile. It's a part of the incesssant, persistent drip-drip-drip we all need to be dropping, in every imaginable way old AND new, to eat away at the foundations of both until they are either pushed in a far more accountable direction, or washed away through the convening of a new Constitutional convention or some other major nation-shaking event.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Erased, Invisible

Tom Englehardt at TomDispatch, comparing the current antiwar potential with the Vietnam era. Excerpt from a longer essay well worth the read:

"Today, it crosses no young minds that the top officials in the White House might be listening. Many fewer young people, I suspect, have any remnant of that deep faith that our political system could be responsive to them or that anything they could do might change it. When they look to Washington, what they see is fraud, dysfunction, conspiracy, cronyism, cabal, influence-peddling, corruption, fear -- in short, a system, a world, beyond response, possibly beyond repair, and utterly alien to their lives. In such a situation, despair or apathy tends to replace anger and hope.

The Iraq demobilization, then, is certainly part of a larger demobilization, a deeper belief that, as Bill Moyers made vividly clear in a recent speech, your vote doesn't matter; that democracy is a-functional; that none of this has anything to do with you, or your ballot, or your feet, or your sign, or your shout...

...No wonder Americans have arrived at a series of striking conclusions on Iraq, but haven't done much about them. "

Sunday, March 25, 2007

History of People's Movements - Class 3

I. Discussion Topics:

A. Do you agree with the scholars who say the only proper people’s movements are movements that have sprung up since industrialization, in urban areas where many people of differing views can meet? Why or why not?

B. Do you agree with the idea that America is now at a historical moment when “the consent of the governed” has been violated, authorizing citizen revolt against the government? Why or why not?

II. American Revolutionary Era - A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. Chapters 4 and 5

Historical Context - British Acts (all synopses from Wikpedia unless otherwise noted):

Proclamation of 1763 “created a boundary line (often called the proclamation line) between the British colonies on the Atlantic coast and American Indian lands (called the Indian Reserve) west of the Appalachian Mountains…outlawed private purchase of Native American land, which had often created problems in the past…British colonists were forbidden to move beyond the line and settle on native lands, and colonial officials were forbidden to grant lands without royal approval…[it] gave the Crown a monopoly on all future land purchases from American Indians.”

The Stamp Act of 1765 …passed by the Parliament of Great Britain … required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, wills, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. The Act was enacted in order to defray the cost of maintaining the military presence protecting the colonies [and] to repay the suppliers from the French and Indian War, which had been very costly, even though Great Britain had been victorious in 1763…The Act passed unanimously on March 22, 1765, and went into effect later that year, on November 1. It met with great resistance in the colonies and was never effectively enforced. Colonists threatened tax collectors with tarring and feathering. Few collectors were willing to risk their well-being to uphold the tax. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766. This incident increased the colonists' concerns about the intent of the British Parliament and added fuel to the growing separatist movement that later resulted in the American Revolution.

Townshend Taxes “placed a tax on common products imported into the American Colonies, such as lead, paper, paint, glass, and tea…not a direct tax, but a tax on imports and created three new admiralty courts to try Americans who ignored the laws. The impetus behind the Townshend Act was the large debt incured by Great Britain during the French and Indian War, the logic being that since Britain had spent so much blood and treasure defending the American Colonies, it was only proper that they bear a large portion of the financial burden. The Acts led to outrage among the colonists and helped spark the Liberty seizure and riots of 1768. The colonists's opposition to these acts was well stated in the phrase "No taxation without representation," originally spoken by James Otis. Smugglers avoided the taxes by importing illegal goods and by organizing a boycott of the legitimate imports. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty of Boston were notable supporters of this boycott. Economic pressure from the boycott caused several entities in Britain to press for repeal. Eventually, John Dickinson (1732-1808) raised support to repeal the Townsend Acts by a series of 12 essays entitled "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania," addressing himself as "A Farmer". The only act remaining was the tax on tea. …designed to protect the British East India Company's tea trade by exempting it from three-pence tax on tea, undercutting the prices of other importers which led to adverse economic consequences for the American colonists and the Boston Tea Party.”

Stationing of Troops – “In 1768, the Commissioners of Customs, who acquired their jobs in Britain and drew their pay from what they collected in America, were so intimidated by the resistance they met in Boston that they demanded military protection. Boston's fifteen thousand or so residents were clearly the worst malcontents on the North American continent. It was imperative that they be put in their place. General Thomas Gage (Commander In Chief of the British Army in America) agreed and ordered the regiments … in all about 700 men -- arrived from Ireland to protect the men who collected customs duties for the King of England. To the people of Boston the coming of the troops was outrageous. They had been fighting for years against infringement by Britain of their right to tax themselves.”
http://www.bostonmassacre.net/plot/detailed1.htm

“The Boston Massacre was an attack on colonist civilians by British troops on March 5, 1770 and its legal aftermath, which helped spark the American Revolutionary War. Colonists were already resenting the Townsend Acts. Tensions caused by the heavy military presence in Boston led to brawls between soldiers and civilians, and eventually to troops shooting their muskets into a rioting crowd.”

“The Boston Port Act is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which became law on March 31, 1774…A response to the Boston Tea Party, it outlawed the use of the Port of Boston (by setting up a barricade/blockade) for "landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise" until such time as restitution was made to the King's treasury (for customs duty lost) and to the East India Company for damages suffered…it closed Boston Port to all ships, no matter what business the ship had. As Boston Port was a major source of supplies for the citizens of Massachusetts, sympathetic colonies that extended as far as South Carolina sent relief supplies to the settlers of Massachusetts Bay. This was the first step in the unification of the thirteen colonies.”

“The Massachusetts Government Act …became a law on May 20, 1774…did away with elections for the councilors and assistants in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, making the positions appointive, the appointments to be made by "his Majesty's commission, under the great seal of Great Britain", the positions to be held "during the pleasure of his Majesty". This left the colonists helpless against patronage and corruption. Before the creation of "the Act", the Council possessed the power to veto or nominate officials.”

Historical Context – Colonial Responses

The Stamp Act Congress was a meeting in New York City in October 1765 of delegates from the American Colonies that discussed and acted upon the recently passed Stamp Act. The meetings adopted a Declaration of Rights and Grievances and wrote letters or petitions to the King and both houses of Parliament. This Congress is viewed by some as the first American action in or as a precursor of the American Revolution.The Declaration of Rights raised fourteen points of colonial protest. In addition to the specifics of the Stamp Act taxes, it asserted that only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies; Trial by jury was a right, and the use of Admiralty Courts was abusive;…without voting rights, Parliaments could not represent the colonists.”

“The Sons of Liberty was a label adopted by Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies before the American Revolution. British authorities and their supporters considered the Sons of Liberty as seditious rebels, and referred to them as "Sons of Violence" and "Sons of Iniquity." Patriots attacked the apparatus and symbols of British authority and power such as gentlemen's homes, Customs officers, East India Company tea, and, as the war approached, vocal supporters of the Crown. The Sons of Liberty wanted to resist the British Crown with acts of protest, however they did not want mob violence.”

“A committee of correspondence was a body organized by the local governments of the American colonies for the purposes of coordinating written communication outside of the colony. These served an important role in the American Revolution and the years leading up to it, disseminating the colonial interpretation of British actions between the colonies and to foreign governments. The committees of correspondence rallied opposition on common causes and established plans for collective action, and so the network of committees was the beginning of what later became a formal political union among the colonies.”

Boston Tea Party - The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767 angered colonists regarding British decisions on taxing the colonies despite a lack of representation in the Westminster Parliament. One of the protesters was John Hancock. In 1768, Hancock's ship Liberty was seized by customs officials, and he was charged with smuggling. He was defended by John Adams, and the charges were eventually dropped...Hancock organized a boycott of tea from China sold by the British East India Company, whose sales in the colonies then fell from 320,000 pounds (145,000 kg) to 520 pounds (240 kg). By 1773, the company had large debts, huge stocks of tea in its warehouses and no prospect of selling it because smugglers such as Hancock were importing tea without paying import taxes. The British government passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea to the colonies directly, thereby allowing them to sell for lower prices than those offered by the colonial merchants and smugglers…. The first of many ships carrying the East India Company tea was the HMS Dartmouth arriving in late November 1773…On Thursday, December 16, 1773, the evening before the tea was due to be landed, on a signal given by Samuel Adams, the Sons of Liberty thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians, left the massive protest meeting and headed toward Griffin's Wharf, where lay the HMS Dartmouth and her newly arrived, tea bearing, sister ships the HMS Beaver and the HMS Eleanour. Swiftly and efficiently casks of tea were brought up from the hold to the deck, reasonable proof that some of the "Indians" were, in fact, longshoremen. The casks were opened and the tea dumped overboard; the work, lasting well into the night, was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn 90,000 lbs (45 tons) of tea worth an estimated £10,000 had been consigned to waters of Boston harbor. Nothing else had been damaged or stolen, except a single padlock accidentally broken and anonymously replaced not long thereafter. Tea washed up on the shores around Boston for weeks…”

First Continental Congress “Like the Stamp Act Congress, which was formed by colonials to respond to the unpopular Stamp Act, the First Continental Congress was formed largely in response to the Intolerable Acts. The Congress was planned through the permanent committees of correspondence. They chose the meeting place to be Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Carpenters' Hall, which was both centrally located and one of the leading cities in the colonies…The Congress had two primary accomplishments. First, the Congress drafted the Articles of Association on October 20, 1774…forming a compact among the colonies to boycott British goods, and to cease exports to Britain as well if the “Intolerable Acts” were not repealed. The boycott was successfully implemented, but its potential at altering British colonial policy was cut off by the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. Its second accomplishment was to provide for a Second Continental Congress to meet on May 10, 1775…”

Declaration of Independence: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Zinn’s Hypothesis: The American Revolution was not in the immediate interests of most of the colonists; it was mostly a means for the ruling elite that had sprung up in the colonies to acquire the power held by the British Royal appointees. The leaders of the Revolution successfully channeled popular unrest and anger at the class divisions that separated poor farmers, laborers, servants, etc., from wealthier merchants, tradesmen, and professionals of both American and British allegiance, to advance the interests of the colonial upper class using the energy, passion and lives (in battle) of the colonial lower class against the British ruling class. It was difficult at times – mobs whipped up by colonial orators successfully attacked British warehouses, officials’ homes, etc., but the leaders became concerned that the mobs would then turn their attention to wealthy colonial property and privileges. Thus, the need to co-opt and redirect that energy and growing class consciousness toward throwing off British rule while keeping prevailing property and power distribution intact for the post-war nation.

“The military conflict itself, by dominating everything in its time, diminished other issues, made people choose sides in the one contest that was publicly important, forced people onto the side of the Revolution whose interest in Independence was not at all obvious. Ruling elites seem to have learned through the generations – consciously or not – that war makes them more secure against internal trouble.” (People’s History, p. 79)

History of People's Movements - Class 2

I. Review: working definition of a people’s movement: a social and political movement initiated and carried out by ordinary people, not by government or military leaders, aiming to change public policy and public actions to improve the lives of the majority of people in the society, not gain privileges for a few elite members of the society.

II. Examples:

Jesus’ political work confronting the power of the Roman governing elite;

Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, John Brown and others who led the slave revolt and abolitionist movements;

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and others who led the women’s movement, building on their work with the abolitionist and temperance movements;

Mohandas K. Gandhi’s work to gain India’s independence from Britain;

Martin Luther King Jr.’s work to create the Civil Rights Movement in America to end segregation and bring about racial equality (1960s);

Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Movement (1960s);

American Indian Movement, including the Trail of Tears challenge to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (1970s);

Chipko Movement in India, in which women formed circles around trees (tree huggers) to prevent them from being cut down (1970s);

Lech Walesa and the Gdansk, Poland shipworkers strikes; playwright Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia, who both led movements undermined Communist control in Eastern Europe (1970s, 1980s).

Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s work to end apartheid in South Africa (1980s); Ken Saro-Wiwa’s work to gain Nigerian independence from multinational oil corporations (1990s);

The work of the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia, to regain control over their water supply from Bechtel corporation (2000s);

The global justice movement, launched in America during the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, WA to confront the power and priorities of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Economic Forum. See also Jose Bove, French farmer.

III. The Politics of Jesus, by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.

Chapter 4 – Messiah and Tactician: The Political Strategies of Jesus - “The goal of Jesus was realization of the kingdom of God. The kingdom (or sovereignty) of God was a new world order of transformed human relationships; it was social, economic and political relationships in this world made holy.”

1. Treat the People’s Needs as Holy – The Lord’s Prayer; public rejection of the legitimacy of the Temple priesthood; refusal to accept kingship offered to him; primacy of the need for food (daily bread) and for debt relief for the poor; injunctions to care for fellow human beings in need.

2. Give a Voice to the Voiceless – Overturning the moneychangers tables and symbolically occupying the Temple; the Temple was a religious and political hub of Jerusalem, where the priestly aristocracy represented Roman rule and extorted dues from the working people to enrich themselves; the action showed the people that their awe of the priests as mediators to God was misplaced, and to demonstrate the ability of ordinary people to confront those who abused power and abdicated responsibility.

3. Expose the Workings of Oppression – The parable of the Householder and the Workers, in which those who start at the end of the day get the same as those who work all day. Hendricks’ interpretation is that Jesus was telling his followers that even though landowners insulted them and exploited their labor, knowing they could not negotiate for better wages and working conditions, in the kingdom of God, they would be treated fairly and respectfully. Jesus undermined the idea that the wealth of the wealthy was a natural, God-given right and that the poverty of the poor was their fault, in a political system that granted all the rights to the wealthy and none to the poor.

4. Call the Demon by Name – The parable of Jesus cleansing the possessed man of the unclean spirit. Hendricks’ interpretation is that the unclean spirit was a metaphor for Roman occupation, the possessed man a symbol of the oppressed people of Israel; and the story an indictment of the Roman’s role in tearing Israeli society apart.

5. Save Your Anger for the Mistreatment of Others – The parable of the leper being healed by Jesus, in which Jesus becomes angry. Hendricks argues that many translations of Jesus’ deeds soften the meaning of the original Greek. In this story, Jesus anger is often left out: anger not at the leper or at the leprosy disease that afflicted so many, but at the priests who demanded payment for or outright refused to reintegrate people into society even after their skin disorders (often not leprosy) had cleared up. “…[W]e must endeavor to love everyone, but we must also take sides.” (Politics of Jesus, p. 165)

6. Take Blows Without Returning Them – Turning the other cheek, giving the cloak, going the extra mile. Hendricks’ interpretation is that Jesus was not advocating simple passivity, but rather active demonstrations of full humanity, “because by taking an action, the powerless and the oppressed became more than victims; they became actors who asserted their humanity, their somebodyness…Even if those who were dominated were struck again, it was on their own terms; they had dictated the action…” (Politics of Jesus, p. 169-170)

7. Don’t Just Explain the Alternative, Show It.- Loaves and Fishes. Jesus didn’t just talk to his followers about sharing with those who have less, trusting in the generosity of God, etc. He acted on his beliefs and injunctions about power, love, charity, and justice, demonstrating an alternative, “redefining their relationship to God and to each other as based on gift instead of debt.” (Politics of Jesus p. 181)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Petah Lucia

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Congress: 1-866-340-9281

(I am going on Internet hiatus for the next week. Will try to post again on 3/24. -KW)

"All the Democratic majorities in Congress have to do is condition the funding for the Iraq war with the words,

"No funds may be obligated or expended except for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, and for such force protection actions as may be necessary during that withdrawal."

If Bush vetoes the bill, he vetoes continued funding for the war. If he signs the bill, ignores the legislative language and keeps fighting the war in the same old way, he sets himself up for impeachment."

-William S. Lind at Counterpunch

Friday, March 16, 2007

Women on the Op-Ed Pages

Willful Blindness

I begin to profoundly understand how Hitler got away with doing what he did. The Germans said they didn't see what was happening, so they couldn't stop it. America is engaged in the same willful blindness right now.

Here's a FlickFilosopher movie review of The Pianist and three other Hitler films, excerpted:

It's the slow building of the Nazi oppression that lends a hint of understanding as to how they got away with their crimes. If the Nazis had started rounding up Jews and other "undesirables" the day they marched into Warsaw, there'd likely have been a huge outcry. But when the persecution starts out as minor inconveniences, it doesn't seem so bad.

Though you want to cry out for Szpilman and his family and friends to resist right from the beginning -- we know now that wearing gold stars isn't just an indignity but a softening up for greater horrors to come -- it's sadly understandable why they submit, complaining, yes, but willingly.

And when each step on the climb from inconvenience to genocide hardly seems worse than the previous one... The Pianist builds slowly but inexorably toward what is inevitable only with our historical hindsight, and the film's great power is in showing us how the inevitable wasn't obvious at the time.

And in that power, the film serves as a potent admonition for us today, living in a political climate defined by the PATRIOT Act and Total Information Awareness, that oppression must be fought at every step lest we become desensitized to it until it's far too late to do anything about it.

Sapere Aude

From Wikipedia: "Sapere aude is a Latin phrase meaning "Dare to know" or "Dare to be wise", or sometimes translated as "Have courage to use your own reason."

It is the school motto for the Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston-upon-Thames, UK, where my mother went to school. Thanks, BW.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Get the State Legislatures to Filibuster

(Sent via e-mail today. I got the 2006-2007 Legislative Roster, and spent a couple of hours figuring out how to put the addresses into a giant 120-person list. -KW)

Dear Senators, Assemblymen and Assemblywomen:

I am a 33-year-old writer, wife and mother of two, living in North Plainfield NJ. I'm also a pacifist, and have been working since well before the catastrophe in Iraq began, to try to prevent it from beginning and then stop the bloodshed.

With my fellow peace activists all across America, I helped elect a Democratic Congress in Nov. 2006, not because the electorate wholeheartedly endorses all the traditional Democratic platform planks (hell, the Democratic Party doesn't even endorse things like health care, education and worker rights anymore) but because the electorate believed that the people who got us into the mess in Iraq - Republicans under Bush - were not willing or able to get us out and the Democrats were the only alternative. Plus, the Democrats said they would get us out.

As an aside, I should mention that my father was a lifelong Goldwater Republican until Bush drove the country into the ground, causing him to vote a straight Democratic ticket in Nov. 2006. I'm smart enough to know that good politics requires a balance between individual rights and responsibilities and collective rights and responsibilities, and that, in the absence of perfect knowledge, good faith debate leading to good faith compromise is the best way to achieve that balance. I'm also smart enough to know that the balance is currently totally out of whack, with all the rights belonging to the wealthy few, and all the responsibilities being borne by the rest of us.

Now, the Congressional Democrats are failing us. It's not totally unexpected. They promised to end the war, but keeping the war going will be better for their election chances in 2008, and looking only two years down the road, focused on their own political future, occupies most of their time, energy and passion.

For reference, see William S. Lind's article at Counterpunch:

A few excerpts:

"...The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home. Nor is it a challenge to design legislative language that both ends the war and supports the troops. All the Democratic majorities in Congress have to do is condition the funding for the Iraq war with the words, "No funds may be obligated or expended except for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, and for such force protection actions as may be necessary during that withdrawal." If Bush vetoes the bill, he vetoes continued funding for the war. If he signs the bill, ignores the legislative language and keeps fighting the war in the same old way, he sets himself up for impeachment. What's not to like?

For the Democrats, what's not to like is anything that might actually end the war before the 2008 elections. The Republicans have 21 Senate seats up in 2008, and if the Iraq war is still going on, they can count on losing most of them, along with the Presidency and maybe 100 more seats in the House. 2008 could be the new 1932, leaving the Republican Party a permanent minority for twenty years. From the standpoint of the Democratic Party's leadership, a few thousand more dead American troops is a small price to pay for so glowing a political victory.
Ironically, the people who should be most desperate to end the war are Congressional Republicans. Their heads are on the chopping block. But they remain so paralyzed by the White House that they cannot act even to save themselves...

...The likely result of all this Washington dodging is that events on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere will outrun the political process. That in turn means a systemic crisis, the abandonment of both parties by their bases and a possible left-right grass roots alliance against the corrupt and incompetent center. In that possibility may lie the nation's best hope."

I also recently learned that one Senator, with 40 supportive Senators, could filibuster to stop the war. Check it out here.

So, I’m writing to you to suggest a filibuster in the New Jersey Legislature to stop the war. Refuse to carry on the work of the state until the feds wake up and start cleaning up the huge messes they’ve made. One state could lead to a national revolt against unresponsive leaders in both national parties; Vermont is working its way in that direction, and maybe other states are too. In any case, without a movement from below, the war will drag on for no apparent reason, and I think both political parties and the country as a whole will suffer greatly from that course of action.

On a separate but related issue, I understand the NJ Legislature has given up on reforming the school funding/property tax issue for this year. I attended an Abbott District forum in Plainfield last fall, and came up with the following set of proposals. I pass them along in case you might find them useful in reframing your understanding of what governments can and should do, as far as resource distribution is concerned.

Politically, I’m more or less a communitarian (no, not a communist). The communitarian viewpoint holds that social networks, not individuals, are the cornerstone of healthy societies; that communities provide their members with the basic necessities of life; that there is such a thing as the public good, which calls upon stronger members of society to care for weaker members; and that everyone has positive rights to such things as food, housing, education, health care, safety and a clean environment.

In other words, members of a society have significantly better lives than individuals who live alone in the woods, and therefore all citizens can reasonably be required, non-violently, to make meaningful contributions to the public good from whatever resources in time, energy and money remain after providing a basic living for themselves and their dependents. From that communitarian perspective, I propose:

Federal Taxes: New Jersey should opt-out of the federal tax program, on the grounds that, as Founding Father James Otis said: “taxation without representation is tyranny,” and the federal government, from Congress to the President to the federal judiciary, is failing to provide and protect access to the basic public services Americans need and deserve.

Property Ownership: Revalue every home in New Jersey at $120,000 – about three times the average annual per capita income ($41,626) – and turn the deeds over from the banks to the homeowners: no more mortgage payments.

Property Taxation: For owner-occupied property, collect property taxes at one-half the national average rate. For non-owner-occupied property, collect property taxes at three times the national average, to provide incentives for home-ownership, and disincentives for the hoarding of affordable shelter.

Wages: The minimum wage for a 35-hour workweek in New Jersey should be raised to $30,000 per year. A maximum wage should be established, at $100,000 per year.

Personal Income Taxation: Do not tax individual income up to the state average of $41,636. Tax all individual income over the state average at 95%. (There is precedent for this – during the World War II era, personal income over $400,000 was taxed at 91%; it’s currently taxed at 35%).

Corporate Income Taxation: Tax all corporate profits at 95%.

Accumulated Personal and Institutional Wealth: Personal fortunes should be taxed at 95% upon the death of the individual, and non-financial incentives should be offered for those who voluntarily return their fortunes to their communities before their deaths. Institutional endowments should be managed to continually reinvest the proceeds in programs and services, not to accumulate more wealth for accumulation’s sake.

State Budget: Immediately release all non-violent offenders from state prisons, and abolish the costly death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without possibility of parole.

Local Budgets: Move ahead with consolidating nearby school districts and municipalities to cut administrative costs, provide non-financial incentives for strong citizen oversight to improve accountability, and ensure that citizens of each community still have relatively easy access – by foot, bicycle or bus – to public services.

Prioritize all state revenue to support public-private-nonprofit partnerships, with extensive volunteer citizen management, fully supported by employers through flexible schedules to accommodate employee participation at civic meetings, that provide:

Public Education: day care, preschool and kindergarten through bachelor’s degree, plus continuing adult education for all ages; well-supported public libraries;

Public Health: universal basic health care (nutritional and community garden programs, annual check-ups and routine sick-care for all ages, vaccinations, prenatal and maternity care, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs);

Public Safety: emergency services such as police, fire and EMS departments; environmental protection and renewable energy programs; public works, parks and recreation programs;

Public Pensions: guaranteed stipends ensuring an adequate, not luxurious, standard of living for all retirees and disabled workers;

Public Transportation: improve and expand bus, train and van-pool programs, bicycle and walking paths.


How to Back Bush Into a Corner

William S. Lind at Counterpunch:

"...The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home. Nor is it a challenge to design legislative language that both ends the war and supports the troops. All the Democratic majorities in Congress have to do is condition the funding for the Iraq war with the words, "No funds may be obligated or expended except for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, and for such force protection actions as may be necessary during that withdrawal." If Bush vetoes the bill, he vetoes continued funding for the war. If he signs the bill, ignores the legislative language and keeps fighting the war in the same old way, he sets himself up for impeachment.What's not to like?...

...The likely result of all this Washington dodging is that events on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere will outrun the political process. That in turn means a systemic crisis, the abandonment of both parties by their bases and a possible left-right grass roots alliance against the corrupt and incompetent center. In that possibility may lie the nation's best hope."

We're Angry

My husband and I, progressive parents looking at all this shit day in and day out, and then looking at our kids, trying to do something to help fix the broken things and clean up the messes, and then looking at all this shit some more, are also tired. Very, very tired. - KW

All The Rage
By Paul Waldman

We can’t deny it any longer. There’s no point in hiding it, no point in trying to explain it away. Yes, it’s true: We progressives are angry. And we no longer care if the centrist, moderate guardians of the establishment scold us for it.

Our anger is not just some vague feeling whose source we can’t put our finger on. It isn’t based on absurd conspiracy theories and it isn’t illogical.

We’re angry because of what has happened to our country, because of how we’ve been treated, and because of the innumerable crimes the conservatives have committed. We’re angry at the president, we’re angry at the Congress, we’re angry at the news media. And we have every right to be.

Yes, we’re angry at George W. Bush. We’re not angry at him because of who he sleeps with, and we’re not angry at him because we think he represents some socio-cultural movement we didn’t like 40 years ago, or because he hung out with a different crowd than we did in high school. We’re angry at him because of what he’s done.

It’s true, we don’t like the fact that the most powerful human being on the planet is such a ridiculous buffoon that he can’t put two coherent sentences together without beginning to giggle and shimmy his shoulders. But we’re not angry because we think he’s stupid, we’re angry because he treats us as though we’re stupid. We’re angry that he lied to us, and lied to us and lied to us again. We’re angry that when he lies to us it isn’t because he’s caught up in scandal or got caught doing something he shouldn’t have, it’s part of a carefully constructed plan to fool the public.

Yes, we’re angry about Iraq, and we may be for the rest of our lives. We get angry every day when we open our newspapers and see the photo of another young soldier who died for this, another one maimed for life, another one with a tormented and broken soul. We’re angry about the couple of trillion dollars this war will cost. We’re angry about the thousands of young men around the world have been driven into the arms of al Qaeda, who have decided to devote their lives to killing Americans because of this war. We’re angry about the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who have died in the orgy of bloodshed we unleashed, and the living too, those whom we said we were coming to “liberate,” but who now find themselves in a suffocating, endless miasma of fear and misery and death.

We’re angry that when we talk about ending this monstrous war, the soulless hypocrites who are glad to send more and more men and women to be scarred and maimed and killed in Iraq have the gall to accuse us of not “supporting the troops.” We’re angry that people whose actions exhibit nothing but contempt for freedom and liberty and justice, who wouldn’t know real patriotism if it came up and smacked them across the face, pin a little flag on their lapel and say that we’re the ones who hate America.

We’re angry because people who said the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, who said Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were good buddies, who said this nightmare of a war would bring a flowering of democracy across the Middle East—this band of idiots, the Kristols and the Krauthammers and the Kagans and the Kondrackes, is treated as “serious” and “credible” on matters of national security, while those of us who were right about the war are dismissed as some sort of fringe whose ideas are too silly to listen to.

We’re angry that America may now be the only country in the world in which torture is an officially sanctioned policy, proclaimed proudly in public. We’re angry that in our name prisoners are subjected to sleep deprivation, water boarding and other forms of psychological torture to the point where they are literally driven mad. We’re angry that the president has decided, over 750 times, that if Congress passes a law and he doesn’t like it, he’ll just ignore it. We’re angry that this administration has argued over and over, in public and in court, that if the president does it, it’s not illegal. We’re angry that they tell us we have to shred our freedoms in order to be safe, and that so many of our fellow citizens shrug their shoulders and think it’s no big deal.
And we’re angry that Bush has made our nation so hated around the world. We’re angry that the next time a Democrat gets elected, most of their time will be spent cleaning up the god-awful mess Bush has made of everything.

We’re angry that we and our children and our grandchildren will have to keep paying off the nation’s debt, which now stands at nearly $9 trillion. We’re angry because every other industrialized country in the world has a single-payer health care system that works, and we pay more for ours than any of them, yet we have 45 million people with no health insurance.

We’re angry that the insurance companies have convinced their obedient servants in Congress that the Rube Goldberg perpetual paperwork machine we have now is somehow “the best health care in the world” and preferable to a system in which you go to your doctor, get treated and go home, without having to fill out 10 forms and get down on your knees before the gods of the HMO bureaucracy to get a partial repayment minus your deductible and your co-pay.

We’re angry that the federal government is brimming with people fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agencies over which they preside, the anti-environmentalists who run the Interior department, the mining company lobbyists in charge of mine safety and the union-busters in charge of worker safety. We’re still angry about Hurricane Katrina, that our government left thousands of its citizens stranded to suffer and die, while the president thought that the guy presiding over the disastrous failure was doing a heckuva job. We’re angry that our government sends religious fundamentalists around the world to discourage condom use, thus condemning untold numbers of people to unwanted pregnancy, disease and death.

We’re angry that forty years after the Voting Rights Act, the Republican Party continues to exploit racism and do everything in its power to stop black people from voting in each and every election. We’re angry that in the richest country in the world we can’t seem to find our way to a system in which you go to the polls, cast your ballot and know that it will be counted. And yes, we’re still angry about what happened in Florida in 2000, that through lying and cheating and pure luck the Republicans were able to steal a presidential election, and five unprincipled partisans on the Supreme Court helped them do it. We’re angry that every time we look at Al Gore all that pain and frustration and outrage comes bubbling up through our guts no matter how hard we try to “get over it.”

We’re angry that some of the most powerful people in America see nothing wrong with getting down on their knees to kiss the rings of radical clerics espousing a theology as maniacal as any on earth. We’re angry that we have to endure lecture after lecture on “family values” from people who rush from their pulpits, whether in church or in Congress or on cable chat shows, to a motel room to give in to their desires and revel in their transgression before rushing back to those pulpits to wag a finger in all our faces with talk of sin. We’re angry that people whose souls are so twisted by hate and shame they make John Winthrop look like Wavy Gravy have the nerve to tell us how to live “moral” lives.

We’re angry that when some pompous fool who less than a decade ago demanded that Bill Clinton be impeached in order to demonstrate our fealty to the “rule of law” comes on television to explain how Scooter Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice mean nothing and he must immediately be pardoned, Wolf Blitzer doesn’t say, “Get out of this studio, you contemptible hypocrite, and don’t ever come back.”

We’re angry because a repellent ghoul like Ann Coulter can regularly advocate the murder of people with whom she has political differences, yet continue to get invited on the Today Show. We’re angry that journalists who ought to know better tut-tut progressive bloggers for using dirty words but don’t blink an eye when conservatives spew forth the most abominable hatred and calls for violence that one could imagine.

We’re angry that there is not a single show on cable news in which a progressive is given an hour to spout off his or her opinions, but that privilege is given to the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and John Gibson and Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough and all the other two-bit electronic hucksters of phony aggrievement.

We’re angry because snake-oil salesmen like William Donohue— despite being an anti-Semitic homophobe —can issue a press release expressing patently phony outrage about something somebody said, and get the mainstream press to jump like trained dogs. We’re angry because a band of liars like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth can hoodwink the media into doing their dirty work for them. We’re angry because every despicable Republican attack gets recycled as knowing, arched-eyebrow commentary by “mainstream” commentators.

Those are a few of the things we’re angry about, and yes, that’s a lot of anger. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being angry. Anger is the appropriate reaction to moral outrages, to crimes against our common humanity, to the actions of those who would turn our country into something twisted and ugly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

41 to Filibuster the War

Today I got a message urging me to call my Senators at 1-866-340-9281 to urge them to vote for Sen. Harry Reid's S.J.Res. 9, which would set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

A few hours later, I got another message, from a member of the NJ Occupation Project, with this John Walsh article from Counterpunch:

"We should start now to talk about filibustering for the saving of lives and of our country."
John Kerry


That is a direct quote from John Kerry. Unfortunately it is from April, 1971. Now Senator Kerry will not go so far as to vote against the supplemental appropriations to end the war. In a conference call with the Smedley Butler Brigade, the Boston Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Kerry refused on Tuesday to vote against the Supplemental Appropriation for the War on Iraq. It is possible with only 41 Senate votes to filibuster the war to an end, as pointed out on February 8 here in CounterPunch. Although there are 51 Democrats in the Senate, not one Senator has stepped forward to fight for such a filibuster. Meanwhile Americans and innocent Iraqis die every day in Iraq.

But John Kerry is simply one of the ugliest examples of the Democrats' complicity in the war. And that complicity reflects the complicity of much of the "official" peace movement. Let's look at the facts. In October 2002, the Democrats controlled the Senate when the Iraq resolution came up. 23 Senators, including one Republican, Lincoln Chafee, voted against it. Right there it could have been stopped. 18 more votes would have sustained a filibuster and the resolution would have been dead.

But those 18 votes did not emerge. Why? Because every Democratic Senator facing a close election in the very next month or harboring presidential ambitions voted in favor of the resolution. The only exception of which I know was the late Paul Wellstone. Daschle and Cleland voted for the resolution ­ and they lost their races anyway, defeats they richly deserved.

And of course John Edwards and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, all with presidential ambitions, voted for the war. Kerry compounded his criminality by running on a prowar platform in 2004. It is interesting that the polls had a majority turning against the war late in October of 2004 just before the election, but Kerry had locked himself into his bellicose stance ­ and lost. Think about that. John Kerry consciously decided to climb to the presidency atop a mountain of Iraqi and American corpses. To make amends for that crime, a simple apology will never be enough.

So the Democrats gave Bush his war for the sake of their ambitions, precisely what Rove and AIPAC were counting on. And year after year Bush came along with requests for supplemental funding. And each year the Democrats provided the votes. But the Dems were not in the majority, say "Progressive" Democrats of America and some in the leadership of United for Peace and Justice.

In fact that is why those folks urged us to vote for Dems in 2006. But in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 the Democrats had 41 votes in the Senate, giving them the power to end the war in any of those years. They never even tried. And now they have 51 votes, a majority and much more than they need to filibuster against the war appropriations. And still they will not so much as raise the issue of the filibuster. It has been the Democrats' war all along; it was from the start; and it is so in spades today.

The root cause is not spineless Dem politicians but a spineless official peace movement.
Now dear reader, if you are part of the "mainstream" peace movement, represented by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), for example, do not start to mutter to yourself about spineless Democratic politicians. For the fault lies not in our politicians, but in ourselves. Let us remind ourselves that twice in two weeks, the avowedly prowar Senators, mainly Republicans, filibustered against a toothless non-binding anti-war resolution against the war. Why? Their base demands it. Theirs is not a spineless base, and so they are not spineless legislators.


But in over four years the supposedly antiwar Democratic Senators did not even raise the idea of a filibuster. Why not? In part because their base did not demand it. Not once was it raised to my knowledge. What does the mainstream or "official" antiwar movement, as it more properly should be called, do? Does it demand or does it grovel? Quite frankly it grovels ­ at most. The Dem politicians are spineless in part, because we are.

Whenever a UFPJ group goes to "lobby" the Congressmen or Senators, the unwritten rule (violated by the present writer on many occasions) is to "make nice".' Do not risk weakening the "relationships" with legislators and staff is the mantra. It is all carrot and no stick. And what are the results? No filibuster. Continued war. And from first hand experience, when one threatens the legislator with supporting another candidate in the coming election, a pained look comes over the UFPJ "facilitator," and one can rely on being tut-tutted into silence.

But take this a step farther. The Democratic politicians know full well that there is no stick.
"P"DA can be relied on to support the most retrograde of Democratic candidates in the end as can "progressives" like Dennis Kucinich.

In fact without a third party, there is no stick. Ralph Nader is right on this point. The Democrats will never change unless they face an electoral challenge. It is time to build that challenge. And it is time for more of us to get involved in movements like the Occupation Project. We must refuse to leave the offices of Senators until we have obtained written pledges to vote against the war and to join a filibuster. The time is late.

So 45 Democratic senators will co-sponsor a withdrawal plan to kick in sometime in a year or so, but none of those will do what it takes to end the damn war RIGHT NOW.

Conscience and the War

"...It is true that an upsurge of violence may occur when the United States departs, but that will be so whether the departure is sooner or later, the essential difference being that many more people--Americans and Iraqis--will die in the interim. In reality, widespread killing in Iraq will never end until the US-led occupation ends and one side or the other in the civil war, deprived of foreign occupiers to provide resources or incite more enemies, finally prevails or both settle for a compromise. The Iraqi people seem to agree. In surveys taken last year, large majorities favored an immediate US withdrawal; and nearly 80 percent believed it would reduce the violence in their country..."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Divide and Conquistador

I wondered what he was up to...

Making It Up as We Go Along

So, I'm starting to get ready to teach the first class (Monday) of "The History of People's Movements." I'll be making it up as I go along. Much as I wanted to back in November, I didn't manage to get the whole thing mapped out ahead of time. But the Politics of Jesus book by Obery Hendricks was a good start, as is the Wikipedia entry on Social Movements, and this paper on "What Works" from researchers in Vancouver.

I've also been listening to Ani DiFranco songs from the library, inspired by watching the 1998 Elmopalooza video with my daughter, in which Shawn Colvin sings a nice song -- "I would like to visit the moon.../But I wouldn't want to live there..." -- with Ernie. That reminded me that I like Shawn Colvin, so I looked for some of her albums and that reminded me of Ani:

Millenium Theater

...millenium spectacle
everybody put on a show
slip the little prince in the back door
21st century here we go
digital whiplash
so many formats so little time
while out in tv nation
under darkening skies
the resistance is just waiting
to be organized

halliburton enron
chief justices for sale
yucca mountain goddesses
their tears they form a trail
patriarchies realign
while the ice caps melt
and new orleans bides her time
new orleans bides her time...

Half-Assed

...spring is super in the supermarkets
and the strawberries prance and glow
never mind that they're all kinda tart and tasteless
as strawberries go
meanwhile wild things are not for sale
anymore than they are for show
so i'll be outside, in love with the kind of beauty
it takes more than eyes to know...

Like those geese, walking on the frozen pond today, near where we live.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Who Will Be Left Behind?

This links to an article about how the U.S. occupiers will decide which among their Iraqi supporters to bring back to America, when the occupation ends. Troubling.

I know the war must be stopped, and that the troops are inflaming the situation, and also that the civil war will not stop immediately upon American withdrawal, and, in fact, it's likely Iran and Syria and Turkey will step into the vacuum and a wider Middle East war will probably ensue, and that, in turn, will probably draw in other nations until it's a world war, which it already is.

But how to quickly limit and turn off that future bloodletting is the question, which always brings me back to the fact that you can't speak against war while participating in it, and you can't advocate other ways of being with people without living those beliefs and building the networks they will need for support and effective action.

The story also reminded me of Robert Fisk's remarks about how the whole war would have gone differently if the U.S. had offered every Iraqi citizen the option to become an American citizen as soon as Baghdad fell (the first time) in May 2003, as the Romans made all their conquered people Roman citizens. I don't know my history well enough, and have only the impression that Roman brutality outweighed Roman expansiveness as far as citizenship, but I think Fisk is probably right.

If the Iraqis were American citizens, with full citizenship rights, things would be better than the almost incomprehensible mess they are now. Because extrapolating that policy out and applying it to everyone, as one must when analyzing the morality and efficacy of any policy, would make all the world's people truly entitled to the same rights held, albeit imperfectly, by every American citizen right now. Maybe they would feel, at first, like a new form of colonial victims, and that America had simply annexed territory by proxy citizens. But it's likely the empowering ideas of America's actual Constitution and Bill of Rights would quickly take hold, and support organized popular self-determination movements.

We're either headed that way, or toward complete hand-to-hand combat all over the world. So I keep working toward spreading the empowerment and sense of shared future, and toward undermining the alternative of power concentration and sense of every man for himself alone. And I hope they'll bring a lot of the Iraqis here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chalmers Johnson on Democracy Now

My parents have been reading The Sorrows of Empire. Chalmers Johnson talked about his latest book, Nemesis, on Democracy Now last week.

The Politics of Jesus

In preparation for the course on "The History of People's Movements" that I'll be teaching soon, I've been reading The Politics of Jesus by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.

Excellent book. I plan to get a paperback copy to give to Rep. Mike Ferguson.