Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Thanks Molly, and Goodbye
Marisacat emailed me the bad news; Molly Ivins has lost her battle with cancer. I almost typed “succumbed”, but that is not a word that could EVER be used to describe the force of nature that was Molly Ivins:
Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world.
She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, “Good thing we’ve still got politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”
Sadly, though, we still don’t have her. Thanks for the laughs, Molly. Thanks for the outrage. Thanks for the fierce words. One has to say thanks, and carry on, and rage against the monsters leading this country into blackness, because that’s what Ms. Ivins would do:
MOLLY IVINS TRIBUTE
BY ANTHONY ZURCHER
Goodbye, Molly I.
Molly Ivins is gone, and her words will never grace these pages again—for this, we will mourn. But Molly wasn’t the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she’d say something like, “Hang in there, keep fightin’ for freedom, raise more hell, and don’t forget to laugh, too.”
If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it’s that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can’t cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us, several times a week, in her own unique style.
Shortly after becoming editor of Molly Ivins’ syndicated column, I learned one of my most important jobs was to tell her newspaper clients that, yes, Molly meant to write it that way. We called her linguistic peculiarities “Molly-isms.” Administration officials were “Bushies,” government was in fact spelled “guvment,” business was “bidness.” And if someone was “madder than a peach orchard boar,” well, he was quite mad indeed.
Zurcher goes on to write:
Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, “Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for.”
For me, Molly’s greatest words of wisdom came with three children’s books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In “Alice in Wonderland,” she offered, “Here’s to six impossible things before breakfast.” For “The Wind in the Willows,” it was, “May you have Toad’s zest for life.” And in “The Little Prince,” she wrote, “May your heart always see clearly.”
Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true—and for that, we can all be grateful.
Say goodbye by raising your voice however you can. Write letters, corner an office holder, tell your winger neighbor or relative off. If you want to make a more concrete tribute, the folks at the Texas Observer pass along:
In recent years she shamelessly used her national and international contacts to raise funds for the Observer, which has always survived on a shoestring. More than $400,000 was contributed to the feisty little journal at a roast honoring Molly in Austin October 8.
Molly’s enduring message is, “Raise more hell.”
To read more about Molly Ivins or to make a comment about her, go to http://www.texasobserver.org Tax-deductible contributions in her honor may be made to The Texas Observer, 307 West Seventh Street, Austin, TX 78701 or the American Civil Liberties Union, 127 Broad Street, 18th floor, New York, NY 10004, http://www.aclu.org.
Memorial services will be announced in the coming days.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Not Tilting at the Right Windmill
It’s really too bad that this country is too far gone, that the great majority of the Donklephants are utterly lacking in principle or any understanding of what would be good for the American people. Russ Feingold is once again trying to steer a dead and worthless party in the right direction:
The President has chosen to ignore that message. So it is up to Congress to act.
The Constitution gives Congress the explicit power “[to] declare War,” “[t]o raise and support Armies,” “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy,” and “[t]o make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” In addition, under Article I, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” These are direct quotes from the Constitution of the United States. Yet to hear some in the Administration talk, it is as if these provisions were written in invisible ink. They were not. These powers are a clear and direct statement from the founders of our republic that Congress has authority to declare, to define, and ultimately, to end a war.
Our founders wisely kept the power to fund a war separate from the power to conduct a war. In their brilliant design of our system of government, Congress got the power of the purse, and the President got the power of the sword. As James Madison wrote, “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.”
The President has made the wrong judgment about Iraq time and again, first by taking us into war on a fraudulent basis, then by keeping our brave troops in Iraq for nearly four years, and now by proceeding despite the opposition of the Congress and the American people to put 21,500 more American troops into harm’s way.
If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers – defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a President whose policies are weakening our nation.
Experience shows that he’ll be left out there on his own. Experience shows that criminal application of United States power is a bipartisan sport, and even Feingold is unwilling to refrain from spouting the same propaganda about Israel, Palestine and Iran. There will be more needless death, more unwillingness from both the American public and politicians to face that WE are responsible for so much of the instability in the world. We will continue to spread our bloody empire, no matter how much the citizens of this country protest.
It is good to see Senator Feingold try to put pressure on the rest of the government to put a stop to the war in Iraq, but until we change the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world, until we realize how far down the murderous road of fascism we’ve gone, he’ll just be picking one small battle within a larger conflict ... the one in which we feel that the world is ours to do with as we please. .
Monday, January 29, 2007
LSF Review: Children of Men
Where do I begin to tell the tale of this brilliant film? Alfonso Cuaron has fashioned an incredibly relevant tale from P.D. James’ novel. It is the story of London 2027 but it is also the story of Earth 2007. We see the future here so we are warned, this is the world that we may very well be shaping and it is a frightening thought.
Speaking of thought, that is exactly what James and Cuaron have put into this venture. Society is at a perilous juncture, not unlike today. Events are spiraling out of control and the government attempts to reign them in but at the same time governments are engineering the turbulence. They spend the rest of the time routing out illegal immigrants whose countries have imploded. Clive Owen and Julianne Moore star in this film and their performances are rendered with much care. That same care is matched by the collaboration of director Cuaron with his cinematographer Emmanuel Luzbecki, and it yeilds results.
There are so many motifs in this epic tale, from animals surrounding a futuristic St. Francis to the consistently bare feet of our protagonist. So much care has been instilled in this film that it is a symbolic wet dream. From shots of graffiti laden walls at a water filtration plant that echo primitive cave drawings to bolder allusions of a futuristic gitmo complete with Arab men in their underwear being terrorized by guards, dogs and guns to the archway above the camp that says ‘homeland security’ so unobstrusively that I missed it completely on the first viewing.
It is a tale of a future where rebellion is terrorism. Is that not where we are today? Cheney, Bush and the Neocons have now fashioned a world where the James Deans are just tortured bi-sexuals and where Rebellion=Terrorism. Wouldn’t the Boston Tea Party today be just another terrorist act that disrupts commerce? We’ll need more than graffiti to help us navigate the treacherous waters ahead. We have seen the future and the terrorists look very scary, but how many realize that we are looking in a mirror? Cuaron does and the fact that this film is being lauded by the critics and ignored by the Academy Awards should tell you all you need to know. There were few minutes of the last 30 that I could watch from eyes not filled with tears at the simple beauty that life can be.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Blinded By False Hope
I hate hope. It was hammered into me constantly a few years ago when I was being treated for breast cancer: Think Positively! Don’t lose hope! Wear your pink ribbon with pride! A couple of years later, I was alarmed to discover that the facility where I received my follow-up care was called the Hope Center. Hope? What about a cure? At antiwar and labor rallies over the years, I have dutifully joined Jesse Jackson in chanting “Keep hope alive!”—all the while crossing my fingers and thinking, “Fuck hope. Keep us alive.” [...]
It’s everywhere, this Cult of Positivity, at least in America, the birthplace of Mary Baker Eddy, Norman Vincent Peale and est, where 30,000 beaming “life coaches” ply their trade and a pessimist is no more likely to be elected president than an atheist. George W. Bush provides a sterling role model. Asked on his most recent birthday about the potential nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea, as well as the U.S.-instigated civil war in Iraq, he replied, “I’m optimistic that all problems will be resolved.” - Barbara Ehrenreich, "Pathologies of Hope", Harpers 2/07
Hope, or the fading feeling of hope that permeates everything I look at in the world today, has been much on my mind of late. It is marketed to us relentlessly, by hucksters in retail politics, retail religion, in the financial “services” and insurance industries, in the bright, perky marketing of stuff. Far too many sell the idea that we can hope our way out of global warming, that some wonderful new technological innovation will appear that will let us keep our sprawl and automobiles and rapacious consumption. The Democratic Party offers the “hope” of something ... well, no one is quite sure what, but SOMETHING somehow-slightly-kinda-well-maybe-a-little different from the Republicans, who offer their own voters the hope that order will be imposed and all of the icky darker and scarier others out there will be brought back into line, and that they too can be rich and successful, if only they’ll submit to the bright men who are their leaders. In Pan’s Labyrinth, a fairy tale that is all about hope, both false and real (as any good fairy tale is), there is a scene where Captain Vidal holds a dinner party for the leading lights of the village hosting his military outpost. He assures them that in the “new” Spain gifted to them by Franco’s Falangists, the pesky idea that people are all equal has been put to rest, and the proper order of things will be restored. Cheney might very well give that same speech at his dinner parties.
The United States is a country built on its delusions, it’s happy lies masquerading as history. This isn’t special, of course; humans throughout history and across the globe like to promote themselves as the heroic actors and everybody else as benighted, but we seem to have perfected it with our PR industry and special effects and image consultants and selective collective memory. We elevate the mediocre as long as they offer us a “positive” vision, if they are “deciders” and “successful” (usually measured in dollars, not actual positive works). One looks about at the wreck that is our government, that is our deeply unstable and inequitable economy, at our poorly run companies, at the paucity of our artistic offerings compared to times past, and one is overwhelmed by the sheer mediocrity on parade. To point this out, though, is deeply unwelcome. If America is the kingdom in the Emperor’s New Clothes, then the child willing to point out the obvious is rushed off into therapy with many black marks added to his permanent record, shunned and disgarded, his family shamed. Truth-telling will get you a prescription for psychiatric drugs and a destroyed career, perhaps economic oblivion. Rob Horning at Pop Matters points out, having also read the same Ehrenreich piece that I highlighted above:
Pretending that positive thinking can magically make miracles happen and remove all obstacles from life seems to her a dangerous illusion, not merely because it detaches a person from reality ("should I assume, positively, that no one is going to cut in front of me or, more negatively, be prepared to brake?") but because “it seems to reduce our tolerance of other people’s suffering.... If no one will listen to my problems, I won’t listen to theirs: ‘no whining’ as the popular bumper stickers and wall plaques warn.” In other words, positive psychology undermines the effects of sympathy that Adam Smith, et. al., found so fundamental to the healthy functioning of a society otherwise fixated on self-interest. If Ehrenreich is right, positive psychology instructs people to ignore the impulse to understand other’s feelings and instead impose on them your positive mood by force—like Rousseau suggested, you will force them to be free. As a more-contemporary philosopher bitterly noted, “Mellow out or you will pay.”
We’re only allowed to hope in the PROPER way, one that is sanctioned by the narrative decreed by the amorphous powers-that-be. It’s interesting to watch CNN describe a protest that is actually smaller than the ones prior to the war, and during the RNC in New York, as massive, after spending years denigrating earlier efforts, writing them off as “fringe” movements who don’t understand reality. As Iraq spirals out of control, we’re offered a dim idea that change is aborning, while both parties talk about expanding the military and rattle sabres at Iran. No one who is genuinely antiwar is given a real platform, only those anti-losing, or anti-THIS war, the black hole that is Iraq. Anybody who allows themselves to hope that our party(s) in Washington will try to stop Bush, Cheney and rightist Israel from attacking Iran is fooling themselves, yet we’re ladled out soft indications that protest is now popular, as long as it doesn’t go too far. Senator Webb, a militarist throughout his public life, supposedly represents the best and brightest hopes of the Democratic Party. No talk of real economic justice or redirecting our warlike ways into more productive directions coming from him, though, merely warmed-over Reaganisms and muscular challenges to the “incompetents” running the White House. Implicit is the understanding that if Webb was running things, the right asses would be kicked brutally and efficiently, and the shaky middle class might be able to keep a little more of the spoils now going out in big corporate bonuses to the highest few. A paltry sort of hope, to my eye.
Real hope requires that we confront REALITY. Real hope is something we create through action and engagement, and it’s something that we create TOGETHER. It doesn’t come from the top down, it comes from the hand placed at the small of our back when we stumble, the hand that mops our brow as we fight the fever. Real hope is fixing one’s eye on a vision of a goal while refusing to be blinded by that vision, using it as a signpost, not the road. Real hope is bound up in ties that we forge, not in promises that may never be fulfilled. Real hope is a brief respite to catch one’s breath before continuing on with the messy business of life.
Toward the end of her piece, Ehrenreich points out:
But what is truly sinister about the positivity cult is that is seems to reduce our tolerance for other people’s suffering. Far from being a “culture of complaint” that upholds “victims”, ours has become “less and less tolerant of people having a bad day or a bad year,” according to Barbara Held, professor of psychology at Bowdoin College and a leading critic of positive psychology. If no one will listen to my problems, I won’t listen to theirs: “no whining,” as the popular bumper stickers and wall plaques warn. Thus the cult acquires a viral-like reproductive energy, creating an empathy deficit that pushes ever more people into a harsh insistence on positivity in others.
I got through my bout of cancer in a state of constant rage, directed chiefly against the kitschy positivity of American breast-cancer culture. I remain, although not absolutely, certifiably, cancer-free to down to the last cell, at least hope-free. Do not mistake this condition for hopelessness, in the beaten or passive sense, or confuse it with unhappiness. The trick, as my teen hero Camus wrote, is to draw strength from the “refusal to hope, and the un-yielding evidence of a life without consolation” To be hope-free is to acknowledge the lion in the tall grass, the tumor in the CAT scan, and to plan one’s moves accordingly.
American “positivity” quickly curdles into sneering dismissal of the trials facing the unlucky and the wronged. We wrap our charity in chains of conditions, we bark at the Iraqis that they don’t “appreciate” the freedom (if chaos can be called freedom) that we gifted them with by our bombs and bullets and waterboards. We demand that the poor become saints before we feed them, we charge that the unlucky deserved their fates and must show proper contrition before they are grudgingly offered paltry bequests of aid. The hope we offer the victimized is the hope felt in the space between lashes, the quiet voice that pleads “no more” before the whip comes down again.
Cold comfort, flayed and beaten, as we all barrel along quoting Hallmark cards and shallow-minded preachers, right on along the highway to hell, unwilling to cry out a collective “STOP”.
Friday, January 26, 2007
fri rdm 10 - "ambassadors for peace" edition
Just a quick note to say THANK YOU to all of the people who will be in Washington D.C. for the Surge for Peace. You are ambassadors for what is most hopeful and open about this country. Thank you for showing the world that we aren’t all warmongerers. Be well tomorrow, and know that you are marching for many, many more of us who can’t be there for one reason or another. My fellow Liberal Street Fighter Wilfred will be among the countless thousands (well, the media and police are unlikely to count them anyway), and I am proud to call him my friend.
I look foward to tomorrow, and the days next week when the fight goes from the street and National Mall to the Halls of Congress and beyond. Today’s random 10 tunes after you hit “more”.
- "I Know What Boys Like” - Waitresses
- "Sweet Dreams” - Eurythmics
- "Dissolved Girl” - Massive Attack
- "Electric Requiem” - Queensrÿche
- "Hooker With a Penis” - Tool
- "When a Man Loves a Woman” - Percy Sledge
- "One of These Days” - Pink Floyd
- "I Am One” - Smashing Pumpkins
- "Cinnamon Girl” - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
- "Electric Guitar” - Talking Heads
Members of the Veterans for Peace gathered for an antiwar rally Thursday on Capitol Hill. A major antiwar march is planned this weekend.
photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times
Thursday, January 25, 2007
My New Hero: Rep. Maurice Hinchey
The medium is the message. So much noise and all controlled by corporations who practice suppression of free speech. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a flat-out liberal on the Sunday talkfests? The very same people who were right that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraq invasion and Occupation was all from the Neocon/Thinktank playbook should be the very people the media turns to when looking for balance but that’s irrelevant when there is no need for balance. That is why the Fairness Doctrine was repealed by Republicans under Reagan. Now someone is standing up and I want to applaud him. From Raw Story
Concerns about monopolies and fears of a possible “fascist” takeover of the US media have prompted a Democratic congressman to push to restore the Fairness Doctrine, RAW STORY has learned.
“Media reform is the most important issue confronting our democratic republic and the people of our country,” Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said at the Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. “This is a critical moment in history that may determine the future of our country…maybe forever.”
Hinchey told RAW STORY he plans to reintroduce the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA) that would break up media monopolies and restore the Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission under the Reagan administration.
“If Rush shoots his mouth off, he must give equal access to our side,” Hinchey said. “The American public will begin to get both sides or all sides of an issue. That is basic – fundamental to a democracy.”
There are so few voices in the media speaking about impeachment and freedom of speech that just hearing Rosie O’Donnell on the View today was a cause for joy. Sadly there will be forces trying to make her pay a price for it. From all appearances even Lou Dobbs was cut off the air by ABC for answering her impeachment question.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I just wanted to post a picture of a good piece of subversion carried out at a Barnes & Noble by Becca over at God is Dead.
Way to go Becca, but I’m willing to bet that the blinkered believers didn’t get it.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
How Far We've Fallen
It’s easy to chuckle at shows like the Andy Griffith Show now, but watch the clip above and then think how far our respect for law has fallen.
Thanks to Sivacracy for posting it for me to find.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Donks, Quit Your Fucking Whining
I am far past sick of it. Yes, yes, yes, those mean old Republicans, and the media, take potshots at the Dems, oftentimes unfair potshots, but it happens over and over again. Of course, they usually use some version of the truth, and it’s all very predictable, like the sun rising in the east. Hell, a lot of the time they do it to each other. It’s not the attacks that I’m sick of though, it’s the whining. Sniveling, snot-nosed punks, the Democratic Party and their wholly owned “activists” in the blahhhgs cry and piss and moan over and over again, like the runt nursing his bloody nose behind the gym after his latest beating on the playground.
Shut up all ready. This is politics, not a gentleman’s debating society following ossified rules, with each side reading off of their little stack of point/counter-point notecards. This is politics, this is big money and big influence and people’s lives and hopes and opportunities up for grabs. It’s a real battle, war sublimated into a mess of rules and words and cash and raised voices. It’s a contest with high stakes, and like war if you really want to win then you have to go into it willing to fight, to take some losses while responding by taking a chunk out of your enemy’s hide.
Despite a long friendship, Adams and Jefferson and their partisans launched vicious attacks at each other, both in their campaigns and during each other’s time in office. There was NEVER a time when the various sides duking it out over national policy didn’t fight dirty, never. They may have used flowery words about how they respected each other, but these were just gloves they slipped on to keep their knuckles from splitting when they smacked their opponent in his teeth.
People think the Dems are weak because they act weak. Refuse to defend your military service when it’s challenged by releasing your medical records, like Kerry did. Give bloodless, wonky, long-winded answers about policy when someone asks an offensive question about your wife being raped, like Dukakis did. Sit there like a halting grinning fool when Chris Matthews says right to your face that your wife has you by the balls, as John Edwards did. Cower, whimper, complain that your questioner or opponent is mean ... that behavior reinforces the idea that you won’t stand up for anyone, not even your own spouse. The more you complain, the worse it gets. When the hateful radicals on the right attack your constituents, respond by telling those constituents to shut up and not expect any overt support, for fear that the right will attack again.
This is the behavior of cowards. This is the behavior of submissive, spineless weaklings who fear the next punch, kick or harsh word. This is the behavior of losers.
Quit whining, silly little Donks, unless of course you’re secretly happy with the way this country is being run. Frankly, for many of you, for Clinton, Schumer, Emmanuel, Reid and so many of the rest of you, one can only conclude that you secretly wish that you could be running with the bullies. You don’t want to fight, or else you would be.
If you went to school at a madrassa, get it out there at the front, before it looks like you wanted to hide it. Stand up, dammit, stand up and fight. The right is full of wife-beaters, thieves, liars, cheats, hypocrites, racists, homophobes, closet-cases ... start going after them, if you actually give a damn and want to win.
Sadly, though, we know that you won’t, because you don’t care about the increasing nightmare this country is becoming. You’re on board with imperial mass murder. You’re on board with declining opportunity for success for increasing numbers of Americans. You’re just fine with children living in poverty, with women dying in childbirth for lack of access to healthcare, with increasing ignorance and rapacious corporate raping of the overheating planet. You don’t fight because you know that if you take your shots, the bullies will let you follow along with their pack, maybe even let you play once in a while. You LIKE being subservient to the greedy racist, nativist, bloodthirsty monsters who run this country.
What else can we think BUT those things, as you shuffle and sniffle and whine?
Friday, January 19, 2007
fri rdm 10 - "no habeas for your corpus!" edition
The chief law enforcement officer in the land thinks that your corpus is subject to the whims of our out-of-control Executive branch:
In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales questioned whether the U.S. Constitution grants habeas corpus rights of a fair trial to every American.
Responding to questions from Sen. Arlen Specter at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.
"There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.
“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”
Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.
This statement came from a man with a DEGREE IN LAW, breezily dismissing centuries of legal precedent with nary a care. If we start going after the Bush Administration by going after someone who works for them, as John Dean suggest, then I nominate Alberto “Torture is OKAY” Gonzales to be the first one that Congress go after (not that the spineless Donklephants will actually do it).
Oh, what danger we’ve put ourselves in.
Today’s random tunes after the jump.
- "Low Rider” - War
- "Time Has Told Me” - Kelly Willis
- "What God Wants, Part I” - Roger Waters
- "Love is a Battlefield” - Pat Benatar
- "Cowgirl in the Sand” - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
- "Fight Like a Brave” - Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “Caroline" - Concrete Blonde
- "Better Luck” - Scissor Sisters
- "Man Next Door” - Massive Attack
- "5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)"
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
LSF Review: Freedom Writers
Why is a film this good being dumped on the market in January? That was my thought leaving the film this week. Well, to be honest my original thought was “Why are they dumping this film in January when they might wrangle a nomination for Hillary Swank to promote the film” but then again I’m a cynical industry member. The reviews came out and were glowing so again I wondered “Why?”.
I wish I had the answer to that besides an inept studio decision and an apathetic American public but the most important fact is that the film is indeed very good as the reviews will attest to. Writer/director Richard Lagravenese (Living Out Loud) has done a wonderful job bringing the life of Erin Gruwell to the screen. This is the story of a young teacher fresh out of school and her effort to make a difference with underprivileged students. The film starts with her first fumblings trying to reach them and her determination to find a way into their hearts and minds. A fantastic cast of young kids flesh out the roles of these students and you spend much of the film pulling for all of them to succeed.
Hillary Swank plays against type as a girl from a wealthy background who won’t give up when confronted with adversity. She teaches that quality to those in her class as well as other lessons which had tears falling from my eyes. In a time when our country spends 1.2 Trillion dollars on an utterly failed war in Iraq while ignoring our own growing poor a story like this forces you to confront our faltering educational system. Can’t the Bush Administration do anything right? We can’t get body armor to our soldiers for 1.2 Trillion and we can’t get our inner city school kids textbooks and a safe learning environment as well as a decent salary for our educators.
If you get a moment this weekend check this film out before it leaves the theaters. We should support this kind of film in the cinema and not just on DVD.
Monday, January 15, 2007
The Martin Luther King We Forget
In all the tributes, in all the carefully edited replays of his speeches, readings of his letters, there is an important part of Dr. King’s legacy that is neglected.
Dr. King called not only for an end to racism, an end to institutionalized segregation, he called for an end to our imperial wars:
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
These times are full of uncertainty, but I think it is safe to say that Dr. King would have recognized these times as echoes of his own. Once again we slaughter people in a country that didn’t attack us. Once again we waste blood and treasure to fill the pockets and ambitions of venal men. Of all his words, it is perhaps those speaking against the Vietnam War that we need most now.
And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
So many of these lessons go unlearned, so many lives wasted, so many crimes committed, once again, needlessly ... the same atrocities in sand rather than tropical forest, but the same none-the-less.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
More now than even then, the sacrifices are shared by so few, so many Americans look away, take comfort in grand words. Thankfully, many more Americans have turned away from murderous folly, calling for the terror to end. Once again, people will fill the streets in protest. Dreams will go unfulfilled, more leaders will be attacked or murdered by the agents of death who run our country until we find the courage to embrace peace. If only the political leaders would listen to these voices, would listen to THIS voice:
For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath --
America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
How much of the current opposition from the public comes not from a sense of justice, but from a jingoistic upset that the US is “losing”? Far too much, and we will never live up to our fondest dreams, to the hightest ideals we claim to treasure, until we turn our back on war:
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
There can be no justice without peace. Remember these words, listen to these words, and find again our higher natures, our inate but far too often ignored capability for compassion:
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.
Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. *Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.
Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies.* What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
Ugly, nasty, brutal echoes from our past, as our leaders commit the same crimes, only with more lies even than then, with more greed and payouts to their patrons than at any time in our past. Like then, there is NO political leadership apparent, with both parties in favor of imperial war. Yes, some call for an end to THIS war, yet they still cheerlead the next.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
A wheel within a wheel, a crime echoing a crime, and yet we seldom hear these most vital of Dr. King’s words, because they don’t make us feel good about ourselves, because they shame us with our inability to live up to them. We play the speech on the Mall over and over again, the words from a Birmingham jail ... we play them over and over again because they reassure us that Bull Connor no longer enforces institutionalized injustice, even though an honest assessment of our current society makes it plain that in many ways things are worse. There is one constant of American life, that we won’t face who we are, won’t face that we aren’t the “good” people we constantly insist that we are, that we are as good and as bad as any other people, that our crimes are many, perhaps more numerous than our good works. A nation founded on slavery and genocide, yet we hold King’s words of his dream to our chest as though we’d fulfilled them.
This is harder to do with his words from the pulpit of the Riverside Church. It is hard to ignore that we’ve neglected his lesson on that day, that we continue to act as Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did, up to and including attacking neighboring states, once again, as we did during the Vietnam war, once again with talk of nuclear weapons.
Heed Dr. King’s words, because we need them more than ever:
It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
*This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations.* These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. *We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.*
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
Heed these words too on this day, for they speak to our times, to THIS war, against the echo of Nixon’s insanity that resides in the White House.
Friday, January 12, 2007
fri rdm 10 - "tick tock" edition
The most powerful nation in the world is ruled by a sociopath, we’re gonna build even more nuclear weapons and we STILL won’t face the drastic changes required in our society to cope with the destruction of our environment. Is there any wonder, then, that the Union of Concerned Scientists are moving the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The keepers of the “Doomsday Clock” plan to move its hands forward next Wednesday to reflect what they call worsening nuclear and climate threats to the world.
The symbolic clock, maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, currently is set at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight marking global catastrophe.
The group did not say in which direction the hands would move. But in a news release previewing an event next Wednesday, they said the change was based on “worsening nuclear, climate threats” to the world.
“The major new step reflects growing concerns about a ‘Second Nuclear Age’ marked by grave threats, including: nuclear ambitions in
North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing ‘launch-ready’ status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks,” the release reads.
The clock was last pushed forward by two minutes to seven minutes to midnight in 2002 amid concerns about the proliferation of nuclear, biological and other weapons and the threat of terrorism.
On that cheerful note, the random tunes on the Zen today:
- "Where Am I Now” - Shelby Lynne
- "You and I” - Queen
- "Lookin’ Up” - Shelby Lynne
- "I Wanna Be Committed” - Sweet
- "Jockey Full of Bourbon” - Tom Waits
- "I’m From the Chain Gang Now” - Johnny Cash
- "Dear God” - XTC
- "It Can’t Come Quickly Enough” - Scissor Sisters
- “Aenema" - Tool
- "Between A Rock and A Heartache” - Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The crime against humanity that is the US gulag know as Guantanamo is five years old today:
As the fifth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay detention center approaches, Human Rights Watch denounced the ongoing detentions there as a shameful blight on US respect for human rights. Human Rights Watch called on the Bush administration to bring criminal charges or release the nearly 400 detainees, and restore their access to federal court.
On January 11, 2002, the first 20 detainees in the “war on terror” arrived, hooded and shackled, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today, close to 400 men remain there without charge, unable to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before federal court.
“Detaining hundreds of men without charge at Guantanamo has been a legal and political debacle of historic proportions,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s time to close Guantanamo. The Bush administration should either charge or release the detainees trapped in a nightmarish limbo.”
Put a human face on this atrocity by going here and learn a little bit about captive hospital administrator Adel Hamad, produced by the public defenders trying to work on his case. Go, watch, dispair at what is being done in your name.
Adel Hamad has never been accused of a belligerent act against the United States. Despite not being captured on a battlefield (Mr. Hamad was arrested in the middle of the night from his bed) the U.S. nevertheless categorized him as an enemy combatant. Below are the 3 allegations that the administrative tribunal uses to justify Mr. Hamad’s continued detention. There is little logical consistency to these allegations as you will discover when you read the rebuttals following each one.
This is being done in your name. Five years, and more to come.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Bring Out Your Dead
George Walker Bush is a plague upon humankind:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush will tell skeptical Americans on Wednesday he will send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq as part of a long-delayed new plan for the unpopular war, setting up a confrontation with Democrats.
The fresh infusion of troops will join about 130,000 already in Iraq. Senior administration officials said 17,500 would go to Baghdad and 4,000 to volatile Anbar province.
The first wave of troops are expected to arrive in five days, with others coming in additional waves. Under the plan, the Iraqi government will deploy additional Iraqi troops to Baghdad with a first brigade deploying February 1 and two more by February 15.
Senior administration officials said the cost of the troop increase would be around $5.6 billion. An additional $1.2 billion would finance a rebuilding and jobs programs.
If you watched his speech, you saw nothing more than a flashback, a repeat of the empty words he’s spewed before, the cawing of a bloody-beaked raven circling over the mounting dead.
Facts don’t matter. The opposition of Generals doesn’t matter, those same generals that he used to excuse his escalations of the past. Even lifelong Republicans are abandoning his insane, stubborn wasting of American and Iraqi lives, in the name of broader war and greed and American/Israeli imperialism:
Bush is like Hitler. He blames defeats on his military commanders, not on his own insane policy. Like Hitler, he protects himself from reality with delusion. In his last hours, Hitler was ordering non-existent German armies to drive the Russians from Berlin.
By manipulating Bush and provoking a military crisis in which the US stands to lose its army in Iraq, the neoconservatives hope to revive the implementation of their plan for US conquest of the Middle East. They believe they can use fear, “honor,” and the aversion of macho Americans to ignoble defeat to expand the conflict in response to military disaster. The neocons believe that the loss of an American army would be met with the electorate’s demand for revenge. The barriers to the draft would fall, as would the barriers to the use of nuclear weapons.
Neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz set out the plan for Middle East conquest several years ago in Commentary magazine. It is a plan for Muslim genocide. In place of physical extermination of Muslims, Podhoretz advocates their cultural destruction by deracination. Islam is to be torn out by the roots and reduced to a purely formal shell devoid of any real beliefs.
Podhoretz disguises the neoconservative attack against diversity with contrived arguments, but its real purpose is to use the US military to subdue Arabs and to create space for Israel to expand.
These are criticisms from his right, and complaints about Godwin’s Law or anti-Semitism become foolish when confronted with such obstinate evil.
Congress could fight back, but decades of McCarthyite tactics have rendered most politicians, especially Democrats, cowardly and accommodating when confronted by jingoistic chestbeating and needless, wasteful escalation. They are more likely to blame our victims, to self-righteously proclaim that we saintly Americans have done enough (see Durbin’s shameful Democratic response).
George Walker Bush is a plague on Humankind, and sadly it looks like the Democrats will continue to push carts through the carnage, crying out “Bring out your dead,” concerned only that the dead not be AMERICAN dead, and a pox upon everybody else.