Friday, December 16, 2005

The Ugly Legacy Of Coal

Mary Hufford took this photograph of mountain top removal. This and others are at the Library of Congress site Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia. Posted by Picasa

When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.

---George Bernard Shaw

Searching for words, hunting for phrases, when will it end?
Esteeming knowledge and gathering information only maddens the spirit.
Just entrust yourself to your own nature, empty and illuminating---
Beyond this, I have nothing to teach.


Dying cricket,
His song so full
of life.


One of the first questions people ask when they move to a mining area of the Appalachians---or even just drive through mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio---is "What's happening over there?" They're referring to a startling bare spot on the horizon, out in the middle of nowhere, no towns around, maybe a big crane thing sticking up. What you're seeing is called strip mining or mountain top removal, and the little part of the machine inadvertently visible from the highway might be something like The Big Muskie, which was the largest mobile land machine in the world . It would take a stack of books to describe the history of coal mining and its effect on the lives of the people here---and certainly other regions of the Earth too---but did you know that history continues? Mining goes on here, providing jobs and taking them away, with mountain folks wrestling the same issues they've had to deal with for 200 years.

A great warrior and inspiration to me is Elisa Young, who lives among the coal-powered electric plants around Racine, down on the Ohio River. That's just a couple dozen miles and around a few riverbends from Cheshire, the town American Electric Power BOUGHT rather than clean up their stacks to remove the toxicity that brought poison to the lives of people who used to live there---and toxic rain to the Adirondacks. She's down there going to public meetings and hearings day and night, and reports on her work (all sparetime, as she has a regular job) at a Sierra Club website our local group maintains.

Earlier this week she posted an editorial I'd like you to read. It appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, and was written by Erik Reece, who teaches writing at the University of Kentucky, and wrote a piece called "Death of a Mountain" in the April Harpers Magazine~~~

Coal companies' damage easy to see

By Erik Reece

Bill Caylor (President of the Kentucky Coal Association), in his latest apology for the damage that large coal corporations are inflicting on Eastern Kentucky, claims that while pessimistic editorialists never change, the coal industry has. Certainly no one is getting gunned down in the streets of Matewan anymore. But how much has the industry changed?

Ask Larry Gibson, who, because he refuses to sell his mountaintop homeplace, has seen his cabin set on fire, his two dogs shot and his solar panels sabotaged.

Ask Judy Bonds and Bo Webb of Coal River Mountain Watch, who received death threats last month because they dare to criticize the industry.

Ask Patsy Carter, who, after her daughter was killed by an overloaded coal truck, began speaking out. Since then, she has had 22 flat tires. At night, she can hear nails hit her mailbox as coal trucks speed by.

I have met a whole lot of decent people in the coal industry. But despite corporations' legal right to operate as "persons" under the law, a corporation is not a person. And as the 2000 Martin County disaster showed, corporations often operate without the moral compass that we hope will guide individuals.

How else can one explain why, over the last four years, 65,000 coal trucks have left Massey Energy's treatment plant in Sylvester, W.Va., and, according to an internal document, every single one was illegally, dangerously overloaded.

To look at the eastern coalfields on an aerial map and to see the black scars left by mountaintop removal is like looking at the X-ray of someone suffering from lung cancer. Caylor asserts, correctly, that only "7 percent of all of Appalachia" has been mountaintopped. But what if 7 percent of someone's lung was cancerous, and a doctor said there was no need to treat it?

"But won't it spread?" asks the patient.

"Of course it will," the doctor replies.

"But shouldn't we stop it?"

"Nope. Keep smoking. It's good for the cigarette industry and good for our economy."

I don't evoke this sad analogy lightly. Strip mining is destroying life in the streams of Appalachia and, as an Eastern Kentucky University study of Letcher County found, that polluted water is causing cancer and many other serious health problems throughout the region.

Without serious state or federal intervention, mountaintop mining will continue to spread havoc across Eastern Kentucky.

Caylor asserts that coal mining supports 14,000 jobs in Eastern Kentucky. But according to the Kentucky Coal Association's own Web site, only 5,237 of those jobs are on surface mines. That's about 100 jobs for each Appalachian county in Kentucky. Is destroying entire watersheds -- their trees, their water, their soil, their people -- worth 100 jobs?

"It's the lack of jobs that creates poverty," Caylor writes. It sure is, and it is the increased mechanization of the coal industry over the last few decades that is directly responsible for the lack of jobs in Eastern Kentucky.

It is no coincidence that the counties that have seen the most strip mining remain the poorest.

Caylor is right about one thing, though. We should retire the phrase "act of God" when talking about the damage caused by mountaintop mining. The floods and mudslides that, over the past five years, have killed 14 people who lived under strip mines in southern West Virginia were clearly acts of man. The only act of God was the creation of the Appalachian mountains -- the most biologically diverse ecosystem in North America.

Genesis 2:15 says that the creator put human beings on the Earth "to work it and take care of it." But we have been very poor stewards of the creation, and there may be hell to pay.

But because Caylor says that opponents of strip mining never have a "vision for the future," I want to offer one in the form of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative.

Paul Rothman and Patrick Angel from the Office of Surface Mining have been encouraging coal companies to reclaim strip jobs with the kinds of trees that the bulldozers unearthed.

There is so much abandoned mine land in Eastern Kentucky right now that a tree reforestation program, funded by the state's severance tax, could reduce the region's unemployment rate to zero. Erosion and flooding would decrease, carbon sequestration would increase and Eastern Kentucky would finally have a wood-products industry that might bring an end to the ugly legacy of coal.

© 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader and wire service sources

Erik's Harpers essay, with photos, is preserved here

Elisa added the following in her post~~~

"Thought I would forward this and say the violence is not exaggerated.

"Larry called me one night about a month ago when he dropped a friend of ours off after they'd been out to speak against on MTR (mountain top removal), and her husband was waiting for her - with a pistol. He called to ask me to find out what kind of trouble they were having.

"Halloween they tried to burn Maria's footbridge to her home in the hollow while I was on the phone with her and she had to leave to run and put the fire out. If she loses her bridge it's a one mile walk back into the hollow and a half mile down the hill, and they are carrying in all of their drinking water since MTR started. The estimate to install city water is over $30,000. They don't have that kind of money and the coal company refuses to take responsibility."

People who live in the mountains around here tend to be fiercely independent, trying to sustain their lives without receiving charity from anywhere. You can't depend on government benefits because the next election may wipe them all out. So they garden a little bit, gather herbs and roots, barter, make crafts and moonshine, and grab jobs when one comes around. It's a rough life, but they think living in the mountains is worth it. Mountain top removal? I heard one guy say, "Hey, the top is the best part!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Who Are You Supporting In The Iraqi Election Tomorrow?

Posted by Picasa The picture is from a Fox News PhotoEssay entitled Iraq Vote.

Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.

---Lao Tzu

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common---this is my symphony.

---William Henry Channing

Our reason has driven all away. Alone at last, we end up by ruling over a desert.

---Albert Camus

I understand President Bush is blaming faulty intelligence for the White House Christmas card this year. It greets his supporters with "Best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness." The CIA hadn't told him the War on Christmas has escalated to the incendiary point shots would be fired over his use of "holiday." John Breneman says Rove quickly reworded the inscription to read, "Merry Birth Anniversary of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior who died on the cross for our sins so that we may ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven." The President has planned an address to cadets at West Point later today to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas, especially all our friends in the Muslim world," and of course to credit the CIA with doing a heck of a job.

So they're voting in Iraq. Congress is poised to contribute another $50 billion dollars for the war over there, as the Pentagon is requesting $100 billion beyond that right away. With that kind of cash on the ---er--- barrelhead, it occurs to me you probably are watching the Iraqi election pretty closely. After all, the freely elected democracy in Iraq is the real reason we're over there. Or is it the latest reason?

I would never accuse anyone of Bush's stature to be a flip-flopper, but is there a logical consistency to all this? Didn't he say the other day that even if he'd known the intelligence was faulty (and whatever happened to the Downing Street Memo?) we'd have staged Shock and Awe? I think he did. Saddam was a bad man and had to go. And yesterday he said, "Given Saddam's history and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision." Everyone knows Saddam and 9/11 are linked.

Since September 2nd, and Katrina, Bush has been on the campaign trail (paid for by whose tax-cut dollars?) to recover the polls. And it's working like a charm. James Ridgeway has chronicled the whole trip with a timeline that Rove must have planned out on his computer.,ridgeway,71059,2.html Step by step Bush has escalated his rhetoric until we're right back where we started. The only thing he hasn't repeated is Saddam was buying yellowcake in Niger. Hello Patrick Fitzgerald, are you still out there?

So what will the election in Iraq accomplish for the Bush team? William Rivers Pitt has organized the factions and issues for us, and set forth the possibilities. Here's the whole essay~~~

Meet the New Boss
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective

Wednesday 14 December 2005

There is an election taking place in Iraq on Friday. According to those who still maintain some kind of hope that the wretched situation over there can be salvaged at the ballot box, this election will be a turning point. "If the result is seen to be fair and the government elected for the next four years is accepted as broadly representative of the interests of most Iraqis," writes Liz Sly in the Chicago Tribune, "there is a real chance that the insurgent violence and the sectarian rivalries that are pushing the country close to civil war will abate."

This vote, the third since the occupation began, is meant to elect a 275-person parliamentary body called the Council of Representatives. All 18 Iraqi provinces will be participating in the election. The Sunnis, who mostly boycotted the elections last January, are expected to participate in far larger numbers this time around. Leading Sunni clerics have issued a fatwa which decrees that Sunni participation in this election is a religious duty.

This election will be no panacea, despite what the hopefuls think. Every electoral model has the Shia and Kurds assuming dominant positions in the Iraqi government. Even if every Sunni in Iraq goes to the polls, they make up only 20% of the overall population. Electoral formulas meant to enhance Sunni power within an Iraqi government will still leave them deeply in the minority.

A collection of leading Sunni parties called the Iraqi Consensus Front has been pushing a straightforward slogan: "Our goal is to get the invaders out and rebuild the country." If their minority status prevents the Sunnis from achieving their first goal according to their wishes, they may well return to violence to achieve their second goal. A leaflet was broadly distributed in the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad last Monday. Sunni Arabs may have a chance to advance their cause politically in the upcoming elections, read the leaflet, but "the fighting will continue with the infidels and their followers."

The campaigning itself, which ended on Tuesday, has been a half-baked farce all too reminiscent of America's watered-down and money-driven electioneering. Thanks to the assassinations and attempted assassinations of several candidates, and thanks to the ever-present threat of violence, almost all campaigning has been done via television. Because television time is prohibitively expensive, only the campaigns with significant financial resources will ever become known to the Iraqi people. Hundreds of viable candidates, a number of them secular, don't stand a chance next to well-funded religious campaigns whose cash comes from unknown and potentially dangerous outside sources.

Juan Cole, professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, does not see how this election can possibly be seen as credible. "As with the Jan. 30 elections," writes Cole, "the Dec. 15 elections are not being held in accordance with international standards of fairness, and cannot be. Proper elections would require that security be provided to voters and candidates. But there is no security. In many parts of the center-north, voters will have no guarantee of coming home alive. The only way the vote will happen at all is that the US military has forbidden all vehicular traffic, so everyone has to walk for the next few days. This tactic prevents car bombings from disrupting the elections, but it is a desperate measure and not a sign of an election that could be certified as free and fair."

In one sense, however, one can appreciate how difficult it must be to mount an effective political campaign in Iraq. Beyond the real possibility of getting shot, a candidate must face a divided populace that does not, according to a recent ABC News/Time poll taken in Iraq, seem to know what it wants. Make sense of these numbers: 90% believe Iraq needs democracy, but 91% believe Iraq needs a single strong leader; 48% want the mullahs to rule, but only 13% want an Islamic state; 48% think religious leaders should rule, while 49% think military leaders should rule.

The most gifted and adept American politician would struggle to develop a coherent message in this situation. Half the populace wants religious leadership, half the populace wants military leadership, and simultaneously the vast majority believes either of these is amenable to democracy. The only issue the Iraqi people have a clear consensus on is the occupation itself; by large majorities, they want the Americans out.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Iraqi elections on Friday come off without a hitch. No one is killed, maimed or intimidated into voting for a particular candidate by having a gun barrel put to his head. There are no hanging chads, no mayhem or madness. What will the Iraqi and American people get out of the incredible blood and treasure we have poured into this conflict?

We will get an Iraqi government dominated by known and notorious terrorists. We will get an Iraqi government dominated by Iran.

The Shia will walk away from Friday with the lion's share of control over the Iraqi government. The two most powerful Shia political parties, the ones that will come out of this with the big wins, are the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is known by the initials SCIRI. Both were founded and funded by Iran in the 1980s. Both have a history of spectacular violence against the United States and other nations. "These guys are murderers," says former CIA agent Bob Baer, who dealt with Dawa during the 1980s. "They were the core element that blew up our embassy in Beirut in 1983."

Paul Mulshine, writing last week for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, encapsulates this amazing turn of events. "What would you call someone who wants to hand over control of Iraq to a group of terrorists that first made its reputation by blowing up a couple of American embassies?" wrote Mulshine. "I'd call him President Bush. The group is called the Dawa party. In the early 1980s, Dawa terrorists bombed our embassies in Kuwait and in Lebanon. They were universally recognized as vicious America-hating, Iranian-supported terrorists. Now they're part of the coalition that is expected to win control of the new Iraqi parliament in Thursday's elections."

"The other coalition partners aren't much better," continued Mulshine. "The sanest group on the Shi'a side is the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. A 1984 Washington Post story portrayed the group, known by its initials SCIRI, as 'a kind of parent organization for four operational terrorist groups.' SCIRI was founded in Iran a couple of years earlier by the Ayatollah Khomeini with the goal of taking control of Iraq. Now, they're about to do so, courtesy of George W. Bush."

A walk through history serves to remind those afflicted with short attention spans of who exactly is about to take control of Iraq.

A story from US News and World Report dated December 26, 1983, titled "The New Face of Mideast Terrorism" describes the bombing of the American embassy in Kuwait: "The terrorist who detonated the truckload of explosives at the US Embassy in Kuwait was identified as a 25-year-old Iraqi belonging to an outlawed Moslem unit, the Iranian Dawa Group."

A story from the Associated Press dated February 11, 1984, titled "Trial of Bomb Blast Defendants Opens" describes the trial of 21 people charged with bombing American and French embassies: "Of the other defendants, 17 are Iraqis; two, Lebanese, three, Kuwaitis and two are stateless. Most of them said they belonged to Al-Dawa (Islamic Call) Party, an Iraqi movement of Shiite Moslem fanatics who are pro-Iranian."

A story from the Associated Press dated December 27, 1986, titled "Five Groups Claim Responsibility, Iraq Accuses Iran" describes the attempted hijacking of an Iraqi jetliner that resulted in the deaths of over 60 people: "The hijackers acted in cooperation with the Dawa party of pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites."


A sharp indictment of SCIRI and its ties to Iran and terrorism can be found, of all places, within the pages of the report put forth by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This commission, put together to investigate the events of and leading up to September 11, heard expert testimony from Mark Gasiorowski, professor of Political Science and Director of International Studies at Louisiana State University.

In his testimony, Gasiorowski stated, "From the early 1980s until about 1996, Iran was directly involved in a wide variety of terrorist activities. It provided extensive support to Islamist terrorist groups such as Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Afghan Northern Alliance and its precursors." Gasiorowski goes on to state that Iran continues to support several terrorist groups, and includes SCIRI among them. "They are most strongly committed to Hezbollah and SCIRI," said Gasiorowski, "with which they have worked closely for over 20 years."

Excellent. It seems the best path to electoral victory in Iraq, besides kissing babies and avoiding assassins, involves a long history of terrorism and extreme violence against the United States. Former CIA agent Bob Baer stated in Mulshine's article, "So now we have a Shia terrorist state. Was this worth $6 billion a month?"

Almost certainly, we will hear apologists for both the Bush administration and the invasion downplay the incredible terrorist histories of the groups about to take over the Iraqi government. "Sure they were terrorists," we will hear, "but they're OK now." In other words, they are terrorists, but they are our terrorists.

Saddam Hussein was our terrorist in Iraq for years, so long as he directed his terrorism primarily at Iran. Osama bin Laden was our terrorist in Afghanistan for years, so long as he directed his terrorism at the Soviet Union. Anyone seeing a pattern developing here?

Just how interested is Iran in Friday's elections? The New York Times reported on Wednesday that, "Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said. The Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border." American democracy at its finest, it seems.

It is amazing to consider that Americans, who have almost completely lost faith in the vote as an effective means of political participation at home, are somehow expected to believe that this vote will solve Iraq's incredible problems. One wonders how long it will be before the Vanishing Voter Project opens an office in Baghdad. In Iraq, of course, vanishing voters carry an entirely different meaning.

Don't get your hopes up come Friday. The worst possible outcome will involve horrific bloodshed and unrest. The best possible outcome will place two notoriously deadly terrorist organizations in charge of Iraq. Was this trip really necessary?

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

© : t r u t h o u t 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005


William Blake (1757-1827)
The Omnipotent
Oil on canvas, 1794 Posted by Picasa

I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. LIVE the questions now.

---Rainer Maria Rilke

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you are going someplace else.

---Jerry Garcia

Watching the moon
at dawn,
solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely:
no part left out.

---Izumi Shikibu

I'm not much of a joiner and never have been. I haven't sought out many groups in my life. Such pursuit never entered the picture much. My parents came from individually quite different backgrounds, weren't joiners either, and didn't bring with them any cultural baggage that got me involved in groups. They both were something like 3rd generation Swedes in America, but they didn't celebrate any traditions from the "old country" except smorgasbord at Christmas...and then it was at a paternal relative's house and not ours. Those people still could speak some Swedish, but I never heard but a few words in my house. Maybe the farming Swedes on my mother's side had been on these shores longer because I never saw a flake in them of any traditions except universally countrified ones. Their generation came out of the Depression and went to World War II, both of which catastrophes encouraged a style of surviving that was tightly knit to the institutions of the United States. My family was middle class America in the 1940s and 1950s, and if any "group" came out of that it probably was The Organization Man.

I suppose my father tried to "fit in" more than my mother did. She had had a career in nursing but stayed at home with my sister and me. She didn't feel compelled to do that, but certainly her girlhood on a working farm influenced what she thought a wife and mother should do. Occasionally my father encouraged her to return to nursing, but only because he thought she might find getting out of the house fulfilling. She didn't want to though. My father learned to play golf, because the guys at work did it. After he left that job he gave it up. Somehow he joined the Kiwanis Club, which is a sort of service organization, and maybe all males. He was becoming a prominent citizen in town and I guess he thought he was supposed to do something like that. Almost immediately people wanted him to run for mayor. His uncle was Mayor Emeritus of our town and he was an ideal candidate. He didn't want that though. He bristled at any feeling of obligation to people for special favors, and in his retirement told me he never really had a job he liked. I don't know what he wanted to be except a good father, and there didn't seem to be a group for that.

I joined the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, but only for the activities and because kids I knew were in them. I wasn't gung ho and never got attracted to the hierarchies or job opportunities with them. We weren't even members of any church, until I heard about a youth group at one that my girl friend went to. My mother was raised fundamentalist United Brethren and she didn't like it---obviously: she married an actor. My father I guess was agnostic, but did like to sing. I dragged them both into the First Baptist Church (not involved in any way with Southern Baptists) and they got my father into the choir. I was baptized (full immersion) in that church, but never felt much allegiance to it or any spiritual development going on.

My father spent World War II working in essential industry at home, building bearings for tanks, and spent no time in armed service. When I came to draft age in the late 50s, the Korean whatever was over...and we had peacetime until the Cuban crisis, which I sweat out at Harvard without deferment. I had been called for a physical in the runup to possible engagement with Russia over missiles in Cuba, and was categorized 1-A. I told the sergeants I was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, but they'd never heard of it. The Viet Nam lottery came later, but I wasn't called. So there's no tradition of the military in my history either.

OK, so I joined some radical political groups, but I kind of stayed on the outside of those too. I didn't write pamphlets and tracts or burn the midnight oil cranking the mimeograph for leaflets to pass out. I carried signs and went to rallies and demonstrations, which I loved. If I was a member of anything, it was the Alienated Generation. There were good traditions there, but if you lived in smalltown America you really had to look for them. I had discovered jazz and swing by accident before my teen years. I had collected stamps, butterflies, and autographed pictures of movie stars...and records came next. I came out of my room after listening to jazz, and my mother said I looked like I was on drugs. Well, a lot of jazz players were on drugs...and my parents worried. However, jazz musicians are among the most independent and individualistic characters on the planet, and the ideas I got through their horns influenced my life totally. I was in civil rights because of jazz.

In the 1950s, there was Brando and James Dean, "adult" westerns, Beat poets, existentialism, Samuel Beckett, the beginnings of French and Italian cinema, "sick" comics, Jean Shepherd and Jules Feiffer, rhythm 'n blues, girls with rocketship breasts and cars with fins. There also were fraternities and sororities in high school. The normal kids joined. I got invited into one but hated the torture of hazing and quit almost immediately. Why would I want to give up all the wild stuff of the rebel outsider? I became an intellectual and read philosophy. I was a champion debater, and at my most ruthless decided to become a lawyer. But I didn't. Instead I stayed on the outside looking in. I got a job reporting for radio news during high school, and might have been good at journalism...but now that I see what happened to that field in this country, I'm happier I opted for various kinds of teaching jobs instead.

So through it all, I've enjoyed the privilege of knowing people as individuals, and most of my friends have been something like me. Unaffiliated. Recently I joined the Episcopal Church, but I'm hoping I'm too old now to get asked to be any part of a governing board or something. Most of my friends, especially after the 1960s, have been from different religions entirely. I was interested in Buddhism in the 1970s, and spent some time with the Kagyu lineage of the Tibetan variety. One day I asked a meditation teacher if it was possible to be a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time. He laughed softly, looked at me skeptically and said, "I don't think so"...with a definite overtone of Absolutely Not. I nodded and stepped spiritually a step back. I'm used to doing that. I understand that Catholic, Jewish, fundamentalist, pagan, and Buddhist friends do things, go to things where I really don't fit in and don't belong. There's an energy hierarchy in Hindu things, and I prefer not to get too close. I have friends who do though, and probably are "more" in the moment. Islam still is a mystery, but I'm learning.

Groups sometimes open...and then close. In the mid-1960s there was an amazing intermingling of white and black cultures in the US. I mean, it was possible if you tried. I went to work for a rather exclusive private boys school in Connecticut (it's now co-ed and probably totally exclusive) largely because it had a summer program of working with inner city youth, mostly black and Spanish. When I asked the dean of the school why they had the program, he shrugged and said, "Noblesse oblige." I took the job anyway, and got to work with an interracial staff that was the Dream Come True. Once we had a healthy, common working spirit formed---and that happened fast because of individual dedication---we began to open to each other and expose vulnerabilities. We became relentless with each other when that happened. We would pick up on stereotypical trash in one another that we'd say or do, and point out There Is The Problem. Everybody sweat in that spotlight, but what liberation came! And then we'd party. Shugie had us all down to his house in Old Greenwich, the "poor" side of town, where he dug a pit in his front yard and barbecued us ribs for 3 days straight.

But then backlash came, and Black Power was proud. Suspicions returned, disappointments, disillusion...and it was time to step back. OK, I was on into feminism now anyway. There were never any groups that wanted me to join, but I definitely developed an attitude to step back and make room, to advocate for women in places of leadership wherever I was. And there's backlash there too, and now each woman I encounter is an individual...and I need to be sensitive about offending her, either by something I do or don't do. I'm glad I've had this history as a non-joiner to help me be adaptable enough to continue to meet new and challenging people. I love the endless variety of humanity.

However, I'm writing this with a troubled mind. I really despise prejudice, especially in myself. It feels good to get it identified and rid of. The other day my attention was drawn to an active movement to point out anti-Semitism among liberals in the US. One's usual response to a charge like that, and mine is too, is to get defensive and deny stuff right away. It's impossible liberals could be anti-Semitic. Are liberals going around checking off Jewishness in their minds? Are we suspecting Bush's foreign policy is really a Jewish plot? Then one unloads some counter-charges. Jews accuse everybody of anti-Semitism if we disagree about something. They won't let us criticise Israel without accusing us. What about Palestine? Jews wanted us to attack Sadam...but any nation of Arab extraction will do as well. And pretty soon one does sound prejudiced.

What is prejudice anyway? The usual definition is "pre-judging." I decide something about a group or individual without facts, information, experience. Well, that's pretty negative. I'm thinking that prejudice is about some unanswered questions. The questions may be absurd, absolutely farcical, crazy even...but I haven't happened to hear the answers, and I wonder if I'm even allowed to ask. Getting the answers may be risky and painful. Giving such answers about yourself or your group may be humiliating or infuriating. But what I learned in that Upward Bound project in Connecticut is how worth the work the process is. Maybe that was a special time and a special place but it surely was The Dream Come True.


For information on Facing A Challenge Within: A Progressive Scholars' and Activists' Conference on Anti-Semitism and The Left, try

One of the most interesting people involved with these concerns is named Judy Andreas, and you can get acquainted at . The "Letter To Judy" there, from November 24th, is worth your time. Her essay "Opening Up Jewish Eyes," from September 30th, is receiving a lot of reprint on the Internet .

There are two other sites that are adding to my confusion. One is and the other is . Perhaps you'll see what I mean...or can straighten me out.

How serious is current anti-Jewish feeling in America? Try .

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday Catchup

Tara Esler, a physical therapist and therapy director, and Negar Adlib, physical therapist, at work at the Children's Center in Washington DC

Is it then not a mistake to precipitate the time of awakening? Not the greatest master can go even one step for his disciple; in himself he must experience each stage of developing consciousness. Therefore he will know nothing for which he is not ripe.

---De Lubicz

I gave up my house
and set out into homelessness.
I gave up my child, my cattle,
and all that I loved.
I gave up desire and hate.
My ignorance was thrown out.
I pulled out craving
along with its root.
Now I am quenched and still.


Seek simplicity and distrust it.

---Alfred North Whitehead

My early Saturday morning coffee usually is spent scouring through the online newspapers. I try to read more carefully stories I only had time to glance at through the week...and usually Washington sources like to sneak out releases late Friday afternoon they hope will be lost in Friday night and Saturday afternoon football activities. I do all this before going to my favorite blog sites for the more cutting edge stuff. I've found this week's main stories rather earthshaking.

The NY Times arrived in this emailbox a couple hours late this morning...and no wonder. For the second night in a row, the House of Representatives went into loud extra innings fighting over the war in Iraq and budget cuts to education and Medicaid. Last night's debate was on a hastily-drawn resolution to support the President's vow this morning to stay the course "until we have achieved the victory that our brave troops have fought for."

"The battle boiled over when Representative Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican who is the most junior member of the House, told of a phone call she had just received from a Marine colonel back home.
"'He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course,' Ms. Schmidt said. 'He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.'
"Democrats booed in protest and shouted Ms. Schmidt down in her attack on Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam combat veteran and one of the House's most respected members on military matters. They caused the House to come to an abrupt standstill, and moments later, Representative Harold Ford, Democrat of Tennessee, charged across the chamber's center aisle to the Republican side screaming that Ms. Schmidt's attack had been unwarranted.
"'You guys are pathetic!' yelled Representative Martin Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts. 'Pathetic.'
"The measure to withdraw the troops failed in a 403-to-3 vote late Friday night."

If I had C-Span I'd be watching these sessions, and I haven't turned on the radio or TV yet this morning; but Thursday night's fight got a soundbyte on NPR's Friday morning news. I must say I've never heard our Congress sound like this. The 2 sides were shouting at each other like some of the legislative bodies that have struggled in Eastern Europe. It's not like the comparatively sedate shouting in the House of Commons. It sounds like fists are ready to fly. The argument was about this~~~

"The health-education-labor bill was headed for completion Thursday until a band of House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to defeat the measure, which would cut spending by $1.4 billion.
"The cuts would have hit social programs including children's health, Head Start preschool programs for poor children, job training, drug abuse programs, and money for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Yesterday's Washington Post ran a moving account of what the proposed Medicaid cuts will mean to families in all walks of life who are caring for disabled children. Do click on the photo there for a very brief slide show of some of those beautiful people.

That previous Post story up above is a good summary of the various appropriation bills under discussion...including of course a $3100 a year pay raise for our Congresspeople. The Associated Press story on that one is seeing the most print.

The other story that has captured my attention this morning is about the Plame Affair. Yesterday Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced he will appear before a new grand jury to continue his investigation. On Thursday "a group of former intelligence officers urged President Bush not to pardon anyone convicted of leaking Valerie Plame's name to reporters and to pull security clearances of any White House officials implicated in the investigation.
"Plame's husband went on the airwaves urging the Washington Post to conduct an inquiry into why top reporter Bob Woodward kept his editor in the dark about an interview 17 months ago with a senior administration official about Plame's identity and her work at the CIA, a conversation a month before another journalist published her name."

The Post seems to be responding to both the New York Times (and their approach with Judith Miller) and to Joseph Wilson's appeal with an editorial this morning~~~

WE'VE SAID from the start of the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity that if administration officials deliberately set out to unmask a secret agent, they should be punished. But we've also said that, absent evidence of such behavior, criminalizing communication by officials to journalists would run counter to the public interest. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation is continuing -- he said yesterday he's going back to a grand jury -- and new facts may come to light. But the principle remains valid: It's not in the public interest for reporters to be forced to reveal their confidential sources in cases such as this. That's why Post reporter Bob Woodward should not be vilified for protecting the identity of his source in this complex affair.
Here we remind readers that the editorial page operates separately from those who gather and publish news in The Post. Mr. Woodward doesn't answer to us, and he has no input on our page. Like other interested observers, we have noted that Executive Editor Leonard Downie, to whom Mr. Woodward does report, has faulted his investigative reporter for failing to tell him sooner what was going on and for expressing personal opinions on television about the Fitzgerald investigation, and Mr. Woodward has apologized. Both rebukes strike us as reasonable -- as does Mr. Downie's characterization of Mr. Woodward as "one of the most careful, accurate and fair journalists I have ever worked with."
But the Woodward flap has significance beyond The Post's newsroom. The longtime Post reporter disclosed this week that, while conducting research for a book, he received information from an administration official about Ms. Plame before her identity was revealed by Robert D. Novak in a July 2003 column. That information was potentially relevant to Fitzgerald's investigation and to a news story that has been extensively covered in this and other papers. Mr. Woodward said he told one Post reporter at the time what he had learned but did not disclose the source. Mr. Woodward recently testified to the prosecutor, with the source's permission and after the source had spoken with Mr. Fitzgerald, but still (again according to his agreement) has not publicly identified the source.
Much of the public finds the media's extensive use of confidential sources objectionable, and understandably so. Their use should be as limited as possible. When they are relied upon, reporters should impart as much information as possible about the sources' motives. Those guidelines are accepted but too often ignored by the press.
But over the years innumerable cases of official corruption and malfeasance have come to light thanks to sources being able to count on confidentiality. It's astonishing to see so many people -- especially in the journalism establishment -- forget that now. Many of those who condemn Mr. Woodward applauded when The Post recently revealed the existence of CIA prisons around the world, a story that relied on unnamed sources.
Is there a distinction to be made based on the motives of the leakers? If so, Mr. Woodward might have had to pass up his first big scoops three decades ago, because his Watergate source, Deep Throat -- recently revealed as FBI official W. Mark Felt -- was disgruntled at having been passed over for the post of FBI director. Newspapers face difficult questions all the time in evaluating the reliability of sources and the appropriateness of publishing their secrets. But if potential sources come to believe that they cannot count on promises of confidentiality, more than the media will suffer.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

This latest development, involving Woodward and Fitzgerald's announcement, has brought comment from John Dean (his bio is here ). You may have seen him last night on David Brancaccio's NOW on PBS, where he affirmed again he thinks the prosecutor may have Cheney "in his sights." A couple weeks ago John Dean wrote about the possibility of a Cheney-Libby conspiracy in his column at Yesterday his column presented an Open Letter to Patrick Fitzgerald. If you enjoy legal intricacies...or just are impatient about what's going on, you may want to read this~~~

I think that's about it. Time for breakfast and all those Saturday chores! Peace.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Voting Problems in (Yup, You Guessed It)..."

A coal pile at the Egan Mountain mine, operated by Mountainside Coal Co. © Kari Lydersen 2005Posted by Picasa

Mauve takes offense at my having said, "I am an artist"---which I do not take back, because that word included, of course, the meaning: always seeking without absolutely finding. As far as I know, that word means: "I am seeking, I am striving, I am in with all my heart."

---Vincent Van Gogh

As soon as a man does not take his existence for granted, but beholds it as something unfathomably mysterious, thought begins.

---Albert Schweitzer

Freedom is when the people can speak,
democracy is when the government listens.

---Alastair Farrugia

The subject title belongs to Dan Tokaji, assistant professor of law at Ohio State, who maintains often maddeningly sensible commentary on election law at this site . He's referring to the national election last week...and in particular of course to our experience---again---in Ohio. On our state ballot were 4 issues meant to reform the way we run them, motivated largely by what happened in the presidential election last year. All 4 issues were defeated...maybe...probably...well, that's what this is about.

I meant to get into this earlier, but I got involved in the premiere of that Wal-Mart movie and just haven't found the time. Per a request from the West Coast to tell you how it went, I'm happy to report Wednesday night's showing at the Athens Library packed the room we'd reserved to twice what we thought its capacity was. We set up the 60 chairs they have for the room, then emptied out the rest of the library of chairs for the tables and even pillows for the kids section. Besides that, people brought their own chairs from home. And what an audience! Even if there'd been no movie, we'd have had a great time.

Anyway, Professor Tokaji's concerns range mostly in the area of problems with the new and required electronic machines from Diebold. I guess about half of Ohio's counties were using them. Our Secretary of State Blackwell, now running for governor...and many say on the short list for vice presidential candidate in 2008, is giddy with delight on how neat those machines are. Like last year, he is proclaiming the election here "a great day for Ohio voters." His only concern is how overwhelmed with "positive reports" his office is. The ordinarily even-keeled Tokaji comments Blackwell must be talking from an "alternate universe." But these guys are talking technical stuff. They aren't talking fraud.

But Brad Friedman, from BradBlog and HuffingtonPost, and Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, at The Free Press, are. Once again the pre-vote polls are way out of line with the reported results. Oh...not on all the issues. They're dead-on here with Issue 1, which provides funding for construction projects. It's just some of the election reform issues, where once again---those poll people must have singled out only liberals to ask, just like last year.

ISSUE 1 ($2 Billion State Bond initiative)
PRE-POLLING: 53% Yes, 27% No, 20% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 54% Yes, 45% No

ISSUE 2 (Allow easier absentee balloting)
PRE-POLLING: 59% Yes, 33% No, 9% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 36% Yes, 63% No

ISSUE 3 (Revise campaign contribution limits)
PRE-POLLING: 61% Yes, 25% No, 14% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 33% Yes, 66% No

ISSUE 4 (Ind. Comm. to draw Congressional Districts)
PRE-POLLING: 31% Yes, 45% No, 25% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 30% Yes, 69% No

ISSUE 5 (Ind. Board instead of Sec. of State to oversee elections)
PRE-POLLING: 41% Yes, 43% No, 16% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 29% Yes, 70% No

Brad's article is at 2 sites, and you may wish to visit both for the different comments---although I think the ones at BradBlog are more involving~~~

Fitrakis and Wasserman are here~~~

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Is Bush A Liar Or Just Stupid?

Paul Gauguin. Eve. Don't Listen to the Liar. 1889.
Watercolor and paste. Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX, USA. Posted by Picasa

Where is the knowledge that is lost in information?
Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge?

---T.S. Eliot

Knowledge comes,
but wisdom lingers.

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The mountain of release is such that the
ascent's most painful at the start, below;
the more you rise, the milder it will be.
And when the slope feels gentle to the point that
climbing up sheer rock is effortless
as though you were gliding downstream in a boat,
then you will have arrived where this path leads.


I think we all should agree by now that even if President Bush is a pretty stupid guy, the people behind him who shield him, writing his lines and US policy, are NOT. Nobody gets rich, plundering the planet as (s)he goes---or stays rich very long, by being stupid. What I know to be the case about the great war of liberation of Iraq is it's a pre-emptive war. The stuff about Sadam and bringing democracy to these fine people were afterthoughts. We launched Shock and Awe on Baghdad when the Administration started talk of mushroom clouds over Manhattan---arriving from Iraq in under an hour.

But look here: it was our first pre-emptive attack upon a nation with whom we were not at war. The first in American history. When a smart Administration...with SMART bombs...initiates such a massive innovation in foreign policy, do not these intelligent people consider all the consequences and ramifications? If they say we know things you don't know and we can't tell you what they are, do they not realize one day history will reveal what those things are...and whether or not they were correct? Wouldn't you think about that even if you only were forming a clique against somebody in grade school? When the Principal catches you torturing that poor classmate, would you say, "OK, we were wrong about the kid, but we can't stop hurting him now"? We all know what kind of greed and hatred rage inside a bully.

And so it is I am delighted with the publication of 2 articles yesterday. One is the belated but strong editorial in the New York Times. The Times isn't calling Bush a liar, but asserts this most recent stance definitely is denial~~~


November 15, 2005

Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.

Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.

Foreign intelligence services did not have full access to American intelligence. But some had dissenting opinions that were ignored or not shown to top American officials. Congress had nothing close to the president's access to intelligence. The National Intelligence Estimate presented to Congress a few days before the vote on war was sanitized to remove dissent and make conjecture seem like fact.

It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reached the same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But Mr. Clinton looked at the data and concluded that inspections and pressure were working - a view we now know was accurate. France, Russia and Germany said war was not justified. Even Britain admitted later that there had been no new evidence about Iraq, just new politics.

The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon. The evidence for this claim was a dubious report about an attempt in 1999 to buy uranium from Niger, later shown to be false, and the infamous aluminum tubes story. That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise.

The Bush administration was also alone in making the absurd claim that Iraq was in league with Al Qaeda and somehow connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That was based on two false tales. One was the supposed trip to Prague by Mohamed Atta, a report that was disputed before the war and came from an unreliable drunk. The other was that Iraq trained Qaeda members in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Before the war, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that this was a deliberate fabrication by an informer.

Mr. Bush has said in recent days that the first phase of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation on Iraq found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence. That is true only in the very narrow way the Republicans on the committee insisted on defining pressure: as direct pressure from senior officials to change intelligence. Instead, the Bush administration made what it wanted to hear crystal clear and kept sending reports back to be redone until it got those answers.

Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said in 2003 that there was "significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The C.I.A. ombudsman told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the administration's "hammering" on Iraq intelligence was harder than he had seen in his 32 years at the agency.

Mr. Bush and other administration officials say they faithfully reported what they had read. But Vice President Dick Cheney presented the Prague meeting as a fact when even the most supportive analysts considered it highly dubious. The administration has still not acknowledged that tales of Iraq coaching Al Qaeda on chemical warfare were considered false, even at the time they were circulated.

Mr. Cheney was not alone. Remember Condoleezza Rice's infamous "mushroom cloud" comment? And Secretary of State Colin Powell in January 2003, when the rich and powerful met in Davos, Switzerland, and he said, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" Mr. Powell ought to have known the report on "special equipment"' - the aluminum tubes - was false. And the uranium story was four years old.

The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But they did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why.

Mr. Bush said last Friday that he welcomed debate, even in a time of war, but that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." We agree, but it is Mr. Bush and his team who are rewriting history.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

The other is at TruthOut written by Larry Johnson, who worked as a CIA intelligence analyst and State Department counter-terrorism official. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Cooking the Books and Politicizing Intelligence
By Larry C. Johnson
t r u t h o u t Perspective

Tuesday 15 November 2005

Like a passenger who just leaped from the Titanic into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, George Bush is frantically looking for a rescue boat. Understandably, he keeps pointing at the dinghy nearby - i.e., last year's report issued by former Senator Chuck Robb and Judge Laurence Silbermann under the title, "Final Report on Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction." However, that boat don't float too good and Bush's credibility will continue, along with his Presidency, to sink beneath the weight of lies used to bamboozle America into a pre-emptive war.

Hopefully, most Americans will take time to read the report and understand the limitations of the Robb and Silbermann effort. While I agree with the commission's conclusion that analysts made mistakes, the Robb and Silbermann report clearly demonstrates that none of the intelligence analysis from the CIA suggested that Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction had reached a critical point requiring a pre-emptive strike.

Unfortunately, Robb and Silbermann want Americans to accept the nonsense that politics played no role in the intelligence analysis. They ask America to accept the sorry picture of a President and legislators who, apparently, were willing idiots being spoon-fed wrong information by incompetent analysts. If we accept this fairy tale we will have learned nothing from the fiasco in Iraq.

Consider what is presented in the chapter on the Iraq failure (which Robb and Silbermann concede is the most important issue). According to the report, the analysts said:

The pre-war estimate of Iraq's nuclear program, as reflected in the October 2002 NIE "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction," was that, in the view of most agencies, Baghdad was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program" and "if left unchecked, [would] probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade," although it would be unlikely before 2007 to 2009. The NIE explained that, in the view of most agencies, "compelling evidence" of reconstitution was provided by Iraq's "aggressive pursuit of high-strength aluminum tubes." The NIE also pointed to additional indicators, such as other dual-use procurement activity, supporting reconstitution. The assessment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program and could therefore have a weapon by the end of the decade was made with "moderate confidence."

Pay close attention. The analysts believed, incorrectly, that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. But there were important caveats. First, Iraq would only have a nuke if left "unmolested" to develop such a capability. Did anyone see the words, "therefore Mr. President, you must invade?" Nope. Second, the analysts concluded that, even if left unmolested, Iraq would not have acquired a nuke until at least 2007. And how strong was this judgment? The analysts made it with "moderate confidence."

So, rather than restart or continue with inspections we now know were effective, President Bush opted for war. It was the policymakers, not the analysts, who made the decision to go to war and who oversold the October estimate to a gullible public.

I am not exonerating the CIA for its failures. There were major mistakes of leadership. For example, Robert Walpole, the man who led the drafting of the October 2002 estimate, surrounded himself with true believers who shared the view of Bush administration policymakers at the NSC and Department of Defense that military action in Iraq was required. This National Intelligence Officer did nothing to ensure that dissident voices within the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community were heard. But to pretend that the flaws in the intelligence explain why President Bush took us to war requires that we ignore a host of other uncomfortable facts.

CIA analysts got it right on the lack of operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet, notwithstanding the correct judgment of the analysts, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that there was such a relationship. In their words, the war in Iraq was an extension of the war on terrorism.

Analysts also got it right in dismissing as nonsense the claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium in West Africa. The analysts who briefed Congress in October 2002 said there was no truth to the allegation. Yet, the White House wanted to run with it. We know that George Tenet had to call Stephen Hadley and Condi Rice to insist that a reference to the Iraq/Niger claim not be included in a speech the President planned to deliver in Cincinnati.

The CIA analysts consistently warned the administration that the information the Brits had also was unreliable and the reports of Iraq's trying to get its hands on a nuke were wrong. The director of WINPAC at the CIA, Alan Foley, repeatedly warned NSC official Robert Joseph that the Niger claim was unreliable. Undeterred, Joseph inserted the bogus 16 words into the President's 2003 State of the Union address.

But the policymakers did not want to hear it. In fact, Don Rumsfeld and his minions were briefing TV and newspaper pundits just two weeks before the President's 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Niger.

Here is the bottom line. There is no such thing as perfect intelligence or perfect analysis. However, we do not serve the security of this country by perpetuating the myth that we went to war in Iraq because a couple of analysts believed Saddam's acquisition of aluminum tubes was part of a secret program to build a nuke. Going to war was and remains a political decision made by a President.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wal*Mart: The Movie Comes To Athens

Here we see Dana celebrating her birthday last month at the Japanese Steak House in Columbus, with our daughter and her friend Keenan Huq. Posted by Picasa

The highest point a man can attain is not knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic, and more despairing: Sacred Awe!

---Nikos Kazantzakis

Whatever is seen by such a heart and mind is a flower, whatever is dreamed is a moon. Only a barbarian mind could fail to see the flower; only an animal mind could fail to dream the moon.


Thank God for the things that I do not own.

---St. Teresa Of Avila

Actually the title is WAL*MART: the high cost of low price, a new film by Robert Greenwald, whose previous documentaries include OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and UNCOVERED: The War On Iraq, both from last year. This week WAL*MART will premiere at 7000 (and counting) different locations across America...and apparently in several other countries as well. What is novel about Greenwald's approach to premieres is they occur in living rooms, public meeting chambers, and union halls...and only in a few movie theaters. Teaming up with MoveOn and the Internet, he began advertising a couple months ago for screening kits you could order. I think he asked 10 dollars or something for it, you typed in your mailing info online, paid with PayPal or the like, and soon a box arrived with the DVD, a couple big posters, and some other brochures. Your name and screening location goes online and people can reserve a seat, depending on your capacity. MoveOn has changed the political landscape of this country using an approach to organize that's both fun and dynamic.

Dana, Ilona and I went to our first MoveOn houseparty, I think, when Fahrenheit 9/11 came out. The same technique was used, and after the movie there was an online chat set up with Michael Moore, as he answered questions from living rooms across the land. Through Jim and Howard Dean's Democracy For America group Dana got involved in MMOB, which stood for Mainstreet Moms Opposed to Bush (but now is called Mainstreet Moms Operation Blue). That group locally, I think (you know how liberals keep changing stuff around), evolved into WORD, which I guess means Women Openly Reclaiming Democracy. WORD decided last month to sponsor a screening of WAL*MART at the Athens Public Library, and that's planned for Wednesday evening at 7:00. Most of the premieres in this country will be Tuesday.

Well, we sent out some notices by email...and took brochures around town. Seemingly within a matter of hours, the signup for Athens at was at capacity already. The room WORD reserved may hold somewhere around 50 people, so now they're wondering whether to try 2 screenings (the film is almost an hour and a half), reserve another night too, or change the location to someplace bigger. Perhaps another copy we ordered will arrive tomorrow, and if there's a second room in the library available we could show them both at the same time. The DVD has a condensed 20 minute version, and I suppose they could show that in 3 or 4 shifts. The library itself has just gotten an addition, which is quite spacious and hasn't been filled with anything yet. In fact, one wit wrote the newspaper last week to suggest the place could house the Bush Memorial Library...but then thought better of it, since the learned and unclassified documents easily could fit into a janitor's closet. There might not be enough chairs to set up in that area, but maybe folks wouldn't mind standing or sitting on the floor around the big TV set. So WORD has to figure this stuff out today and tomorrow.

As for the movie itself, you can read reviews by the LA Times, NY Times, and Salon through the links at the top of that walmartmovie site just above. It has quite a different tone than Greenwald's previous work, but certainly is just as skilled. For one thing, he wants to address a more representative audience. The people who work and shop at Wal*Mart are not the people ready to mock out the Fox News Network. They're probably people who watch it religiously. He does not want to offend that audience this time. There is a quiet, compassionate tone in these stories of business families driven out by the arrival of the big store, of employees who work full time (or as "full" as the company allows) but must apply for WIC, food stamps and Medicaid, and of managers who thought Wal*Mart really wanted to help regular folks. Once we start visiting their unmonitored parking lots and the sweat shops abroad however, the more familiar Greenwald tension begins to build.

You know, I happen to feel that a partnership between a company and government social programs isn't necessarily a bad thing. Big benefit packages haven't been around forever, and given how corporations are having a tough time with them, maybe the concept was a wrong turn. I realize that what they do is raise prices for consumers in order to maintain the profits they want, but particularly with medical and now fuel costs I understand companies are squeezed. Wal*Mart's response to union organizing and benefit talk is swift and tough. The stories from the sweat shops where they get their cheap goods are horrifying, but I guess we have a foreign policy that turns a blind eye to such practices. We don't seem to invade countries over that kind of tyranny. At the same time the US apparently has a tax code that does not weigh heavily on businesses like Wal*Mart. Increasingly I feel like I'm paying, along with the other little guys, for the few social programs that remain. I guess I resent having to pay for my own benefits and for those of Wal*Mart employees too. But all Wal*Mart is doing is taking advantage of the openings and loopholes...and that's the good ol' American way. Is this movie going to change that? Sit back and enjoy the show.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Iraq Is A Local War

Jimmy Breslin, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, poses for a portrait May 19, 1971 in Brooklyn, New York. Posted by Picasa

In order to arrive at that which thou knowest not,
Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou possesseth not,
Thou must go by a way that thou possesseth not.

---St. John of the Cross

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only he who listens can speak.

---Dag Hammarskjold

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God.

---Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My good friend Quinty (Paul Quintanilla ) sent out yesterday's column by Jimmy Breslin with this comment~~~

"What is poetry? The truth burning through lies? The sharp taste of reality? Here's Jimmy Breslin burning a whole forest of lies down."

For the sake of younger readers and folks from outta town, Wikipedia at least has this stub of a description of him~~~

Jimmy Breslin (born October 17, 1930) is an American columnist who has appeared regularly in various newspapers in New York City, where he lives. On November 2, 2004 he retired as a regular columnist from Newsday but stated his intention to continue writing. In his final Newsday column, Breslin incorrectly predicted a Kerry victory in the 2004 election.

In 1969, he ran unsuccessfully as an independent for New York City Council President allied with writer Norman Mailer running for Mayor, with the agenda of New York City secession as the 51st state.

He won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

Among his notable columns, perhaps the best known was published the day after John F. Kennedy's funeral, focusing on the man who had dug the President's grave. The column was indicative of Breslin's style, which often highlights how major events or the actions of those considered "newsworthy" affect the "common man."

Breslin is the author of a biography of Damon Runyon (Damon Runyon - ISBN 044050502X) and several novels, the best-known of which is The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (ISBN 0316111740).


War must be a local issue
Jimmy Breslin
November 9, 2005

The church was empty at dusk. You stood in the stillness and looked at the place, right there on the side of the altar, where Michael Bloomberg spoke over the casket of a fallen aristocrat of the city, Riayan A. Tejeda, Marine, dead in Iraq at age 26.

Bloomberg pronounced, "He died to keep the weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of ..."

You heard no more. He was up there in the presence of a gallant New Yorker and he spread a lie and for me it was the start of his campaign and it ended with me not voting for him last night.

He says of Iraq, "It is not a local issue."

This was almost two years ago at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church on Wadsworth Avenue in Washington Heights, which is more than somewhat local.

By myself, I have been at the deep grief of another soldier's funeral in the Bronx, one in Ridgewood, another in Brooklyn.

If the kid who gets killed is local, then - the war is local.

This war continues without an official protest that would call out the will of the people of the City of New York and might count in a nation that by now realizes it has been the victim of a president who is a fake and a fraud and a shill and a sham and now is going around with the blind staggers.

Only the other night, in a television appearance with the opponent, Ferrer, Bloomberg was asked about withdrawing troops from Iraq and - heavens! - you can't do that. Why, that would mean that New York's fallen military would have died in vain. And why you could never say that about the three or four who would be killed on the day after that, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

They die in the splendor of bravery, the prayer of valor. And fall in vain because the government causes them to die in vain.

Around this great city yesterday, the day went into the heart of the night without excitement. There was an election for mayor and the streets should have been loud with the shrieks of people crying for your vote. Bloomberg last night finished spending at least $70 million to get re-elected and the money suffocated the election. That is not democracy. Every one of those dollars should form the seeds of a revolt.

He is the mayor in a time of National Alzheimer's, and New York, too, is stricken. We have Bloomberg silent on a war. And once in this state we had as senators at the same time, Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob Javits. Look at the citizenry here accepting as United States senators, Clinton and Schumer, who both supported the war. The coin has cheapened and no outcry is heard.

How can Mike Bloomberg be the mayor of this city and not try to put his voice and weight into saving lives?

Bloomberg follows the smirking, deadly lies of a president who had people getting killed for what? For oil, for Dear Old Dad, for a racist disdain for a guy in an alley with a rag on his head. Bush saw the rag but never noticed the gun the guy carried.

Last night, Julio Cesar Tejada, the dead Marine's father, stood in the swarms of people going past his building at 602 W. 180th St. He is 53 and stocky, with short black hair and a pleasant face. On the sidewalk next to him was the small, permanent grotto to his son. A photo. Flowers. Candles. Prayers in Spanish and English.

"How has it been?" he said. He patted his chest. "My heart fell apart. I cannot work. I spend all the days going to the doctor."

"The wife?"

He shook his head. "It is very bad for her."

He said he had to get the Con Edison bill paid. "They turn off the lights if you don't."

At the corner, a young woman, a college student, asked him about Bloomberg clinging to the war. Now I mentioned the speech at his son's funeral.

Julio shook his head. "I was too mixed up at the funeral."

He said then he was going to vote.

"For whom?"

He shook his head. "I don't know 'til I get there."

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.,0,5025678.column?coll=ny-news-columnists

I found most enlightening this page of Breslin quotes...if you're in the mood for more~~~

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tears For Baghdad

An Iraqi man cries over the bodies of his children in Hillah, some 110km south of Baghdad, after US troops bombed a residential quarter of the town. (Photograph:Reuters, April 1, 2003) Posted by Picasa

In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.

---Henry David Thoreau

Pride flees from the man who penetrates into the self as the light of a campfire before the rays of the sun.

---Zen saying

You should know that no one can hold the mind by himself, if it not be held by the Spirit. For it cannot be held, not because of its mobile nature but because, through neglect, it has acquired the habit of turning and wandering hither and thither....A mind thus inclined and withdrawn from God is led captive everywhere.

---St. Gregory Of Sinai

How many civilians, the elderly, women, children, male noncombatants, have died in the War on Iraq? It used to be that a casualty count was important in warfare. It's how you knew you were winning. Of course that's when soldiers would gather on a field of battle, face each other, march up with some fancy footwork and football plays, and shoot it out. Civilians got killed in the seige of a castle or city...or mass execution later...but it's been fewer than a hundred years of glorious history since we've improved ourselves enough to provide access to air attack.

To begin the generals played by the old rules, lobbing bombs onto troop locations, splattering civilians only by accident. But then, maybe troops started hiding behind the lady's skirts, so the only thing to do was aim at buildings and homes. This activity required a new kind of behavior and discipline from the average pilot...and I imagine it still does the first time a pilot is ordered to shoot a rocket where there might be babies. But it looks as though humans can get used to anything...and of course duty calls.

At first, the firebombing campaign against Dresden by the team of the USAAF Eighth Air Force and RAF Bomber Command in 1944 and 1945 wasn't talked about much. So many tens of thousands of people were killed and almost the entire city flattened by tens of thousands of tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiaries that folks had trouble even thinking about it. Possibly Kurt Vonnegut, who experienced the February 1945 attack as a prisoner of war and survived, is more responsible than our history teachers for making us remember that it happened at all.

Besides, when we almost immediately went on to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the business at Dresden seemed like small potatoes. At least 120,000 people were killed immediately, almost 95% of them civilian. Nearly twice that number have died since from their injuries and radiation. Obviously the Japanese army wasn't hiding in schools and hospitals in those cities. This was a preventive attack, an object lesson, a morality tale. The Allies were the Good Guys, and here was the proof. No, I'm not arguing anything in favor of the Nazi Axis, but I do call into question the sense of superiority that particularly the United States assumed 60 years ago and has labored on ever since.

We've never been really proud of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I don't think we apologized either, did we? In the Orient official apologies from one nation to another are highly honored. Generally I think Americans feel it was horrible to do it, but it had to be done. This is how war goes. We've never thought of ourselves as war criminals in any sense. We expect our own court martials to take care of perpetrators of massacres a la Viet Nam. We know that people freak out in war, and now with television and instant computer communication we know such things occur more than we used to.

Which brings us to Shock And Awe. Here we were going after one man who might be in Baghdad. The whole strategy was planned out with pinpoint accuracy. How many civilians died during the display...and after? General Tommy Franks, of the US Central Command, replied, "We don't do body counts." Why not? What happened to the tally that tells us whether or not we're winning? Are we ashamed? Don't we want anyone to know? Is this the way our leaders hide behind the lady's skirts these days? We just don't talk about it? We aren't allowed to think about it?

How many women and children and elderly have died in Iraq? This past weekend the generally excellent PRI show "This American Life" featured a Johns Hopkins survey done in Iraq and published an entire year ago that attempted to answer that question. You can hear the show here and you can read the survey after you register (quick and free) at the distinguished British journal The Lancet . The estimate then---over a year ago---was 100,000 people. The method of the survey generally has been applauded by major scholars everywhere who keep up with those kinds of investigations and statistics. The guys from Johns Hopkins who conducted it were lucky to get in and get out alive.

What Ira Glass was wondering during his broadcast is how come no one heard about this study? The authors thought their results would be all over the media...and they even confess to having expected moral outrage. But almost nobody carried the release and results at all. I wonder why. Do you think there's a conspiracy of publishers to keep news from us? Are we all too confused and numb to deal with our own consequences? Has the United States come to a point where its population just can't handle it? How dangerous would be such a state of mind? What does it take to drive an Iraqi son, husband, and father insane with grief? What would it take to make you that way?

Friday, October 28, 2005

To My Friends On The Right

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald (L), who says he doesn't photograph well, arrives at his Washington office October 27, 2005. (REUTERS/Micah Walter) Posted by Picasa

We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us, this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. It would be simple enough, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of things.

---Carl Gustav Jung

To know that you do not know is the best.
To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.

---Lao Tzu

Give me, kind Heaven, a private station,
A mind serene for contemplation.

---John Gay

I like to maintain dialogue with people of conservative philosophies, and several get these dispatches I send to cyberspace from time to time. Apparently a few even read them and sometimes lash back when they get mad. This is OK because usually there are other things at the heart of our friendship...and we just go back to those topics. I'm not being demeaning because there are elements of the conservative view, including the basic tenets of Hobbes, that are very convincing to me. I like best to talk with conservatives because I may be wrong about things and they help me be the first to know when I am.

There are two things I know about conservatives that come to mind this morning. One is they allow more secrecy in planning and government than I like or agree with. They respect the sanctity of the huddle. I must admit the intrusion of television technology onto the playing field can spoil the fun. I do not want to learn what the next pitch is going to be, or what the manager just whispered into the coach's ear. But politics is not a game to me, and if Cheney's energy cronies have carved up the world for their financial gain, using the public office of the Vice Presidency to do it, I want to know!

But the second conservative conviction that I think of today I do agree with and respect tremendously. Conservatives believe in playing by the rules. Fascists don't. They believe in making up rules by "necessity" as they go along. And so conservatives I've been talking to are anticipating the announcements by Fitzgerald today as much as I am. When Miers withdrew yesterday one such associate said to me, "Now we'll get a nominee to replace her so far to the right there won't be a confirmation before Christmas!" His remark helped temper my excitement.

The left is going wild on the Internet at this hour. I understand it. I woke up at 3 and had to get down to the computer to read the news. Some of you write or tell me you like it when I chart where I've been because it saves you time. Google News is featuring well over 2000 entries at this hour on who in the White House is about to be indicted, and an extension of the grand jury investigation for more about Karl Rove. Yahoo is carrying the basic AP story , but Reuters' Adam Entous kept updating his coverage until after midnight sometime. You can type in and find yourself with the latest news, but I like Entous' earlier story which appeared on The Boston Globe site last night . It also sums up The New York Times story, appearing in this morning's edition, that says Karl Rove will not be charged today because Fitzgerald is looking for more.

Another excellent summary I think is at BradBlog . There are lots of hyperlinks there to lead your curiosity to the original sources. The most significant I think is the reference to a dispatch from Murray Waas at the National Journal . Here we learn, "Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
"Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said. " While still at BradBlog, especially those of us in Ohio, be sure to check out his writeup of Tom Noe's 3 count indictment of money laundering for Bush and Blackwell . Dana sent this out to her list already last night.

If you want to get farther out, brace yourself for Arianna Huffington's blog, which actually is a legion of liberal bloggers . The latest headlines and links to those sites are also there, and lots of photos. Her own entry today is about Macbeth and Bush and how they both lost their mojo. catch the drift.

The piece that captured most of my attention was an analysis of the whole Bush collapse by Tom Englehardt, who attended both Yale and Harvard and is involved, I guess, in a couple liberal thinktanks and publishing projects. He maintains something called TomDispatch and yesterday put out this essay that TruthOut and a number of others have picked up . Clearly Englehardt is a bit on edge himself , as he chronicles how hard he's been working over the past year for this moment. Yeah well, haven't we all? But further into the piece he gets going~~~

"In all their guises -- in relation to the media, the federal bureaucracy, and other countries -- they actually were dominating isolationists. They took a once honorable Republican heartland tradition -- isolationism -- turned it on its head and thrust it into the world. They acted in Iraq and elsewhere as armed imperial isolationists. Where the elder Bush and Bill Clinton were multinationalists and globalizers; they were ultra-nationalists and militarists, focused only on the military solution to any problem -- and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
"But when you are a cabal, using such close-to-the-breast, not to say mom-and-pop, methods of ruling, and you falter, whether in Iraq or at home, unilateralism becomes weakness. And when it turns out that what you rule is the 'last superpower' and you've sidelined, pacified, or punished large numbers of people in the vast, interlocking worlds of the governmental bureaucracy and the media, your enemies still retain the power to strike back.
"When something closer to the full story of our moment is known, I suspect we'll see more clearly just how the bureaucracy began to do so (along with, as in this week's New Yorker magazine in the person of Brent Scowcroft, the old multinational ruling elite). In the meantime, it's clear that what the potential implosion moment awaited was the perfect storm of events now upon us. If this moment were to be traced back to its origins, I would, for the time being, pick the spring of this year as my starting point and give the mainstream media -- anxious, resentful, bitter, cowed, losing audience, and cutting staff -- their due. The Bush slide has been a long, slow one, as the opinion polls indicate; but like that famed moss-less rolling stone, it picked up speed last spring as the President's approval ratings slipped below 50%, and then in the ensuing months plunged near or below 40%, putting him at the edge of free-fall.
"If there's one thing that this administration and Washington journalists have in common, it's that both groups parse opinion polls obsessively; so both saw the signs of administration polling softness and of a President, just into a second term, who should have been triumphant but was failing in his attempt to spend what he called his 'political capital' on social security 'reform.'
"Vulnerability, it gets the blood roaring, especially when it seeps from an administration so long feared and admired as the 'most disciplined' and 'most secretive' in memory, an administration whose highest officials (as the Plame case showed) regularly whacked their opponents with anything at hand and then called on their media allies, always in full-battle-mode, for support. Probably the key moment of weakness came in August, when Cindy Sheehan ended up in that famed ditch at the side of a road in Crawford, Texas, and the President and his men -- undoubtedly feeling their new-found vulnerability, anxious over an Iraq War gone wrong and the protesting mother of a dead soldier so near at hand -- blinked."

I hope this has helped you with your Friday morning and the announcement to come later today. Enjoy it, especially if it's payday besides! And get your chores done tomorrow.