October 7, 2011

Meeting the Leader of the Tunisian Resistance @ Occupy DC

I went to DC three weeks before my wedding because there are two things that matter to me right now: marrying the love of my life and ending the Afghanistan War. In her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, Parliamentarian Malalai Joya reminds us that on July 6, 2008 the U.S. military bombed a wedding party in Nangarhar Province killing forty-seven civilians including the bride. As my wedding approaches, it is more important for me to ensure that no more Afghan brides are murdered by the U.S. military than it is for me to write a dj set list.

Last weekend, I attended an organizing meeting of the New Priorities Network, which is working to build deep connections locally and nationally between labor, economic justice, racial justice, religious, and peace organizations. We know our work will last longer than any election cycle or war, and we are committed to breaking down the barriers between our movements for justice and peace. Right now, we're focused on four core priorities: end the wars / cut the military budget, tax the rich & corporations, create jobs, and save social services (education, housing, the Women, Infant, Child (WIC) program that provides vital maternal health and food subsidies to low-income families, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of other domestic programs that are the social safety net here in the U.S.). These four priorities are not our only concerns, and we know they can only be sustained by building a new economy based on renewable energy.

Earlier this week, I observed the Rebuild the Dream Conference. In the past, CODEPINK has disrupted this annual event hosted by the Campaign for America's Future because of their refusal to acknowledge that ending the wars is a vital part of building a secure America. This year, the conference included ending the wars as part of their platform for change and provided space for Nelini Stamp, an organizer with the Working Families Party, who has participated in Occupy Wall Street since Sept 17, to address the plenary about the Occupy Together movement. Our Make Out Not War stickers were the most sought after and people were really receptive to receiving information about Occupy DC at Freedom Plaza, which began yesterday.

My week in DC culminated on the first day of Occupy DC. Preparing for the day, I met Ann Wright, one of the courageous foreign service officers who resigned when the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Ann's story is particularly inspiring to me, as I left college with the goal of becoming a career diplomat. I am so grateful I never got off the list of eligible hires, since my true calling is to be a citizen diplomat.

First I helped give away over one thousand CODEPINK stickers, including the highly sought after Make Out Not War stickers. Then, a thousand of us created a human 99% which was photographed from the top of a nearby hotel with the Washington Monument in the background. (I'm in the lower left corner of the nine near the percent sign.) We marched in the streets of DC, stopping at the Chamber of Commerce to hand in resumes from the jobless and under-employed among us, since they claim to be job creators.

Jamel and CJOur day was capped off with a concert and a Skype call with our brothers and sisters in the Afghan Youth Peace Movement in Afghanistan. While I listened from the side of Freedom Plaza, a gentleman approached and asked if I spoke Arabic. Unfortunately, I do not. Thankfully he is multi-lingual and we were able to chat in English.

Jamel Bettaieb is one of the leaders of the Tunisian uprising and is the head of the largest trade union in Tunisian. He is in DC to share the story of his people with our leaders - from the White House to Freedom Plaza. Jamel reminded me that we Arabs and Jews are cousins. For centuries, we have lived peacefully side-by-side in the Middle East with our Christian cousins. It is the political class that creates conflict, not our ethnic or our religious differences. Regardless of country, there is something about the power of ruling that corrupts people. Some pundits say the American Autumn is nothing like the Arab Spring, since we have no dictator to overthrow. But when Jamel spoke about the high rate of unemployment among college-educated Tunisians, and the continuing lack of economic growth in his country, I knew I had made a friend fighting the same global system of injustice. Whether the 1% calls themselves democratic representatives, corporate overlords, or dictators the effect is the same on the 99%. Jamel is staying in DC for a two-month fellowship and he let me know that he's got a real hankering for a good Kosher meal. Did you know that the Muslim and Jewish dietary laws are basically identical? Unfortunately, I'm on my way home to celebrate Yom Kippur with my fiancé, but I'm sure my sister CODEPINKers will find him a Kosher meal real soon.

Posted by cj at 1:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2011

Social Media for Nonprofits

In June, I led a plenary discussion on communication at the national congress of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom. The idea was to introduce individual activists to social media and encourage them to participate.

Anyway, I wanted to share my background research, so here it is:

Best presentation introducing social media for NGOs by Farra Trompeter of Big Duck

Other useful presentations:

What is Social Media - written for a business audience, but I think has useful facts that provide useful background.

SM Tactics to Meet Your Mission - good for institutional use (branch, local, national group, etc)

Foreign Affairs magazine published a long piece on the political power of social media It's a must read.

Other articles on my reading list:
Digital Power: Social Media and Political Change
Social Media and Political Influence
Social Media and Political Change

Go to website for me on the net & nonprofits:
Beth Kanter

Fascinating study which reminds why CODEPINK is more famous than WILPF in the US (that's my commentary, the study has nothing to do with either org):
Disruption: Evolving Models of Engagement and Support

Social Media decision guide (pdf)

NATO made a video about social media's impact on politics.

Sites that look like it could use some further review:
Socialize Your Cause
Charting Impact

Posted by cj at 4:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 1, 2011

Follow the Money: Looking at the Economic Crisis @ LAT FOB

* Moderator: Mr. Tom Petruno
* Mr. Roger Farmer
* Mr. Mark Paul
* Mr. Robert Scheer

Would like the panel to address how we got in this crisis and ways we can move forward.

Moderator read a passage from Scheer's book, The Great American Stick Up. If you had the power, as emporer Scheer to make one change what would it be?

Scheer: I didn't think you would ask that broad a question. The short thing I would do, not as an emperor, but as a responsible leader of the country, would be to save people from foreclosures. ...We've made money cost next to nothing for banks and corporations, and we've done nothing to save people and their homes. And the bankrutcy courts need to force banks to do what is in their long term interest, to save people's homes...The longer term efforts I would suggest something the radical John McCain suggested, which is to reverse the Financial Services Modernization Act, reverse Glass Steegil. I think we need a restoration of that barrier because the banks are become larger...I believe in democracy, and that was unfortunately what was distorted by that legislation. I would also reverse the commodities future modernization act. That says there will be no regulation of these new financial instruments. I would reverse that and put these new financial gimmicks under the reins of real regulation.

I'd like to nationalize the biggest banks. I don't think these people do much in terms of jobs creation, but they're swindlers. They're liquidity traps. Yes, I would put the big banks under public control, but I know it's not going to happen in my lifetime.

Moderator: reads from Farmer's book, which begins with a quote from John Adams. The role of the federal reserve is misunderstood...The truth is that without the Fed controlling the interest rate, the economic history of the 21st century might have been more catastrophic than it was....The fact that post WWII business cycle were much less erractic than preWWII business cycles proves it is learning how to do this." Do you think the Fed is doing the right thing?

Farmer: First let me say something of Bob's statement, which I agree with completely. ...Did the Fed do the right thing? My response is absolutely yes. The way to think about the institution, there's a lovely part of the Wizard of Oz where it moves from black and white to color. Quantitative easing, involved a huge expansion of the Fed's balance sheet but didn't create a huge increase in the money supply. The move to color that I refer to, in the past the Fed had one tool which was to raise or lower the interest rate and now it can change the composition of its balance sheet. The Bank of England is under huge pressure to raise its interest rates, and there's hawks that have put the Fed under pressure to raise the rates.

Moderator: could they be too late?

Farmer: No, the answer is we have unemployment almost 9%. For me, its the misery of unemployed people that is far more important. The one instrument argument that has occurred in the past sees commodity prices as the same thing as house prices and asset prices, which isn't the same thing at all. The composition of the balance sheet, which is not just federal securities, but also mortgage backed securities, ...What I've been arguing is that they should also be directly controlling the stock market.

Moderator reads from Paul's book. "It's not the endless cycle of elections that sees little time for governance....The worst thing about California's fix is that under the current state of California there is no fix."

Paul: Well, that was a transition from the federal reserve to California governance....In California we've created a very bad problem. We've gone through cycles of boom and bust, prosperity and poverty. We have never had a founding moment that crafts a government that fits who we are as a people. We obviously have an economic challenge in this state, but so does the whole country. We were hit very hard by the housing bubble, harder than most of the country. If you leave out the moribound housing sector...without the housing part of the economy, we're going to be hurting. If you look at the rest of the economy, since 2009 we've actually been doing better than the rest of the country...This government that we've been improvising doesn't allow us to do what we need to do. To allow the poeple who we elect to make the decisions that move us forward. We have 3 government systems in fight with each other - Majority rule elects the state legislature. 2/3 votes required to pass most things in the legislature allow minority view. And then we pile on the system of initiatives and direct democracy. We have been limiting the ability of the people we elect to govern to do anything. The legislature has been reduced to janitors that sweep up after the messes we the voters have made. ...If we don't fix our governing problems, we're going to kill the things that matter for the future: education, infrastructure, which we can't do without a real founding moment that creates a government that is real, accountable, and can actually act.

moderator: I'd like to pose a question to all panelists. This is the greatest national debate. The country and the state face massive budget gaps. In order to reduce the budget gap, do you raise taxes or cut services, or a combination?

Scheer: While I love the Festival Of Books, which my wife happened to launch...I am appalled that there is only one panel to deal with this enormous crisis. I don't want to fall into the trap of pretending we can.

We have 44 million living under the poverty level. It takes up back very far. We have 50 million people who have lost their homes or are in serious danger of losing their homes...We have an enormous crisis in this country. It is a crisis made by the federal government...We had 23 states in this country that had control of the interest rates that was stripped away by the federal government...The state did not have power to control CountryWide, which was based in California...so basically the power was taken away from the state. Why is Wisconsin struggling over what is really chump change when AIG was bailed out? ...The fact is that the jewel of Orange County where I was sentenced for 10 years is Newport Harbor, which was created by the WPA. ...The big corporations get what they want and the rest of us are scrambling around. Now getting to the debt, which is a serious problem, I don't like it getting mixed up with entitlements. Entitlements can be fixed by raising the premiums on those that can afford it. Social security is not in trouble until 2047...The money is there, it can be obtained. This idea that we're going to tax teachers that are going to school...The thing that is sacrosanct that hasn't been touched is the defense system. And we're fighting people who can buy all their weapons for $150 at Home Depot. We spend more in per capita dollars than we did at the height of the Cold War...

Roger: I'm going to say a lot less than that. THere are two issues that we need to face with the budget. Everybody knows that we need to either increase taxes or cut spending. ...At least the trigger for the current budget crisis is the recession...The second problem is that when we were going through years of plenty, we thought they would last forever and under Bush we cut taxes and that shouldn't have happened....As Neils Bohr said, 'predictions are very difficult, especially about the future.'...Long term, we need to put regulatory systems in place.

Paul: It's incorrect. In California, the income tax accounts for about a 1/3 of our financing. ...The enormous transfer of income and wealth over the last 40 or 50 years....the rates on the high income were higher when Reagan was governor, but still we're getting a lot of income from them. We are having an argument in California over half a penny of the state's output. ..During the dot com boom, we cut taxes pretty steeply in California...in real life, do we really notice? In January, when Jerry Brown was elected, a pollster went out and did a poll and one of the questions was "are you aware that in 2009 the legislature passed temporary taxes?" Only 39% knew the taxes were enacted? Then pollster asked if taxes had hurt them and 44% said yes, the taxes had hurt them. ...not a single person can name how much they pay in state and local taxes in a year. The reason we stay stuck is that we have this system that doesn't allow us to make decisions. 1/3 of one house of the state legislature can keep us from moving forward....Most Californians are unaware that we made big spending cuts.

question: Why we can forecast fraud?

Scheer: We don't live in an Athenian democracy...The reason they were opposed to wars by the way, Washington warned us against false patriotism....we have to stop laboring under this mythology that we live under a representative democracy...we have false demagogues that find all kind of false targets like immigrants who want our jobs or poor people who want houses...we don't live in that kind of society. I find it appalling. I don't blame the public. I don't think they're informed. I traced that - how did the media cover this? It was appalling. It was cheerleading for the banks. We don't even have labor unions of any real strength. We don't have a progressive, populist movement. ...A.J. Liebling said 'Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.'...corporations aren't great. They shelter their profits abroad. They don't care about people here.

Farmer: The question is about fraud. Everytime Berlosconi commits a crime, he changes the law so it isn't a crime anymore....what went on with the financial services industry was quite different. The regulations were removed, so what happened wasn't a crime anymore....Financial crises like the one we just observed is a little bit like diseases. ...When it came to 2008 and Lehman Brothers was allowed to crash, at that point it was a little bit like refusing to treat someone with small pox because they refused to buy insurance....we need to bail out good banks, and allow bad banks to fail..and you need to read my book to figure out how to do that.

Paul: I was in the press at the time...What good is it if the value of your house going up? The only value is that you could borrow against it...It was a crazy thing to allow us take out huge amounts of equity...

Question: Who owns the Fed?

Farmer: The Fed was created in 1915 by Congress. The profits of the Fed is returned to the government every year. The reason for an independent central bank - if the Fed is subjected to political pressure...there are pressures leading up to elections that there's a pressure to ease. The banks owns the Fed.

Scheer: I'd like to challenge the assumption that individuals were responsible. ...What happened, is that houses were made part of securities. This is not something Adam Smith knew about or even Ronald Reagan knew about. That is at the heart of the problem and we haven't even begun to discuss it...and then you change Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into for-profit industries.

Farmer: I think you need to put yourself in the head of the people who were doing this at the time. Most of these people didn't believe they were defrauding the people. In 1987, the stock market crashed and it was the longest stock market crash including the Great Depression....it's that single incident that changed the whole mentality of the people involved in the financial industry...they convinced themselves that they were creating wealth, and the wealth was real. Now they were wrong. They were benefiting from tax payer bailouts in case things went wrong. If you were running that, you would try to persuade yourself that you were the good guy.

Paul: Had an acronym: IBG, UBG - I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone. Lots of people on Wall Street understood what crazy risks they were making and had a number they were trying to reach, and they would leave.

Question: what tax rate would you impose on small business owners say earning more than $250,000 a year who employ many, many millions of people?

Scheer: First of all, I am a small business owner of TruthDig.com ...We're basically talking about continuing tax cuts of the Bush administration....what I'm appalled with is that big businesses, like GE and Bank of America who pay no taxes...we spend a lot of money on big government and big defense to make the world safe for these businesses, and then we've changed the laws - in terms that we don't regulate labor or the environment around the world...to me it's not a game. I think these people really are horrible.

Paul: A small business owner, an individual proprietor, pays taxes based on how much income he takes out of the business. He has a lot of control over whether to take the money out or re-invest in the business. We have a progressive tax system....I have no problem with the rates going back to where they were.

Farmer: The solution is going to include tax increases on some of us, most of us.

We haven't lived in an unregulated economy for at least 215 years. The moral hazard problem has not been solved, it needs to be solved. My plan is not to support any individual bank, but to support a mutual fund of all banks' stocks. We don't want to give an incentive to any individual bank to gamble with our money.

Scheer: I think there's a big difference between the moral hazards of investment banks and people who have run up their credit cards and have 30% interest...With the individual, we broke down completely what was in the small print. ...I love Ron Paul, not for everything he's ever said or ever done, but for having one guy in Congress who wants to make the Fed transparent.

Farmer: Transparency yes, getting rid of the Fed no.

After the panel, Chung and I went to The Nation booth and ran into Robert Scheer. We bought a copy of his book, The Great American Stick Up, which he signed for us. We also grabbed free copies of The Nation, even though I'm a Kindle subscriber.

Posted by cj at 2:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2011

American History: Blood & Backrooms @ LAT FOB

Jim Newton: editor at large, LAT and wrote book Justice for All: Earl Warren and the History He Made. He won three elections to be California governor. He is the only governor who won the nomination for both parties and I daresay that will be a record that stands. I was drawn to the sense of paradox about him. In 1942, he was an enthusiastic and unapologetic proponent of Japanese internment and 12 years later was the author of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The first case he won a conviction in was a leftist who was prosecuted under a syndicalist law and one of his last cases was a Supreme Court case that invalidated the syndicalist laws. The Eisenhower book that I just finished came about out of my Warren book. Unlike Warren, whom I felt like I knew from the beginning of my research, Eisenhower I was left sure about. Eisenhower appointed Warren to the court, and very quickly tensions grew. I came to Eisenhower thinking I would be a critic of him. I learned things - I had only seen him through the lens of civil rights and domestic affairs and the work I had done shown almost no light on his foreign affairs. I end the book with the understanding that he was a truly tremendous American president. He was the first American president to have an atomic bomb and didn't use it. ... I venture to say there are very few political figures of his time who could have held off the pressure to use the atomic bomb.

Moderator: You used the term "Warrenism," and I'm wondering if you could discuss his progression from progressive Republican to the right...

Jim Newton: Ike misunderstood Warren's politics. They were both internationalist Republicans. I think he saw him as a like-minded figure. He didn't see that Warren grew up in the California progressive tradition. When Eisenhower appointed him, he misapprehended his politics at the outset. Scott Powe is probably the best scholar of the Warren court. He pointed out that Warren became better at every job he did, and I think that's true.

Six boxes of documents on the writing the farewell address where Ike famously named the military industrial boxes recently came to light. His speechwriter took them with him and they were stored in a house boat in Minnesota. What this shows conclusively is that Eisenhower was intimately involved in writing the speech from the get go. Almost everything about the speech changes from the first draft except the passages on the military industrial complex.

Moderator introduces Thomas Powers, writer of The Killing of Crazy Horse. What brought you to this story after your long history of studying the CIA?

Thomas Powers: One of the reasons I was attracted to Crazy Horse was that it didn't have any nuclear weapons in it. I stumbled across it while at the Custard battlefield at Little Big Horn field in 1994. If any of you have been there and stood on Custard Hill, you look out to the South and see a string of crosses heading out in your direction. The drama of it is very vivid and you can feel the impetuous flight of these soldiers who fell. You see roughly what Custard would have seen or what the Indians who were attacking him would have seen. The only difference is a train in the middle distance that leaves once a day with coal. ... The tribe that came with Custard inherited the battlefield, in effect. Writing a book about Crazy Horse required a lot of literary decisions that I had never had to deal with before in my life, the biggest was what kind of book was I trying to write? Telling a story, or describing, explaining and judging of large and complicating things. But the thing that drew me to history originally was the compelling nature of stories that wouldn't let you go. I decided that's what I wanted to do. It was an incredible cast of characters...the killing of Crazy Horse which took place in 1877 was in some ways a minor event, but had a devastating effect on Souix Indians. They resent it and there are still factions that were happy with it and whose ancestors did what they could to make sure Crazy Horse didn't survive that day. ...I had to make a decision that went deeply against my own nature: I love to explain complicated things; I love to judge things...I had to develop the discipline to just not do that, to just allow the narrative to tell the story. For those of you who are interested in writing history or writing narrative about the real world, I encourage you to read the ancient authors...particularly Thucydides on the Peloponnesian Wars and Josephus on the Jewish Wars and Plutarch on the ancient life of Caesar. The Jewish War involved among other things the siege of the city of Mosada.

Custard was a hero of the Civil War and at a certain moment he divided his forces and started down the river to attack the Sioux villages. His scouts told him that the Sioux village was the biggest Indian village around and tried to tell him not to attack the village until reinforcements arrived. Exactly what happened after he attacked is difficult to discern. None of Custards troops survived, though several thousand Indians survived and lived to recount the story. You're in a position to understand what did happen. The battle that ensued was decided at a certain point by Crazy Horse. When the military determined that, they decided that Crazy Horse was a dangerous man who had to be killed...

James Jesus Angleton taught me how to hold multiple accounts in my head at the same time. He was the head of the CIA. ...explained how to create a deep chrono, a deep chronology. Put all accounts into chronological order and makes it difficult to hide a secret event. Basically, what I did was take all sources, with all contradictions and without judgment in chronological order...

A series of moments in the last hours of Crazy Horse's life from his fatal wounding to the hours later when he died...as soon as he realized the army had broken every single promise to him, he made an effort to break free which was impossible to do since he was surrounded by 1,000 soldiers...a soldier pierced him with a bayonet through his back, which seems to have pierced his kidney and his lung....rather than make an attempt to make a decision between different accounts of the moment of his wounding, I put them all in, but briefly and only the things where the detail was not as important as the dramatic moment. ...I wanted to capture some of the intensity and rapidity with which events unfold.

The accounts are in English now. The accounts were given in Lakota and transcribed at the scene by people who grew up with Lakota as their first language. ...I never considered writing a traditional biography, because I wanted to understand the answer to the question, why'd they kill him? Over time, the question in my mind became why did Crazy Horse let them do it?

Question: Obama is compared to Eisenhower, do you have an opinion?
Jim Newton: Haven't heard the comparison much, but it is a reasonable comparison. Eisenhower confronted the Suez Crisis in 1956 and to the amazement of the Third World sided with Egypt over Britain and France. Eisenhower is a great example of governing from the middle.

Question: Mr. Newton, I've heard for a number of years that the phrase "military industrial complex" included "Congressional," is that true?
Newton: The phrase "military industrial Congressional complex," is given and said to have been considered, but doesn't exist in any of the drafts of the text. It is a friendly farewell to the Congress. I think it would have upset the tone he was trying to set.

Question: In regards to Earl Warren, in his decision in Brown v. Board of Education was as much an apology for what he had done to the Japanese in internment and why he wanted to get a unanimous decision.
Newton: I don't think that's right. I agree that many people frame it that way. I think he thought he did the best he could in a pressing national security environment with Japanese internment. His memoir published posthumously is the only place he mentioned regret. He wrote "I have come to regret," and his publisher added "I have come to deeply regret." ...It is to Warren's lasting credit that he created a unanimous decision.

Question: How do you decide when to use your opinion or suspend judgment when writing history?
Powers: When you're working in a field of this kind, you have to start with a suspension of judgment. Just hold back and listen to what makes you feel uncomfortable. I was forming judgments all the time, but I wanted the text to be a text of narrative, rather than a text of judgment.

Powers: Crazy Horse elected to trust what he was told until the moment when he couldn't trust it anymore.

Newton: Eisenhower felt it was important to build an arsenal and never use it. I don't think he saw it as bolstering the military industrial complex. What he was concerned about, as time had gone on, we no longer had the ability to convert civilian industries into arms industries and it was the permanent nature of the arms industry that he was concerned about. One of the things that motivated him around all this was the ads that the military industry took out in aerospace magazines. ....One of the very first speeches of his presidency was The Chance for Peace speech...the military industrial complex was not a late development in his presidency.

Newton: Eisenhower chose to see the decision in Brown v Board of Education as an order from the court that he had to obey.

Posted by cj at 2:00 PM | Comments (0)

History, Identity & Purpose: California, Chicanos, and Beyond @ LAT FOB

Hector Tobar, LAT columnist moderating the panel. Our first author is Mario T. Garcia. His book is Blowout: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice.

Daniel Hernandez is second panelist. Former staffer at LAT and currently lives in Mexico City. Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropilis in the 21st Century.

Our final panelist is Miriam Pawel. Worked for 25 years for Newsday and LAT. Her book is the amazing The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez's Farm Worker Movement.

Sal Castro is known in LA History for the riots on the East Side in 1968. He's known that this moment rose spontaneously, but from your book we know that he knew for decades about the ideology that led to the walkouts. One of the few Latino teachers in the 1960s. He had lived through the Mexican schools. Their children had to attend segregated, inferior schools. The tracking system of putting Mexican kids, Latino kids into vocational classes. This is what Sal Castro lived growing up in LA, born in 1933. He grew up as a young shoe shine boy. He graduated from Cathedral High School in 1952, went into the military and was sent to the South where he saw segregation. He grew up when Latinos and blacks could only go to public pools on the days that they were cleaned, hence the term 'dirty Mexican.' He was in Texas where a waitress refused to serve him and remarked that the waitress must remember the Alamo. He witnessed the kids being tracked and so forth. He helped to organize some of the kids into "the TiEms" - the tortilla movement. He knew that the problem wasn't the students, their parents: only a dramatic action will shake things up. The problem is the schools themselves and their approach to teaching Latino students. That led to the blowouts, or the walkouts of 1968. Three months later, he and twelve others were arrested. The East LA 13 were arrested for conspiring to foment the walkout and if convicted, he would have be in jail for 113 years. The community staged a sit in at the Board of Education when they refused to allow him to teach. Moved from Lincoln to Bell.

Daniel Hernandez: So my book started out. I tried to pinpoint in the book where my fascination or intrigue with Mexico City began. My parents are from Tijuana, so we don't really have any bloodline into the center or south of Mexico. I kind of had this dual understanding of what it meant to be Mexican or Mexican-American. When I was at Berkeley I met a girl who was from Mexico City. When I told her my family was from Tijuana she said "that's not really Mexican." And I thought, "really? that's not how we were perceived." She had blonde hair and blue eyes and thinking that she was Mexican really tripped me out. I got a job out of school to be a metro reporter for the LA Times and took a break between school and working in Mexico. I saw a landscape that I could not have ever imagined. An enormous bowl of grey smogginess. And the smell of corn, oil, maiz, and toxicity and man there are 20 million Mexcianos here - what is going on? ...how borders can be criss-crossed between an individual and community. Switched to the LA Weekly in March, 2006. I convinced the LA Weekly to allow me to go cover the elections in Mexico and there was a politician trying to form a power base completely around addressing the deep, violent social inequality in Mexico. I started hearing from editors who told me to go back there and write a book. At a certain moment, I decided it was important for me to get out of my comfort zone and explore it. I went to neighborhoods where I was told not to go, I went to parties I was told I wouldn't get in, I went to markets where I was told I wouldn't come out and I would come home and write. I was so stimulated, I felt like I was on this constant acid trip - over stimulation on every level. The book gradually came together. I would post a photo on my blog and an impression would come out of that. My editor told me to focus on young people and that turned out to be fun. And I would be confronted with, "So what are you? Are you a gringo, eh?" In the span of a day, I would get polar reactions.

Miriam Pawel: Your book about Cesar Chavez follows these people who joined Chavez on his struggle. It's about this larger sense of power too. But yet you show that building a movement takes work, takes patience, and sort of becomes messy at times. Tell us a little about their journeys.

Miriam: These books are all about people who felt tremendously passionate about people what they were doing. I came to this from a different route from other panelists. I spent a year at the LAT doing a series about the UFW union today and what it's become. It's not a major force in the farm movement today and if you go out in the fields today and ask them who Cesar Chavez is, they think you're talking about the boxer. As I began to talk to people who were involved in it, they were all sort of caught up in the last great social movement of this country. ...Activists all over the country who had committed their life and worked for free to change the condition in the fields, I met all these people who are literally haunted 30 years later about what they weren't able to succeed and why the UFW didn't become a sustainable union for farm workers. It's not a book about Chavez per se, it's a book about the movement he inspired. I chose to write the book about 8 characters who represent the ways the movement changed the lives of a generation. It was a part of Chavez's ability to drive these people into a movement together. It was an idea that you could send farm workers across the country and were wiling to go around the country to ask for money, "I'm a farm worker and I'm 2,000 miles from home and all I'm doing is asking you to not buy grapes." California to this day has the only law on the books to allow farm workers to join a union and protects their right to do so. Farm workers and domestic workers are the only workers not included in the National Labor Relations Act (editor's note: and government employees). It was a little like the story of the blind man and the elephant. Depending on where you were, your perspective was very different. I wanted you to be able to see as a reader what it was like to go through this experience. As the omniscient reader narrator you have an idea of where it's going. Cesar Chavez: he is an incredibly important figure in American history who in someways, because there is so much hagiography around him, that has done him a disservice. Writing about his life in all its complexity allows people to know that heroes are human and heroes have flaws. Academics and journalists have shied away from writing about Chavez in any way but celebratory, but he was brilliant and brought about significant change not just for farm workers but for everyone who joined the movement. My book only deals with the part of his work that dealt with the farm workers movement, but the larger Chicano movement is distinct from that. He's a fascinating character and the people around him were. As many of the people who were involved in the movement ended up disillusioned, sad, or angry. They left on voluntary or sometimes involuntary terms. I came about at a point when people felt that it was history and it was okay to talk about it now. How do you participate in a movement and have a democratic movement and still get things done. So people left on very kind of mixed terms, but I've never met anyone who worked even for a brief time who felt like it was the most important thing they've done in their lives. So that's what I tried to capture in very human ways, so I wanted you to be able to care about the people.

Hector: For me, Cesar Chavez is about awakening the civic spirit. I'm going to throw the mike, metaphorically speaking, over to Sal. We were talking a little bit about you before you got here and the book that you two produced together. And there was a question that Mario brought up is what the legacy of the movement you were involved in is. How is LA education different because of the movement?

Sal Castro: The producer and director asked if I would help them with the movie, the project "Walkout," about the students who walked out of school. This thing was an urban movement across the SouthWest, the entire country. My first question was who would be my love interest. ... My second question was who would play me. When I was invited to the White House in 1996, I spoke to Clinton about the fact that we're the country with the highest rate of high school and college drop outs. I'm sorry to say my statement to Obama would be the same thing..

Question from the owner of Libros Schmibros, a lending library in Boyle Heights.

Sal: We as Mexicans have been involved in every war the US has been involved in, including the Revolutionary War. We came with troops, 44 vessels that blockaded the Southern ports, and money. There is no American cemetery without a Mexican buried in it, including Gettysburg.

Posted by cj at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

Obama:: 2 Years In @ LAT FOB

Nick Goldberg - editor of editorial page at the NY Times. Called in because tonight is the night of the correspondence dinner at the White House. Start by reading something Garrett Gaff wrote.

Conservatives are still questioning where the president was born. Progressives, which I think are over-represented on this panel, are disappointed by the president. Hoping we'll have a serious discussion about whether progressives are right in their criticisms.

Garrett - editor of the Washingtonian magazine. Second book just came out - The Threat Matrix.

Garrett: I started out in politics working on Howard Dean's campaign and I represent the far right wing of the panel. One campaign's in poetry and governs in prose. The lesson Obama has learned in many hard ways over the last two years is that governing is much harder than talking about governing. As much as we'd like to think that closing Guantanamo would be easy to do, for a lot of reason - not all of which is related to the Republican party - it's not. I've followed Obama's national security plans and strategies closer than other issues. The world is a complicated place and he has been buffetted by events beyond his control. The unrest in the Arab world and the earthquake in Japan. One of the challenges that has become clear is how little of a presidency is up to a president. So much is a president reacting to events rather than creating events. What concerns me more than where Obama is or where the Republican party is, I think we're entering an era of politics in that we're no longer serious about solving the big problems. That was sort of the subject of my first book in 2007. I think that you can really see that playing out in Washington right now. This budget debate in so many ways has become about Paul Ryan and his plan and his thinking about the budget. The idea that we think that there is only one guy talking seriously about the budget is an indictment. These are huge issues, generational issues that are going to have to be solved one way or another. This is a stunning indictment of where we are in the political process.

Katrina vanden Heuvel - I'm editor and publisher of The Nation. I do think there are fundamental debates in this country. I think there's radical disconnect between the debates going on in Washington and those going on in the rest of the country. I met Obama once and the one thing he said to me was that perfect is the enemy of the good. 'If the left were not somewhat unhappy with Obama, it would not be much of a left.' Obama did pass two pieces of landmark legislation. But they were not commensurate with the scale and scope of the problem. The power of money, the power of lobbyists to dilute legislation. And a Republican party that stated their goal is to delegitimize Obama. Because of the diluted financial regulatory legislation, Obama resuscitated the financial system but did not fundamentally change it...worst thing he did was the demobilization of the base. Real crisis is not a deficit crisis but a jobs crisis that hasn't been heard in the halls of power...Progressives need to be as tough and as pragmatic about Obama as he is about us...He talked about Afghanistan being 'a good war.' I think now you have the ability - transpartisan majority of people who want to find a way out of Afghanistan, who want to challenge corporate power...thinking of President Johnson: wars kill a reform presidency. ...It's imperative now for citizens of conscious to organize more independently and force these issues into the next election and to create space for these issues to be taken up. ...A broad based assault on what have been considered fundamental pillars of this society.

Eric Alterman: In my head I have four competing arguments about Obama and I'm not sure which is best. One is just what Katrina mentioned briefly, which is personal. He had me over for dinner when he first became a senator. I can't think of anyone who is as smart and as committed to my values getting elected. So, I like the guy a lot. I'm sure a lot of you were crying when, Grant Park. So, part two is I was writing a chapter on Obama for my next book, called the Cause. Liberalism is a lot more marginalized than some of us would like to think it is. It's not easy to find liberal moments where the country has agreed on the goals and moved forward in ways that we would define progress. It's significant that Teddy Roosevelt called for public health insurance in 1912 and every Democratic president since him have tried to pass it and Obama did.

Part three - Legacy of the most corrupt, incompetent and ideologically obsessed presidency since Buchanan. People only knew about the MMS before the Gulf disaster because people were dealing crystal meth out of their offices in exchange for sex. For eight years, people were in charge who had no respect for government. I quote Dick Durbin saying of the banks "frankly, they own the place," talking about the Senate. I have a great deal of sympathy for a guy who treats us with respect and has to go and show his birth certificate. It's difficult to govern in that context. On the other hand, a series of columns I've written in The Nation on the Republican class war. A lot of people have launched an attack on the role the government plays for the poor and the middle class. The wealthiest 2% went from owning 8% of our assets to 20%. The top 10% have enjoyed 60% of the gains in this country. It's only in America that we've had this degree of inequality and it's been purposeful. The other attack is what you've seen in Wisconsin, the attack on our public unions. Obama refuses to recognize this fact - he's got all this 'why can't we all get along' stuff, and if one side is fighting a war and the other side has got their hands tied behind their back.

Mr. Ryan is not talking about sensible government, he's talking about what the Republicans call sensible government. He does nothing about the deficit for 10 years but it does two things: it destroys Medicare and gives another tax break to the wealthy. Paul Krugman says the only serious attack on the long term deficit of the social services is The People's Budget, so I'll take his word for it. This conservative aura has created a notion that you have to attack poor people and enrich rich people and that to me is the problem.

Garrett: We sort of use Ryan as short hand for starting the debate. There is a sense in Washington that there's not serious thinking on these big issues. When one person does begin to do that, we sort of default to letting him own that debate. There's sort of an interesting divide that we're talking about this.

Katrina: Explains that The People's Budget is marginalized not just by Fox News, but by the mainstream press. Quotes from an egregious Dana Milbank's editorial. 40% of people surveyed did not know Medicare is a government program.

Moderator changes topic to Libya.

Garrett: Scariest war we're involved in because it is a war without possibility of American casualties.

Katrina: The issue of drones is a problem in US foreign policy. The larger framework is that we are seeing the expansion of the security state with marginal attempts to cut the defense budget. But it's part of the expansion of, I don't like the term, but US Empire. The over-arching thing in my mind, which Obama may not have had the courage to do, is to make the case that we must end this war on terror. This is not a war. What should have happened after 9/11 should have been an increase in policing.

Eric: This is kind of a sacrilioug thing to say, but I don't know everything. I do know he should have gone to Congress and get a resolution. I do know that they're not evil people. I do know that Samantha Power is a nice person. (At one point he talked about war sometimes being the answer and I hissed. He remarked that it wasn't right to hiss this point. As a woman with a degree in Peace & Justice Studies, I find it ridiculous that my anti-war position is dismissed outright by someone without a clear understanding of real diplomacy being an alternative to war.) The choice is not between war and peace. The choice is between war and massacre. It is just anti-intellectual, a kind of moral masturbation to say you know that one evil is worse than another.

Katrina: I think he's been given a gift of a Republican candidate field that looks like a scene from the bar in Star Wars.

Garrett: I think he's going to have a relatively easy re-election bid....young people, people of color electorate expanding. If those people vote, it will be an easy election.

Eric: I'm not so sure Obama is going to get re-elected. Unemployment is not going down any more. The problem of Japan and the supply lines have not shown up yet, but it will. Housing prices are collapsing again. It really depends on whether the Republicans can select someone that the rest of the country will consider sane. They're setting up Mitch Daniels to be his guy and the press loves him. As far as the demographics, I think minorities and young people are going to be the hardest people to turn out because of the disappointments that have happened from 2008-2011. ...The fact is that, the greatest criticism I would make against Obama. ...quote that was given to Obama when he was running for state senate - you can't go after the whole hog, sometimes you have to accept a ham sandwich. And Obama has been taking a lot of ham sandwiches and the problem is there isn't even any ham in those sandwiches.

Opened up to questions.

Posted by cj at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2011

Clarifying My Core Political Principles

I shared this video on Facebook and started an extremely long discussion.

Since the conversation included people across the political spectrum, I laid out my core political beliefs as a starting place:

I know corporations / business have one reason for existing: to create profit. They do not support human or environmental needs - they make money for their shareholders. When corporations were first invented, they had to prove that they were supporting the welfare of the nation/colony/state they were incoporated in, but no more.

The gap between the rich and the poor, in the US and globally, is larger than it has ever been. There is no real middle class in the US. Fairness in taxation means that the people who profit the most should pay the most. Otherwise, government will end up imposing more sales taxes, which affect the poor far more than the rich. The Bush tax cuts were unpaid for and unsustainable. Reagonomics DID NOT WORK. And it did not create a magical, growing, healthy economy. It simply exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor.

Individuals create governments to increase their own freedom. Government protects citizens by imposing regulations on business, enacting laws that protect people, animals, and the environment. Civil society and government institutions are the only pathways to a more just world.

I am not willing to sacrifice my freedom to the whim of corporations. The problem in DC is the corporatacracy. Government paychecks are red herrings - contractors make far more than any govt employee. The problem is politicians rely on Big Money and Big Business to get elected and re-elected. Until we have public financing in our elections, it will remain difficult for the majority of the people to have their opinions heard and enacted by government.

The majority of the people isn't the same as the decisions made in individual races in a midterm election. Too many people are turned off by politics in this country. Even the president isn't chosen by a simple majority vote - giving people in Omaha a larger voice in national politics than people in LA.

Government job bills are the only things that truly get us out of a recession - it was the Works Progress Administration that finally got people back to work after the Great Depression. And yes, it was also the military industrial economy. We're addicted to war. It's the largest form of welfare in this country - the military, or a military contractor, exists in every single Congressional district in this country. Can't say that about any other federal program.

The world I want to see has a culture of peace and human security as its core principles, rather than this culture of war and humans being disposable. Those great corporations refuse to hire people who have been unemployed 2+ years - are you really willing to sacrifice millions of Americans for a political ideology?

In addition to ending US wars, we need to slash the military budget and spend more on creating jobs and social services. By the way - it doesn't matter how much intelligence POTUS, SecDef, or SecState have: the bottom line is that if your primary form of diplomacy is depleted uranium bombs, your country will never be at peace. Terrorism cannot be defeated with terrorism. Only skillful diplomacy, robust international institutions, pathways to peace and economic prosperity will make us truly safe.

Posted by cj at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2011

PJ Crowley forced to resign from State

For the crime of pointing out that the DoD's treatment of Bradley Manning "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid," PJ Crowley was forced to resign his post as State Department spokesman.

From the story, sounds like the administration had already been pushing him out the door by making White House aide Mike Hammer his deputy. Hammer was conveniently available to immediately replace Crowley.

Full story by Ed Henry on CNN's Political Ticker.

Posted by cj at 2:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2011

The Long March Towards Freedom

I'm a member of an organization that has freedom in its title. Some activists say we should avoid using the rhetoric of freedom, because it has been co-opted by the right. Honey, there's a big difference between libertarian fantasies and the power to act or think without externally imposed restraint.

Emily Greene Balch on choosing a name for the women's peace movement:

freedom, the basic condition of human personality and growth, could not be maintained EXCEPT UNDER PEACE. That, too, was in their minds in making "peace and freedom" their objective. -1935 pamphlet, republished in Fall 2008 Peace and Freedom (pdf)
And so, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was born.

Watching the news coverage of the protests in Egypt, reporting biases become more flagrant. There's the people who worry about the Egyptian state's support of Israel. There's the people who remind us that Egypt has been a strong supporter of the US over the past 30 years. There's the people who tell you ad nauseam details of looting, and warn that every day of protest brings the possibility of chaos closer. And then there's the people who actually report what Egyptians are saying.

Let's get this straight: Anderson Cooper was wrong when he said Egyptians hold conflicting views of America. Egyptians like US citizens. They like the way we live here in the US. They dislike our government's support of the Mubarak dictatorship. They dislike our government's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. They dislike the US government's one-sided approach to peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. There is no conflict in these views: Egyptian people like US people. Egyptian people dislike US Empire.

A week ago, Egyptians began their long march towards freedom. They've lived under a military dictatorship for 30 years. Anxious lefties in the US keep wondering when Egypt will happen here. And they're fools. In our rush to see each other as brothers and sisters, some of us forget the depth of our privilege. We have freedom of assembly. We have freedom of speech. We have freedom of religion. Crazy people aren't bombing our churches on Christmas Eve. One guy hasn't been president for 30 years. The government hasn't been propped up by a billion dollars in foreign military aid. When we protest, the police may protect private property, but they don't hurl tear gas at us.

So why aren't more people angry that the US faces the widest income gap since the Great Depression? Because we can max out credit cards, and numb ourselves with entertainment. Because acts of people-powered protest here compete for coverage with a blimp.

I'm grateful to Common Cause for organizing the Uncloak the Kochs rally.

As someone in the media said today, will we walk like an Egyptian?

Let us stand tall in support of democracy for the most populous Arab country. Let us throw off the shackles of fear and say firmly: We trust the Egyptian people to use democracy to create peace and prosperity on their own terms. We welcome the possibility that more Arab citizens could choose freedom in the coming months. We trust that the US and any other democracy in the world will be safer with democratic neighbors than if those states were dictatorships or un-democratic monarchies. And we will be inspired by our Egyptian sisters and brothers. We will continue their long march towards freedom in our own country.

Because we know this isn't a military dictatorship. But we also know the American culture has cancer. Corporate personhood has created a cancer in our body politic, in our economic system, and in our culture. And we are determined to fight that cancer. To create the change we wish to see in the world. To create nonviolent paradigm shifts, to create the social upheaval needed in the US to continue the long march towards freedom.

Posted by cj at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2011

Uncloak the Kochs: Eyewitness Account of the Rally

As an unknown blogger, I find it interesting to watch well-known bloggers treated as members of the media, with everything from priority seating at a panel discussion to multiple quotes in mainstream press.

I also find it interesting that the entire day in Rancho Mirage was created for consciousness raising. Here's one of my tweets from today:

[from @socialupheaval] Feels lacking a real plan beyond today Answers to what action to take lacking @ #UncloakKoch panel

Here's the response I got:

[from @CommonCause] @socialupheaval there is a plan; as @VanJones68 says, 1st step is lifting consciousness. That's today. Tmrw we go forward together.
Actually, what Van Jones said was that he was caught off guard being given the microphone to answer the question what action steps are next for the event. He said he didn't plan the event, Common Cause did, but if he had to answer the question, we should connect with our neighbors and increase awareness of the issues.

See here's the thing: 1,000 people show up in Rancho Mirage. Most of them traveled long distances to get to the rally. Did they not know why they were traveling out of their way for a rally?

We who spent 4+ hours traveling to and fro on Common Cause buses; we who were told we are the leaders we are waiting for - we were looking for concrete action we could take to implement the values expressed by the panelists and rally speakers. We could have formed action groups: meeting up with people from our local areas to develop plans. If Common Cause had a plan for grassroots, cross-organization movement building, their staffers who rode the buses with us could have engaged us in that vision, and helped us find a way to contribute to those clear local steps forward. Instead, we're told to enjoy our consciousness raising.

To be clear: I've been involved in progressive activism for 20 years. I still get a thrill from gathering with like-minded activists. I love that I came on a bus to the desert and met up with two different Wellesley sisters (who don't know each other). I was truly inspired by Van Jones.

But, I'm still wondering: what's next? Where do we go from here?

Posted by cj at 9:05 PM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2011

Challenging Corporate Personhood

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Los Angeles Branch hosted a teach-in today to explain the roots of corporate personhood. One of our members provided an engaging historical overview, followed by a lively discussion about how to move forward locally, and in the Southern California region.

WILPF Abolish Corporate Personhood Organizing Packet - includes sample resolutions and other actions.

WILPF Corporate Personhood Study Guide

If you're in Southern California, you should attend the Uncloak the Kochs rally in Palms Springs next Sunday. I reserved my seat on the bus - have you?

Sister WILPFers in Santa Cruz, California organized a demonstration to get corporations out of elections and posted this quote to Facebook:

"The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of 'corporate personhood' and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech," says Bill Moyer, the energetic founder and executive director of the Backbone Campaign, the grassroots movement to embolden Americans to push back against corporate power and political corruption.

The Los Angeles meeting was a great gathering of like-minded activists, including Lisabeth Ryder from the West Papua Action Network and Karan Bavandi, founder of kbucket.com.

Posted by cj at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2010

Inside Job: Pieces Explained, Now What?

Fundamentally, I agree with Nora Lee Mandel that for people who have listened to Planet Money or read books about the Great Recession, Inside Job will not provide new information on how the financial meltdown was created.

But since I've been getting most of my news consumption through the radio and podcasts, it was important to add the visual element, to put a face to the names, as it were. It's interesting that most reviews on Rotten Tomato are positive. I appreciate that Kenneth Turan in the LAT explained the director's academic origins:

Neither a film school graduate nor an ideologue, Ferguson is rather a well-connected academic who has a doctorate in political science from MIT, was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and has been a consultant for high-tech firms such as Apple, Intel and Xerox.
This explains a lot: from Ferguson's level-headed definitions, to his desire to damn the study of economics, rather than focusing heavily on government's collusion or ways that ordinary citizens can change the system.

To be clear, Ferguson's critique of economics was probably my favorite aspect of the film. It felt like a justification for my inability to "get with the program" in my International Relations courses, why I bristled at the idea that I needed to take economic courses to understand how humans, governments and corporations interact globally. The reality is that pretending that human interactions can be best explained by science is a terrible fallacy. Social sciences should put more emphasis on the social aspect of their disciplines and less faith in mathematical formulas.

For me, this documentary was another piece of evidence in an already over-flowing mountain. The US economy is rigged. Capitalism does not represent a fair playing field any more than any other economic system. Until we figure out a way to use political leagues, labor unions, and our governments to regulate corporations and support human needs, we will continue to be pawns in someone else's game.

It was frustrating to me that in an after movie discussion, a disgruntled union member challenged me to prove her union dues weren't going to election-related expenditures, rather than contacting her union local to explain where her dues are going. The bitterness on the left - the belief that the organizations we have to protect individuals are as corrupt as the rest of the system leaves people staring into their ice cream bowls, blaming the uneducated masses in the middle of the country.

Enough is enough. No organization is perfect, but I'd much rather be a union member than an at-will employee like I am currently. And while I care about the mid-term elections, while I am incredulous that people actually believe the results will be the same regardless of which political party wins, I don't think voting is the only responsibility of citizens. To create real democracy, we must be vigilant every day of the year. We must find ways to gather our voices, to be heard collectively.

That's why I'm a life member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. I know that locally, nationally, and globally my beliefs are shared and that together we can make a difference. While our coffers will never be as filled as those of multi-national corporations, we have the moral and political will to create a world where the needs of all people are met in a fair and equitable manner.

Do I need a Poli Sci Ph.D or Matt Damon to explain to me how to challenge the financial system? No. I'd rather every person who was angered by the documentary to do something about it: to encourage their friends to see the movie, to give money to an organization she believes is fighting the system, to volunteer for such an organization, and ultimately, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. " - Margaret Mead

Other Reviews
To read how the other half thinks, check out Kyle Smith's review in the NY Post. Because, you see, morality does not apply to business.

Even the WSJ recommends the movie, though they falsely equate the anger you'll experience from viewing the evidence as a reason to join the Tea Party.

Wesley Morris at the Boston Globe really liked it, though I can't say I share his completely unfettered enthusiasm for the film. There were times I noticed I was watching a two hour movie, but I'm not sure that's entirely the movie's fault since I was sitting next to a woman who kept hitting me with her leg and her date who kept adding unhelpful commentary like "he's an Orthodox Jew."

I like Michael Phillips description of the movie as a funnel in the Tribune.

Predictably, Ebert loved the film. I enjoyed his personal elevator commentary.

Posted by cj at 1:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2010

Conflicting Values? Spiritual Guidance vs. Political Activism

I've been troubled for some time about the conflict between my political activism and my chosen spiritual leader. I tried to write an op-ed based on this tension for the WaPo America's Next Great Pundit contest. I didn't make the top 50, so I'm publishing it here.

As this round of peace negotiations unravels, the U.S. government should cut off military aid to Israel until it conforms with international law. Financial and political support from our country is the only reason Israel's forty-three year occupation of Palestine continues.

My spirituality is the bedrock of my political belief in the power of diplomacy and the importance of citizen engagement in the political process. I first learned in Hebrew School that it is my responsibility to heal the world; and like many of my generation I took that commandment to its logical conclusion – viewing myself as an unfettered agent of change, rather than a victim of anti-Semitism.

During a recent political discussion at temple, I was informed that there's no chance for peace until the U.S. and Israel cut off Hezbollah and Hamas from their primary funders in Iran. Therefore, I shouldn't be surprised, or scared, that a war against Iran will happen in the next year. According to the rabbi, the only way to get peace is through war.

Why attend a religious institution that espouses political beliefs so far from my own? I've been searching for a coherent spiritual tradition my entire life. Neither my explorations of alternative religions, nor my childhood at a conservative synagogue prepared me for the awesome power of a leader with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy, psychology, and religion. On my way to accepting my rabbi's Neo-Hasidic, Kabbalistic teachings, I've expanded my understanding of Plato, Freud, and even the origins of Islam.

I will never agree with him that "we are at war with an intractable enemy who has declared war on us." Nevertheless, I will continue to seek his guidance on moral and spiritual issues. And I will continue working to expand the place of ordinary citizens in global affairs, from the inclusion of women in conflict resolution per the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, to international recognition of two states in pre-1967 borders in the Middle East.

Posted by cj at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

August 7, 2010

The Economy, The Poor, and Our Responsibilities

Jack and Jill Politics embedded a fascinating interview with Dr. Cornel West:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


I find it incredibly important to think deeply about Dr. West's message. It adds to the conversation that A Mohit began on Technorati recently on the systematic destruction of the middle class in the U.S.

This week's Torah portion, Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), includes the commandment to take care of the needy. Some may say this means a community should provide the poor with the bare minimum of food, shelter, and health care. For me, it is an entry point to question the great disparity between the rich and the poor.

It is not enough to simply ameliorate suffering. Rather, we must determine the root of the problem: is the wealth of the rich created on the backs of the poor?

I believe there are fundamental problems with the U.S. economy, a system that is tilted in favor of the few, with constant bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy, while the middle class disappears and the poor are kept docile through credit cards, mass entertainment, and the delusional myth of "the American dream."

I look forward toward fundamental policy changes that support human growth and allow all citizens equal opportunity.

Posted by cj at 6:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2010

Digital Activism, Digital Diplomacy, Digital Chasms

I just finished readin the amazing NYT article, "Digital Diplomacy," by Jesse Lichtenstein. This article is important, not just because it shows the frontier of digital statecraft, but because it proves the importance of integrating social media into policy activism.

Perhaps this point is obvious to you. If you want to influence policy, you need to engage in debate on the interwebs, not just in face-to-face meetings with diplomats or in coalition meetings with like-minded organizations.

Lichtenstein does a great job of showing how State isn't fully equipped to handle the type of engagement created by Jared Cohen and Alec Ross. While she's quick to point out the ways digital media can enhance grassroots activism, and get the USG's positions out to the masses, she overlooks a key problem: like governments, most NGOs are not equipped to handle digital activism. If you've been involved in an organization that allows social media policy and practice to be handled solely by interns, then you understand what I mean.

I'm not trying to disparage interns. Indeed, they are essential to most nonprofits. But we've got to figure out a way to integrate these new communication channels into the lifeblood of our organizations.

I'm looking forward to working with others to fill the digital chasm that exists in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. If you've got ideas, please let me know. Because we're leaders in international peace and justice movement; and we provide the best reporting on gender and conflict and disarmament at the UN. But our social media strategy is in its infancy and our membership organization lacks a unified approached to digital activism.

Posted by cj at 7:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2010

Independence, Nationalism, the American Experience

Plenty of people can't fathom criticizing nationalism. If you don't accept that we live in the greatest country in the world, why not leave? If you can't appreciate your freedom, just leave!

My wariness of nationalism stems from its historical roots. By creating an identity larger than your community, but separate from people beyond a border, Us vs. Them becomes easier to swallow. In a world connected by the interwebs, it can be depressing that more people aren't more closely connected with a global perspective.

Regardless of your feelings about Independence Day, "The Great Rupture," by Peter Goodman in the NYT should be required reading today. The profound disconnect between economic reality and policy is laid bare in vignettes from across the country. The US government provided billions to bail out the "financial system," ensuring bonuses and hefty salaries for the charlatans who got us into this mess, yet "fiscally conservative" politicians refuse to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of people devastated by the economic collapse caused by the geniuses of Wall Street legal gambling.

It's time to take a stand. Declare your independence from group think. Reach out to your neighbors, next door and across the world. Learn about your history. Learn about your neighbor's history. And let's work together to create the nonviolent paradigm shift desperately needed to convince politicians that Public Works is more effective than Corporate Bailouts. That diplomacy should be led by the State Department, not the DOD.

Social upheaval: it's closer than you think.

Posted by cj at 11:54 AM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2010

The Sad State of Sunday Morning Round Tables

Ingredients of a successful round table: fill with 4 parts older white men, 1 part older white woman. Any one part can be exchanged with one of the following: younger white man, woman of color, man of color. No more than one part of the following can be included in the mix: person of color, person under 50. You may include two people under 50, if all other people on the panel look over 60.

I don't know why I'm still surprised every Sunday when there is absolutely no space allowed for a liberal voice, let alone an activist voice on ABC or NBC. The "Tea Party" is claimed as a legitimate, logical part of the political landscape, but goodness help you if you believe society has an obligation to support its individual members.

Nevermind that none of these shows have said a single word about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference currently underway in NYC.

But let's spend all of our time talking about Elana Kagan.

Check out the photos on the Meet The Press site. Since it was the first program I watched today, it forced me to recognize the lack of diversity in these shows.

Jake Tapper is still the moderator on This Week. It is painful to watch the conservatives talk beyond him, always taking up more than half the time when a "two position" discussion is "moderated." Sadly, Senator Patrick Leahy is truly getting older and may be too slow when speaking responses to be truly effective in today's fast-paced media. Senator Jeff Sessions not only bogarted the air-time, he also appeared more coherent and comprehensive in his answers. Leahy meandered his way into calling the b.s. of Sessions' rants. I can't wait until August, when Cristianne Amanpour become the moderator.

I have to admit it - I usually hate listening to Katty Kay on The Chris Matthews Show. On today's show, I respect what she's said. Sad that it's an all-white panel discussing the racist Arizona law. Did you know there is only one person of color on the Matthew Meter? Perhaps you did. Or perhaps you gave up on the mainstream media long ago. I find it important to keep up with the official spin on how the world turns.

Posted by cj at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2010

Realities of War As Seen Through "The Hurt Locker"

Politicians who want to make the world safe for democracy by sending in the US military should remember a simple truth: most of the English-speaking countries in the world are already democracies. That means the barrel of a gun is the only form of communication between the vast majority of military personnel and the people they are "protecting."

Apparently, making a statement as overt as the above is too political for today's movie-making climate. And the UN is just a place for terrorists to place bombs. It's truly fascinating to me that more people are willing to watch, in slow motion, excruciatingly boring detail, the tour of a bomb squad than are willing to understand the nuance of diplomacy and cross-cultural communication.

At this point, I don't care what you think about the Iraq War. I think it's a travesty that instead of trying to better understand Iraqis, today's war movies can only accomplish one thing: increase our empathy for American soldiers.

Compare The Hurt Locker to Three Kings: in this year's biggest Oscar bait flick, the most extensive Iraqi part goes to a kid hocking pirated DVDs. On the other hand, the fictitious depiction of the first Iraq War provided a look at both the terror inflicted by Saddam's regime and the cruelty of the "American liberators" (in that they abandoned their Iraqi cohorts rather than working to overthrow Hussein).

Oh - but there, I've done it. I must be a crazy left-wing nut to want my war movies to have a point, a plot, and a reason to care about the characters.

This post is not about how I think the US should have handled its relationship with the country of Iraq. This is about the depiction of war in the US: the rejection of nuance; the refusal to portray any non-Western character as more than 2-dimensional, and the ridiculous Scarlet A attached to any film that dares to make you think about the consequences of war.

I just don't know why I'm so surprised.

Posted by cj at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2010

More Female Ambassadors in DC: More Women Leaders or Less Power for Diplomacy?

In today's Washington Post The article 'Hillary effect' cited for increase in female ambassadors to U.S., by Mary Jordan was published in today's Washington Post and highlighted in Slateist Morning Edition.

It's good to know that there are now 25 female ambassadors posted in DC (out of 182 accredited ambassadors, they represent 13.7% of all ambassadors to the US). The rise has been credited to the string of female US Secretaries of State (Albright, Rice, Clinton).

Some female ambassadors refuse to acknowledge that they might bring a different perspective to the art of diplomacy. Carolina Barco from Colombia simply wants to push free trade, though she admits being female gets her noticed. Former SecState Albright rejects the notion of women focusing on "soft issues," stating: ""They are often the hardest issues: poverty, discrimination, education and health."

I was happy to learn that Bahrain's ambassador since 2008 is Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab state.

Nevertheless, I was deeply troubled by the question posed by Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association:

Johnson said the rise in female diplomats coincides with what she sees as a shift in investment away from diplomacy and toward defense. "Is the relative feminization of diplomacy indicative of its decline as a center of power and influence?" she wonders.
Indeed, one need look no further than Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to realize that world leaders erroneously believe human security can be developed through instruments of war.

I too welcome increases in the number of women engaged in diplomacy. But we should always remember that it's not enough for us to have more seats at the table. As global citizens, we must demand that conflict resolution begin and end with nonviolent negotiations. We must explain to our fellow citizens and elected leaders that the vast majority of money spent on the military is wasted, leading to less human security, not more. And we must promote democratic institutions: from the town hall meetings to the US Congress to the United Nations as the proper arenas for conflict resolution.

Posted by cj at 6:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 5, 2009

War, Media & The Plight of Veterans

The West LA Democratic Club sponsored a fundraiser for The Veteran's Project.

I'm a member of the Democratic Party, but the last time I actively participated in the party, beyond voting, was 1988. It was weird to see what a local political party is like in person. The president, Cara Robin, got up and thanked everyone for coming "on behalf of the West LA Democratic Party and our co-sponsors." That's the extent to which co-sponsoring organizations were mentioned. So much for movement building. She then made cursory statement about the need for us to re-elect Barbara Boxer, support Marcy Winograd's bid for Congress, and help get California Majority Rule on the ballot.

Then she sorta introduced the first speaker, Georg-Andreas (Andrew) Pogany, from Give an Hour. He apologized for needing to read his speech from his computer. He lost his original speech, and due to a brain injury that occurred as a result of the war, he has difficulty memorizing things.

After Pogany spoke, Ms. Robin introduced the rest of the panel.

Robert Sheer is a nationally syndicated columnist, co-host of Left, Right, and Center, Editor-in-Chief of Truth Dig, and author of Pornography of Power.

Scott Ritter is the author of Target Iran, Waging Peace, and Iraq Confidential. He is a former senior weapons inspector in Iraq.

Peter Richardsom teaches California Culture at San Francisco State University and recently published a book on Ramparts Magazine, A Bomb in Every Issue.

Mr.Sheer spoke next in a dis-jointed manner that was difficult to follow for people not intimately knowledgeable about his career. Mr. Richardson spoke next and didn't give a complete explanation of Ramparts magazine, since 30% of the audience raised their hands to say they knew what it was. (His short definition: it brought muckraking journalism back to the mainstream. Shortly after it won the prestigious Polk Award, CBS premiered 60 Minutes and the Pentagon Papers were published by the Washington Post.)

After hearing an explanation of why Martin Luther King, Jr came out against the Vietnam war that started with Sheer telling the end of the story and Richardson telling the beginning and middle, I started wondering if I was really at a panel about the experiences of veterans in war or if I was at another panel on the history of the peace & justice movement.

I don't mean to disparage the speakers. Pogany, Sheer, and Richardson had important messages to give. They just weren't all talking about veterans. And ultimately, I was more inspired by Ritter's speech than those of his fellow panelists.

Eventually, Mr. Ritter spoke. His insightful, biting commentary was just what you'd expect from a former military man: sprinkled with profanity, cutting to the heart of the manner with no b.s. I found it interesting that several audience members were offended by the way he spoke, telling him afterward that he didn't make a solid case. Here's the abbreviated version of what he said:

We're here because of veterans. No matter what they look like physically, military will never be the same when they come back from war. The process of preparing our youth for war, changes a person forever.

When you are born into this world, you are not programmed to do what the military programs you to do. We can throw whatever rhetoric we want out there: An Army of One. Navy: A Global Force for Good. The truth is join the military and learn to take human life. You're either directly taking it or supporting people taking life. The military exists for one reason only: to kill human beings. We're taking human beings and de-humanizing them.

Audience member asked a question, stating that "cleaning up the mess we began" is a strong argument for keeping the US military in Afghanistan. How do you propose we clean up the mess in a different way?

First of all, it is the quintessential American issue. We live by the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it. It really does work, sort of. What happens when you insert the elephant into the china shop? Shit, buy new china. The ultimate way to resolve it is get the elephant out of the china shop. Afghanistan is a horrifically complicated place. Is Holbrooke going to speak any of the native languages of Afghanistan? If we're going to take a 20 year old kid from Poughkeepsie, NY or Santa Cruz, CA then we should give him the 11 years of education to understand the language and culture at a pH.D level before going there. Otherwise, we shouldn't send him there. We don't have the tool set to fix it. The people best equipped to fix Afghanistan are the Afghan people themselves.

It's time to get the bull out of the china stop. US citizens need to stop seeing the US as the global policeman. We need to embrace internationalism and work through the United Nations to help people create politically viable nation states. We need to begin diplomacy with human beings, not machine guns.

It's not enough to read books and listen to Democracy Now! We must be engaged citizens. We must hold politicians accountable: not just by voting, but by working together to create a critical mass of political will for peace and justice. Join the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and help create the change so desperately needed.

It's time to expose the fallacy of the paradigms espoused by the meritocracy and political elite. It's time to assert that another way is possible. WILPF is the way global citizens of all genders can create non-violent social upheaval.

And yes, we need to support veterans. We need to support veterans of both genders, recognizing not just PTSD, but also the horrific levels of rape faced by our female soldiers. I do not believe in war. I do not believe there is a conflict best solved by violence. But I do believe that veterans deserve mental and physical health services and they deserve re-training. Not another 2 for 1 pizza coupon or vehicle discount, but real health services for them and their families.

Posted by cj at 5:35 PM | Comments (0)

December 3, 2009

US to Escalate Destabilization of Afghanistan

hopelessEscalation.jpg

Tuesday night was a turning point in the Obama presidency. All weekend, details of his "plan" leaked out in the political media. So I had plenty of advanced warning that like many foolish presidents before him, Obama thinks he can save the world by occupying it with the US military. So many people are so hopeful for the leadership he supposedly offers. Sure, he's said some pretty rhetoric about nuclear disarmament. But what does any of that talk - or his Nobel Peace Prize mean when the man does not recognize that Human Beings Live in Afghanistan. He talked about the Taliban and al Qaeda, but never about poverty or corruption, war lords or illegitimate presidents. And then he had the gall to end his speech hoping that we all join in unity, like we did after 9-11.

Let's be clear about something: if you have to rely on pandering to the fears created by the horrific terrorist attack on US soil in 2001 to unify your audience, then you've failed to make a persuasive argument.

Yet, he did. And there are so many people who think he's right. I'll admit something: eight years ago, I thought the US military would be useful to bring women out of the shadows of Afghanistan and create space for all people of the country to create a real nation. How foolish I was. And how foolish the US political elite continues to be.

Obama's Afghanistan strategy relies on everything that is wrong with international relations. IR focuses on Power: you must be a war lord, terrorist, state leader, or corporation to be meaningful in a discussion based on "realist" theory. The men who created this paradigm thought so highly of their beliefs that anyone daring to oppose them were derided as "idealists."

I'm tired of these standards of discourse. Poverty, political corruption, and social instability have never been resolved by military occupation. Flooding Afghanistan with English speaking US soldiers and US-paid mercenaries serves one purpose: it props up the corrupt, illegitimate Karzai government and gives carte blanche to warlords wielding power in the name of fighting terror.

I accepted the reality of international relations seven years ago, when I made the decision to stop pursuing a career in the foreign service. The paradigm shifts needed to create real human security are so massive: non-violent social upheaval is simply the only way to make it happen. And I can't help move the world towards needed paradigm shifts from a job serving the US Empire.

Tuesday's speech depressed me. It's depressing not just because the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner fundamentally does not understand how to create global peace. It's depressing because to explain the faults in his reasoning requires a level of sophistication in political discourse that simply does not exist in the US mainstream media. The only place I've heard a bit of common sense on the topic was Josef Joffe, a German publisher/editor on "To The Point" explaining that Europeans, after experiencing two horrific wars on their soil in the 20th century, think diplomacy is the best way to solve international disputes and create nation states.

Remember, Europeans did not find these beliefs by sitting in ivory towers, thinking up ways to rule the world. The true horror of war, the disgusting indiscriminate nature of aerial bombings and painfully slow path to reconstruction taught them the simple truth: War Is Never The Answer. Period. Full Stop.

You may call me an idealist, but I believe I am the true realist. I have seen the core of human nature, I have seen the destruction of war and I say firmly: the US military is not a liberating force. The US fails to live up to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal participation in conflict resolution. Fighting terrorists through mercenaries, the US military, and corrupt warlords does not create human security for US citizens or Afghans.

The US Government has chosen the path to further destabilization of Afghanistan.

At this crucial moment in world history, will you silently ascent to the senseless deaths of more US soldiers and Afghans? Or will you take a stand for real justice?

Things to do:

  1. Sign the Code Pink petition against Endless Occupation.
  2. Join Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. We work tirelessly to challenge and change the root causes of war and injustice at the local, national, and international level.
  3. Explain your opposition to the hopeless military escalation to your friends, family, and co-workers.
  4. Chastise mainstream media for excluding articulate anti-war voices from their political talk shows. Ask how balanced a panel is when no one on it rejects the paradigm of IR realism.
  5. Find a way to create peace in your own life so that your anger doesn't consume you: depression, though a logical response to this endless war, only poisons you.

Posted by cj at 9:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2009

In a time of economic uncertainty, I want you to help me go to India

I need your financial support to travel to India. Here's why:

I have been an active WILPF member for 10 years. I served two terms on the national board. I am a life member, having paid $500 for the privilege of having a membership that never expires. Currently, I am the convener of the international WILPF Communications Committee, which makes me a member of the International Board. I am also active on the Los Angeles branch board. I am raising money to attend the next WILPF International Board meeting.

In the recent past, I was the editor of the US Section E-Newsletter. (2008 through May, 2009. Several of my early pieces were not gathered on the E-News Archive Page.)

Why should you care? Because WILPF is vital to the future of peace and justice in the world. Because the institution is at a crossroads, in desperate need of forward movement that builds on the incredible analytical work of its founders.

Four years ago, I switched careers and became a direct marketer. While my professional career limits the amount of time I can commit to WILPF, it also enhances the skill set I bring to the organization. I now have the ability to create a communication strategy around the programmatic work of my sister WILPFers.

Like many WILPFers, I can articulate our perspectives on the world verbally and in prose. The reason I believe my participation in this meeting is vital is because I am also an integrated marketing professional. I am the translator WILPF needs: I can articulate our complicated, diplomatic language into simple English. The simplification of our message is vital in a world full of conscientious people who are overwhelmed by their personal daily struggles and deluged with the chatter of other issue advocacy organizations.

I need to raise $1,500 in the next 3 weeks to make this happen. Can you help? No amount is too small.

Did you know the only American women to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize won for their work with Women's International League for Peace and Freedom? (Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch.)

WILPF is not just the oldest women's peace organization.
We're also at the forefront of international cooperation. WILPF was intimately involved in the negotiations that created UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, and 1888.
We also work to create a critical mass of political will for nuclear disarmament.

WILPFers work to create peace from the ground up. Our national sections choose foci that are important for their locale. In the US, our members work in local branches and national committees to challenge the status quo. We believe in human rights, dismantling the military industrial complex, and protecting the environment. We believe women's equal participation in all levels of society, including politics, is vital to the future of the world. We founded the first wave of feminism, and we'll keep riding its waves until the strength of our convictions has permanently altered the political landscape.

Does it sound like we have too many issues? That's because separation is a modern fallacy: society is inter-connected. The radiation leaked by nuclear power plants and nuclear warheads has the same effect: increasing the rates of cancer (particularly thyroid cancer). The list goes on. WILPFers before me said it best:

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

Donate to my travel fund, so that I can help build WILPF's visibility, expand its membership base, and secure its financial foundation.

I have applied for funds from the Kay Camp Travel Fund, administered by the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA is WILPF's 501(c)3 sister organization). I am also seeking assistance from my local branch. Maximum award from the Kay Camp fund is $600 and the total budget for this trip (visa, flight, conference registration) is currently $2,200. Amount will fluctuate every day until I secure the visa and purchase the airfare.

Posted by cj at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2009

Women Deserve Political Power, Not Just Micro-Loans

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn provided the cover story for a recent NY Times Magazine issue. The article is titled "Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of Our Time."

To be honest, I found it frustrating to read about women's burgeoning economic prospects with scant contemplation of our political and social rights.

In a letter to the editor, WILPF member Robin Lloyd pointed out that women's rights are guaranteed under international law: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and, UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Yet, no one is crying out for the implementation of these laws. In October, 2008, the UN Working Group on Women, Peace & Security addressed the Security Council and reminded them of the following statistics: Since 2000, women averaged 7% of negotiators in five major UN peace processes. Fewer than 3% of the signatories in 14 peace talks were women. Read the statement in its entirety. (pdf)

At what point will the mainstream columnists start demanding the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and 1820? At what point will they recognize that not including women in conflict resolution is a major cause of instability in Iraq and Afghanistan? It's no shock that capitalism works or that most women will spend more money on family needs than booze. What is frustrating is people focusing solely on economic empowerment and staying absolutely silent on the need for women's equal involvement in the political sphere.

The magazine also made me wonder about Western prescriptions for development vs. home-grown solutions.

Should we be developing a universal blueprint for increasing women's involvement in conflict resolution, politics in general, and economics? Should we be spending more time learning from the women on the ground in conflict areas / developing countries? What's the best way to do both (push for universal human rights / implementation of UN resolutions and learn from / support women on the ground?)

I look forward to developing answers to these questions with my sister WILPFers. We've got sections around the world. Our founding mothers were determined to bring women's voices into the halls of power. And we'll continue to do so. Want to help? Donate to WILPF today.

Want to get even more involved? Become a WILPF member (all genders invited).

Posted by cj at 9:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2009

Nerd Up: Laugh w POTUS

@dmscott embedded this video in his blog. Hilarious 14 minutes of John Hodgman riffing on POTUS.

Good to know I have something in common with POTUS (we've both met Spock). Sadly, neither the Kohanim priestly blessing nor the Vulcan salute come easily to me.

Shalom aleichem and good night.

Posted by cj at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2009

The Human Right to Health Care

I find it frightening that the mainstream media's coverage of the health care debate includes absolutely zero advocates of single payer health care. Instead, the Sunday talk shows drone on about what a drain that would be on the capitalist system. Politicians actually lament that if we allow the government to compete in the health care industry, it's a slippery slope to creating government corporations in computer manufacturing and every other capitalist industry.

Then the moderates pipe in that it's a shame Obama is flirting with subsidized health care, but it will be okay if the public option is a thousand and one tiny co-ops, never allowed to amass the scale needed to challenge the for-profit system.

Let's get real, folks. As the majority of US'ians know, health care is a human right, not another financial derivative waiting to be cashed in on. Being a female thyroid cancer survivor should not force me to spend $55 more than the average US'ian at CVS every single month. [My average monthly spend at CVS is $89, whereas the average US monthly spend is $34, according to Mint.com].

I noted my gender in addition to my cancer status because my dear health insurance company determined that I must pay a monthly penalty for choosing name-brand birth control; I am gouged $30 more per month than I was on my previous employer's health insurance plan.

Let's be clear: I did not choose to be susceptible to the environmental damage wreaked on my hometown by decades of military contractors. Since it is vitally important for me to maintain a steady dose of thyroid hormone, and since that hormone reacts to the levels of other hormones in my body, it's necessary for me to take brand-name birth control to ensure I always get the same amount of estrogen in my system. But nevermind all that nonsense, because a profit-seeking medicine gatekeeper decided that I must take generics whenever they are available. I can only be grateful that they didn't decide to gouge me for both medicines I take monthly.

Right, so to bring this personal frustration back to the political sphere, let me just repeat: the state of ease or dis-ease in my body is something for my doctors and me to control. No one should be able to complain that I'm not a great customer because I'm a cancer survivor: I'm a wonderful customer, since I help keep those damn pharmaceutical companies in business!

Do you know the modern health insurance industry was born in the 70s? In forty short years, they've bamboozled us out of more money than any other industrial country and created some of the worst health statistics.

What is so frightening about single payer health care? Is the upper middle class really afraid the poor will over-crowd their hospitals? (This is the argument I heard while waiting 2 hours to be admitted to Cedar-Sinai Hospital for pre-scheduled radiation treatment...as I sat, slightly delirious because I was off my meds, famished because I wasn't supposed to eat 3 hours before swallowing the toxic treatment, in the admitting waiting room while other about-to-be-patients ate their lunch and the entire intake staff took lunch at the exact same time.)

Do people really think government bureaucracy is more inept than corporate bureaucracy? At least the government has citizens' needs as their number one priority. When your primary motivation is profit, what does it matter if you kill someone by denying them treatment?

I'll never understand why more US citizens don't rise up and demand single-payer health care. I'll never understand why the former darling of the Democratic party, Senator Max Baucus refuses to allow single-payer advocates a seat at the negotiating table.

Posted by cj at 9:44 PM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2009

Listening to Alternative Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Today, the Consul General of Israel, Jacob Dayan, spoke at my synagogue, Ohr Hatorah.

Israel is a very difficult topic for me to deal with, as a practicing Jew and as a peace activist. I desperately want to respect the opinions of people with whom I disagree. I want to be able to listen to opposing viewpoints without running away. I still do not know how to have a meaningful dialog on this issue and this troubles me greatly.

First, I want to review my positions. I respect that the leaders of my congregation have declared the temple to be Zionist, but I hope I am allowed to continue to participate in the community even though I disagree with them.

Judaism is my religion. I am a post-Orthodox, neo-Hasidic Jew and I go to temple almost every Shabbat. It is also my ethnicity: both of my parents are Jewish and I have never heard anyone in my family call us Ukrainian or Russian (even though most of my ancestors came from the Ukraine back when it was part of Russia), because my people were never accepted into those nationalities. So, yes, it is my ethnicity as well. But it is not my nationality.

In my view, a religious state is inherently undemocratic. Any religious state is inherently undemocratic. Why? Because the act of declaring a state religion isolates and subjugates citizens who do not share those religious beliefs.

I believe Israel is occupying Palestine. I believe Jewish-only highways are an obstacle to peace. I believe all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace. I believe the Israeli blockade of Gaza is an obstacle to peace. I believe Israeli checkpoints surrounding and within the West Bank and Gaza are an obstacle to peace. I believe until US'ians recognize Israel's inherent power over the Palestinians, we will never be honest brokers, nor will we ever help create peace.

I believe all Palestinian political leaders deserve a space at the negotiating table for peace. I believe this should occur with absolutely zero pre-conditions. Negotiating occurs at the peace table, not before you sit down. Hatred abounds on both sides of this conflict, and Israeli distrust of Hamas cannot trump democratic elections.

I denounce all acts of violence. This includes Palestinian suicide bombers. I denounce Palestinian attacks on Israel. I also denounce Israeli attacks on Palestine. Violence begets violence and there was nothing just about Israel's attack on Gaza in December 08 / January 09.

Right, so now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's a bit of what Mr. Dayan said this morning. I did not take notes for the entire speech (at first I was just trying to breathe), but here's what I did catch (this is not verbatim):


The world is very different today than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. I know this because the best rapper in the world is white. The best golfer in the world is black. The Germans don't want to go to war. And the French call Americans arrogant.

We face a huge threat from non-state actors. Terrorism is the scourge of the world. There are many different terrorists, but the thing that unifies them is that they all believe in fundamentalist Islam. And Muslims suffer the most from these terrorists.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. His denial of the Holocaust proves that he is an enemy to Jewish people. The possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons is the biggest threat to peace in the region.

This threat in the region provides us with a great opportunity to work with other countries in the Middle East.

Israel made a decision not to control the lives of Palestinians.

Israel was established not because of the Holocaust, but because we have roots; 3,000 years of roots in Israel. Theodor Herzl's original Zionist plan was to create a Jewish state in Uganda. It was only after that plan was defeated at the Seventh Zionist Congress that he realized there was only one place where Jews can establish and should establish their homeland.

Israel has a three track approach to peace:

  1. Economy: Without a middle class, you cannot create a stable economy. The West Bank was extremely quiet during the military operation in Gaza, especially in comparison to Europe, because they see an alternative to Hamas.
  2. Military
  3. Political track
  4. Good governance: Israel is not a part of this track, but the Palestinians have to build their institutions. In the face of corruption, Palestinians turned to Hamas as an alternative.

The most immediate threat that we face globally today is the Iranian threat.

Israel agrees with President Obama's strategy for peace in the Middle East. We may disagree on a tactical level, but that's okay. The United States remains our strongest and most important ally.

With hopes for a peaceful future for all people of the Middle East, including Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, Palestinians, and Iranians.

Posted by cj at 5:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 7, 2009

I'll be a Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

I don't know why I torture myself on Sundays. I've dedicated this entire weekend to self preservation, but lately I've been starting my Sundays with some mild torture.

See, on Sundays I clean (up to a week's worth of) dishes, chop vegetables, and make myself breakfast. I listen to / watch the Sunday morning talk shows while doing this. And thus remind myself of how far from the mainstream my views are.

It seems like every female pundit on the planet firmly believes she lives in a post-feminist world. They laud Michelle Obama as the poster girl for post-feminist femininity. I often wonder what alternative reality this mindless hypocrites live in. Why must they disparage the evolution of women's place in public society by denouncing all demands for equality? Why do they accept the right-wing definition of "feminism"? Why do so many intelligent people define feminism as the movement of middle-class white women to assert their ability to go to work?

Let's be clear: feminism did not start with The Feminine Mystique. Further, acknowledging your right to be a girly housewife does not make me a post-feminist. Believing that society has already achieved gender equality is the most myopic, Eurocentric statement a Westerner can make. Pray tell, how does rape as a weapon of war fit into your post-feminist construct? What about the lack of affordable child care? Or how about the fact that most US'ians can't decide to allow one parent to stay home with the kids because there is no middle class left in this country and two incomes are mandatory to survive?

Look, I fully acknowledge that I am a lucky woman who lives in an extraordinary time. My professional opportunities are not hampered by my gender (though as a thyroid cancer survivor, my need for adequate health care does limit career paths).

But there is so much more to be done. Binary gender does not adequately explain the human condition. Physical anatomy cannot be used to assign gender identities. Around the world, women are not equal. They suffer a disproportionate burden in conflict regions. Western countries daily violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal involvement in conflict and post-conflict resolution. Want to know why Iraq and Afghanistan are more screwed up now than 7 years ago? A major reason is that the US government and its coalition of the willing blindly ignored the women of those countries as necessary, influential, and important partners in peace building.

Stop telling me that wearing makeup on a daily basis and getting excited about going on dates with my boyfriend make me a post-feminist. Stop telling the American people we live in a gender-neutral society. Stop defining feminism as bra-burning, man-hating lesbians.

Until women hold 50% of elected offices, until every workplace is family friendly, until women are equal participants in conflict resolution, until rape and sexual violence cease to exist, feminism will continue. The movement for gender equality will not die simply because it is an uncomfortable notion to the mainstream American punditry.

I will be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.

Posted by cj at 4:40 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2009

Reading Tea Leaves: Hoping for a Shift in USG Policy on the ME

Helene Cooper stokes the fire of justice and prayers for peace in today's NYT. She calls upon people who have had contact with POTUS to determine whether there is any possibility for him to break from the US government's lock-step agreement with right-wing Israeli leaders and concludes that it's entirely possibly.

In fact, she ends the article with a quote from a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles W. Freeman, Jr. who compares the possible change in policy to Nixon's game-changing trip to China. [Aside: former Mormon missionary, current Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr was nominated to be ambassador to China. Is an ultra-religious man really the best choice to dialog with the world's largest atheist community?]

I want to be hopeful. I want to believe that change is coming. But words mean very little when injustice has been accepted for 61 long years.

Posted by cj at 8:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2009

Women, Action & the Media Conference

Last weekend, I went to an amazing conference Women, Action & the Media.

Here's a breakdown of the live-blogging done at the conference:

Friday, March 27: Pre-Conference Intensive on PR
Morning Panel Discussion

Introduction to the morning panel discussion
Elements to create a good media strategy
Media Strategy 101
Getting the mainstream, niche, and ethnic media to pay attention
How do you convey your message? USE MEDIA
Media exposure on the cheap

Afternoon Workshop on Creating a Media Strategy, led by Ina Howard-Parker of Represent, Inc.
Developing a comprehensive media strategy
Creating a media strategy continued
Elements of a communications planning process
PR Q&A
PR 101 Imagery

Friday evening: The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. The most powerful documentary I have ever seen.

Saturday Plenary: Cynthia Lopez, Insider - Outsider

Interlude: shout out to The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way

Saturday Sessions
How to work in the mainstream media - and why you want to

Get inside the minds of editors

Where are the women in the political media?

Sunday Sessions
Write and publish persuasive op-eds for a national audience

Are the messages the new media? post by Theta Pavis

Women and the economic crisis: getting beyond the corporate media narrative
Q&A on women and the economic crisis

Posted by cj at 9:11 PM | Comments (0)

November 4, 2008

What about the propositions?

How on the day that a black man was elected president could the voters of California vote to limit the human rights of their fellow citizens?

How in the world can Californians vote yes on prop 8?

I shouldn't put so much emphasis in 2% of the precincts reporting...but it still puts a terrible taste in my mouth that 57% of currently counted votes are for a constitutional ban on same gender marriage. For the love of all things holy!

Posted by cj at 8:38 PM | Comments (0)

My grumpy morning voting

I got mad this morning. I woke up early to go vote before work. I was in line at 6:53 a.m. Problem was, the county workers who opened the polls decided to let 2 lines form: one at the front and one in the back by the parking lot (a parking lot that was closed on one side).

So instead of getting to move in a timely manner, I had to wait while the flow was let in "evenly" between the lines. But here's the crux: this is the first time ever a line was allowed from the back door. So those of us who have voted before were held up by knowing the "right" door to queue at.

And it gets worse - I was so angry, so frustrated about the old lady looking up my name, so annoyed that my name had to be checked twice (why twice?) that I ran too quickly through the ballot and mismarked a proposition. So, I had to request a new ballot.

Anyway, I'm glad I stuck it out and voted before any state was called. Made my vote feel slightly more meaningful for president. And you know, those LA judges couldn't get in without me. :)

Wow. 8 long years of ineptitude in the electorate and in the party machine has now ended.

Congrats Obama on creating a party machine for the 21st century.

Now it's time to push for more progressive policies.

Posted by cj at 7:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2008

I Did It! I Voted!

Ok, so maybe technically I'll be voting in 7 hours, 45 minutes. But it was quite an accomplishment just to fill out the sample ballot.

Most intriguing: it takes 3 pamphlets to read all of the official pro and con stuff. The California General Election Official Voter Information Guide has info on statewide ballot initiatives. It's the easiest to read because it's a big book. The sample ballot has most of the other info for county and school initiatives. And the Voter Information Pamphlet from the LA city clerk feels like a waste of my money, since it only has info on two propositions.

And that ridiculous question - why am I constantly asked to judge judges? I still don't understand the answer. But the LA Democratic Party endorsed candidates.

And the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund compiled as much info on those judicial candidates as you'd ever want - including podcasts.

Here's hoping my neighbors are too busy to join me at the polls tomorrow morning. I've got meetings tomorrow morning at work...

Posted by cj at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2008

Lazy Voter Syndrome

A part of me is so excited that Election Day is two days from now. I'm so relieved to know that NPR and the NYT will talk about something else in a week or two.

On the other hand, I'm dreading it a bit. I've been lazy and haven't read my ballot yet. Haven't figured out who I'm voting for. Now don't get all riled up by that statement. My presidential selection was secured when Obama out-machined the Clinton machine. That's not why I dread going to the voting booth.

I need to read all those damn propositions. Especially the local ones that get no air time. And I'm sure there are more judges on the ballot. How the hell are you supposed to vote for a judge? That is the most asinine part of voting.

Even my Congressional choice is a no brainer. The Republican nominee sent me postcards with the tagline "drill baby drill." Anyone who thinks that is phrase in any way represents serious public policy does not deserve to be on the ballot, let alone a major party candidate. It was also intriguing that he chose to send me a picture of my current Congressman rather than using his own photo on his postcard. I suppose the conservatives who surround me would be less likely to vote for a right wing nut in a turban than they would to vote against an incumbent "corrupt" Democrat.

So yes, there are easy choices on the ballot. Voting to keep abortion access legal for all women regardless of age. Voting to not add blatant discrimination to my state's constitution. The unlikely event of my matrimony will not be affected in any way by the ability of my fellow citizens to marry. Have to say, I'm relieved that the founders of the country did a few things right...even if they saddled us with this completely undemocratic Electoral College....

But a sales tax hike to pay for public trans in this economy? And I'm not even sure what else is on the ballot. I know. I need to do my civic duty and read the damn thing before Tuesday morning. I will. But I still have the right to grumble about it.

Posted by cj at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2008

Nuclear Non-Proliferation: World Security Hacked by US Corporations

Nuclear proliferation is one of the gravest threats facing the world. It was even one of the few substantive foreign policy issues discussed during the recent US presidential debate. And yet, the United States government has actively worked to diminish the effectiveness of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

First, the USG supported the creation of the Israeli nuclear warheads, the biggest open secret mocking the effectiveness of the NPT. Then, the USG actively worked to disrupt the diplomatic process at NPT review conferences. Under extreme pressure from the USG, the nuclear suppliers group issued an exemption to India, allowing any country to sell it nuclear supplies despite the fact that India refuses to sing the NPT. And now, the US Congress is poised to open the floodgates to US nuclear trade with India.

WILPF issued a statement on the Nuclear Supplier's group decision to exempt India from joining the NPT before selling it nuclear supplies.

WILPF's Reaching Critical Will project created a backgrounder on the US-India deal, available here.

The House of Representatives passed the trade agreement yesterday. Earlier this week, NPR's Morning Edition had a report explaining the intense pressure exerted by industry lobbyists to suspend Congressional rules for review of such trade agreements. Unfortunately, the lobbyists for global security were not as well funded as the military industrial complex.

Proponents of the trade deal say US corporations will lose out to French and Russian nuclear dealers if the US law wasn't immediately changed. They say India will of course only use the technology to keep its nuclear power generators operating. Yet the only way to ensure that will happen is to force India to sign the NPT and the world community, including the US Congress, has severely diminished the effectiveness of this vital treaty by accepting India's refusal to comply with international norms.

There's no need for me to even mention the environmental and human damage caused by nuclear power in this argument. Even if you think it's a good thing to expose the world to increased levels of thyroid cancer and other health problems, it's impossible to argue that it's a good thing to expose the world to more nuclear weapons.

Today is a sad day for global security. It scares me that this horrific development didn't warrant more than a below-the-fold article on page 19 in the Sunday NY Times. While no nonproliferation experts were quoted in the article, they did at least note there is more opposition to the deal in India than there is in the US. More proof that the political process in this country is completely broken.

Posted by cj at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2008

Community Organizing, Fear, and the American Public

I never thought I'd see the day when Saul Alinsky's name was used by a conservative politician on a national broadcast talk show. Nor am I surprised that Tom Brokaw was unable to refute the blatant lies spewed by Giuliani. Here's what the hypocritical former mayor of New York said on Meet the Press this morning:

This is--and also, the group that recruited him was a Saul Alinsky group that has all kinds of questions with regard to their outlook on the economy, their outlook on capitalism. I think it's at the core of Senator Obama's belief that the tax system should be used for a redistribution of wealth, rather than really for gaining revenues for the country. When, when Senator Obama was asked about his increase in capital gains tax and was told that if he does that, he would actually deprive the federal government of revenues, his answer was, "Well, it's only fair." Which gets you to a very core Saul Alinsky kind of almost socialist notion that it should be used for redistribution of wealth.
Instead of refuting this moronic characterization of the founder of community organizing, Brokaw pointed out that Warren Buffett is an Obama supporter and "I think it would be probably a pretty big reach to describe him as a Saul Alinsky kind of economist." Let's be clear, people: Alinsky was not a dogmatic socialist. In fact, he preached an extremely conservative approach to challenging the system. He was not a crusading Robin Hood, and I'm disgusted that the media can't even research history enough to understand that.

Alinsky founded the Industrial Areas Foundation, which was the organization that Obama worked for. IAF works on a simple founding principle: organize community leaders to pressure government to create incremental change that will help make the community a better place. Incremental change like job training programs and public-private housing developments and forcing trash conglomerates to stop dumping waste in empty lots. Church leaders, school principals, and other traditional community leaders who are organized by IAF are not exactly rushing to bring down the pillars of capitalism; rather, they're trying to make capitalism work for everyday Americans as much as it works for Wall Street investors.

I shouldn't be surprised that community organizing is so misunderstood by the MSM. After all, the only defense of organizing Brokaw offered was a button slogan - "Jesus Christ was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor." A fair and balanced media would explain the basis for community organizing, instead of tacitly accepting a false association with socialism. The basic principal of community organizing is teaching individuals to work together to create change through the political system. Why is it so difficult for the MSM to state this fact?

This election has become a battle between Cold War mentality: fear the Other, fear Socialism, fear Big Cities and Hope based on belief in American ingenuity and global cooperation.

There's a simple reason the Republican strategy works. US presidents are not chosen by popular vote. Rural America is the backbone of this country because its system of States Rights makes Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Minnesota battle ground states, whereas the vast majority of the population does not matter in this election because they live in big cities on the coasts. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against people from small towns. It is parochialism, racist nationalism, and general Fear of Facts that disgusts me.

Don't believe me? Simply read the comments section of this polling site to realize that people think Obama is a closet Muslim, the anti-Christ, and other disparaging terms I refuse to type. It is far easier to characterize your opponent as the crazy other than it is to create a policy platform that will lead the country off the precipice of economic ruin. The vast majority of Americans make less today than they did 20 years ago; but no need to worry because we've got more lines of credit now than we ever did before. By focusing on creating Enemies out of political adversaries, Republicans are able to sway small town voters by creating an Us vs. Them mentality that leaves no room for educated debate. Indeed, George W. Bush proved that being dumb is an asset in this corrupt political system.

Patriotism and its sister Nationalism are used by petty political leaders to rally citizens around an Ideal of Country that makes Us look Strong and others look weak. It allows a political party to point to the Other and denounce their otherness. Though US corporations are the engine behind globalization, US citizens love to pretend they are the victims. It's those damn Chinese and Indians taking our high tech jobs and those Mexicans taking our low tech jobs. Nevermind that US "free trade" agreements have decimated Latin American economies, forcing people to migrate north for any hope of economic survival; or that US corporations get tax breaks to move high tech jobs overseas. It's easier to blame The Other than to learn about the real basis for the precariousness of your economic stability.

I don't focus my activist energy on elections because there is no room in a binary system for nuanced policy debate. But I'm grateful for community organizers and community leaders who work for incremental change regardless of the barriers thrown up by Republican hacks like Giuliani. I pray that the organizing principals Obama learned from the IAF will lead to a more effective Get Out The Vote effort than the fear-mongering of the corrupt Republican machine.

Posted by cj at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 7, 2008

Responding to British Critism of US Elections

A Nick Cohen commentary in the Guardian newspaper was forwarded to a WILPF listserv. I believe the person forwarding the article thought it was an good reproach of the media's review of Sarah Palin's record as a politician and a mother.

Here is my response to that article (note my original audience was a group of international members of WILPF):

As an American, I need to point out some flagrant lies in the below article.

First of all, US presidents are elected undemocratically by an Electoral College system, which was written into the Constitution to limit the influence of the rabble constituents and promote the importance of states in our federal system. This is why our government continues to subsidize ethanol production rather than fix the problems of our inner-cities. People who live in rural America (and corporations) live a far more subsidized existence than the vast majority of our citizens. But my primary point is that a national poll about the presidential race is irrelevant to becoming the next president of this country.

Second, "liberal media bias" is a red herring that conservatives love to throw at the truth the mainstream media sometimes unearths about our politicians. See "Media Bashing 101," by Mark Leibovich in the New York Times for a deeper explanation -

Third, Nick Cohen never once touched on the hypocrisy of Sarah Palin that was uncovered by the mainstream media. She campaigns as a crusader against pork barrel spending, yet was the first mayor of her small town to hire a lobbyist in D.C. to secure funding for the town. That bridge to nowhere? It was actually a bridge to a new airport, and when running for governor she supported the bridge; then, she decided to cancel building the bridge, but kept the $200+ million from the nation's taxpayers for use in some other Alaskan slush fund.

As a woman, I am spitting mad that Republicans dare to say I'm sexist for questioning whether Palin is fit to be a heart beat away from the presidency. As a WILPFer, I am disgusted that a politican with breasts can work against every single aspect of gender equality: from the right to reproductive choice to dismissing grassroots activism and still be labeled a feminist. You want to know why leftists mock her family values? Because her party has been ramming abstinence-only sex education into our public schools, which is scientifically proven to not work and to increase public health problems (now more teenagers engage in anal and oral sex because somehow they think this keeps their virginity in tact); yet, her daughter's shotgun wedding is supposed to make me feel like she's more relatable.

Let me be clear - I'm not an Obama partisan. Another thing Nick Cohen got wrong was trying to draw a parallel between US and British politics. There is no room in the US system for more than two parties, neither of which embody WILPF's ideals. Combine that with the documented election fraud caused by electronic voting machines, the thousand ways US corporations have a larger influence on government than US citizens, and you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere in this country where poor or middle class people lead public policy. I agree that left wing people sound shrill to the ears of the masses and need to learn how to have conversations with their opponents rather than dismissing them as irrational religious nuts. Nevertheless, I find this article to be a right-wing critique of the American media and British liberals, rather than a reality check on motherhood, careers, and the mainstream media.

For a partisan, but effective critique of the Republican presidential ticket, see "Palin and McCain's Shotgun Marriage," by Frank Rich in the NYT.

Posted by cj at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2008

patriotism, war, and short shrift for diplomacy

Buchanan pointing out the nationalistic riff of the speech emphasizes why it fell slightly flat to me.

As a nonviolent activist, I want my president to recognize the humanity of all humans, not just U.S. citizens. I want recognition that the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in Palestine is a major reason for the lack of peace in the Middle East.

I don't need to wrap myself in a U.S. flag to recognize the humanity of my fellow citizens. I understand that internationalism is a scary ideal; patriotism is the way to appeal to more American voters in the states that really matter - landlocked and small, that usually swing right.

I feel very alone tonight - listening to the "liberal" MSNBC anchors and their libertarian pundit gush over Obama.

Posted by cj at 9:02 PM | Comments (0)

Brian Williams said "mishegos" three times

Does America actually know what mishegos means? How does Brian Williams know what it means?

It means craziness by the way.

Here's what he said:

Well last night I talked about the mishegos. Three days of mishegos into the final night at Mile High. And the mishegos is all over. Tips of the hat all over the place from the nominee...as Chuck pointed out, to the Clintons...

But seriously, does middle America understand what the hell he's saying? I've heard the word my whole life and I was so startled to hear it said by a national news anchor that I couldn't follow what the hell he was saying. Especially since it was another slap at the Democratic party.

It's mishugge to have more than one qualified candidate for office? When did political parties stop being a place to grapple with political decisions? Why the hell is the media so stuck in internecine conflict? Why can't they accept that healthy conflict strengthens political conviction?

Oy gevalt!

simple Yiddish dictionary here, at Rachel Sage, a Jewish musician's site

Posted by cj at 8:33 PM | Comments (0)

The Preacher Was Better Than the Politician

I admit that I got chills when Obama started preaching. When he started talking about the March on Washington, that's when it got good.

The way he kept looking around the stadium was extremely distracting. I know I am partisan, but I believe Hillary was more credible than him. Maybe it's the bitter taste in my mouth over his inclusion of nuclear power and clean coal as a way to move into the future of energy policy. I'd like him to meet the people with lung cancer caused by coal pollution, go to the Appalachian mountain tops that were sheared off in pursuit of coal, meet the women and men living everyday dependent on the pharmaceutical industry, because the military industrial complex has polluted our environment with so much radiation that thyroid cancer is the only cancer on the rise in this country.

Let me be clear - I'm voting for Obama for president. I do not put any faith in him alone to do anything for this country. Progressives must continue to gather and push for real change.

Pray tell, how is the Electoral College the apex of democracy?

I don't trust any politician to bring about real change. I trust individuals, working collectively through citizen institutions to create the paradigm shift needed to overthrow the shackles of corporatocracy.

Posted by cj at 8:03 PM | Comments (0)

There Is No Such Thing As Safe Nuclear Power!

Obama just lost me.

He said "safe" nuclear power is part of his "new" energy plan. Give me a frickin break! There is NOTHING SAFE ABOUT NUCLEAR POWER!

There is no way safely dispose of the waste created in nuclear power plants. Living near a plant increases your risk of all sorts of diseases. Nuclear radiation is one of the reasons thyroid cancer is on the rise in this country.

Nuclear power is not a green energy source. It is a black, lethal, cancer-causing detriment to the world.

Nor, by the way, is there a thing called "clean" coal. Give me a break - stop raping the environment and the human race!

Posted by cj at 7:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2008

My Sister, Hillary Clinton

I have not been particularly engaged in the presidential campaign. See the last post for some of the reasons I wont waste my time on an undemocratic political process.

However, today, my Wellesley sister did me proud. Hillary Clinton gave an amazing speech - a speech that blew away every other speech given tonight. She inspired me to believe that change can come with a Democrat in the White House.

From women's right to vote to the human right to be free of slavery to modern struggles for justice, she made it clear: people are better off with Democratic leadership than they are with McCain.

No Way, No How, No McCain!

Posted by cj at 8:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2008

Movie Lecturing to Change the World

I just watch Lions for Lambs, which was accurately described by the critics as a lecture looking for a movie. I couldn't tell you how to make it a better movie, but on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, I find it worthwhile to ponder how to move from pontificating to action.

There are many things that bother me about society, but to start with the basics: there's a continental divide between well-informed citizens and the masses. The masses only hear about the horse race of politics, whereas the well-informed have some knowledge of policy issues, current events, and philosophical differences.

The blogosphere allows those informed citizens to connect with one another, and offers a glimpse at "the informed everyman" for the 24 hours news cycle to ponder.

And yet, the entire paradigm exists within rules. The people involved take for granted the notion that an Electoral College is a legitimate, democratic way to elect a leader. Many believe that free trade capitalism gave US citizens the freedoms we enjoy and that our society - from private health insurance to credit card oblivion - is the most advanced civilization in the world.

Like Lions for Lambs, I don't have the answers that will change the world. What I do know is that nothing will change without a fundamental shift towards real democracy - one person, one vote. Abolishing the Electoral College is the first step to real change. It's a joke to think that being "of the people" is a credential for winning the presidency. The vast majority of people are silenced because they live in major cities; it is the small, rural, majority white states that make a difference in who becomes president. Forget about making a difference in that race if you live in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. I'm constantly amazed at the number of engaged citizens who pay no attention to the fact that their votes are swallowed by the great appeasement of slave-owning colonies at this country's founding.

So not only are political debates silenced by the oppressive two party system, a simple vote between two men for the most important job in the world is at the mercy of ethanol farmers in Iowa and bison hunters in Montana.

This country is afraid to see that the emperor has no clothes. Don't talk to me about healthcare unless you're committed to cutting venal insurance companies out of the process. Don't mention the economy if you can't recognize the connection between corporate greed and the ever-diminishing average U.S. paycheck, ballooning individual debt, and utter lack of fiscal security in retirement caused by the demise of real pensions.

The fundamental flaws in our society cannot be changed with slogans or even by choosing a particular candidate for president. We need to begin with better education, not just of our school-age children, but of our voting-age citizens. Instead of nattering about poll numbers and describing lusty oratory, we need reporters to explain policy issues and the differences between the candidates' perspectives.

We need cultural touch stones to be more than a surprising performance in Tropic Thunder by a great actor with a penchant for cult beliefs. Fine art should not be relegated to the playground of Russian oligarchs who made their millions by raping their fellow citizens of the natural resources rightfully owned by the people as a whole. Work days should not leave us so deprived of mental space and physical time that a black box full of "reality" programming and ridiculous competitions is the only reprieve we have from chasing the almighty dollar.

This paradigm shift can only begin when we make civic engagement a priority. We need to build citizen advocacy institutions. We need to do more than supporting the paid activism of professional abortion protectors, queer rights advocates, and bloggers. We need to work to build institutions that allow us to be involved in the process - not just by signing the next online petition, but that marry the experience of professional activists with the passion of volunteer citizens. Only by combining the power of the individual in community with the insight of full-time peace and justice workers will we change the fundamental demons plaguing our world.

When I graduated college, I made a commitment to embody this ideal by continuing to be an active member of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF). Eight years later, after two terms on the national board, I am often disheartened by the lack of real progress made in connecting the real challenges faced by ordinary Americans with the country's political discourse. Nevertheless, I am determined to continue my support for issue advocacy by ordinary citizens within this country and citizen diplomacy on a global level as the only way to create the social upheaval needed to create a the more just society we should pass on to the generations to come.

Thus ends my rant inspired by Redford's 90 minute civics lesson.

Posted by cj at 3:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2008

RIP Tim Russert

Another shocking death. Can you imagine celebrating your son's college graduation, then going back to work and collapsing from a massive heart attack? One minute you're the lynchpin of mainstream media's political journalism inner circle, the next minute you cease to exist.

Rest in peace, Tim. My heart goes out to your family.

NBC covverage of Tim's death at their studio at 58.

Daniel Drezner's odd post (with a comment from me).

Posted by cj at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2008

Dagmar Barnouw, denouncer of the hierarchy of suffering, died

I was powerfully moved by the LAT obituary of Dagmar Barnouw, a USC professor who passed away on May 14. She had a stroke in April and never regained consciousness.


In her most recent book, "War in the Empty Air: Victims, Perpetrators, and Postwar Germans" (2005), Barnouw examined Germans' failure to acknowledge and mourn their war dead and the devastation German citizens suffered in Allied air raids.

After the war, ordinary Germans were viewed collectively as perpetrators of the Holocaust and responsible for World War II. Silenced by this presumed guilt, even German war remembrances maintained an exclusive focus on Jewish victims of the Nazi regime, to the detriment of historical reality, she wrote.

[Amazon link added.]

I'm fascinated to learn of an intellectual who wrote passionately about the need to understand post-WWII in totality, rather than only through the lens of the Holocaust. It is a real shame that so many Americans, especially Jewish Americans, are indoctrinated to believe that Jewish suffering is somehow worse than the suffering that occurs throughout the world on a daily basis. That genocide was over 60 years ago and many genocides have occurred and are being perpetuated since then. Yet, somehow the refrain "never forget" is allowed to continue as an excuse for apartheid in Israel and starvation in Palestine.

Let me be clear: the Holocaust was a tragedy of incredible proportions. I have no doubt that we lost untold generations of brilliant people. I acknowledge that it was the most significant event for the Jewish people in the 20th century. However nothing - not the Holocaust or the pogroms of Russia that forced my family to flee to the U.S. or any other aspect of Jewish history - makes me or my people the world's most suffering ethnicity. Indeed, I believe this past suffering has been used to justify a horrific amount of racism and discrimination and colonial exploitation in Israel and Palestine.

I do not understand how my religion, which has so many threads of peaceful nonviolent resistance in its history, and my people, who have been on the forefront of the movements for social change, have become so entrenched in bigotry and discrimination. I fear that writing these words makes me a larger target for political reprisal. My friends joke that they don't want to stand too close to me walking down a street - fearing an assassin will be off-target and shoot them instead. (I actually found this to be the strangest aspect of my trip to NYC; my friends who do not participate in social activism seem to believe my influence and notoriety is any larger than the few people who occasionally read this blog.)

But this post was not supposed to be about me, rather about Dagmar Barnouw, whose books I must search out and read.

Read about her life from USC, including her enduring marriage to a man who fell in love with her at first sight.

I hope to have the courage to speak and write as passionately as Dagmar, even if it makes many people uncomfortable.

Posted by cj at 1:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 6, 2008

Gender: Harder to Forget Than Ethnicity

Let me be clear: if one must make a hierarchy of inequality, white privilege affords me greater access into the halls of power than being a woman diminishes. Nevertheless, as a woman, my voice is less powerful than my male counterpart, particularly when advocating for peace and justice. How often are women dismissed as having "motherly inclinations" towards peace, incapable of understanding the harsh necessity of war? How often must our national leaders who happen to be female castrate themselves on the decks of warships to assure a foolish electorate that they are man enough to command an army?

Nicholas Kristof has a powerful Op-Ed in today's NYT, "Our Racist, Sexist Selves," that reminds us of the power of genitals. I speak plainly because this truth is so often denied in both the mainstream media and popular culture: Women Are Not Equal. The Women's Movement Cannot Be Dead. There Is Much That Still Needs to Be Done to Create Gender Equality. Los Derechos de Las Mujeres Son Los Derechos de Humanidad.

The Call for Social Upheaval
Until the nonviolent political and social upheaval that accepts female sexuality alongside female political, business, and cultural acumen is accomplished;

Until we start talking about the real ethnic differences that divide us, and the common humanity that unites us;

Until free-trade capitalism's reliance on extreme economic disparity is confronted;

Until democratic dialog inspires as much participation as American Idol voting,

the Movements for Change must continue.

Posted by cj at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2008

Influencing the World: One Click at a Time

I often get buried in paid direct marketing work and unpaid national peace organization structural committees and find it difficult to keep up with the daily new cycles and cyber chatter. I find it ironic that as a woman who has become buried in offline responsibilities, I'm being asked to be a web 2.0 expert for my league.

According to the NYT, most people my age and younger are chatting on Facebook, MySpace, and their blogs about presidential YouTube clips. There's a free PDF about online political advocacy at e-politics. The Feminist Peace Network reminds me that there are lots of people who see that peace cannot be created without gender justice.

I'm not sure how to break through the clutter, have my voice heard, and influence public opinion. I do know I want to spend more time keeping up with Daniel Drezner (who lives the life I sometimes wish I had) and less time on conference calls.

Posted by cj at 9:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 4, 2008

Candidates on YouTube

A MoveOn email sent me watching a clip on YouTube for Obama, which made me wonder about Hillary's online campaigning. I heard this morning on The Today Show that Obama was moving ahead in the cool internet factor, but you really have to see it to believe it.

Here's the Obama video:

And here's my man from the 04 race, General Wesley Clark for Hillary:

She got a more home-made endorsement from Anne Rice, the author of the famous Vampire Chronicles and more recently known for her Christianity:

I'm not posting the "Making of the Band" spoof that attempts to show the kids that Hillary is their kind of candidate. If you're looking for prophetic inspiration, Obama is probably your choice. If you think experience matters, Hillary is the one to vote for. Personally, I'm still waffling.

Posted by cj at 9:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 2, 2008

Super Tuesday Comin in Cali

Last night a coworker asked me who I'm voting for in the primary on Tuesday. My response was rather ambivalent. I don't trust the electoral process for many reasons. First, the two-party system eliminates the ability to create truly progressive change. To get legislation passed in Congress, so many people have to agree with it that it's impossible to truly change the system. Corporate interest trumps individual rights on almost every issue. Take healthcare for example: neither Obama or Clinton inspires me at all on this issue because they refuse to admit what is painfully obvious: the US healthcare system is broken because we waste more money creating profit for the insurance industry than we do paying for healthcare. Any "fix" that doesn't involve dismantling the private insurance industry is doomed to failure. When people in other countries get cancer or diabetes or any other disease, they don't have to worry if they make enough money to cover the cost of their care. Rather, their interaction with health professionals revolves around their need for healthcare and their bottom line is never affected. As a thyroid cancer survivor, I know I'm shackled to corporate America for the rest of my life because it is impossible for me to get the healthcare I need without a group policy. Further, no one is researching the cause of thyroid cancer - or stopping the dumping of industrial waste that has caused it to be the only cancer whose occurrence is rising.

So, why should I put a lot of energy into discerning the difference between two candidates beholden to a broken system? Well, I am a member of the Democratic party, so I should at least be making an informed decision on Tuesday. The truth is, Obama is a much more inspiring speaker than Clinton. He's charismatic, charming, and yes, even reminds me of John F. Kennedy. But is that enough? After all, while Kennedy performed well during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was proceeded by his disastrous leadership in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In my mind, a presidential candidate's foreign policy is always the most important thing to judge him/her on, regardless of whether or not there's a "war on terrorism" happening. This is because everything domestic the president does is guided by the laws enacted by Congress, whereas the executive branch truly leads the nation in its international interaction. We have no choice but to accept that we live in a global economy with a global community, and I want a president with experience to be the chief ambassador of this country. I have more faith in Clinton's knowledge of foreign affairs than I do in Obama's.

Of course, there's also the historic moment bit of the contest. My father constantly points out that I should strongly support Hillary because we share an alma mater. And of course, there's plenty of second generation feminists who will tell you that young women who don't support Clinton don't appreciate the sacrifice and hard work of the women's movement and the need for women to support women candidates. It's a tired, patronizing drone that I don't think any young woman should take seriously. Because the truth is, gender and ethnic discrimination cannot be separated. On the scale of history, electing either a black man or a white woman would be an important milestone for this country. Young women recognize this and probably take gender out of the equation when choosing between the candidates, because we've grown up understanding the intersections of racial and gender bias.

Nevertheless, I've watched several of the Democratic debates over the last few months and Clinton has consistently seemed the stronger candidate in my mind. Of course, this says nothing about her electability since in the last two elections, the American people chose the dumbest candidate on the stage for their president.

Or did we?

The other reason I'm not obsessed with the presidential race is because I know it is inherently undemocratic. The electoral college system is a vestige of a time when men didn't trust the people and thought States were more important than individual citizens. Until the day that my vote in Los Angeles counts for exactly the same amount as a voter in Des Moines, I will continue to believe the presidential election process is inherently undemocratic. There is absolutely nothing about rural voters that make them needy of a stronger voice in the democratic process than any other minority in this country. In fact, I'd argue that the disproportionate value of rural voters has led to some of the worst legislation in this country's history: Farm Bills that feed the coffers of agribusiness and leave US school children with unhealthy meals, "alternative energy" policy that is completely fuel inefficient and has increased the poverty and hunger of our Mexican neighbors by raising the price of corn, and so forth.

So yeah, I'll probably be voting for Clinton on Tuesday. But it wont be the most interesting political act I do in the coming week. I consider my WILPF work more important to the future of society than any ballot I cast. Nevertheless, it is my civic duty to vote, and I will.

Posted by cj at 3:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2007

Social Upheaval in 2008

A lot has happened in the world in 2007. I didn't keep up with the news in the past year the way I did in previous years - you can read about some of what I was up to on angelheaded hipster, my other blog. I even forgot that Time named "You" person of the year.

The mainstream media has been focused on the 08 presidential race horse race since at least January 07. More air time was spent on Sunday morning talk shows discussing candidates' relative viability in Iowa and New Hampshire than was spent discussing the substantial policy positions that differentiate them. Scariest statistic learned from this over-flow of information: only 5.7% of eligible voters participate in the 2004 Iowa caucuses. Tell me again why Angelenos live in too big of a city to have our votes count equally with those in rural states.

Elections haven't been going well around the world - among corruption charges, Kenya's elections are bloodier than normal (yes, sadly, violence is a regular aspect of national elections there). They aren't going well in Pakistan either, where Benazir Bhutto lost her life attempting to bring democracy back to a country plagued by military dictatorship buttressed by US foreign aid. Many in the US think democracy is duking it out with socialism in Venezuela, but personally I think the story is more complicated than that.

I'm looking forward to a New Year when people's movements for change encourage more people to get involved in social change. I look forward to more people believing they can make a difference - when more people delve deeply into the issues that intertwine us all, make their voices heard, and start building the nonviolent movements for change that will create the social upheaval needed to build a more just, peaceful world.

I believe we will be the change we wish to see in 2008. I believe together we will change the world. I believe 2008 will be more peaceful and just. I look forward to the New Year.

Want to support women's advocacy for peace & justice both in the US and throughout the world? Then give a tax deductible contribution to the Jane Addams Peace Association.

To join the world's oldest women's peace organization, click here.

Posted by cj at 8:19 PM | Comments (0)

October 7, 2007

We'll Be Paying for Empire Expansion Till the End of Time

This Just In: Paying for war when it occurs is fiscally irresponsible. That is, if you believe the mouthpiece of the administration, the White House press secretary. If the war hawks have their way, we'll be paying for this empire expansion till the end of time.

But that's okay, because the surge is making Iraqis safer. The Public Editor of the NYT makes the case that maybe there's been a decrease in the number of civilian casualties since the surge began. Then again, he ends the column by reminding us that it is still unsafe to live in Baghdad, according to an article written by 15 NYT reporters (never mind what's happening elsewhere in Iraq - it's too unsafe for US writers to venture beyond Baghdad).

Let's not get bogged down in details. It's important to remember the frame through which the occupation of foreign countries became acceptable to the US public: by creating a culture of fear that blames the ills of the world on so-called "Islamofascists." Nevermind that the word is meaningless. Pay no attention to reality: fascism is alive and well in the Western world. Even university courses on political science in the US have a difficult time defining fascism. Perhaps because the core of fascism is simple: the military & corporations taking control of the levers of political power. Instead of allowing this simple definition of fascism to be understood, Western leaders propel a a blurry, fearful understanding of a combination of racism and authoritarianism as the only "true" definition of fascism. Furthermore, instead of debating people who recognize the full scope of power held by the military industrial complex, Western political and intellectual "leaders" dismiss us as crazy left-wing nut cases.

Military force must always be the last resort of states and the international community. As Albert Camus said:

Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.
Do not be persuaded by the rhetorical flourish of individuals who believe democracy and freedom can be created through bloodshed and military occupation. The monolingual, jingoist armed forces of the US are even less capable of building peace in the Middle East than the biased State Department.

The safety of the world relies on more individuals becoming engaged in the political process, supporting international institutions, creating dialog with people in other countries, and demanding that the international political and economic structures be based on human security and human needs rather than on corporate greed.

Camus quote from this Op-Ed piece in today's NYT.

Posted by cj at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2007

The War Goes On...and the Pundits Still Think Division Is Just

On This Week, the pundits gently explained that the only way forward in Iraq is further division "like in the Balkans." Let's be clear: Yugoslavia began with ethnic enclaves, and was further divided by genocide. Iraq began with ethnic diversity (even in the Kurdish North) and because of US incompetence, is being divided by genocide.

Let's flip this scenario around and look at crime in the US. A lot of it is ethnically-based. For example, Latinos and Blacks in LA are more adversely affected by violent crime than other ethnicities. Using the logic of US politicians and pundits, the way to deter crime is to force Latinos to live in one part of the city and Black to live in the opposite. Their governments should operate autonomously because obviously, they innately can't get along. And whites, should stay in the middle-land between these two "warring factions" because clearly the ethnicities are incapable of getting along.

When you look at the US plan for "peace building" in Iraq through the lens of a US city, you realize how utterly ridiculous & asinine it really is. Humans are extremely capable of accepting diversity: it is leaders who exploit differences in order to garner power. US'ers don't even bother to learn the language of the lands they occupy, let alone understand the culture. We're so enamored by the Israeli government that our government seems convinced that Arabs are incapable of rational thought or rational politics. Let's be clear: US companies are stealing taxpayer money and not providing Iraqis with basic services like electricity and clean water. Thugs have exploited the chaos created by the US occupation to hold people for ransom, and kill indiscriminately as members of the Interior Ministry.

Not to mention the chaos we've unleashed in Afghanistan. I admit - I stupidly thought we were going into Afghanistan to help its people, especially its women who were so cruelly exploited and subjugated by the Taliban. Instead, we've added a sheen of legitimacy to a bunch of warlords and the US occupation of Iraq, along with Britney's latest drunken foibles, offers a great cover up to the expansion of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Here's hoping some intelligence enters the intelligentsia in the next year.

Posted by cj at 9:57 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2007

Support the UN Human Rights Council

It is a shame that the UN Human Rights Council has been unable to take strong stances on more issues in the world. I am not an expert on UN reform, so I cannot speak to what is holding it back from completely denouncing the genocide in Darfur. I do know that the US government looks like morons for trying to cut off funding to the organization. The US Congress claims that the council is bias against Israel - biased because it has denounced Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and Israel's illegal war on Lebanon. It is a testamount to the Israel Lobby (both Jewish and Gentile), that cutting off funding to the Council has bipartisan support in the US.

Please tell your Congressional representatives that the only way to further human rights is to support the international organization created to enforce them. Human Rights for All People - not just those who look like us.

AP article by Justin Bergman
Washington Times article by Betsy Pitsik

HRC opened its 6th session on Monday

Posted by cj at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 9, 2007

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

If you listen to Republican presidential candidates and Sunday morning pundits, you'd assume that the only way to project power and create security is to be the biggest bully in the world, with the most active military. Political discussion in the US media allows the following fascinating range of discussion on security: those who only understand US culture and think everyone hates our freedom and we therefore have to teach them democracy through the barrel of a gun and those who only understand US culture and think we can teach the world freedom through a combination of military force and free-market capitalism.

Do you ever hear a peace expert asked for their opinion? I'm not talking about those folks who organize marches on the mall, I mean people who study the root causes of war and can explain what happens in the world based on a nuanced understanding of history. Not only do US legislators, military, and pundits not understand Iraq, they don't understand the basic reasons that ethnic conflict becomes ethnic violence.

The answer to the chaos in Iraq is not splitting the country up by "ethnic regions." First, people don't live in schtetls. It's not like the entire populace hates each other b/c of ethnic differences. Differences are being exploited by strong men seeking power; the Other is a powerful tool in rallying support for a leader. Forcing the populace to follow these bullies into separate states is a white man's way of dealing with racial violence. The US has never understood the basics of racial justice, so how can we possibly lead another country into an ethnically diverse, working democracy?

Second, why does no one say "hey idiots - perhaps we should turn this operation over to the UN Peacekeeping?" Take a look at the official site of the DPKO. I fundamentally believe that the only way to move forward in creating peace is to work through the UN. Many things have gone wrong in past and current missions, but if we honestly supported the UN, and implemented Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, I believe we would be closer to achieving real security for Iraq and the world.

Security means more than having the biggest gun. Human security is dependent on a continuous food supply, access to healthcare, a place to sleep, and peace with neighbors.

I'm constantly fascinated by the lack of real discussion on the Sunday gab fests. I'm watching last week's Real Time with Bill Maher show and Barbara Bodine is offering more insight on Iraq "reconstruction" than 2 hrs of male talking heads on ABC and NBC. Slate tells me I must read the NYT and WaPo stories on Iraq as background to the coming week's announcements. Quite honestly, I'm done wasting my time on such articles. Until SCR 1325 and human security become part of the dialog, what's the point of me reading mainstream news accounts of the US imperialistic occupation of the 2nd largest oil reserve in the world?

Posted by cj at 3:53 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2007

Sunday Morning Chatter on a Sunday Afternoon

Sec "Homeland Security" Chertoff was on both This Week and MtP today. George tried to get him to give up the deets on Britain - the way he's done in previous crises - and this time he demurred. Here's the deal on his constant reiteration of "I'll let the Brits determine when they say what:" that's how the Brits deal with the press. They don't try cases in the Court of the Media, the way the Shrub administration has done since they got the White House bully pulpit. For goodness sake, they regrouped domestic security units into the biggest misnomer ever - "homeland" security. If its really security for the homeland, I guess only Native Americans deserve to be secure in this country. Let's go talk to the folks who hacked up the sacred Black Hills to create Mount Rushmore (and steal the gold) about that idea...

Right. Back to the Sunday morning blather. George gathered an all-female panel. Appears the men were too busy bbq-ing. There was still only one woman of color on the panel and they seemed to all be over 50. I've got nothing against my older, DC-conservative sisters, but for goodness sake, are there no younger, articulate females available to ramble for an hour in the morning?

The maternalistic white women tried to explain to the lone black woman on the panel that the Supreme Court decision that over-turned Brown v. the Board of Education was actually a good thing. Because, you see, the important thing is to create great public education in all communities, not integration or color-blind openings. It's Appalling. Simple Appalling that more of the country is not renouncing this horrific, racist decision. Public education has taken another blow. Our problems started when we made it dependent on real estate tax revenue which makes it inherently unfair. Next, we have completely unreasonable expectations of public schools: for a variety of reasons, public schools have never had higher than 50% high school graduation rates when all students who started in first grade are counted. We want quick fixes: so instead of dismantling bloated bureaucracies, we grant charters and privatize larger and larger chunks of our public system. We treat students like cattle and force them to "learn" to standardized tests, rather than learning in depth on multiple subjects.

In Memoriam told me Joel Siegel died. I didn't even know he was sick.

Onto MtP - Chertoff blathered and managed to say even less he did on This Week. Then Tim talked with Senator Patrick Leahy...and then he had his own round table that included one of the most annoying men in politics - Tavis Smiley. The man who named himself the Communicator for All Black People. They rehashed the recent Dem Pres candidates debate, which occurred on the campus of a historically black college.

Other things happened. But it all happened yesterday and by today, most of the banter seeped out of my head.

Posted by cj at 2:39 PM | Comments (0)