June 2, 2012

Introducing WILPF to LA on Nuclear Abolition Day

The Greater LA Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women hosted a Women's Peace Walk today. They were inspired by Julia Ward Howe's call for women to gather on June 2 as a Mother's Peace Day. I was honored to help the chapter organize the event and was further honored when I was asked to moderate the speakers. Thankfully, I was also able to step out of that role to introduce people to WILPF. Below is the text of my speech.

Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, WILPF, is probably the most influential peace organization you have never hard of. For almost a century, WILPF has articulated the need to address the root causes of war. We insist on ending armed conflict as a means of dispute resolution. And since World War I, we have been challenging governments to recognize the necessity of women's participation in these conversations.

In 2000, we pushed the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security. Then, we created our Peace Women Project to monitor its implementation. Through Peace Women, we've led a translation project, ensuring 1325 is available in over 100 languages. This allows women peacemakers around the world to use it as a blueprint for creating real space for women's participation in politics in their own countries. We could use help translating it into more languages, so check out peacewomen.org for more info.

Implementing the women, peace and security agenda is the responsibility of national governments. Civil Society (that's you and me working together through nonprofit organizations) holds government accountable by monitoring this implementation. Together we can develop National Action Plans, one tool for realizing women's participation in conflict prevention and peace-building.

Last fall, the U.S. Section of WILPF hosted consultations with the State Department in five cities across the country, to facilitate citizen input into the first ever U.S. National Action Plan. We issued a report with 64 concrete recommendations on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011. Later that month, the State Department released the National Action Plan.

Next week, WILPF U.S. will be briefing Congress on those consultations at a round table hosted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman Russ Carnahan.

Here's the thing: the U.S. must fundamentally change its foreign and military policy to truly implement the women, peace and security agenda. Military intervention does not make people more secure. Access to food, health care, education, shelter, and jobs make people secure. That's what I mean when I say I'm a human security advocate. It means I respect the fundamental needs that must be met in order to make an individual secure. It means I reject the notion that a monolingual military propping up warlords can ever make Afghan women secure. It means I worry about Iraqi women whose access to basic necessities, like clean water, sewers and electricity was destroyed by the U.S. military and never fully restored.

We in WILPF recognize that creating the women, peace and security framework isn't enough. That's why we monitor all international disarmament negotiations through our Reaching Critical Will project. We provide daily newsletters during those conferences -- updates relied upon by diplomats and civil society alike to keep those processes transparent.

As today is Nuclear Abolition Day, I should tell you that WILPF and its Reaching Critical Will Project strongly supports abolishing the use of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. We also work towards the reduction of military spending and the demilitarization of politics and economics.

Our current International Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, is leading WILPF in challenging the UN to see disarmament through a human rights framework. The security wonks have never acknowledged the way military spending violates human rights. First, we know the money be better spent on health care, education, housing, and infrastructure development. In other words on implementing the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring human security.

Additionally, selling weapons to countries where they will likely be used to violate international law should be illegal, based on the doctrine of the responsibility to protect.

Right now, Reaching Critical Will is monitoring the Conference on Disarmament. Next month, we will be monitoring the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. Check reachingcriticalwill.org for more information.

I'll be honest with you now. The Los Angeles Branch has been a bit dormant recently. So I invite you to join me in renewing the LA branch of WILPF by becoming a member or at least connecting with me so I can keep you informed about our future work. Thank you.

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

May 15, 2012

More Than One Woman Promoted Mother's Day in the US

Earlier in my life, I took at face-value "the progressive history of Mother's Day." Perhaps you've heard it? Someone told you about Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation and told you that ending war is the real reason for the day? Sorry to break it to you, but that's not true.

The reality is that Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis did something amazing in West Virginia. She organized Mother's Work Days, starting in the 1850s to improve health and sanitation. When the Civil War broke out, she asked her members to sign statements of neutrality and provided healthcare for combatants of both sides. After the war, she organized Mother's Friendship Days to encourage the reconciliation vitally needed at the end of any armed conflict. When she died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, dedicated her life to creating a holiday to honor her mother and all mothers.

According to the Legacy Project, "In 1908, Anna persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, WV to celebrate Mother's Day on the anniversary of her mother's death, the second Sunday of May. It was to be a day to honor all mothers, and also a day to remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty started by her mother." To expand the celebration state-wide, Jarvis needed the help of corporate sponsors. This started the commercialization of the day. The flower and card industry strongly supported the state holiday and federal legislation. Towards the end of her life, Anna Jarvis was bitter about the crass commercialization of her memorial to her mother's memory.

Julia Ward Howe wrote her proclamation in 1870 and promoted June 2 as a Mother's Day for Peace starting in 1872. The celebrations fizzled out after she stopped personally funding them.

I truly appreciate Howe's writing. I love that her perspective evolved over time - she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in support of the Civil War because she was an ardent abolitionist. But after seeing the carnage of that war and the Franco-Prussian War, she became a pacifist. I agree with her that people need to come together to figure out how to solve conflicts without resorting to violence. But I am frustrated by the inaccurate history perpetrated by most progressive organizations, from Democracy Now to CODEPINK to WILPF US. To be clear: I have a mountain of respect for all three of those organizations, but I also want to honor history accurately.

Interested in honoring Howe's June 2 Day of Peace?

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
And if you're in LA, join me at the Women's Peace Walk, sponsored by WILPF LA and the Greater LA Chapter of the US Committee for UN Women.

Posted by cj at 6:12 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2012

Dependence on Chinese Production Deserves Factual Storytelling

This American Life logoToday, This American Life announced that it is retracting Mike Daisey's monologue on Apple in China. This weekend a new episode dedicated entirely to factual coverage of Apple's suppliers in China and revealing Daisey's lies will air.

Daisey's response? His only regret is allowing This American Life to air excerpts of his monologue as factual journalism. Never mind the fact that he knew before the piece aired that the program was fact-checking his work. Never mind that he knew that the most poignant vignettes of his monologue were entirely fictional.

There are two things that need to be said about this debacle. First, not every story on This American Life is factual. Am I the only one sick of David Sedaris talking as a mouse? But they're pretty good about differentiating between story telling and telling the story of life. Daisey, on the other hand, claimed that his entire monologue was based on meeting actual people.

The second thing I must admit is that fiction can deepen people's understanding of current events and history to a much greater degree than fact. The classic example is Grapes of Wrath. A more recent, and more flawed, example is Acts of Faith. There is deep power is story telling. Characters drawn by an expert hand can deepen our understanding of The Other and help us grapple with the shades of grey created by the human condition.

Nevertheless, Westerners, especially white males, need to get over themselves in their great attempt to decipher humanity. I'm not just angry that Daisey lied to This American Life producers and thinks his theatrical focus should justify his lies. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

Daisey's interpreter Cathy also disputes two of the most dramatic moments in Daisey's story: that he met underage workers at Foxconn, and that a man with a mangled hand was injured at Foxconn making iPads (and that Daisey's iPad was the first one he ever saw in operation). Daisey says in his monologue:
He's never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, "he says it's a kind of magic.
Cathy Lee tells Schmitz that nothing of the sort occurred.
Let me be clear: putting words in the mouths of workers injured in the production of your prized technology, making them claim to appreciate the majesty of your toy, is not and will never be acceptable appropriation of another human being.

Exploiting people, especially people whose language and culture you don't even pretend to try to understand, is worse than paying them to work for your company. Daisey does admit one thing in his monologue - that he knew nothing about China before starting on his journey to find out where his Apple products come from. From where I sit, putting words in the mouths of victims is more heinous than not letting them speak for themselves. Why do white people do this over and over again? It really isn't that hard to honestly translate people's reactions to the world around them. And if you don't think that's dramatic enough to hold an urban audience's attention for 90 minutes, then maybe you haven't done enough research.

I am glad the NY Times reported factually on the manufacturing of Apple products and I'm glad global consumers are challenging Apple to maintain higher standards in the production of their products.

Let's just be clear on a few things: if you can't speak a Chinese language, if you haven't studied modern China, and if your one experience of China involved paying an interpreter to help you see one urban area then you are in no position to speak for Chinese people. Whether presented as fact or fiction, the idea that a white man with zero understanding of China can speak for a man mangled in the production of iPads is ludicrous.

The best fictional indictments of economic problems are based on factual reporting. Steinbeck wrote newspaper accounts from migrant farm camps in California before starting his book. The accuracy of his depictions is why his book was burned when it was originally published - the 1% never want to admit they're exploiting the 99%. But for goodness sake, don't think neocolonial crusades are going to change global manufacturing.

I'm excited about the technological improvements in the new iPad. And I'm hopeful that the public will be holding Apple more accountable for its production process. I also worry about the environmental, health, and cultural damage done to China by its rapid modernization. I worry about the Chinese government's denial of individual human rights in pursuit of collective progress. Though my husband is Chinese and I've read The Joy Luck Club, I wouldn't attempt to write Chinese characters without extensive additional research. It's time US storytellers learn the limit of their gifts. The human experience may be universal, but each person's story deserves to do more than justify your material consumption.

Posted by cj at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2011

Mic Check: There Is No Voting in Consensus

One of the things that fascinates me most about Occupy Together is the use of consensus decision making. As a national and international board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), I experienced this decision-making process for eight years. And I'm sad to see that the essence of consensus does not seem to have been brought to General Assemblies.

Consensus is about discussing an issue completely, from all sides, and allowing all people involved in the consensus process a chance to speak. It's about building group beliefs from the ground up - through shared knowledge and empowering the members of your community, you can build towards and reach consensus. There are ways to use a mixed model of decision-making. For example, WILPF makes almost all decisions by consensus, but chooses to vote to elect people to leadership positions. Choosing a human representative is to me the only reason to modify the consensus process. Perpetual blocks show that the group moved too fast from community building to reaching consensus. Of course, in the General Assembly model it could also mean that people new to the public square haven't been fully integrated into the community before being given a voice in the General Assembly.

I'm writing this because tonight I attended my first Occupy LA General Assembly. I'm not sure how many more I'll be able to attend in the near future, as I'm getting married next weekend, so I'm a bit wary of giving public suggestions to the group. But I can say clearly and definitively - if you're facilitating a meeting and call for a vote and then use the symbols of consensus, you have not created consensus. You have created a modified voting system that adds up sparkles to majority rule.

What does consensus look like? It starts by having a clear, realistic agenda. It starts by putting only one or two items on the table for a discussion by a decision-making body during a 1-3 hour period. The process of taking a stack means empowering facilitators to decide when under-represented voices are moved to the top of the stack, rather than allowing five white guys to suck up all the time available for a particular point of discussion. And it means leaving the discussion open until everyone has been able to speak, rather than rushing through "temperature checks" and "voting."

Real democracy doesn't just take place in General Assemblies. Using committees to hash out particular issues can be truly empowering, particularly for people of all genders and ethnicities who feel uncomfortable stepping up to speak in front of a large group. Accepting that participatory, consensus-based democracy is extremely slow and more gratifying the pseudo-consensus could be the first step to a real paradigm shift. And if you're worried that going through this process wont produce "demands" to declare to the media, stop answering the questions posed by the media and instead focus on the message you can fully speak. Tell them why you yourself got involved in the Occupy Together movement. That's something you can speak about without participating in a single General Assembly.

Posted by cj at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2011

LA City Council in Solidarity with OccupyLA and OccupyTogether...

Today, the second largest city in the country went on record in support of the OccupyTogether movement. The city council didn't just vote in support of OccupyLA, they also called into question corporate personhood and the banking industry. They connected to people's movement with their own inability to act on city-wide banking regulation. This caused the banksters to rise in opposition to the resolution. Ironically, no one mentioned corporate personhood - neither the people opposing the resolution nor those who spoke in support. Item 33 was their 3-page resolution in support of OccupyLA and Occupy Together. (pdf) They made minor modifications on the banking "whereas" clauses and passed the resolution with 11 ayes. Below is the text of my two minute speech.

My name is C.J. Minster. I am a native Angeleno and a peace activist with CODEPINK: Women for Peace. While I applaud the City Council of Los Angeles for writing a resolution in solidarity with Occupy LA and the Occupy Together movement, I am here to remind you that responsible banking is only one part of the way to fund change. In July of this year, the City went on record calling on Congress to Redirect Military Spending to Domestic Priorities (pdf) by withdrawing all troops and contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting the Pentagon budget. You must act on the resolutions you've already passed and direct the DC legislative office of the City of Los Angeles to connect the needs of our city to the wasteful spending on war and the Pentagon.

As well crafted as your resolution in support of the Occupy LA movement is, we the 99% will not be silenced by pretty words. We care as much about your actions as your votes. And we are deeply troubled by recent reporting that the staff of Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmember Perry helped secure a $1 million community redevelopment block grant to lure architecture firm Gensler from Santa Monica to downtown LA. Our regional economy doesn't benefit from shell games across city lines, nor do we need tax payer money wasted lining the pockets of rich corporations. To pay for the needs of the 99%, the U.S. must tax the rich and corporations, not give them handouts. And the U.S. must immediately withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and implement the more than $1 trillion in Pentagon budget cuts outlined by the Sustainable Defense Task Force.

Thank you for using your voice, as the representatives of the second largest city in the country to amplify the voices of the 99%. I urge you to pass this solidarity resolution and work to ensure it is used in tandem with your anti-war resolution to end wars, stop economic injustice, and fund jobs. Together, we can prioritize human needs over unfettered, militarized capitalism.

Posted by cj at 1:10 PM | Comments (0)

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 11, 2011

Bridging the Divide: Attend a WILPF Congress as a CODEPINKer

People who know my political beliefs know that I've been expressing my views as a member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) since 1999. That's a long time to be involved in one volunteer activity.

People who know my recent history know that I left a successful advertising career to become the CODEPINK Bring Our War $$ Home organizer in March.

This summer, I have the opportunity to bridge the chasm between the two organizations. I'll be attending the WILPF National Congress, "End War: Local 2 Global" as a representative of CODEPINK. Hopefully, I wont go into debt to do it.

I'm excited to go to the WILPF national congress to discuss SMART campaign planning. I also look forward to discussing CODEPINK activities to end the overt and covert US-initiated wars (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya) and the illegal occupations supported by the US (in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine).

When I made the leap from advertising to peace activism, my salary did not stay the same. Without a lot of support from my personal network and the WILPF community, I will go into debt for this trip.

If you believe in deeper connections within the peace movement,
If you believe women's peace activism will be stronger if closer ties are created between CODEPINK and WILPF,
If you believe my perspective is valuable for the future of WILPF,
Then I ask you to please Donate to my WILPF National Congress Travel Fund.

While I have received contributions generously donated by the WILPF LA Branch and four WILPF members, I'm still short.
Total Funds Still Needed: $557.30

After the WILPF Congress Committee let me know they are eager to have me participate as a CODEPINK representative, I applied for a scholarship from WILPF National. The scholarship committee cannot provide a full scholarship and has not yet awarded me any funding.

You may be wondering why CODEPINK isn't paying for my involvement. In the past, organizations interested in having the participation of our staff have paid transportation and lodging for the staff's participation. Additionally, the WILPF Congress is scheduled two weeks before a major activity for my CODEPINK campaign. I am deeply grateful for the flexibility CODEPINK has shown in allowing me to participate in this WILPF event.

Please support my participation in the WILPF Congress. Any amount you give will be greatly appreciated - from $5 to $500 - every little bit helps.

Posted by cj at 10:26 PM | 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

Felicity Hill on WILPF, the CSW, and the need for hope, humor, and horror

Felicity Hill, former WILPF UN Office Director spoke recently in NYC during the Commission on the Status of Women. I particularly agree with her recommendation that we keep hope, humor, and horror in mind when developing strategies for changing the world.

She also mentions a book written by WILPFers called Listen to Women for a Change, which is available on the PeaceWomen website as a PDF.

Posted by cj at 7:24 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)

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)

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


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)

November 22, 2009

Institution Building: Civil Society is Key Ingredient for Nonviolent Paradigm Shifts

People often find this blog when trying to understand what social upheaval is. There are many possible answers, but the definition I use is: nonviolent paradigm shift.

Globally, militarism, patriarchy, and free-trade capitalism are fundamental pillars of human interaction. I believe social upheaval is needed to create a society where the economy is based on human needs, where all people participate equally in the political process, and the use of physical force is severely limited, replaced by diplomacy.

Civil society is the key ingredient to accomplishing these goals. The institutions of civil society, such as Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, provide individuals with a way to participate in the political process with as much legitimacy and weight as any political party or corporation.

While I believe helping individuals and communities succeed within the current global paradigm through development activities is important, development work does not create new systems of social and political equality.

From WILPF's Constitution:

WILPF makes it its duty to further by non-violent means the social transformation that enables the inauguration of systems under which social and political equality and economic justice for all can be attained, without discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, or any other grounds whatsoever.
The League's focus on education and political action helps hold politicians accountable and provides people an opportunity to participate in the social upheaval needed to transform the world.

I fervently believe individuals working collectively through NGOs are the key ingredient to creating a better future.

What are you doing to create peace and justice?

Posted by cj at 5:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2009

WILPF Communications and Fundraising Update

This week, I completed the International Communications Committee Report for the International Board meeting.

I also began receiving donations towards my participation in the January, 2010 WILPF IB Meeting, for which I am eternally grateful. To date, I have received $390 towards the trip from individuals. (Some of these donations came through PayPal, which charges a fee for its service, so the net donation amount is $382.13.)

I'm also pleased to report that I was awarded a Kay Camp Travel Grant. I wasn't informed what the amount of the grant will be, though I hope it was for $600 (the maximum available).

My current fundraising goal is $1,217.87.

My next goals: summarize the last WILPF LA bulletin into a one-page explanation of WILPF, for distribution at an upcoming Southern California Regional Conference of Organizations meetings.

After that, I'll begin working on a document to explain what communications strategy is and why it is vital to effectively distributing WILPF's messages.

Posted by cj at 3:37 PM | Comments (1)

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 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)

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)

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)

December 16, 2007

Activism in Perspective

In the last month, two extremely important women in my life died. One had lived a full life, the other was taken well before her time.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. My belief in the Women's International League and its members is based on my observations of the peace, justice, and women's movements in historical perspective. It is difficult for me to hold firmly to that long-term view while dealing with the immediate realities of grief and mourning.

I hope as we move forward in our struggles for peace & justice we remember our individual and institutional fallibility. Though we are not perfect, we are all striving towards the same basic goal: a world at peace where all human needs are met equitably. I hope we will continue to work together to achieve those goals, by constructively supporting each other's work. I fear that our institutional progress may be undermined by our current financial crisis and eagerness to lay blame on particular individuals.

I look forward to helping the WILPF increase its presence within the movements for peace & justice and expanding its membership. I apologize if my last post seemed unnecessarily negative - sometimes, I deal with my frustrations publicly. Usually, I try to maintain a veil between my personal angst and public persona. I hope my sister WILPFers can forgive my transgression and we can work together to create the WILPF needed to create peace & justice in the world.

Posted by cj at 1:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 3, 2007

Feminist Leadership Conferences across the Country

The Feminist Majority Foundation is sponsoring leadership conferences across the country.

"Feminists of all ages are welcome to attend these events." I'm not sure what you're supposed to do if you're a womanist, but in any event, it's worth checking out.

Posted by cj at 10:47 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)

August 25, 2007

The world is waiting...

Most of my time these days is taken up by work and WILPF. We're going through some major transitions at both places, so the growing pains can be difficult. Hence not having much time to reflect on the state of the world.

But it's all rather exciting. I truly believe the world is poised for new answers. A Democratic president wouldn't be the savior of the world, but s/he'd be a million times better than the current administration. Plus, more and more individuals are getting involved in the political process, which could lead us closer to radical democracy....

If only wages would rise, we could get some socialized healthcare and join the civilized world, and the housing market would stop collapsing.

and you know, if that doesn't happen in the next 24 hours, at least the Sunday papers will be here to keep me company.

Posted by cj at 8:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2007

Live from Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's 29th Triennial Congress just began. First, there were introductions. Keynote Speaker, Paola Pena just began speaking. She is a historian and a defender of women's rights.

Women have to give the light...and we have to commit ourselves to this fight...We have a big movement...It's not casual to have this movement. This movement has realized how international cooperation, activist women and men, the world is starting to have challenges...just because of the economic policies that are trying to divide us. ..The World Women's March.. women have said that it is time to ask those who are placing economic restrictions..the challenges for women are poverty and violence...That's why the different movements are questioning. Another movement at the international level are the cry of those who are being excluded. Why are the budgets more geared to military, to arms? Why spend more on that when have millions and millions who are suffering?

We have the example of the Social Forum held recently in Sao Paolo, Brazil to show us the way forward...to take on the capitalists who take and take without giving anything in return. ...We believe that Latin America has emerged with many answers, with many challenges, but it's not easy. We have to see that the fights that we have experienced that it is time for women, basically i say this because of experience, that women have to be more open to the world. Many of our problems are between ourselves. And that's when people take over our economic resources, who give orders, who we have to fight with. If we see the context at the international level and at the Latin American level, we have advances that are important to pick up.

At this time, Latin America has presidents with other points of view. We have Nicaragua, Venezula, Bolivia.. to a certain extent the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador are also picking up the feeling of Latin American change. But we cannot stop mentioning the historical fight of the people of Cuba...

I believe that experiences have to be picked up...We have to come together based on the national symbols, like the cantuta?...and that's where we go to see the context of what our representative said. We're going through a very exciting moment but also a moment of contrasts. Bolivia, to understand what it is happening - the Bolivian crisis that we're going through will be a historical moment in the future. The crisis that we're going through has to do with economic, social, political interests. Because Bolivia is a very rich country. Many of you who have come here have to ask why is there such poverty in Bolivia? Because it is such a rich country - full of gas, water, ....However, the errors are built by men and women and those who have the economic power. The world already knows who decides upon our life and continue to do so are those who have the money, the economic power. The result is misery, that is mistakenly called the "feminization of poverty." Do you think women are so stupid that they cannot have the answers?

...Women, sisters, and brothers, throughout the world I believe we show the path. In Bolivia, women have played a very important role. That's where we can see that in Bolivia and throughout the world, the relationship between men and women is much better. And who shows the face is the women.

Ask yourself, is Bolivia having a challenge - between departments, between individuals, between classes....We are not building islands. Bolivia has a context. We have rich departments with natural resources such as gas, oil. Evidently this will define the obtaining of more funds. On the other hand, the vision of the country is to give everyone the chance.

When we talk about peace and freedom - we want a better world, a just world. Bolivia wants more equality, we want to share with those who have more and who have less.

..We wanted to have a country where geography was the same, where resources was the same. But we have diversity. We have more resources in some departments, but that doesn't mean we'll be divided.

..Today it seems that we have a challenge. Bolivian men and women voted for a change - we did not vote for the person himself, we voted for a change. ...Not long ago, Bolivians did not know how to work with budgets, we have knowledge that we have to pick up.

I do not support any political party.

...Bolivia is working towards a new constitution....we believe it is time to make some changes. On the other hand, we can see that as never before the policies with the current government show us that there are resources coming in. Something that we did not know about before. That type of resources that come because of gas and oil sales....We are now getting that money - Bolivia had never seen a 5 year old child receiving support for the educational process. We believe this is very directly related to the Millenium Goals that tell us by 2015 we will eradicate poverty...It is nice to pick up these recommendations given by the United Naitons...Here in Boliva, we believe that we have found some surprises. That the country was receiving some income and that income was taken by a few individuals. We working to redistribute that money....

Women have more representation and more participation..

Bolivia is a country of many different cultures. That's why we say it is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic countries. We not only speak Quecha and Mayari (?) How can we reach all these people who speak different languages? In recent years, social movements have increased. And we believe that indigenous people's lives have improved....We have to learn from them. ...We have to learn from their innate connection to indigenous people around the world. ..

...This is the struggle between the guidelines of the economy of this country. And finally, it's the fight of different fronts to take advantages of the resouces because of the availability and that's why we want to recognize that yes, it is possible to suffer, to wait. But it is also possible for peace and freedom. We are able to make our limitations our potentialities. It is very easy to mention - it is easy to say "Bolivia will have a confrontation." We think that Bolivia has not been divided. Bolivia is struggling, but that's very good because the struggling will reaffirm. We'll see where we're making mistakes. The error is to rebuild. It is easy to criticize. It is easy to destroy....Bolivia is a unitied country. However, when the economic interests are divided, that is where there will be struggle. We are fighting the free trade treaty.

I know my time is almost over. But I'd like to thank the people who came to have a dialogue, to have a discussion. We as Bolivians do not want to receive gifts; we want to build solidarity; we want to have peace and freedom.....Thank you friends.

Posted by cj at 6:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2007

The Blogosphere: Already a Hotbed of Activism

I'm the national Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF US). I'm also on the international Communications Committee and on my local branch board. In short, I've spent 95% of my activist time since 1999 in WILPF. I can wax poetic about all of the inspirational women I've met through the organization. I could tell you about all of the organizational development skills I've learned by being on the national board. That's not where my head is at. Right now I'm banging my head against this basic cold hard fact: a 92 year old organization has an extremely difficult time moving into online activism. Like many organizations, we continue to try to control the Official Statements from headquarters. Then again, the other problem we face is that the vast majority of our members are older and do not use the blogosphere nor do they have an understanding of how online activism is already connecting activists from around the world and having a significant impact on global politics and culture.

I feel like I'm standing at a crossroad: my time is severely limited. Whereas in Chicago, I had plenty of time during the workday to delve into the online world, I am now limited to time before 8:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m for activism (along with occasional reading during my lunch hour). Further, there is so much work to be done to strengthen WILPF and expand its influence that I often forget to keep up with the blogosphere or any other part of the online world. (I'm too busy keeping up with WILPF emails and the listserv for thyroid cancer survivors).

I guess I'm stuck with obligations to Web 1.0, and don't have a full grasp of Web 2.0. Many people expect me to translate the world of online activism for my organization, but I'm afraid that my knowledge is a tad out-dated at this point. When shall I find the time to get up to speed? Where can I look for portals into this world?

Recently, I found a fascinating portal: Global Voices. My friend, Chris Salzberg, is one of their East Asia editors. He pointed me to a great video of GV founder Ethan Zuckerman talking about the blogosphere and how it's reshaping activism.

I'm grateful to see that through online communication more people are learning the lesson I took away from my Peace & Justice Studies education at Wellesley: its not about people of the North determining the right direction for people of the South; it's about the entire human community listening to one another and working together to create change. That on the microlevel, we should allow individuals and communities to speak for themselves and that on the macro level, we must all have a voice in the decision making process. I look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge of these worlds and to garner inspiration from people across the globe.

Posted by cj at 8:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 3, 2007

Seeking Inspiration

I'm going through a period of great personal upheaval (see angelheaded hipster for details). Anyway, one of the things I'm desperate for is some inspiration.

Are you following your passion while making a living? How so?

Are you part of an organization that is making a positive difference in the world?

Have you heard about some positive change that is continuing to have a positive effect on the world?

Seeking inspiration...

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

January 28, 2007

Short Shrift for Protestors

At least 100,000 people took to the streets of DC yesterday to protest the US occupation of Iraq. And yet, it was relegated to inside page coverage in both the NY Times and the LA Times. At least the LAT put a picture on the front page - but both were more interested in fronting articles on Obama and Hillary than they were in the political activism of thousands of citizens.

I think this speaks to the limitations of mainstream media. The masses are not authoritative. That's why the nightly news highlighted Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon & Jesse Jackson - they are recognizable and eloquent in a way that can't be found consistently in the masses. The other limitation is that protestors must always be followed immediately by some self-righteous war-mongerer who believes peace activists are diminishing the morale of the troops and that the only way to support the US military is to keep them as an occupying force in a country where the occupation caused civil war and where US'ians have zero understanding of the language, culture, or ethnic differences in the country.

I do not know how to change the media reality of this country. I do not yet have a plan for the nonviolent paradigm shift necessary to overturn the belligerent, corporate-capitalism forced on the world by the US ruling class. But I do know that it more important than ever to figure out how to do this. Our progeny and the future of the world depends on it.

"Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase," by Ian Urbina with contributions by Sarah Abruzzese and Suevon Lee in the NY Times

"Thousands join bicoastal war protest: The Washington rally draws about 100,000 people. Marchers also take to the streets in L.A. and San Francisco." by Adam Schreck, Ashraf Khalil and David Streitfeld in the LA Times

Posted by cj at 7:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2007

It's Official: I'm a Self-Hating Jew

I sorta obsessively watch who is reading my blogs. Last night, I found that my cultural blog got a hit from masada2000.org. In case you haven't heard of this horrific website, it keep a list of "7000+ Self-Hating Israel Threatening Jews." Some entries include pictures. For the longest time, despite being the Program Chair of a peace group, I wasn't listed. Apparently now I am. And they think I'm 5 years older than I really am. I don't really want you to go to the horrific site. Well, you can if you want. Here's their entry for me:

Minster, C. J. [DOB approx. 1973] This Sunday morning talk show junkie and national board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which calls for an "ending US Military aid to Israel and a US Middle East policy with emphasis on long denied Justice for the Palestinian people" signed a one-sided petition for "U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East"... which was nothing less than a full-fledged "mugging" of Israel!

"How can we expect the Palestinians to give up their right to self defense when the Israeli government continues to meet with them at the point of a gun or a lethal Caterpillar bulldozer? As a Jewish American, I am appalled at all that is done in my name. I don't need Palestinians to starve to death to make myself safe as a Jew."

Her "Angel Headed Hipster" blog site is at http://www.angelheadedhipster.com

The other thing they got wrong in their entry is that the blog they cited has a two word title - angelheaded is one word. But I guess they never read that other Jew who popularized the term - Allen Ginsberg. (Besides, it doesn't have any political commentary. I write about politics on this blog. I write about Cali politics on couragecampaign.org. And sometimes, I write about WILPF stuff on the WILPF blog, wilpf.blogspot.com)

Oh, and I don't know how they came up with the quote they created about WILPF, but WILPF actually calls for an end to all US military aid. We're also seeking a change to US Middle East policy - our campaign is currently working to create an alternative, feminist US policy on Israel / Palestine. Our goal is peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I do stand by the quote I wrote on that online petition. But I've written a lot more than that about the issue.

I wonder what the person thought when they clicked through to my site and saw that I'm dealing with cancer...

Seems fitting that I found out about this yesterday. I spent the afternoon listening to a Holocaust survivor speak about her experience visiting Palestine and being strip searched (and body-cavity searched) at the Tel Aviv airport while attempting to return to the United States.

And today's NY Times Magazine has a feature on Abe Foxman, the meshugenah head of the ADL who sees anti-Semites behind every corner. It's not a particularly good article - the only alternative voices it cites are Mearsheimer and Walt. It would've been better if it really tried to explore the pain and division Foxman and his nut-wing partners have caused the Jewish American community.

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

December 12, 2006

Jeannette Rankin on Film

Do you know who Jeannette Rankin was? She was the first woman elected to Congress, a life-long pacifist, and a person who voted against both world wars. Her life was magical, her story is empowering. WILPF US Board Member Jeanmarie Simpson wrote and starred in the play "A Single Woman" about Rankin's life. Simpson and WILPF Life Member Cameron Crain have brought the story to the big screen - a film based on the play is now in post-production.

Unlike "Blood Diamonds," Simpson did not have to alter the facts to create a moving drama. The story is compelling because at every turn, Rankin held her ground and lived by her pacifist beliefs. We must listen to her story, even if we disagree. There is nothing weak-willed about a principled pacifist. And the path Rankin promoted is filled with strong actions. The path of diplomacy and political dialogue is a path we Americans have strayed far from. By embracing Rankin & the film, we are embracing the hope for a better future.

Posted by cj at 9:47 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

To Canvass or to Create a Community?

Ezra Klein blogged about the Democrats' ineffective GOTV strategy. Basically, he quoted an American Prospect article by Dana Fisher, The Activism Industry.

According to Fisher and Klein, it is unacceptable to rely on paid activists to create your grassroots base. Canvassing can yield an uptick in membership, money, or voters at the polls; but since it is a one-off event, it does not build depth to your base. Apparently, the solution is to rely on the left-wing equivalent of Christian fundamentalists: volunteers who create communities of faith.

As a former union organizer and a former paid canvasser, I think this is all hogwash. Activism should involve a combination of paid staffers and volunteers. Instead of only teaching staffers the art of door to door selling, paid activists should be developed into truly grassroots community organizers. This does not mean they should follow union-style organizing techniques. Instead, they should learn from Saul Alinsky, Ernesto Cortes and the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Then again, the IAF doesn't get everything right. Their reliance on the grasstops to create a unified citizens' voice leaves out a lot of people. But I still think it's a helluva lot better model than using people solely for financial or political gain.

The thing is that the Democratic party and the progressive movement will never get ahead by relying solely on winning campaigns. We've got to develop relationships with each other - starting with our neighbors - if we're going to change the corporatocracy that rules this country. I've been inspired by independent political activists in Chicago - where 100 years of synergy between business and politicians has upheld the most robust political machine in the country. Though Daley is still in office, and the machine won the primary election for City Council president, there are cracks in the system. And if people can crack through Chicago's system, then it is possible anywhere in the country.

Posted by cj at 6:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2006

Liberal Bloggers: More Mainstream Than You Think

This week's Now program focused on liberal bloggers. The newest information for me in the piece was that I pronounce Daily Kos wrong. It's not "cos" as in "cost," it's "coas" as in "coast." Huh. I knew it came from the guy's name (Markos) but I never put two and two together. I also didn't know he was a refugee from the civil war in El Salvador (a war courtesy of US military and corporate intervention).

The meat of the piece was thing you'd know if you read the blogosphere: most bloggers are middle-aged, married, with kids. They're not radical, they're just political junkies. And Daily Kos is 100% focused on domestic politics.

Here's what's wrong with this picture: the mainstream media aint tellin you about world affairs and neither are the most widely read blogs. They might talk about the political infighting around so-called homeland security, but they wont tell you that there is no war on terror, there's just fearmongering. No one, generally, is communicating with activists around the world in either the mainstream media or the mainstream blogosphere.

Watching the segment got me riled up. Made me realize that it's acceptable that I spend a lot of time doing my work as the Program Chair of WILPF US, but that it's vital for me to take time out of that work to blog so that people outside the 20 or so who know about the oldest women's peace organization in the world can hear about our work and the reality of the world.

The other segment of Now was on the corruption in the Interior Department. Interior's Inspector General brought up the same point Molly Ivins did in her book, Bushwacked (which I'm currently reading, several years late). That is that when you put the chief lobbyist for the coal industry in the 2nd most powerful position for protecting our public lands, the results wont be so great. We're so lucky that he resigned. Of course, you don't need a coal lobbyist in place to make bad decisions - incompetency will do the trick just as well; like the 1000 or so contracts written during Clinton's administration that doesn't make energy producers pay royalties when pumping gas and oil out of public lands. Thank you, public servants, for defrauding the American people out of $10 billion!

"Blog The Vote" - this week's Now on the net

Posted by cj at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2006

Building the Progressive Majority

Last Thursday, I attended a Symposium on Building the Progressive Majority in 06 and 08, sponsored by the Committees of Correspondence on Democracy and Socialism. Reverend Morris, the ED of Community Renewal Society - a progressive faith-based organization - spoke at the Symposium. The following entry is taken from my notes from his speech.

He said we are attempting to defeat a radically reactionary political mafia. So what are the common elements to bring together disparate groups?

Winning requires voter registration, identification, and mobilization.

What are the values that we share?

We need to appeal to a broader electorate with the message that this is an unjust war and an unjustified war.

Don't Vote Your Fears, Vote Your Faith: the US has lost its way.

We need to articulate and define "the American dream." If we allow fear to reign it leads to an acceptance of the "war" on terrorism.

Posted by cj at 6:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 5, 2006

WILPF's Other Press...

I was looking for information on the WILPF* West Gathering this summer, a triennial event held for our West Coast members. (It's every three years because during the other years, we have an International Congress and a National Congress). Googling "WILPF West gathering" led me to this intriguing history of WILPF on "Discover the Networks.org: a Guide to the Political Left."

At first I thought, wow cool! Someone is trying to do movement building via a website. Ha! It's a right-wing observation of left wing movements. While it offered some fascinating WILPF history, it also conflates WILPF US with WILPF International. It refers to WILPF as One Entity, whereas anyone who has been involved in WILPF for a fraction of a second can tell you that we're anything but cohesive. I'm also offended that they haven't updated our listing recently. And I wonder why some members' activism in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal is listed so prominently (which as far as I know was never made a WILPF US campaign, or even an official WILPF US stand, other than the fact that WILPF US is firmly against the death penalty).

In any event, it would be interesting to see if the historical information in the listing is at all an accurate description of the outcomes of our International Congresses.

And just as a point of information: I do not believe WILPF ever shied away from discussing the USSR. Indeed, there was a women-to-women dialogue created by US members with USSR women. But honestly, we aren't a front for the Communist party. And we claim more of Jane Addams' activist time than any of the other organizations she co-founded.

Emily Greene Balch was an economics professor fired by the trustees of my alma mater for her "radical peace activities," but during my time at Wellesley College, the college officially apologized and created an internship in her honor.

The basically offensive listing for WILPF is here.

The WILPF US homepage is here.

The WILPF US blog is here.

The International WILPF webpage is here

PeaceWomen, working towards full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security; a project of WILPF.

Reaching Critical Will
: reaching for a critical mass of political will for nuclear disarmament, a project of WILPF.

Despite what the wingnuts say about us, WILPF is not entirely focused on the UN. WILPF US has a Save the Water campaign and a Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East campaign. We do agree with our international sisters that Israel is building an apartheid wall, but our challenge is to the US government to stop its financial, military, and diplomatic support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We have 36 active sections around the world, including sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon.

I am the Program Chair of WILPF US, and spend almost all of my activist time working on WILPF, hence the lack of postings to this blog.

*WILPF = Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the oldest women's peace organization in the world. I am a life member! (I recently completed the $500 necessary for life membership on an installment plan and I'm very proud of this accomplishment.)

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

May 15, 2006

poking a hole in my bubble

I currently live in a bubble of blogging, working, and working on WILPF. I'm trying to change that. So after my last post / rant, I went to said disparaged sites and found Drinking Liberally. So if I have energy after the Lost finale (or maybe during the Lost finale, cause let's face it I haven't exactly been watching it this year), I'll head on over to Red Lion for the Northside drink up.

Other (mostly white) progressives are doing a Principles Project, to declare a cohesive platform for liberals. Haven't read the actual platform yet, but noted that all the usual suspects for young, white liberals are on board.

In related news, the Chicago Liberal Drinkers linked to this blog post full o Edmund Burke quotes.

And here's the League of Young Voters, formerly called the League of Independent Voters, "coloquially" known as the League of Pissed Off Voters.

Off to iron my shirt...gonna meet Madam Secretary Albright tomorrow. Or at least take a picture with her. Gotta love alumnae clubs.

Posted by cj at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

Beyond Chatter

There are plenty of important news stories out there. The government is spying on us, each and every one of us, and the scariest part is how many citizens are perfectly okay with it.

More people die everyday in Iraq, and no one can remember that Mother's Day is an Anti-War Holiday.

Gas prices aren't going down, oil companies keep getting richer, and the masses continue to struggle to make ends meet.

Republicans and other blowhards fail to connect the dots on immigration - progressives don't bother to point out that the entire reason we have limits on legal immigration is to keep the number of non-whites admitted to the country lower than the white population. It started with quotas for Chinese immigrants, expanded to limit Eastern Euros and Slavs (all considered non-white at the time), and on down the line.

The government and the capitalists crow for days on end about the glories of free trade. That goods and services must flow freely across national boundaries in this age of globalization. I'm extremely unclear why pieces of paper and other constructs of the human mind have more transnational rights than living, breathing human beings.

Rebel fractions from Darfur continue to insist that the peace agreement was not a truly negotiated deal and therefore they should not be expected to stop their uprising against the Sudanese government.

New Israeli Prime Minister Olmert lays out a "convergence" plan for appropriating even more of the arable Palestinian territory, and completing the apartheid wall, and the reaction from the world is muted, and there is no unified rage within the US that he is coming to DC and meeting with every single impt head there is (POTUS, VPOTUS, joint session of Congress, SecDef, and SecState).

What we need is coordinated movement building. The NYT says the CIA is no longer able to do strategic intelligence gathering. Similarly, the left has lost its strategy. We're a thousand voices, unable to frame our issues in a way that easily connects them for outsiders. We spend more time yapping at each other's heels than we doing Building he Movement, Speaking Truth to Power, or Creating Viable Change.

We need to stop simply reacting to the actions of the corporate-political syndicate. We need to create our own actions that do not rely on daily news briefs to move forward. We should be moving forward without the latest bit of bad news. And not just online in domestically-myopic forums like Atrios and Daily Kos. We need to create Social Upheaval.

Posted by cj at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)