Friday, September 30, 2011

We Will Kill You Because We Can, No Due Process Necessary

Two dissident Americans were assassinated today by terrorists.

Although the two were active vocal opponents of United States policies, and though they were accused by some of being "linked" (whatever that means) to various acts of violence and conspiracy, the two dissidents were not charged with crimes, apprehended or arrested, nor prosecuted and tried by American authorities. Nobody was asked to prove their guilt or allowed to profess their innocence before the button was pressed that ended their lives.

The two Americans were killed, apparently by a CIA predator drone, in a military strike on Yemen, which allegedly is at peace with the United States. The U.S. is currently attempting to bolster the rule of Yemen's beseiged dictator. The two were Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both allegedly propagandists for the Al Qaeda network.

Let it be said: this was extra-legal murder, and anybody who has ever said a critical word about the United States or its policies — including American citizens who falsely believe themselves to be protected by the rule of law — should feel a chill at this action undertaken by the Obama administration. These two American citizens were executed without any due process because the government said they deserved to die. No evidence, no charges, no trial, no defense, nothing.

Al-Awlaki and Khan were accused of being members of an organization that any fighter for justice, indeed any decent human being, should abhor. With a faux anti-imperialist sheen, Al-Qaeda's politics are a vile blend of religious fundamentalism and nihilism: these alleged fighters for Islam have killed thousands and thousands of decent, peace-loving Muslims. They've killed children at a rate to rival the worst excesses of the American war machine or Apartheid Israel. But advocating for a horrible organization is not a capital offense: and if the two were engaged in capital crimes or conspiracies, why were they not brought to the halls of blind justice that the U.S. claims to be so proud of?

The action that the CIA undertook today was a blatant act of terrorism: a random act of death from the skies for which there could be no defense. The people in Yemen killed today were going about their lives as hapless as the Americans killed on 9/11.

This was a terrible, terrible precedent. And one has only to read columnist Glenn Greenwald's tweet today to ponder the unleashed potential:

While it seems highly unlikely that she will be the one to replace President Obama, Michele Bachmann (or someone just as bad as her) has just been enabled to dispatch murderous predator drones to kill opponents of her policies on her say-so. Samir Khan is accused of publishing a web-based Al-Qaeda magazine. Al-Awlaki is accused of giving pro-Al-Qaeda video sermons on Youtube. If these are now considered executable crimes without proof or process, what will the next resident of the White House consider kill-worthy?

It is not enough that the government said these two men were criminals or terrorists: that's not the way the law is supposed to work. Or perhaps, we've just been shown that the law is an utter illusion. Look to the skies.

Graphics snagged from today's Times.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Does Mormon Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Practice Human Sacrifice?

(Bloody human sacrifice in Ancient Mexico, that may, or may not, be just like the human sacrifices that the Mormons, may, or may not, perform; 16th-century illustration from a Codex).

"When this sign and portent was first seen, [they] were overcome with terror, weeping and shouting and crying out...These shouts and cries were accompanied by sacrifices of blood and of human beings, for this was their practice whenever they thought they were endangered by some calamity." — Not a quote from the Book of Mormon but from The Broken Spears, The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico edited by Miguel Leon-Portilla

"The messengers went to the [temple]...The two captives were then sacrificed before his eyes: their breasts were torn open and the messengers were sprinkled with their blood. This was done because the messengers had completed a difficult mission: they had seen the gods...they had even conversed with the gods!" — Not a quote from Mormon Elder Brigham Young, but another from The Broken Spears

It was almost fifteen years ago that I was initiated into the religion of Santeria; it was a life-changing event, and though I am no longer really active in the religion I am ever grateful for the blessings and changes it brought to my life. As most everybody knows, Santeria is notorious for including the widely misunderstood practice of animal sacrifice. In truth, animal sacrifice is a somewhat disguised component of most of today's religions including the big three Abrahamic faiths, but it's usually considered something prettier and less controversial, like Easter dinner or Passover. Without going into it at great length, the offering of animals in Santeria is most definitely not an exercise in macabre animal cruelty, it's a respectful ritual act that connects worshippers with the mysteries of the life force in a graphic experience of communion. In most cases, though not all, the animals are cooked and eaten, just like that lamb you eat for Easter. It's definitely a challenging part of the religion for those of us who grew up around store-packaged meat, but it ultimately teaches humanity and the sacredness of life. No cute kittens — or human babies — are harmed. It's not some antisocial or Satanic worship of death and gore (and please note Satanism is a subset of somebody else's religion, and that would be Christianity), and despite the occasional slanderous B-movie or tabloid exposé, Santeros most certainly do not sacrifice people.

Anyway my initiation ceremony was a beautiful and transformative thing, altering my consciousness and the way my spirituality is wired like nothing else I have experienced. Two of the priestesses there were elders in the religion, a lesbian couple who I'll call R & R. One was Puertorican, the other non-Hispanic of Jewish ancestry. They were knowledgeable and experienced priestesses, and also very generous and giving people. New initiates are especially encouraged to visit the homes of elders in the religion during their first year, when they're walking around clothed in a protective and identifying total white. R & R were wonderfully welcoming to me; especially considering my own status among the small minority of non-Hispanic white people drawn to what is fundamentally a religion of the African diaspora.

It was probably at one of their ocha birthdays that we were all sitting around their living room in Manhattan. R & R were discussing a recent vacation. They had been out west, I think to Vegas with a side trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. They were regaling us with their visit to the huge Mormon Temple there. I don't remember which of these two Santeria priestesses, expert at the handy dispatch of a chicken, was doing most of the talking: "And we saw the altar! You know beneath that altar is where they do the secret human sacrifices." A hush went over the room. "Really. They do them right there! Oh they don't admit it, but everybody knows they do it." The other priests and priestesses in the room shook their heads and clucked their tongues. "How horrible!" everybody agreed.

(Above is the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City where Mitt Romney may, or may not, conduct his human sacrifices, if he performs them, which he may not.)

Two of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates are Mormons, one the allegedly moderate Jon Huntsman competing for last place; the other tabula rasa trojan horse not-so-moderate Mitt Romney competing for first. And it turns out that more people than my Santeria priestess friends think the Mormons have a human sacrifice problem. If you go to google and start typing "Mormon human", right after the prompt for "Mormon humanitarian efforts" pops up the prompt "Mormon human sacrifice."

It turns out that Evangelical Christians, a base of today's extremist Republican party, do not consider Mormons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, actual Christians. And very many of them think the Mormon Church is up to no good at all. Researching this post I found websites devoted to accusing the Mormons of being the Illuminati, Freemasons, Kabbalistic Jews, Satanic homosexual child abusers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and, of course, Satanic sacrificers of human children.

I would say that the Mormons, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and the Republican party saddled with candidates that its base doesn't trust, have a big, big problem. Would you want your child to be kissed by Mitt Romney if you were worried he would afterwards snatch it up and hurl it onto an altar of blood-letting? I mean, hey, Wikipedia might explain that the doctrine of blood atonement doesn't mean modern Mormons have anything to do with something as bizarre as human sacrifice, but sites like "Real Mormon History" shout "Holy Murder" begging to differ.

So what's the truth?

Well, you know there's an old saying: you made your bed now you lie in it.

I actually know some former Mormons who regret the church's repressive nature, but who remember their childhoods in the church, or their missionary year, with some fondness. Of course most of the gay former Mormons I know don't look back with anything less than a certain anger. There's a movie I heartily recommend called "Brigham City," that is a small-town crime story made by a Mormon director that is tremendously touching and humanizing. You come away watching this film getting something profound about the nature of community that seems to be of deep spiritual importance for Mormons. It's a beautiful film. It helped me to respect the many mysterious ways that spirit calls to people: some are called to religions that outsiders don't get. I don't challenge that at all; spirit is a beautiful and mysterious thing. I don't challenge anyone's right to follow a spiritual path of his or her own calling, including LDS Mormonism. I don't want my religious practices to be judged unfairly, and I can understand Mormons not wanting theirs to be judged unfairly either.

But here's what else I know: the Mormon Church has spent an untold fortune trying to deny the civil rights of lesbians and gays. They sunk an uncountable fortune into the at least temporarily successful effort (Prop 8) to repeal marriage equality in California. They are widely believed to be one of the main bankrollers of the anti-gay hate group NOM, "The National Organization for [sic] Marriage," that has quite successfully derailed marriage equality in a number of states. The Mormon church, as an organization, is hateful and bigoted: and like many Evangelical Christian churches and the Catholic church, doesn't understand or respect the difference between secular law and church law. The Mormon church and its allies are actively trying to deny equal rights to gay match religious principles that people outside that church don't share. That is simply unforgivable: the separation of church and state should be absolute and inviolable.

Mitt Romney may be an former east-coast governor and alleged social moderate, but he is 100% behind his church's efforts to deny civil rights to lesbians and gays. He's also a sworn enemy of a woman's right to choose, and of family planning. His politics on the subject of marriage equality are no different than right-wing freakshows Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann. His views on immigration are horrible: he supports walling off the U.S. from Mexico (of course in true hypocritical fashion he's also reputed to have hired cheap undocumented workers to mow his lawn). Mitt Romney may or may not actually engage in human sacrifice — I wouldn't know the man, um, from Adam — but he certainly wants to sacrifice the rights of some Americans on the altar of his religious beliefs, and that is deeply, deeply troubling.

Is voting for people who want to deprive some Americans of their rights any worse than voting for people who might, or might not, secretly kill babies?

The evidence suggests that the idea that Mitt Romney and other Mormons are actively committing blood sacrifice of children or adults in the secret inner sanctuaries of their temples is nothing more than a crazy and delusional paranoid conspiracy theory, based on the all-too human tendency to demonize that which one does not understand. But hey, what do I know? They want to deny me civil rights, so maybe they do have a taste for human blood or maybe they don't. Maybe if their church joined the civilized world of respect for civil rights people wouldn't question their secret motivations.

Hey Mitt Romney, kiss my baby! You'll give it back, right? Right? As long as it's not gay?

(Any longtime readers will recognize part of this post is a retelling of a tale I told four years ago, during the last presidential cycle).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If You're Not Careful...

Floating around facebook: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." —Malcolm X

Monday, September 26, 2011

Using Chemical Weapons Against "Their Own People"

This disturbing video of protests related to the "Occupy Wall Street" encampment in downtown New York City, shows peaceful protesters in a mesh pen set up by police being attacked, unprovoked, by cops with so-called pepper spray, a non-lethal chemical weapon.

The longer video below shows considerably more violence on the part of the police, who are shown assaulting and physically abusing other protesters, also unprovoked. There's dragging of young women by big burly cops, and the unbelievable scene where a copy kneels on a protester's neck so he can cuff him.

I confess to not knowing much about the groups behind these protests. I read some good things and things that concerned me. I haven't been down to the site of the protests to see for myself who they are. But no matter, they're fighting a good — if a little unfocused — fight and apparently, they have provoked Mayor Bloomberg's notoriously repressive police force into showing its true colors. This is the same police force cited for abuse of free speech outside the Republican convention a few years ago; the force that is constantly being reprimanded for its racist "random search and seizure" policies, and its frequent gunning down of unarmed African-Americans guilty of being black.

I noticed this disturbing trend of penning up smaller protests a few years ago: it kind of freaked me out when I went to a peace rally and found it herded behind metal barriers onto a side street out of sight. It's now clear what stage two of this pen 'em up philosophy is.

This is a clearly a violation of people's rights to free speech and protest. Not surprising. I think government at all levels is clearly freaked about the possibility of the worldwide protests of the past year spreading to this country. Somebody explain to me how this is different, other than by degree of severity, than what repressive Middle Eastern regimes are doing? Hello Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Israel?

Somewhat related thematically, be sure to read up on the protesters in California now convicted of exercising their right to free speech in protesting the Israeli Ambassador. Disturbing stuff.

(Thanks to Joe.My.God. for hipping me to both videos.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Reading: The "Lives" Parody

I'm not a journalist. I write for self-expression, or fun, or sanity, or to give myself the illusion of power in a powerless world. It can be a kind of desktop activism, and a spiritual exercise. I've rarely been paid for my writing, though I certainly would relish the opportunity to be paid for expressing myself. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm not shy about expressing my opinion. But I also just like the beauty of words, the turn of a phrase. I'm happy with our twenty-first century internet overstimulation. I read things that stimulate my mind and imagination, and things that I wish I'd written, that I wish I'd had the clarity to express.

I grew up with the tradition that Sunday was a day to luxuriate in reading, starting with an excursion out the door to buy the Sunday Times. There's a weekly column on the last page of the New York Times Sunday Magazine called "Lives." For years this column has annoyed the hell out of me. I'm not sure what the column is supposed to achieve each week, but it's usually a first-person nostalgic journey through someone's difficult life learning experience. Except that by the time you're finished reading the short page-long story, you're left with a vague distaste for the story's writer and a sense that you've read something strangely inappropriate that you wished you hadn't. "Lives" columns usually don't have happy endings, and while that might mirror the episodic disappointments present in anybody's real life, the cliche-ridden predictability of these stories is a marvel. I was talking with friends about the column and we realized we all often turned to the "Lives" column first just for a kind of sardonic laugh.

Here's a couple typically bleak recent excerpts:

"After all, my life as I know it began 23 years ago, when, in a freakish accident, I was hit in the head by a ceiling fan in our home in Fort Worth, Tex...."Sept. 16

"The house keys are peeled from a ring. Sometimes they thank me. Sometimes they cry....At least I don’t make them turn out the lights one last time as they leave. That’s my job."Sept. 23

"And then a few months ago, his mother called. She said her son had taught his last class of the semester, cashed his paycheck and padlocked himself in a hotel room with an ample supply of crack, heroin and alcohol. An autopsy confirmed he died of an overdose."Sept. 9

"George dares me to send this former classmate a friend request on Facebook, “for closure,” and I do. I am almost giddy... A day goes by. No response. Then a week. Then another week. I quietly delete the request. And there I am again, the 12-year-old girl who can’t look herself in the mirror."July 29

You get the idea. There are familiar patterns: a random multiculturalism, the illusive nature of hope, the ever-presence of random tragedy, a sense of oversharing navel gazing that has nevertheless failed to make its author more self-aware. After laughing at a few columns with friends, we weren't convinced that someone wasn't pulling a fast one by submitting parodies to print. We thought, what if we wrote actual parodies of a Sunday Magazine "Lives Column"? And so that is what I've done. With my profound apologies I offer it up for your Sunday edification. Please note this is a work of deeply off-color fiction.



My parents quickly warmed to my choice of brides.

Soon after I introduced them to Susan, they opened their lives to her. My mother and Susan would go shopping together at the mall; they’d luncheon during the week when I was at work.

I was first taken aback at this added dimension of intimacy. Susan seemed to enjoy my parents’ company more than I did, sometimes.

Of course Mom and Dad had to tell Susan all the family stories. No childhood embarrassment was taboo. The time I had almost ran over the neighbor’s cat with my first hand-me down car. And there were the tales of Frankie, the twin who was lost one sad winter to a case of pneumonia none of us understood until it was too late.

“Oh Frankie was a special little boy, Susan,” my mother regaled late one warm summer evening. We were in the screened-in porch. “He used to pick dandelions from the front lawn and hand them to me in the kitchen. He’d hang on to my apron and say ‘I love you mommy’ and I’d tell him he was my special sailor boy.” My mom pushed back a tear.

“It was funny, Susan, your George here,” she pointed at me, mom did, “he was a nice boy, but not giving and generous like Frankie. Oh heavens, I remember when we were toilet training those boys…”

“Mom, must you?” I tried to interject, tried to salvage some of my own dignity.

“Oh hush, George.” She laughed as a memory surfaced. “Anyway one day little Frankie came out of the bathroom with his hands outstretched, full of a mess, saying ‘Mommy look what I made all by myself! Am I a good little boy? Mommy’” Mom and Dad both chuckled in the memory. Dad turned away as the chuckle turned into a little sob. “Oh yes, Frankie, I told him, you’re a good little boy. Mommy’s little sailor. But let’s go wash our hands now baby. Oh that child, he sure tried hard. Not like our little George here. Isn’t that right George?”

Mom gave my ear a good tug and walked in to the kitchen to refill her tumbler of wine.

Susan and I were married later that year. It was a beautiful time. Sadly Dad passed on the very next year; I got promoted at work and we decided to start a family. Mom wasn’t handling the loss of Dad too well so Susan and I talked it over and decided we would invite Mom to move in with us. Susan was pregnant and Mom could help with our new arrival. Susan’s parents has returned to their native Malaysia and I knew she could use the help and support.

Neither of us realized what kind of state Mom was really in. She had taken to drinking just a little bit too much, too often. And at first we were able to dismiss her sudden lapses of memory as quaint senior moments but it soon became clear things were not all right at all.

One day I came home from work and she called out to me “Oh, Frankie! Where have you been!” she grabbed the sides of my head and embraced me tightly. “Mom, it’s me, George…Frankie’s gone, don’t you remember?” The blissful look on her face soured immediately.

“Oh George…it’s only you. Leave me alone.”

“Can’t you see your mother’s tired, George? Leave her alone.” I was surprised at Susan interjecting like that. We went to bed tense, a wooden silence between us for the first time.

The policemen who rang the doorbell the next evening said that they didn’t have a chance in that downpour, the semi was coming too fast, the driving rain causing a chain of events nobody shorter than God could have prevented. Susan was gone. Mom, who had been driving her home from a baby shower, was in ICU.

I rushed to the hospital. Mom was hooked up to tubes and machines. Groggily, she looked my way. “Frankie? Frankie!” Awareness straightened the smile on her face. “Oh, George. Only you. Where’s my little sailor boy Frankie?” Dried blood caked the weak hand she lifted up from the bed questioningly.

I went into the small hospital bathroom. I strained, I reached back, and filled my hands with love for my mother.

“Mommy? Mommy do you love me?” I raised my hands to her as I came out of the bathroom, dripping, reeking. She smiled.

“Yes Frankie. My perfect little boy.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Betrayal

"Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday presented the United Nations with his draft for a population and territory swap, as part of an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Under Lieberman's controversial scheme, part of Israel's Arab population would be moved to a newly created Palestinians state, in return for evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.'A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations,' Lieberman told the United Nations General Assembly in New York."
— rightwing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman advocating the ethnic cleansing of Israel, in 2010, quoted in Ha'aretz

"Or, we can say that this time will be different – that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire. This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”
Barack Obama at the United Nations, September 2010

"Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied....And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come."
Barack Obama at UN, September 2011, effectively announcing that the U.S. will veto the application of Palestine to the UN Security Council for recognized statehood

'Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated President Barack Obama Wednesday on his speech at the United Nations General assembly, praising him for not stating that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should be based on 1967 borders. “I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands.”'
— Avigdor Lieberman on Obama's 2011 UN speech, reported in Ha'aretz

"I did not believe what I heard, it sounded as if the Palestinians were occupying Israel. There was no empathy for the Palestinians, he only spoke of the Israeli problems."
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian UN delegation

"Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. [false] Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. [correct but this should be balanced by explaining that 10 times more Palestinians were butchered] Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. [Israelis teach hate 100 more times than the other way around and hate of the colonizer to the colonized is not the same as the reverse]. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. [That is nonsense; Israel wiped Palestine including 530 villages and towns and now is the fourth strongest country plus having you Obama and Congress as its lackeys]. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were. [Irrelevant and highly emotional: just study the history of Nazi-Zionist collaboration to see how absurd to link Apartheid Israel with "The Jewish People", itself a mistaken term no more valid than concepts of "The Christian People" or "The Muslim People"]. These facts cannot be denied [they are regurgitation of Zionist myths, irrelevant facts, and half truths]. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland [a racist apartheid state based on land theft and ethnic cleansing; is that your definition of success?]. Israel deserves recognition [no it does not, Israel deserves to be faced with the truth and pressured to transform just like Apartheid South Africa]..."
— Obama's speech with bracketed comments from blogger and Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh at Birzeit University in Palestine

"Palestinians have a better chance of getting a state on Craigslist than from Barack Obama... Not a word about settlements or occupation. Not a word about Palestinian conditions, or Palestinian nonviolent resistance, while he sang praises of the Arab spring. No sense of the strategic let alone moral urgency of ending the longest military occupation in modern history."
— Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss blog

"This morning Mr. President you are so popular in Israel. You are the king of Israel. You did great job. It will be such a shame if you lose the next elections after such a speech. While you where speaking at the UN, Ahed Wahdan, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot yesterday by Israeli soldiers with rubber bullet in his eye, listened to you....We listened to you when you talked about Israel’s citizens who have been killed by rockets fired at their houses, and that other children are taught to hate Israeli children. Do you not think that Israeli children hear what is said by rabbis who preach hate about Arabs? And we listened about Jewish suffering. No doubt Jewish people have suffered Mr. Obama, but let us put things in order: Jewish people are not the victims here. The Israeli state is not the victim; it is the occupier and the oppressor which continues to deny Palestinians living in their homeland and in exile ‘their universal right to live in freedom and dignity’. When you fail to mention Palestinian suffer under occupation, when you fail to consider Palestinian children as equal human beings who deserve a better future, who are also entitled to human rights, you might win elections, but you lose your integrity, and you make it clear to everyone why the ‘so called peace process’ should be out of your hands. We listened to you when you said “there are no shortcuts”, we couldn’t stop wondering, how come South Sudan deserved such a shortcut? A new precedent has been made with the case of South Sudan, UN recognition in five days. No need to answer, we understand that the interests there are different, and so are the standards and the values."
— Palestinian feminist blogger Abir Kopty

The Palestinian Delegation has promised to bring its application for statehood to the Security Council on Friday.

The white areas of the map at top show the areas of the West Bank "accessible" to Palestinians; this fragmented area is the basis for all the proposals made by Israel for a Palestinian micro-state. Note the lack of an international border. The colored areas on the map below show the Bantustans, fake "nations," that white-minority ruled apartheid South Africa was gradually granting "independence" before the establishment of majority rule and the dismantling of apartheid. Hmm....notice the similarities? Top map snagged from Zunguzungu.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"I Am Troy Davis, and I Am Free!"

A message from Troy Davis, an innocent man who is scheduled to be put to death by the racist state of Georgia tonight. His last appeals for clemency seem to have been denied.

"To All:

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,


Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

What a tragedy. My heart goes out to Troy Davis's family. Once again, the true nature of justice in America reveals itself.

From Soa-watch, via Kasama

UPDATE: As of 10:20 pm the execution has been temporarily stayed while it is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

CODA: Alas, my update was just a moment too soon. After the Supreme Court refused to stay the execution, Troy Davis was murdered by the government of Georgia just after 11pm this evening. Rest in peace. Jesus wept.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peoples of the World, Beware!

"At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale. And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save. But this time was different. This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act....

The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the early days, and then in a supporting capacity. But let’s remember that it was the Arab League that appealed for action. It was the world’s most effective alliance, NATO, that’s led a military coalition of nearly 20 nations. It’s our European allies -- especially the United Kingdom and France and Denmark and Norway -- that conducted the vast majority of air strikes protecting rebels on the ground. It was Arab states who joined the coalition, as equal partners.

This is how the international community should work in the 21st century -- more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do....

First, and most immediately: security. So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue.... For without security, democracy and trade and investment cannot flourish."

President Obama at the United Nations today

Read between those lines very carefully. This is why the American/NATO intervention was wrong, and much worse than the faux left-wing Qaddafi dictatorship on a grand scale. With the Libyan action U.S. imperialism, the world's sole superpower, was announcing that the disaster of Iraq would not stop it from deciding for the world's peoples which of their governments, which of their struggles, which of their aspirations, are deemed legitimate. All the pretty talk about saving lives, let's tell it plainly, is utter bullshit.

Tell the people of Bahrain that the U.S. cares about democracy. Tell the people of Gaza the U.S. cares about saving lives. Tell the people of Yemen the U.S. cares about injustice.

Even the New York Times sees between those lines. Check out how they reported this speech: ' “Today the world is saying, in one unmistakable voice, ‘We will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise; as you reach for the freedom, the dignity and the opportunity you deserve,’ ” he said Tuesday. But he was talking about Libyans, not Palestinians. American officials say that Palestinian statehood at the United Nations will jeopardize the peace process; Israel is adamantly opposed to United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.' [italic emphasis added]

The most powerful war machine on earth (and we know that's not Denmark and Norway) now knows it can get away with sending remote-controlled death from above on your country, your cities, your revolution, your counterrevolution — no matter — with total impunity. They will get away with it. They will claim it is the will of the "international community." And there is nothing you can do about it. There is no way you can fight back against it.

And if you are not in their pocket, do not offer them the proper strategic or "trade and investment" opportunities, they will look the other way. They will ask you to "negotiate." They will stab you in the back. Beware what has now been unleashed.

Graphic is a 1960s Cultural Revolution-era Chinese poster, snagged from the extraordinary It reads, optimistically: "Awakened peoples, you will certainly attain the ultimate victory!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Is Yesterday's Media Racism Tomorrow?

Inspired by a post on the "We Are Respectable Negroes" blog, a favorite, I decided to search for a few choice keywords on the vast archives of the New York Times. To explicate the irony of its own name, WARN was looking for historical uses of the phrase "respectable negroes." I wondered what other keywords might be searched. I chose the racist epithet "darkies." Having recently returned from a holiday in Bermuda, one of the 1,390 search results caught my horrified attention. From the April 8, 1883 issue of the New York Times: (You can lick on the graphic above to read the whole thing)


The steam-ship Orinoco came in last Sunday, bringing a large number of passengers and valuable cargo from Bermuda. This is the season when Bermuda vegetables are beginning to ripen, and when they bring the highest prices in the New York market...."

The article goes on to explain how this ship did not contain onions and potatoes, but barrels of whiskey. An early form of tax sheltering, whiskey was taken to Bermuda, and then reimported, saving duties and presumably interstate taxes. But oh the wry nags at the NY Times have "humor" on their minds in this tale of complicated corruption:

"Among the 8,000 or more colored persons in Bermuda, there are several who have a liking for strong drink, and who are particularly fond of American whisky. When the officer on duty [at the port of Hamilton] is at the other end of the town such unrighteous persons have only to conceal themselves among the barrels of whisky, produce a gimlet and a straw, and operate. In this way Bermuda darkies have been known to intoxicate themselves so thoroughly in 10 minutes that it took them a fortnight to straighten out. Whisky sucked out of a barrel through a straw would not ordinarily be considered an enticing beverage, but to the Bermuda colored mind, it touches the right spot. This gimlet and straw act has come to be so well understood on the balmy islands that when one of the dusky bacchanals remains sober longer than seems natural it is said of him that 'he's lost his gimlet.'"....

Perhaps this was a normal display of white editorial racism in 1883. It probably was. But it should serve as a cautionary tale about time, context, and the mutability of point of view. When today's media, even today's New York Times, the avowed American flagship of mainstream liberal journalism of record, wax wryly or even authoritatively on the politics or cultural affairs of others outside its own narrow frame of reference, how much horror-provoking nonsense are they recording for future generations of students of media?

I think particularly of the attitude of American media to the Palestinian people. How quick the media are, even liberal media like The Times, to follow up the word "Palestinian" with "terrorism." How quick they are to establish that the editorial point of view, the us talking about them is you know, Americans and Israelis together. How quick is the media to line up behind conventional wisdom and popular sentiment. How horrifying in a town where a recent special congressional election having nothing actually to do with Israel was won on the basis of which candidate was more slavishly devoted to ensuring total obedience to Israel in foreign policy, to the point where the winning Republican had an Israeli flag on the dais behind him at his election night victory rally. The media could know better, if it chose to, right now, not in 130 years.

Hopefully The Times is embarrassed by its casually repeated use of the word "darkies" (much less "dusky bacchanals') a century ago. Though I did not note an apology for said usage. Let's just say that in the future more embarrassment, more apologies, need to be forthcoming. And a little sooner.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Work Makes You Free!

Above each of their labor camps the German Nazis installed a sign that read "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work Makes You Free." The Nazis believed that certain people were good only for slave labor, and the concentration camps that were not designed as extermination camps were a source for super low-cost labor for German industry, where no regulations and no unions would interfere with eeking out every last drop of productive energy for corporate profit. As everyone knows, the Nazis believed that non "Aryans" like Jews and Roma (so-called Gypsies) were inferiors, parasites on the society of actual German citizenry. Of course "Work Makes You Free" was also a lie. There was no exit intended from the labor camps.

Which brings us to the clip below from right-wing Iowa Republican congressman Steve King below.

A few choice excerpts: "John Smith said, clear back then in the 1600s, No work, no eat. And that's part of the New Testament... We can't have a nation of slackers... and borrow money to pay the welfare of people who won't work."

What a horrifying and fascinating speech: utterly revealing about the mindset of the Republicans and their "tea party" fascists. He seems to be implying that the unemployment crisis is somehow voluntary, due to laziness. This is absolute dog whistle racist code speech. Which he even tries to justify with a Bible quote, for crissake. Who exactly is he talking about? This is standard white Republican code for the masses of blacks and hispanics who, with their insidious plots like ACORN, they imagine, actually caused the economic crisis.

You can see that he doesn't really believe that unemployment is a real problem, and that in some fundamental way he opposes social programs like unemployment compensation and foodstamps. This is what the Republicans mean when they talk about "job-killing regulations": they mean the regulation to pay a living wage and the regulation to care for the citizenry when the economy is in crisis. They believe that if all the "slackers" would get off their asses and work for less than minimum wage, the job crisis would be over.

Hmm. What did they have back in the 1600s that we don't have today? Perhaps there's a wise solution there? Serfdom? Indentured servitude? SLAVERY? Let's take America 1650! The politics of Republicans like King may not be short steps from the institution of Nazi-style repression and labor camps, but it is indeed short steps away from the ideological justification for them.

Tip on Steve King thanks to Joe.My.God. "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, photo by me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Late Summer

I had to stay late at work today...with the fringe benefit of catching this beautiful late summer sunset. Above is more or less the view over my shoulder from my desk. Below, a wider panorama of the same view and at bottom, the sun exploding into fire over New Jersey. That's the Empire State Building above.

I was going to rant about a few things tonight...the Republicans who would rather people die than get healthcare and want to make sure little girls are at the mercy of preventable diseases... the four congressional Democrats who put a bill up today to blackmail, er, take away foreign aid from any nation that votes for Palestinian statehood in the U.N.... the Obama administration's shameful appeasement of Netanyahu for Jewish votes and their abject denial of Palestinian self-determination.... The horrible anti-gay hatred about to be written into the North Carolina state constitution....

But I'll save it. Ahhhh...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Speaking of Never Forgetting

Forty years ago today New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller unleashed the full and brutal armed might of the state against the rebellious prisoners at the Attica State Prison. Hundreds were shot and injured. Dozens were killed indiscriminately by Rockefeller's storm troopers, including prison guard hostages who had been unharmed by the rebels:

William Allen, Elliott (L. D.) Barkley, John B. Barnes, Edward Cunningham (hostage), John J. D’Arcangelo (hostage), Bernard Davis, Allen Durham, Willie Fuller, Melvin D. Gray, Elmer G Hardie (hostage), Robert J. Henigan, Kenneth E. Hess, Thomas B. Hicks, Emanuel Johnson, Herbert W. Jones Jr. (hostage), Richard J Lewis (hostage), Charles Lundy, Kenneth B. Malloy, Gidell Martin, William B. McKinney, Lorenzo McNeil, Samuel Melville, Edward R. Menefee, Jose Mentijo, Milton Menyweather, John G. Monteleone, (hostage), Richard Moore, Carlos Prescott, Michael Privitiera, William E. Quinn (hostage), Raymond Rivera, James B. Robinson, Santiago Santos, Barry J. Schwartz, Harold Thomas, Carl Valone (hostage), Rafael Vasquez, Melvin Ware, Elon F. Werner (hostage), Ronald Werner (hostage), Willie West, Harrison Whalen (hostage), Alfred William

The New York Times revealed a newly-released tape recording of Rockefeller reporting to President Nixon on the success of the attack on the prisoners: “They did a fabulous job,” Rockefeller told Nixon. “It really was a beautiful operation.” You can hear how disgusting Rockefeller's gloating is on an audioclip at the NYTimes link.

As far as I'm concerned it is Rockefeller's name that should be forgotten.

(Names from the excellent downloadable resource "Attica Prison Uprising 101: A Short Primer" from Attica Is All Of Us.) The more you read about the rebellion and its causes and aftermath, the more furious you will be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anti-Americana: From the Mouths of Babes

A child's drawing from Gaza; part of an exhibition that was to have been held by The Museum of Children's Art in Oakland, California, entitled "A Child's View of Gaza." Under protest of pro-Israel lobbyists, the exhibition was cancelled. See no evil and it doesn't exist, apparently. But even the little children of Gaza know where the weapons come from that kill their parents, their siblings, their friends, their relatives. Silence the little children and maybe it will all go away.

Excellent discussion of the shutdown at Democracy Sometimes: "Imagine for a moment that MOCHA were presenting an exhibition of Tibetan children’s art, and supporters of the Chinese government protested that allowing people to see drawings by children who lived under Chinese occupation was anti-Chinese. Not only can I not conceive that MOCHA would cave in to the pressure and cancel the show, but if they did, every human rights and civil liberties organization in town, or in the country, would be screaming foul. In fact, I would bet that the same Jewish organizations who act so decisively and aggressively to shut down anything that might generate sympathy for Palestinians would be among those decrying censorship by pro-Chinese forces."

For more examples of Anti-American art featured here at The Cahokian, click here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 remembered: two images

The elegant "Towers of Light" memorial, from the site of the World Trade Center in New York City, last night. Photo by me.

The chart that says it all. From RT, via Kasama.

Echoes of a Past Life: Dies Irae

This is my 911 story, reposted from last year. I post it here as a ritual contribution to the tenth year anniversary of the tragedy; but I don't think I'll be reposting it every year. The murder of so many innocent people was horrific, but the fact that they were Americans does not make it a more horrific event than the drawn out murder of many thousands more around the world in the decade since. The innocents killed so senselessly in the decade of revenge after 2001 were priceless, multidimensional and unique human beings snuffed out as unjustly as the American officeworkers and firefighters were at the Twin Towers, and it doesn't help to know that many of those killed in the past few years were done so on the questionable claims of American leaders. Whether targets or the obscenely labelled "collateral" deaths: they're just as dead and gone, and their survivors suffer equally. It's time to move on, not from the memories of the treasured souls we lost, but from waving 911 about as though it qualifies American survivors for some kind of uniquely righteous grief. My heart goes out to those who lost relatives, lovers and friends on that day, but if people started seeing the faces of their lost loved ones in the faces of somebody else's lost loved ones taken by American militarism in distant lands, then maybe we'd be further along to preventing future senseless tragedies.

My friend Jim lived uptown, and I lived in Brooklyn. We'd meet up midway between us, often at the World Trade Center. Jim had an entirely questionable fetish for Marvin the Martian and underneath the WTC plaza, near the massive banks of escalators going down to the Path trains was a shop that sold cartoon trinkets like Marvin the Martian figurines. So stopping there was always a plus for him, before walking to Chinatown for lunch or hopping on a Path train to visit a mall in Jersey. I remember seeing a poster for the Windows on the World restaurant, thinking that it would be an awesome place to get a meal. Somehow we never made it there, until, well, it stopped being there; returned to an ethereal spot of empty sky.

On Tuesday, September 11, I walked a couple short blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn to the school where I was going to cast votes in an election primary. God what a beautiful day. Blue sky, warm but not hot. It wasn't a presidential year--that had been a disaster the previous fall--and I don't even remember who I was voting for. I got to the school when I noticed a small handful of people standing on the corner. I asked them what was going on. Prospect Heights wasn't called that for nothing; one of the highest spots in Brooklyn. They pointed and plain as day you could see the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Funny thing, there was smoke coming out of one of them. "It's on fire," someone said. If there was anything in their voice it was doubt and confusion. Such a thing was hard to fathom. How would the fire trucks spray water up so high? "Oh wow my wife works there. I hope she's ok," said a man nervously. Others muttered reassuringly. I went into the school. Turnout was light, of course. When I got out of the school the people were still on the corner. I looked up at the smoke. Strange, I thought.

As I crossed the street out of view of the Manhattan sky I heard loud gasps behind me. Two women had moved their hands to their faces. I walked on, a little more confused, but I didn't want to be late for work. I walked around the corner to the diner to pick up coffee and a roll. I could see smoke drifting in the sky, but couldn't see the towers. When I got to the diner I said to the lady who made me coffee every morning, "Hey look. The World Trade Center is on fire." "Really?" You couldn't really see it from inside. She kinda scrunched down so she could see the sky. "Oh my God, what happened?" She quickly turned on the radio.

I had two more blocks til I reached the subway. At Flatbush Avenue there was a crowd looking across to Manhattan. Hey wait, now there was smoke coming from both towers. That made no sense at all. "What happened?" I asked. "Two small planes crashed into the towers," someone told me. "Somebody must have gone crazy at Newark and got their directions wrong and sent planes into the buildings!" somebody speculated. There was a lot of smoke. You could see a thin line of fire, even at that distance. I didn't want to be late for work so I went down into the subway.

As the train rolled over the Manhattan bridge the motorman or conductor made an announcement. "The World Trade Center is on fire." There were loud cries in the car and people rushed to the windows on the left side of the train. It was a crazy sight. "What happened?" No one could figure it out. The train crossed the bridge and plunged back into the darkness underground.

At Times Square I got out. I came up that secret back stairway by the recruiting center. There was nobody on the street. It was weird. The huge jumbotrons had these strange pictures I didn't understand. It looked like smoke pouring off cascading dust and rubble like liquid. I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. I looked downtown. I saw some smoke, high in the sky. But you could never see the towers from Times Square. I walked the two blocks to work.

I took the elevator up and somebody ran by me, crying. The floor was strangely empty, its energy electric and off-center. I found my boss and some coworkers huddled around a television in a conference room. "The first tower fell!" someone said. "People were jumping!" said another. "Did they say what happened? Somebody in Brooklyn said a flight controller had freaked out." I wanted to know. "Terrorists," somebody said. Somebody ran into the conference room. "There are more planes. Another one hit the Pentagon. They say some are heading this way. They don't know how many more there are. We have to get out of here."

We all paused; picturing the canyons of Times Square beckoning like a giant target to all comers. Even indoors I found myself wanting to look up to scour the sky for approaching danger. I wanted to duck. I went to find one of my coworkers; she was gone already or hadn't come in. My boss rushed by me saying "Oh my God the second tower fell. We have to get out of here. Come to our place." My boss lived near Union Square. It seemed like a very good suggestion. The streets were no longer empty; we met up with his partner on a corner and walked down to the apartment they shared. Although I know for days and days later I had trouble getting television and radio reception, they had cable, and we watched the unfolding story on the television unable to speak much. The towers were gone; it seemed like building after building was being consumed by a huge fire.

I realized I had to go home. The subways had been turned off. We imagined the two subway lines that passed under the towers turned to caverns of rubble. There was no choice but walking. All of Manhattan was emptying out. By the time I reached the Manhattan Bridge I was part of a long column of tired, silent people trudging home. The further south we all walked the more the air was acrid with burning. Some people had congealed smoke on their upper lips. Huge columns of smoke pulsed into the sky below us, but none of us stopped to stare at them. The people were silent but the air was filled with the screams of sirens and the whirl of flashing lights. So many sirens. At the foot of the bridge volunteers had amassed with paper cups from the Red Cross full of fresh, cool, water. When a woman handed me a cup I started to cry. I still have that cup. (The photo above is not my cup. My cup is in a paper bag with newspapers from the days that followed that I can't bear to consider looking at but can't bear to consider throwing away either. This cup photo is from somebody's flickr.) After downing that impossibly delicious liquid, I hung onto that cup across the bridge; and I didn't look back.

Somewhere in downtown Brooklyn the crowd thinned. The streets were oddly calm, no sirens, no rushing about. Somebody said that the subway under Flatbush Avenue was running again, and I went underground and rode the last way home. Once home I checked in with friends and family. Jim was okay, but two of his coworkers had been at a conference at Windows on the World and they were missing. David was okay, but he had watched the whole day from his roof in the East Village. He described roofs full of clots of people all screaming as the towers twisted and fell. I reassured my mom I was okay. Strangely (we had not actually talked in over a decade), I even got email from my father.

In the morning the air smelled of fire. You could see smoke from my tiny bathroom window. A pillar of smoke where you could previously see silver towers. Crazily I went into work. Which was a mess. My department head's brother who worked in the towers was missing. Coworkers were xeroxing flyers with his face on it and dividing up into squads to scour the hospitals. An IT's guys fiancee who worked across the street from the towers had somehow died at her desk. Nobody was working. There was a lot of crying. In the early afternoon all of us who had made the futile attempt to carry on with normality called it a day. We all realized the utter impossibility of faking it, and stayed home til the next Monday.

I remember that week through a daze of tears. What had happened? It made no sense. The papers were filled with unbelievable photos and accounts of what had happened; details burned into my memory that writers had to get off their chests that now we know are better left unspelled out. You'd look at the photos with the tiny falling people, or the ones with figures peering out from the wreckage high in the sky, trying to make out the expression on a tiny doomed face. And then of course you'd cry. I'd be trying to watch TV, the antenna positioned weirdly to get the one channel that worked. I'd start crying. Alone with my thoughts, I'd start crying. I walked over to Park Slope. At the firehouse there the sidewalk was filled with candles and flowers. The air there was so thick with spirits and grief it vibrated; it was like walking through waves. I cried, and turned back. At a local Presbyterian church there was a service, I went in just in time for its ending. I stood by the door, my lips and eyes quivering with coming tears, as a procession of black women dressed as though it were Sunday walked by me, shaking my hands with the softest palms and fingers I have ever felt, sharing a state of grace that brings me back to those tears even in memory. Few words needed to be shared. We all knew what it was about.

Out and about everywhere you went were walls of photos. Faces of the missing, the lost. People were not yet ready to believe all these faces had just vanished into smoke. I went to Union Square in Manhattan. It was filled with candles and flowers and signs and love. And unlike the belligerent voices threatening from the airwaves it was filled with calls for peace. I have never seen it so beautiful. It was such a healing place. I passed by there and paused often til one night they carted it all away. You couldn't go downtown. There was still a pillar of fire. And a terrible chemical-tainted stench. And now metal fences and bars.

I wondered where I would meet up with Jim. Ironically at some point I saw a post-911 photo of the basement of the World Trade Center. It was after the fires had been extinguished but before the ruins were demolished and the pit was cleared out. There was a photo of that underground lobby and the banks of escalators. They were still there. Dead still and empty; dust-covered. But not crushed. Not damaged; somehow the collapsing towers had missed them. They looked pretty much like Jim could have been standing there next to his favorite store window waiting for me to show up.

Months later, before he moved out of town, when meeting up with Jim in the Village, I'd find him stopping and staring into the sky with a puzzled look on his face. "I'm trying to remember," he'd say, "if I could see them from here. Now that they're gone, I can't seem to figure out where they were." And although he had seen the pillars of smoke on his trip home from work and in the days that followed, he had seen the burning towers only on TV. To him, one minute they were there in the background, and then in another, they weren't. Me, I remember details about the streets around the World Trade Center that I realize I'm not sure where they were; even today I can't really register the changed landscape downtown with the one in my memory.

In the days and weeks and months that followed gradually the posters were all taken down. After months of ritually retelling our survival stories, we eventually tired of them. The intimacy felt by strangers on the street eventually faded back into the anonymity favored by us city dwellers. While now "911" tumbles easily off the lips, for at least a year the people I knew just referred to it as The Day, or The Events. To name it seemed casually obscene. To turn what we had been through into a jingoism-tinged catchphrase was unthinkable.

There are those who curl their lips when recalling that day, snarling out vengeance. "Never forget. Never forgive." It's still stencilled on firetrucks and police cars and pickup trucks. Me I don't like those words. Oh I know the terrorists who committed this horrible crime could just have easily been aiming at me. I'm well aware of God's grace and there but for where I might be going. But I'm tired of the rage of 911; tired of that day of wrath, and as tired of the hatred it has spawned as of the hatred that spawned it. I'm tired of seeing American flags pasted and painted on any possible flat space as some kind of chest-thumping passive-aggressive dare. I'm tired of the crimes committed in the name of that Day.

The people who died that day weren't special. They were just regular people going on with their lives. Some were working, some were travelling. Some were just passing by. Some were selflessly doing some very dangerous jobs. But there aren't none of us better than any of the rest. And no amount of killing other regular people thousands of miles away is gonna bring them back or make meaning out of a senseless loss. That "two wrongs don't make a right" cliche? It's actually pretty wise.

It's not my religion, but the hymn "Day of Wrath" resonates:

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!
While the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded
call me with thy saints surrounded.
Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.
Ah ! that day of tears and mourning !
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him !

It's time for a season of mercy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hopefully Just the Beginning

That's a photo from Al Jazeera of one of the Egyptian protesters who last night attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Protesters demolished a wall built by the Egyptian police to protect the embassy; some protesters gained access to the embassy itself and this one has ripped down the hated Zionist banner. Others threw confidential papers and files out the windows. The protesters waged a battle with Egyptian police, and today Israel announced it was pulling its staff out of Cairo. Good riddance. This comes a week after an insulting UN report on last year's Israeli pirate attack on the Gaza peace flotilla and Israel's repeated failure to apologize for assassinating eight unarmed Turkish civilians caused Turkey to expel the Israeli ambassador. Again, good riddance. Turkey and Egypt need to abrogate their treaties with Israel and stop enabling the repression of the Palestinians who they both claim to support.

Palestinian authorities have reaffirmed their intention to bring their case to the United Nations this month, hoping to get the UN general assembly to recognize a Palestinian State. The Obama administration, clinging to its obscene lie that it supports the rights of Palestinians, has continued to threaten to veto any Palestinian moves. Fortunately, the U.S. has no veto power in the general assembly. Obama and the U.S. government support only a Palestinian state that is a powerless, defenseless Apartheid-style bantustan on a tiny speck of historical Palestine. Since the last failure of farcical peace talks, the Zionist regime has gone full-steam ahead with its theft and seizures of Palestinian lands: so-called settlement activity — actually the illegal colonialization of Arab land and property — is at an all-time high and the U.S. is doing absolutely nothing but encouraging it.

It's clear that U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state on the rump territory Israel conquered in 1967 will not solve the fundamental problem of injustice in the region, but perhaps it will give the Palestinians some legal recourse to prevent further erosion of their rights and land. Since they seem to have few real international allies willing to actually use leverage against the State of Israel, they will have to keep doing what they're doing. The Angry Arab printed a photo of a sign at a democracy protest in neighboring Syria that reads: "We shall not forget you, O Palestine but we have been occupied with our blood."

And this is why the U.S. and Europe are so desperate to seize control of the wave of unrest that has been sweeping the Arab world: sooner or later the despots and corrupt leaders who speak out of both sides of their mouths will be gone, and nothing will stand between the obscenity that is the Zionist State of Israel and the people of the region who yearn for freedom and justice and peace.

Yesterday's protest at the Cairo den of spies was a good start.

Update: More great pictures of this historic event at the Occupied Palestine blog.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Something in the Air

To start off the weekend here's my favorite Labelle track: no, it's not the Hoochie Goochie Ya Ya Geee of "Lady Marmalade," it's their awesome early 1970s medley of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and the Pete Townsend/Thunderclap Newman chestnut "Something In The Air." Labelle don't mess with Scott-Heron's lyric (like Dana Bryant did wonderfully in the 1990s), but their exuberant women's perspective changes the mood of the piece quite a bit.

Revolution in the air? If only.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Everything You Need to Know About Tonight's Republican Debate

Tonight's Republican Presidential debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Ronald Reagan is a beloved icon for these Republican candidates. Although their politics are far to the right even of his actual record, they claim to cherish everything he stood for.

This is what he stood for:

"The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment for me was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagans were there sitting next to French President Francois Mitterand and his wife, Danielle. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners Hope quipped, "I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS but she doesn't know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy." As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989 and the Reagan years, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States, and more than 70,000 of them had died."Michael Bronski, The Truth About Reagan, 2003

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Alienation Day!

I was reading Facebook and browsing the internet this morning when I noticed something. Many people were saying great things about today's holiday, Labor Day (what I like to call "fake" Labor Day since everybody knows real labor day is May 1). People were telling stories about their factory-worker parents or grandparents, or talking about the labor battles of the past that gave us this day off along with the forty-hour work week and minimum wage. But you could tell that to most of these people "labor" and "laborers" was something quite outside their vision of themselves. Certainly most of the wonderful and decent people I know are office workers and not factory workers: and it's true most of us do not go home dirtier and sweatier than the subway has made us.

Through some diabolical masterstroke, today's corporate bosses have a huge percentage of this country's workers persuaded that they're not workers, but upwardly mobile career professionals. It's kind of like how sales clerks are today called "sales associates." Associates of what, exactly? While for some working in an office can be a trip up a corporate ladder to reward and responsibility, most people will find themselves eventually reminded that their humanity just doesn't qualify them for continued employment as some mysterious corporate id somewhere reorganizes or reprioritizes them out of a job. Sorry!

It's absolutely alienation in the service of an illusion: if you sit there long enough acting enthusiastic enough and never saying "no," maybe you'll get plucked out of your cubicle, pushed into a corner office, and sent on your road to fortune and retirement. You've made it, baby! Well, as long as you do what you're told and make more money for somebody else than you get to keep for yourself.

Your company might call you an "associate," or even a "manager," or any number of clever titles chosen to provide you with imitation dignity as a substitute for anything you can take to the bank. Oh by the way, we need you to work overtime, the finite hours of your life aren't as important as getting this project done, are they? Thanks! But the company knows who you are: you're just an expendable body.

The company I freelance for is currently eliminating one department — a unionized one, no less. It's being split up and outsourced, half to a non-union shop in the south, and half overseas. The union who is so badly representing these soon to be ex-workers seems to have been caught in a deadly partnership web with management. Appeasement strikes again. Sorry, it's the economy!

I understand that a person has to make the most of working for a living. Being pissed off all the time is no way to spend your days. I don't blame today's "employees" for being optimistic about their chances. Surely the chickens in a coop dare not dwell on the hens that occasionally disappear without driving themselves mad with anxiety. A couple winters ago I visited a wonderful small farm upstate. We stood in a low barn, smelling the rich smells of hay and manure. There was a wonderful, affectionate steer. The farmers introduced us to this magnificent bulky creature. Our hosts laughed warmly, standing around this creature as they discussed how he'd be slaughtered for steaks the next year. The steer mooed, happy in its stall, occasionally searching with its great warm tongue for a taste of people passing by. The steer had a better life than many, I'm sure, outside a factory farm, cared for by people and not machines. And I'm sure he was very delicious. Cause he was, in the end, a steer, raised for his many pounds of meat.

Here's a truly horrifying quote from Matthew Vadum, some kind of wingnut teabagger policy hack: "Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor. It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers." Setting aside, for the moment, the unspoken racist dogwhistling in this comment, it's clear that the corporate bosses and their friends on the right wing are more than ever self-aware of their class destiny and privilege. If there is a problem with the class war in this country is that it is so one-sided: the vast majority of working people are standing on the sidelines thinking that this is all happening to somebody else. Caution: rude awakenings ahead.

But that old saying, "Workers of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains," you know that's talking about you, right? Take a day off. You earned it!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

News from the Malabar Front: Job-Killing Ozone Regulations Halted! Job Creators Applaud! "Air You Can See" Restored!

"As president, I will restore the force of the Clean Air Act. I will fight for continued reductions in smog and soot, and continue my leadership in combating toxins that contribute to air pollution. Unlike President Bush, I will listen to my scientific advisers on air quality standards. And I will reverse the Bush administration's attempts to chip away at our nation's clean air standards and the integrity of our national parks. I will also protect roadless areas in our national lands."
Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, 2008

"The Bush-era EPA's decision was immediately challenged in court.... The legal defensibility of the 2008 decision posed major challenges for the federal government given the strength of the scientific record at that time.... I decided that reconsideration was the appropriate path based on concerns that the 2008 standards were not legally defensible."
— President Obama's EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson, July 13, 2011 on her office's strong recommendation to revamp current ozone/air pollution regulations

"What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it’s the repeal bill that will get a job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America."
— 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann, June 2011

"State and Local Officials Speak Out on President’s Commitment to Clean Air and a Strong Economy

Over the last two and half years the Obama Administration, under the leadership of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, has taken some of the strongest actions since the enactment of the Clean Air Act four decades ago to protect our environment and the health of our families from air pollution.

On Friday, President Obama asked Administrator Jackson to withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time, as work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013....
— bizarrely titled blogpost by "Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs," apparently the most junior possible person to quote, on explaining President Obama's abandonment of new clean air rules

"I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover."
— President Obama, September 2, 2011

"[private-sector job growth] continues to be undermined by the triple threat of higher taxes, more failed ‘stimulus’ spending and excessive federal regulations."
— John Boehner, September 2, 2011

"I would like to say a few words in respect of the various other participants, besides ourselves, in the Munich Agreement. After everything that has been said about the German Chancellor today and in the past, I do feel that the House ought to recognise the difficulty for a man in that position to take back such emphatic declarations as he had already made amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his supporters, and to recognise that in consenting, even though it were only at the last moment, to discuss with the representatives of other Powers those things which he had declared he had already decided once for all, was a real and a substantial contribution on his part."
— British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, October 1938, offering sympathy for all the sacrifices Adolf Hitler had to make in the Bipartisan Munich Agreement. Chamberlain was shortly afterwards out of a job when German tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and later, Poland.