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One with Nineveh

Other Lands Have Dreams

Don't Think of an Elephant

Arlington West the Film
Arlington West

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Hugo Chavez and the failed right-wing coup against him

The War on Truth

Veterans and Military Families for Progress

The Globalization of Poverty

Longview Institute

After Downing Street Dot Org
the lies that took us to war

Stories That Changed America
my review of this book

Third Quarter, 2005

Sun Sep 24

Anti-War Demonstration 9/24 in D.C.

protest photo

Our bus came from Elmhurst, Illinois. The restaurant where we had planned to stop for breakfast a couple hours out of D.C. was full. At the alternate stop, they were already low on supplies when we arrived and busloads of people continued to stream in after us. Around 11 a.m. when we boarded the MetroRail into D.C., the train was full to standing room only on leaving its first stop. A woman from Pittsburgh said there were seventeen buses from her city.

When our group arrived on the Ellipse around 12:30 Saturday afternoon, the crowd already stretched as far as we could see. Speakers with an elevated view told us streets into the area were packed with feeder marches and more still more buses were on the way. We started late, around 1:30, and forty-five minutes into the march we could still see waves of people flooding onto the Ellipse to join in. Because of the density of the crowd, the procession moved very slowly. We walked for three and a half hours, until it was time to head back to our bus, and during that time covered about half the route, a great, boisterous human tide raising our voices against the war.

Photos from our trip are here.

For many of us on the bus, including myself, my daughter, and my grandson, it was our first time in a major protest. People filing back onto the bus were exhausted but exhilarated. I told the group what a great time it had been, then asked how soon could we do this again and got a laugh. We're ready.

Other coverage on the web:

C-Span coverage of speakers at the 9/24 D.C. protest. Anti-War Rally The C-Span info page has more info on speakers and screenshots of them. Also streamable here for a few more days.

Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R. & UFPJ)
Washington, District of Columbia (United States)
ID: 189011 - 09/24/2005 - 3:28 - $39.95
C-Span Tues, 9/27, 2:31 a.m. CDT
File Name: iraq092405_rally.rm
Last Modified: Sun, 25 Sep 2005 16:13:09 GMT
File Size: 262,007,151 Bytes
Title: ANSWER Coalition Rally Against War in Iraq
Duration: 208:34.254

Eugene Puryear (ANSWER)         - 0:02
Virginia Rodino (ANSWER)        - 0:04
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)    - 0:06
Fred Mason (USLAW)              - 0:11
Curtis Muhammad (New Orleans)   - 0:12
Raging Grannies                 - 0:16
Anas Shalal (IAPA)              - 0:20
Allison Budschalow (AFSC)       - 0:23
Leslie Cagan (UFPJ)             - 0:25
Rev. Jesse Jackson              - 0:28
Cindy Sheehan                   - 0:33
Nancy Wolforth (AFL-CIO)        - 0:38
Josh Rubner (End Isrl Occupn)   - 0:41
Evelyn Harris                   - 0:44
Peta Lindsay                    - 0:46
Brian Becker (ANSWER)           - 0:49
Elias Rashmawi                  - 0:54
M.P. George Galloway (RESPECT)  - 0:58
Anita Dennis (soldier's mom)    - 1:03
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard (PCJ)   - 1:06
Ramsey Clark (U.S. atty gen)    - 1:13
Ben Dupuy (Haitian amb.)        - 1:21
Michel Shehadeh (LA8)           - 1:27
Margaret Prescod (KPFA)         - 1:31
Rev. John Thomas (UCC)          - 1:34
Anne Roesler (soldier's mom)    - 1:39
Damu Smith (BVP)                - 1:43
George Martin (UFPJ)            - 1:47
Suheir Hammad (poet)            - 1:51
Muhammed Abed                   - 1:55
Stav Adivi (Israeli refuser)    - 1:59
Virginia Setshedi (S. Africa)   - 2:03
George Friday (UFPJ)            - 2:06
Alexis Devaux (poet)            - 2:08
Gloria La Riva (Cuban 5)        - 2:11
Mahdi Bray (MASF)               - 2:15
Esam Omeish                     - 2:19
Mounzer Sleiman                 - 2:22
Musa Al Hindi (Pal. refugee)    - 2:25
Ralph Nader                     - 2:27
Jessica Lange                   - 2:34
(ann.: 250,000 marchers)        - 2:42
Christine Araquel (Phillipines) - 2:43
Lynne Stewart                   - 2:52
Ibrahim Remy (FoR)              - 2:55
Andy Thayer                     - 2:58

Mon Sep 19

George Galloway Comes to Chicago

galloway photo

I went with my older daughter to see George Galloway in Chicago Monday night. It was a rousing evening. Photos and audio are at traprockpeace. What you don't see from the photos is the gaggle of people outside the building and in the lobby, waving pamphlets and tabloids - socialists, Trotskyists, greens, Tikkun, you name it. For a moment there was a hint of a lively and diverse political left.

Mr. Galloway was in fine form - as the online mp3 audios will show. One point made was the double standard, that Muslim lives do not matter to us as much as the lives of those we consider our fellows. Another was that the attacks of 9/11 did not come out of a clear blue sky, and that we would do well to go after the root cause of the hatred that produced them.

Sun Sep 04

Walking with CodePink

After all the grim news of in the wake of hurricane Katrina, I was not sure what the turnout or mood would be at today's Labor Day parade in Buffalo Grove. As it turned out, the parade was typically flamboyant for a small town and there were plenty of curbside spectators. I was proud to walk with a local contingent of CodePink in support of peace and bringing the troops home now. I believe the Katrina disaster is coupled to the ill-gotten war abroad, and there is more reason than ever for speaking out.

The local parade committee assigned us position #99 of 100, between fleets of trucks from Buffalo Grove Municipal Services and Waste Management Corp. You can see us gathering and choosing our signs in the photo.

parade photo 13

Before the parade started, some of the Buffalo Grove Municipal drivers came over to us and suggested we walk in front of their trucks instead of following them. I will remember that act of kindness whenever I see one of their orange trucks out ploughing the roads.

By the time our group stepped off, there were fifteen of us. I carried a sign that said "Health Care Not Warfare". Our group was cheered several times, and only heckled twice that I know of. One enthusiastic gent shouted his encouragement, that we should bring the National Guard home to Louisiana where their country needs them.

parade photo 20

Does this sort of thing make a difference? I don't have a survey to back me up, but I have to believe it helps to show others that there is a movement afoot for peace and compassion. For those of us in the group, it is energizing to meet kindred spirits, to see new faces at each gathering, and to hear the occasional cheer as we walk the parade route.

Sat Sep 03

New Orleans

New Orleans gives us a chance to see up close the human consequences of corruption and crony capitalism, the same sort of devastation that has been visited on Iraq if only we choose to open our eyes. The excerpt below is from an article published almost one year ago. Highlighting is mine.

September 22, 2004
Disaster in the making
By John Elliston

Among emergency specialists, "mitigation" -- the measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters -- is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs. But since 2001, key federal disaster-mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of postdisaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now communities across the country must compete for predisaster mitigation dollars.

As a result, some state and local emergency managers say, it's become more difficult to get the equipment and funds they need to most effectively deal with disasters. For example, in North Carolina, a state regularly damaged by hurricanes and floods, FEMA recently refused the state's request to buy backup generators for emergency-support facilities. In Louisiana, another state vulnerable to hurricanes, requests for flood-mitigation funds were rejected by FEMA this summer.

Consequently, the residents of these and other disaster-prone states will find the government less able to help them when help is needed most, and both the states and the federal government will be forced to shoulder more recovery costs after disasters strike.

In addition, the White House has pushed for privatization of essential government services, including disaster management, and merged FEMA into DHS, where natural-disaster programs are often sidelined by counterterrorism programs. Along the way, morale at FEMA has plummeted, and many of the agency's most experienced personnel have left for work in other government agencies or private corporations.

In June, Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency's government-employee union, wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency's decay: "Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation's emergency management capability is being eroded. Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors."

The present disaster is an object lesson in neglect of public works to the point of collapse. The Bush administration chose to line the wallets of the rich with relentless tax cuts in time of war. Guess what, the money didn't trickle down to New Orleans in time to save the city.

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.
- Letter from Dwight D. Eisenhower to his brother Edgar, November 8, 1954.

Thu Aug 25

How to Talk to a Conservative

How to Talk to a Conservative was the title of Chuck Crowley's presentation and workshop tonight, hosted by Tenth Congressional District Democrats of Illinois and held at the Northbrook Public Library. Last time I checked the "yes" R.S.V.P. responses on the web, there were three confirmed attendees. But by the time Chuck started, the library auditorium was packed. (Attendance was later reported to be 94.) Chuck's home is with the Warren Township Democrats. He is not a professional speaker but has trained at Camp Wellstone in Milwaukee. He speaks with energy, clarity, and humor.

Below are some notes from the talk he gave. It builds on ideas in George Lakoff's pamphlet Don't Think of an Elephant.

  • When you think of the most powerful persons in history, you see they have been able to

    1. make laws
    2. set the agenda
    3. decide what things are meaningful

  • With framing,

    1. every word evokes a frame
    2. words defined in a frame evoke that frame
    3. negating a frame evokes it (e.g., don't think of an elephant)
    4. evoking a frame reinforces it

  • You can't reframe in a sound bite. One reason Bill Clinton is an effective public speaker is that he doesn't give a simple answer to a hostile question; he takes the time to set an appropriate frame for his response.

  • You can't bridge from one frame to another.

  • A contrast: framing involves using language that fits your world view; it is an art developed with practice that requires rewiring your brain; spin is the use of deceptive language that does not correspond to your world view; it is based on manipulating existing wiring.

After the talk, we broke up into eight discussion groups. Each of us was assigned an issue. For this issue, we were to

  1. pick relevant progressive core values
  2. take a position and explain how that position follows from core values
  3. articulate facts and consequences within this moral framing
  4. define us and them in this frame
  5. put facts/consequences into true and compelling stories

My group's subject was health care. We did not cover all five steps in the time allotted, but made a valiant effort and as a team came up with the following brief statement:

Our progressive values are: fairness, responsibility, compassion, integrity of the family, and dignity of the individual. Based on these values, we advocate community-supported health care. Because we value fairness, we believe that every citizen is entitled to equal access to the same quality of medical care. Because we value responsibility and compassion, we want to create a system that rewards delivery of health care, not denial of health care; we want to create a system that rewards prevention of disease rather than waiting for acute illness to strike. Because we value the integrity of the family and the dignity of the breadwinner, we believe no family should have to face alone the risk of catastrophic medical bills.

Each group selected a speaker who summarized the results - and each speaker was greeted with cheers and applause. Who would have thought participatory democracy could be such fun? I'm hooked.

Sun Aug 21

Palatine Vigil for Cindy Sheehan

On Wednesday, August 17, there were more than 1,600 vigils to support Cindy Sheehan across the country. I attended one in Palatine, Illinois. Wanting a record that the event took place, I took along an old camera and took pictures.

We gathered a little before 7:30 p.m. in front of the Unitarian Church.

vigil photo 4

We lined up along Smith Road, about half the group in front of the church:

vigil photo 13
and the other half on the other side of the street:
vigil photo 26
There was a fair amount of traffic; many drivers honked, waved, and flashed peace signs at us. One disgruntled driver with anti-Durbin signs on his car made two passes along our stretch of Smith road, leaning on his horn the whole time.

At dusk we gathered in a circle for a reading of Cindy Sheehan's letter to George Bush - the text is in the Code Pink book Stop the Next War Now (page 15) or at this link. People began drifting away, and soon there were just a few stragglers holding up their signs and candles in the darkness.

More photos are here. Notes from the Cricket Hill vigil in Chicago are here.

Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that? - Barbara Bush, on Good Morning America, March 2003.

Fri Aug 12

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Notes From DVD Gathering in Naperville

About twenty of us came on the second Friday of the month to a local Unitarian Church for the documentary. A smallish television and tiny portable DVD player sat atop a high rolling cart. The player would occasionally freeze or display boxes of color in the middle of the picture, and the audio rattled and buzzed in the speakers, but the group setting lets us share reactions during the movie and discuss it immediately afterward when impressions are fresh.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised focuses on the period in April, 2002, when Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was briefly deposed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, head of Venezuela's leading business association. It is also a story of the Venezuelan people and their struggle for representation in government and a fair share in the wealth of their nation.

Here are some of the points raised during discussion, presented not as facts per se, but as topics raised in a local discussion group.

  • A pollster was seen on a U.S. financial talk show saying, days before the coup, that investments in Venezuela would be picking up because something exciting, something good, was about to happen.
  • We should be careful about voting on the basis of charisma. Henry Wallace was a progressive who ran against Harry Truman. This was a man with little charisma; you could tell him a joke and he wouldn't get it. We all remember the newspaper headline incorrectly announcing Truman's loss to Dewey of the presidential race. One reason Truman won is that Henry Wallace was there, forcing Truman to move to the left. Many of the progressive initiatives for which Truman was given credit came from Henry Wallace's campaign.
  • The U.S. plane that arrived to take Hugo Chavez away is reminiscent of the abduction of Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide by U.S. forces and the attempt by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and journalist Amy Goodman to return Aristide to his country, an attempt ultimately blocked by then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
  • In Chile, the military supported the oppressive rule of Augusto Pinochet after the assassination of Salvador Allende In contrast, the military of Venezuela has a strong tradition of populist sentiment. In addition, one of the first moves of Chavez in taking office was to double salaries in the military.
  • Venezuela's grassroots workers' councils, the Bolivarian Circles were mentioned in passing in the film. A parallel was drawn with the need in the U.S. for grassroots information network and political structure.

Sat Jul 30

John Bolton Recess Appointment Planned

Bush Plans to Install Bolton By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Administration officials say President Bush is preparing to use constitutional powers rarely employed for major appointments to bypass the Senate and install if only temporarily John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

With Bolton in the UN, Iraq might only be a warm-up for things to come. Listen for example to Scott Ritter on flashpoints (audio only - Ritter is at 15:00 into the program). My paraphrase: Bolton as UN ambassador will sandbag Security Council diplomatic efforts as U.S. complaints against Iran are made increasingly strident. Some of Ritter's analysis is in print at commondreams, but the audio is more specific about the program for Iran.

More about John Bolton:

  • His antipathy to the UN and to multilateralism are well known.

    ... Bolton has served as the Bush administration's designated treaty basher. From the early days of the first Bush administration, Bolton mounted a campaign to halt all international constraints on U.S. power and prerogative, fiercely opposing existing and proposed international treaties restricting landmines, child soldiers, biological weapons, nuclear weapons testing, small arms trade, and missile defense.

  • Bolton lied to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during its deliberation of his nomination as UN ambassador.
  • We have this letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee telling of Bolton's pathological harrassment of USAID subcontractor Melody Townsel.

    Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

  • Bolton was involved in NSA bugging of UN Security Council delegates before the invasion of Iraq.
  • Bolton appears to be linked to the Valerie Plame case. It's hard to be sure, with the Bush administration refusing to release key documents.
  • While a direct connection is not asserted, when considering Bolton as UN ambassador we should remember the alleged suicide of INR official John J. Kokal in November of 2003.

Fri Jul 29

Two Strategic Initiatives

In his watershed pamphlet Don't Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff introduces the term strategic initiative (p. 29), which he defines as a plan in which a change in one carefully chosen issue has automatic effects over many, many, many other issue areas. There are two strategic initiatives we must take on: media reform and election reform.

For media reform, a starting point is freepress.org. For election reform, a starting point is ballotintegrity.org. Use national websites for initial position papers, news updates, and links to related sources. But this is only a start. Nothing will change without the local side, and by my experience the big websites can't help much - grassroots gatherings are absolutely essential. Find a group with similar values to your own. You will be surprised at the mix of skills and backgrounds people bring to these meetings. Share the information you have, and a plan for action will emerge. "Action" can mean raising awareness by organizing public meetings and encouraging attendance, contacting elected officials, helping to select and support candidates for public office, and so on.

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." - G.W. Bush, 9/13/01
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." - G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

Sun Jul 24

Downing Street Minutes - Local Gathering

Saturday was the third anniversary of the meeting from which the Downing Street Minutes were taken. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the several hundred local meetings taking place across the country. We showed a DVD featuring excerpts of John Conyers' remarkable hearing held on June 16 of this year. After the screening, there were three panel speakers from local political and activist organizations and lively discussion from the audience. I would rate the meeting as a great success, disseminating DSM information and providing a potent grassroots antidote to apathy.

Earlier discussion of the Downing Street Minutes on this website is here and here.

"Every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency." - George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Mon Jul 04

Remembering the Pledge of Allegiance

The original Pledge of Allegiance did not have the words "under God" - these words were not added until 1954, during the McCarthy era. The fact is the more surprising because the author, Francis Bellamy, was a Baptist minister. He was also a socialist.

He [Bellamy] considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.
From The Pledge of Allegiance / A Short History, by Dr. John W. Baer. Interesting how it has been altered over the years. I wonder if we are done with it yet.

I guess the following is how the original author intended the pledge:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty, justice, and equality for all.

Prior material is here: Second Quarter, 2005