Saturday, March 31, 2012

Adrienne Rich - A Great Voice is Stilled

From: Portside Moderator [mailto:moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2012 6:19 PM

Adrienne Rich - A Great Voice is Stilled

* Statement by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
* Adrienne Rich accepts the JFREJ risk taker award (2007)
* Transparencies by Adrienne Rich

=====

With deep sorrow, we mourn the passing of Adrienne Rich.
Since the earliest days of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Adrienne
was an unflinching, unconditional supporter of our work. She consistently
reached out on our behalf, bringing attention to the import and impact of
JFREJ, both locally and nationally. Whenever we needed her, Adrienne was
there. As JFREJ grew, Adrienne traveled along with us, supporting the
organization not just through deeds, but through intellectual connection and
analysis. She pushed forward the ideas that pushed forward our work. In
addition to being a visionary for the entire JFREJ community, Adrienne was a
great mentor and friend to many. It is hard to imagine what JFREJ would be
without the support and inspiration of Adrienne Rich.

JFREJ honored Adrienne at the 2007 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker
Awards. Below is the citation presented to her at the ceremony, followed by
Adrienne's acceptance speech. May her memory be for a blessing.

Marjorie Dove Kent
Executive Director
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

http://www.jfrej.org/2012-03-29/jfrej-honors-adrienne-rich-zl


When an artist has become one of the most respected
and admired voices of her generation, it's easy to
think of her as simply "part of the landscape."
Adrienne Rich has never let that happen. She has
been instead a model of engagement, wrestling with
politics as with poetry. From early revelations of
feminism, she yoked racism and sexism, mothering and
revolution, opposing war and occupation, persisting
in the will to change. From refusing the National
Medal of the Arts from then-President Bill Clinton
because, as she said, "the very meaning of art is
incompatible with the cynical politics of this
administration," to nurturing marginalized voices
and diving into the wreckage of history to salvage
new narratives of resistance, Adrienne Rich's every
poem rebuts the assumption that politics is not the
province of poetry. Her work has constantly
interrogated notions of identity , nation, and home,
asking: what does it mean to be a middle class
woman, a white North American, a lesbian Jew, a
Southerner, a citizen in a democracy?

Her successful blending of aesthetics, politics and
erotics has enriched contemporary poetry beyond
measure and strengthened progressive politics in
devastating times. For the unceasing beauty and
power of her art and her activism, her creative
demonstration of the power of art as activism, and
her thrilling model of activism through and beyond
art, JFREJ is honored to present Adrienne Rich with
the 2007 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker Award.

======

Adrienne Rich accepts the JFREJ risk taker award

http://youtu.be/NspKdpvf838

8:27

[Adrienne Rich, Frances Goldin, and Debbie Almontaser at the
2007 Meyer Awards. Click on the link to watch Adrienne's
acceptance speech. http://youtu.be/NspKdpvf838]

This is the place where I realize I am at home, in this company of comrades,
friends and activists. In the presence of so many courageous activists of
the deed and the word, I feel like a minor risk-taker. My admiration for the
legacy of Rabbi Marshall Meyer and the work of JFREJ has been strong and
deep. I live in California but I count myself a member of JFREJ in diaspora.
I also have enormous admiration for the courageous self-organizing people
with whom JFREJ makes common cause in this city. So it's not just a figure
of speech to say that I am truly honored to be here, in the company of
NYCAHN, Debbie Almontaser, and the incomparable Frances Goldin. Accepting
this award has made me ponder the word "risk." And the concept of safety,
which lies behind it, and which has become an American mantra. The idea that
safety is a commodity some can buy for themselves and their children,
regardless of who else lives at risk. Safety and security. The debased
currency for which we're urged to sell our mental clarity, the facts of
history, our political imaginations, our possible solidarity with others.
JFREJ has seen past these deceptions and struggles to re-affirm and
reinvigorate the phrase "Tikkun Olam", and the phrase "New York Jews." I
thank you, with all my heart....

[listen to full speech and reading of two poems, the first by Audre Lorde,
and then her poem, Transparencies -
http://youtu.be/NspKdpvf838 ]

======

Transparencies

That the meek word like the righteous word can bully that an Israeli soldier
interviewed years after the first intifada could mourn on camera what under
orders he did, saw done, did not refuse that another leaving Beit Jala could
scrawl
on a wall: We are truely sorry for the mess we made
is merely routine word that would cancel deed
That human equals innocent and guilty
That we grasp for innocence whether or no
is elementary That words can translate into broken bones
That the power to hurl words is a weapon That the body can be a weapon
any child on playground knows That asked your favorite
word
in a game you always named a thing,
a quality, freedom or river (never a pronoun, never God or War)

is taken for granted That word and body
are all we have to lay on the line
That words are windowpanes in a ransacked hut, smeared by time's dirty
rains, we might argue likewise that words are clear as glass till the sun
strikes it blinding

But that in a dark windowpane you have seen your face That when you wipe
your glasses the text grows clearer That the sound of crunching glass comes
at the height of the
wedding That I can look
through glass into my neighbor's house but not my neighbor's life That glass
is sometimes broken to save lives That a word can be crushed like a goblet
underfoot is only what it seems, part question, part answer: how
you live it.

==========

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Frank Rich: Why the Supreme Court Can Only Help Obama, E.J. Dionne: Activist Judges On Trial

From: earthactionnetwork@earthlink.net [mailto:earthactionnetwork@earthlink.net
 
http://www.readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/61- 61/10691-why-the-supreme-court-can-only-help-obama

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Why the Supreme Court Can Only Help Obama

By Frank Rich


If the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare, how does Obama respond?

Just keep moving. The decision is scheduled to come down in June. The election will be more than four months away — an eternity in politics.

But everyone says the Affordable Care Act is Obama’s signature achievement so far. How can he just walk away?

He can take credit for the provisions that Americans love: coverage for the young up to age 26 on their parents’ policies; lowered drug costs for the elderly; and, most of all, the ban on insurance companies either raising premiums or denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions. He can also point out that the Romney- Ryan budget will maim Medicare, another hugely popular health- care provision created by Democrats.

The popular parts of the health-care law could be unsustainable if the Court strikes down the mandate, however. Premiums will skyrocket.

By then it will be 2014, and, as James Carville correctly pointed out this week, the GOP “will own the healthcare system for the foreseeable future.” The Democrats can heap the blame for rising costs and every other health-care ill on the Republicans, who to this day have not offered a plausible alternative to Obamacare. Indeed, Carville argues that a court decision against Obama “will be the best thing that has ever happened to the Democratic Party.” That’s hyperbole, but he’s onto something.

Then where does that leave Romney? Can he Etch A Sketch away from his own support of an individual mandate?

Rick Santorum is right about at least one thing: Romney is the worst possible Republican candidate to debate Obama about health care. If the mandate survives in court, and the GOP base goes ballistic, the Democrats can keep reminding voters that Romney was “the godfather” of the mandate (as David Plouffe put it last weekend) in Massachusetts and can keep replaying that “I like mandates” Romney clip from that 2008 GOP debate. But it gets even worse for Mitt. He revealed (in a Tuesday night interview with Jay Leno, yet) that he is even against the Obamacare provision favored by 85 percent of the public, according to a recent poll — the requirement that insurance companies cover those who are already sick. Here’s how Romney put it to Jay: “If they are 45 years old and they show up and say I want insurance because I have heart disease, it's like, hey guys — we can't play the game like that.” Turns out he has no more empathy for that middle-aged man with heart disease than he does for the workers he shredded in his lucrative games at Bain.

So who would a repeal of Obamacare hurt most?

The biggest victims will be the some 30 million Americans who have no health insurance. The rest of us, who one way or another will keep picking up the bill for their medical care, will also pay a price. In the political arena, the court’s decision, up or down, is a win-win for Obama and a lose-lose for Romney, who at this late date hasn’t figured out how to answer health-care questions on the Tonight Show, let alone in a debate with the president.

The Obama administration pushed to get this case on the docket before the election. Are they going to regret that?

For all the reasons above, no. It was a shrewd move. Whatever happens, it diffuses the issue well before November 6.

--------


Activist Judges On Trial
March 28th, 2012 by E.J. Dionne

WASHINGTON — Three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health care law demonstrated for all to see that conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature, diving deeply into policy details as if they were members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senator, excuse me, Justice Samuel Alito quoted Congressional Budget Office figures on Tuesday to talk about the insurance costs of the young. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts sounded like the House whip in discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell. He noted that without various provisions, Congress “wouldn’t have been able to put together, cobble together, the votes to get it through.” Tell me again, was this a courtroom or a lobbyist’s office?

It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called “judicial activists,” remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.

Justice Stephen Breyer noted that some of the issues raised by opponents of the law were about “the merits of the bill,” a proper concern of Congress, not the courts. And in arguing for restraint, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship.

The conservative justices were obsessed with weird hypotheticals. If the federal government could make you buy health insurance, might it require you to buy broccoli, health club memberships, cellphones, burial services and cars? All of which have nothing to do with an uninsured person getting expensive treatment that others — often taxpayers — have to pay for.

Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.

The irony is that if the court’s conservatives overthrow the mandate, they will hasten the arrival of a more government-heavy system. Justice Anthony Kennedy even hinted that it might be more “honest” if government simply used “the tax power to raise revenue and to just have a national health service, single-payer.” Remember those words.

One of the most astonishing arguments came from Roberts, who spoke with alarm that people would be required to purchase coverage for issues they might never confront. He specifically cited “pediatric services” and “maternity services.”

Well, yes, men pay to cover maternity services while women pay for treating prostate problems. It’s called health insurance. Would it be better to segregate the insurance market along gender lines?

The court’s right-wing justices seemed to forget that the best argument for the individual mandate was made in 1989 by a respected conservative, the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler.

“If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street,” Butler said, “Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services — even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab. A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract.”

Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to reject the sense of solidarity that Butler embraced. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli explained that “we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care,” Scalia replied cooly: “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that.” Does this mean letting Butler’s uninsured guy die?

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick called attention to this exchange and was eloquent in describing its meaning. “This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms,” Lithwick wrote. “It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another … the freedom to ignore the injured” and to “walk away from those in peril.”

This is what conservative justices will do if they strike down or cripple the health care law. And a court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United will prove conclusively that it sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws. A Supreme Court that is supposed to give us justice will instead deliver ideology.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.

(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Patrick Cockburn: The true price of Egypt's freedom, Gloria Steinem: Last chance to sign before we deliver to Michelle

From: Gloria Steinem [mailto:info@codepink.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2012 6:07 AM

Dear Friend,

Tomorrow, Friday, we have an opportunity to hand-deliver CODEPINK's Women Say No War on Iran petition to First Lady Michelle Obama. Will your name be on it?

If you haven't signed yet, please
sign this petition today. Help it grow to 20,000 signatures by sharing it with your friends.

Before the U.S. military attacked Iraq, I joined many activists, writers and artists in signing a call opposing a preemptive military invasion of Iraq. We feared such a war would increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world. Our fears turned out to be right.

Once again, we are calling on
people around the country to stop another devastating war, this time on Iran. We are especially calling on women, not to add a burden, but because, as we've seen from from Ireland to Liberia, women often have a peacemaking advantage: we're less likely to be raised with the culturally "masculine" idea that dominance and violence are inevitable. Let's hope that this time, our government listens.

Please
join us us as we call on three powerful American women who can make a difference -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice and First Lady Michelle Obama -- and as we take on this responsibility ourselves.

Once you sign, you can
share the petition, tweet it and post it to your facebook. Wear a Peace with Iran tee. And make a donation to further CODEPINK's important work to prevent an attack on Iran.

with friendship -- and hope,
Gloria Steinem

PS: This petition is being organized by CODEPINK in solidarity with Iranian and Israeli women.
Please sign today.

* * * 
 
 
The true price of Egypt's freedom
 
Mubarak is long gone – but in place of brutality and cronyism, fear of crime and poverty have soared. In Cairo, Patrick Cockburn finds a nation on a knife-edge
 
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent/UK: Tuesday, 27 March 2012
 
Cairo
It is a gun battle people in the Shubra district in central Cairo still talk about six months after it happened. In a dispute over a piece of land he had seized amid the small shops and densely crowded streets, Mohammed Shaban, who had escaped from prison during the revolution, challenged the police to a fight. He told one policeman who tried to evict him "to get out or we will kill you". When other police arrived, two of them were wounded by gunshots and Shaban was killed along with a local plumber, shot dead by police who mistook him for a gunman.
 
"Mohammed Shaban's family consider him a martyr but nobody else around here does," says Abu Hatem, a taxi driver living in Shubra. Not far away is the prison and police headquarters, a large, shabby, cream-coloured building with steel bars outside the windows and metal plates on the inside, pierced by a single hole through which a rifle can be fired. The prison was burned on 28 January last year by prisoners like Shaban and their relatives at the height of the Egyptian uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. The prisoners seized arms and the police fled from Shubra, but have since returned.
 
The story of the death of Shaban is one of several told by people in Shubra as an example of increased violence in Egypt since the revolution. One man who went to the police to report the kidnap of his child was told by a policeman that "10 other children have been seized and are being held for ransom". Car theft has become common. Many taxi drivers say they no longer dare to work at night.
Yet these tales of Egypt sinking into chaos are deceptive. There is more crime in Cairo than before the revolution because the police have been discredited by their corruption and brutality, can no longer act with impunity and often refuse to act at all. Poverty has increased in a city of 20 million people, a third of whom already lived in slums, so more will steal to survive.
 
The surprise is not that there is so much violence, but that there is so little. In Shubra people are frightened of chaos and criminality, but examples of violence like Mohammed Shaban's shoot-out are still uncommon in a district into which are packed no less than three million Muslims and Copts.
 
Local people can point to only two shops looted during the revolution when the police disappeared from the streets. At one of them, selling beer and wine and called "Drinkies", the owner said they lost their stock but were otherwise unharmed.
 
The increased fear of violence is in part psychological because Egyptian society is not used to it, says Magda Kandil, executive director of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES), and while there is more crime, "it is mostly about theft – 20,000 cars have been stolen". The only place where there has been a general breakdown of order is in north Sinai where armed Bedouin carry out kidnappings and killings.
 
Compared to most Arab uprisings last year, such as those in Libya, Yemen and Syria, political violence in Egypt has been moderate. "Looked at historically this has been a remarkably peaceful revolution so far," says Professor Khaled Fahmy, head of the history department at the American University in Cairo. "There has been no bloodbath." But he adds that Scaf (The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), the ruling authority over the last year, has encouraged an exaggerated perception of insecurity in order to blame the revolutionaries for increasing crime and a faltering economy.
 
At street level, going by what happened in Shubra, these tactics are having some success and the return of the police is generally welcomed. Abu Hatem says that the police are chastened and no longer plant drugs on suspects as they used to. He says one reason the police fled so fast during the revolution was that "the lower ranking police officers were afraid to appear in the streets because they believed people they had falsely accused might kill them".
 
In the longer term, it may prove impossible for the army and police to restore the monopoly of power they enjoyed under the old regime. Egyptians retain a strong sense of hierarchy but power is fragmenting and the state is no longer absolute. The Interior Ministry in Cairo used to vet the promotion of everybody from judges to journalists. Even favourable mentions of the army in the press had to receive official permission.
 
But Cairo today is full of signs that this culture of subjugation is eroding. The street in which stands the enormous Interior Ministry building is sealed off by barbed wire and paramilitary police backed by armoured cars. But at one end of the street former policemen sacked last year were this week demonstrating to get their jobs back and chanting: "Ministry of the Interior, we are your children, we are not thieves." The Maspero building, where much of the state media is based, is ringed by barbed wire and defended by soldiers with machine guns, but this week its ground floor had been taken over by 600 striking engineers demanding higher pay.
 
The activists who packed Tahrir Square a year ago are dispirited and speak of the triumph of the counter-revolution. They fear that the army, police and intelligence services are re-establishing their authority. But power in post-Mubarak Egypt is divided and may become more so. The Muslim Brotherhood and military, who would like to keep a supervisory role, are engaged in a long-term struggle.
 
Everybody wants the revolution to improve their lives. Cairo bus drivers are on strike and have plenty to complain of. At the Moneib bus depot, Khalaf Sadk says: "I've worked on the buses for 16 years and I get 600 Egyptian pounds (£63) a month for working an eight- to 10-hour day." Often he is unable to complete his route because of traffic jams and engine failure on his decrepit bus. Another striker, Khalaf Abdul Kadr, says the Public Transport Authority "has no respect for its employees or their needs".
 
There is a deep cynicism about the motives and actions of the state among most Egyptians. For instance, there is a foot-and-mouth epidemic among cattle in Egypt, but butchers in Cairo believe that officials are exaggerating its extent because they stand to make money from a rise in the price of chicken and fish. Professor Fahmy says: "I think we are seeing a revolt against the modern Egyptian state system which was always against the welfare of Egyptians."
 
The political struggle means that none of the centres for power are really in charge or capable of taking important decisions. And this is at a moment when the Egyptian economy is teetering on the edge of crisis. Magda Kandil at the ECES sees the economic prospects as "dismal". She blames the authorities for pursuing populist policies, such as raising wages for state workers and stoking inflation. Central Bank reserves have fallen by more than half "and waves of capital outflow could be of the magnitude of $12bn". The government has been locked in negotiations with the IMF for a $3.2bn loan on which further aid from the Gulf oil states depends.
 
The Egyptian state machine is vast but dysfunctional at every level. Education and healthcare are inadequate and under-funded. A quarter of Egypt's 85 million people live in shanty towns. One-third of the government's budget is spent on subsidies, mostly for fuel, which benefit the better-off. Cheap gasoline means the streets are choked with traffic. Bottled butane gas used for cooking by the poor is heavily subsidised but subsidies are almost all siphoned off by middle men.
 
The authority of the Egyptian military and police will ebb unless they stage a coup which appears unlikely. But, even if they are edged out of power, it will take a long time to reconstruct the country they ruined during their 60-year-long rule.
 

Robert Scheer: Five Hypocrites and One Bad Plan

Hi.  Robert Scheer wrote columns for the LA Times for over a decade, and with the same insicive, compelling and essestial journalism as you see it here.  He's done the same since his Rampart days in the 1960's.  He's asked me to remind people that Truthdig pays its columnists well, and they deserve it.  He thought I might send you an opening parragrash and ask you to click on the URL for the continuation, as well as their ongoing pitch for subs and funding.  I told him I'd try to keep my style, and make a pitch for funding, and here it is.  If you value what he writes and does, and what I send you, I urge you to do just that.  Please.
Ed
 
 
Five Hypocrites and One Bad Plan
 
Truthdig: March 29, 2012

The Supreme Court is so full of it. The entire institution, as well as its sanctimonious judges themselves, reeks of a time-honored hypocrisy steeped in the arrogance that justice is served by unaccountable elitism.

My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable. The laughter noted in the court transcription that greeted the prospect of millions of the uninsured suddenly being deprived of already extended protection under the now threatened law was unconscionable. The Republican justices seem determined to strike down not only the mandate but also the entire package of accompanying health care rights because of the likelihood that, without an individual mandate, tax revenue will be needed to extend insurance coverage to those who cannot afford it.

The conservative justices, in their eagerness to reject all of this much needed reform, offer the deeply cynical justification that a new Congress will easily come up with a better plan—despite decades of congressional failure to address what is arguably the nation’s most pressing issue. In their passion to embarrass this president, the self-proclaimed constitutional purists on the court went so far as to equate a mandate to obtain health care coverage with an unconstitutional deprivation of freedom; to make the connection they cited the spirit of a document that once condoned slavery.

These purists have no trouble finding in that same sacred text a license for the federal government to order the young to wage undeclared wars abroad, to gut due process and First Amendment protections, and embrace torture, rendition and assassination, even of U.S. citizens.

Now they hide behind the commerce clause of the Constitution to argue that the federal government cannot regulate health care coverage because that violates the sacrosanct principle of states’ rights. If the right-wingers on the high court consistently had a narrow interpretation of federal power over the economy, there would be logic to the position expressed by the Republican justices during the last three days of questioning. Of course, the court’s apparent majority on this has shown no such consistency and has intervened aggressively, as did the justices’ ideological predecessors, to deny the states the power to protect consumers, workers and homeowners against the greed of large corporations.

We would not be in the midst of the most severe economic meltdown since the Great Depression had the courts not interpreted the commerce clause as protecting powerful national corporations from accountability to state governments. Just look at the difficulty that a coalition of state attorneys general has faced in attempting to hold the largest banks responsible for their avarice in the housing disaster.

The modern Supreme Court has allowed the federal government to pre-empt the states’ power to protect homeowners, whose mortgage agreements were traditionally a matter of local regulation and registration. The court has no problem accepting Congress’ grant of a legal exemption in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that allows the bundling of home mortgages into unregulated derivatives.

The court has vitiated the power of the states to control interest rates, even though quite a few had explicit provisions in their constitutions banning usury. The result is that loan-sharking by banks that can claim to be engaged in interstate commerce is constitutionally protected, which is why there are no limits on mortgage, credit card or personal loan interest rates.

The sad truth is that President Obama and the Democrats brought this potential judicial disaster upon themselves. In light of what has been said this week in the Supreme Court, it seems inevitable that the linchpin of the 2010 reform—mandated coverage—will be thrown out, probably along with the crucial accompanying reforms. Forget coverage for the young and those with pre-existing medical conditions. The Democrats will protect themselves from this reversal by arguing that all they did was copy the program that this year’s prospective Republican presidential candidate implemented when he was the governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney’s plan included the dreaded mandate that he and the Republican justices condemn.

How ironic that Barack Obama’s health care agenda would be in a far stronger legal position had the president stuck by his earlier support of a public option. Clearly, our federal government has the judicially affirmed power under our Constitution to use public revenues to provide a needed public service, be it education, national security, retirement insurance or health care. Obama’s health care reform should have simply extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all who wanted and needed it—no individual mandate—while allowing others to opt out for private insurance coverage. That’s an obvious constitutional solution that even those die-hard Republican justices would have a difficult time overturning.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s new book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”


Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Glen Ford: The U.S. Empire's Achilles Heel,

 
 
Published on Saturday, March 17, 2012 by Black Agenda Report

The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism

The latest atrocities in Afghanistan are just par for the course.

The American atrocities in Afghanistan roll on like a drumbeat from hell. With every affront to the human and national dignity of the Afghan people, the corporate media feign shock and quickly conclude that a few bad apples are responsible for U.S. crimes, that it’s all a mistake and misunderstanding, rather than the logical result of a larger crime: America’s attempt to dominate the world by force. But even so, with the highest paid and best trained military in the world – a force equipped with the weapons and communications gear to exercise the highest standards of control known to any military in history – one would think that commanders could keep their troops from making videos of urinating on dead men, or burning holy books, or letting loose homicidal maniacs on helpless villagers.

These three latest atrocities have brought the U.S. occupation the point of crisis – hopefully, a terminal one. But the whole war has been one atrocity after another, from the very beginning, when the high-tech superpower demonstrated the uncanny ability to track down and incinerate whole Afghan wedding parties – not just once, but repeatedly. Quite clearly, to the Americans, these people have never been more than ants on the ground, to be exterminated at will.

The Afghans, including those on the U.S. payroll, repeatedly use the word “disrespect” to describe American behavior. But honest people back here in the belly of the beast know that the more accurate term is racism. The United States cannot help but be a serial abuser of the rights of the people it occupies, especially those who are thought of as non-white, because it is a thoroughly racist nation. A superpower military allows them to act out this characteristic with impunity.

American racism allows its citizens to imagine that they are doing the people of Pakistan a favor, by sending drones to deal death without warning from the skies. The U.S. calls Pakistan an ally, when polls consistently show that its people harbor more hatred and fear of the U.S. than any other people in the world. The Pakistanis know the U.S. long propped up their military dictators, and then threatened to blow the country to Kingdom Come after 9/ll, if the U.S. military wasn’t given free rein. They know they are viewed collectively as less than human by the powers in Washington – and, if they don’t call it racism, we should, because we know our fellow Americans very well.

The U.S. lost any hope of leaving a residual military force in Iraq when it showed the utterly racist disrespect of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, the savage leveling of Fallujah, the massacres in Haditha and so many other places well known to Iraqis, if not the American public, and the slaughter of 17 civilians stuck at a traffic circle in Nisour Square, Baghdad. What people would agree to allow such armed savages to remain in their country if given a choice?

The United States was conceived as an empire built on the labor of Blacks and the land of dead natives, an ever-expanding sphere of exploitation and plunder – energized by an abiding and general racism that is, itself, the main obstacle to establishing a lasting American anti-war movement. But, despite the peace movement’s weaknesses, the people of a world under siege by the Americans will in due time kick them out – because to live under barbarian racists is not a human option.

 

Act Now for the Budget for All! + Jeff Cohen, on Norman Solomon

 
 
 From: Tim Carpenter for PDA [mailto:info@pdamerica.org]
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 5:58 PM
Subject: Act Now for the Budget for All!


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We Need the "Budget for All"

Dear Ed,

This budget would quickly and safely bring our troops home, create jobs, close wasteful loopholes, unleash creativity, as well as invest in our people and infrastructure--all while reducing the deficit and debt over 10 years! The radical Ryan Plan threatens our precarious economic recovery by slashing essential programs, yet offers no deficit reduction. Administration proposals are a step in the right direction, but don't do enough.

Tell your Representative to vote for the "Budget for All"

The CPC "Budget for All" reflects our values
"Americans believe, and experts agree, that the solution to our debt and deficit woes should rely on three components: Job growth, increased revenues, and spending cuts. The Budget for All relies on all three. Government is not the panacea for the issues that we face, but it is not the singular cause of our nation's strife as some would suggest. Our budget is a plan for those that believe in a government that works for them and helps find solutions [and invests] in Job Creation Now and Lays the Foundation for the Future by focusing investments ... in targeted areas such as transportation infrastructure, domestic manufacturing, and small businesses innovation, while supporting tax credits for working families." (See: the "Budget for All").

Tell your elected officials the "Budget for All" would:

  • End emergency war funding beginning in FY '14, reduce base discretionary defense spending.
  • Bring our troops home and realign national security strategy, saving $1.1 trillion over 10 years.
  • Invest $2.9 trillion in jobs, manufacturing, alternative energy, entrepreneurs and small business.
  • Let Bush-era tax cuts expire for the highest incomes in '12, enact a high net-worth surcharge.
  • Treat capital gains and qualified dividends as ordinary income.
  • Limit regressive itemized deductions for high earners.
  • End corporate welfare, establish accountability to discourage--not subsidize--harmful activity.
  • Reduce deficits $6.8 trillion, cut spending $749 billion, reduce debt to 62.3% of GDP by '22.
  • Much more! (See the "Budget for All" for more details and rationale.)

Tell your Representative and Senators to vote for and support the "Budget for All!"

Please join us! Tell your Representative and your Senators that we need strong leadership and smart solutions to get America moving again. We need the "Budget for All."

Use this link to tell your elected officials to vote for and actively support the "Budget for All." Then, please share this alert with all your friends and contacts.

Thank you!

For peace, justice, and prosperity for all,


Tim Carpenter and Andrea Miller
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Thom Hartmann
Radio/Televesion Host/Writer
Advisory  Board  Member Progressive Democrats of  America (PDA) 

Reverend Jesse Jackson
Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Jim Hightower
Radio Host/PDA Advisory Board member

Norman Solomon
National  Co-Chair Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign

Tom Hayden
Peace and Justice Resource Center, Culver City

Michael Eisenscher
US Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Rusti Eisenberg and Gael Murphy
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ)

Mike Prokosch
New Priorities Project

David Swanson
WarIsACrime.org

Jeff Cohen
Co-Founder Roots Action

Howie Klein
Blue America

 

* * *
From: Jeff Cohen [mailto:jeffco@hvc.rr.com]
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012 2:00 PM
Subject: Am I moving to California? (please forward)

Ten days ago, I was back in California helping Norman Solomon’s campaign for Congress. It felt like home. If Norman – who helped me launch FAIR – wins this open seat in a VERY PROGRESSIVE DISTRICT on California’s beautiful North Coast, I may well move there.

Please help him win. The primary is June 5 (voting-by-mail starts early May.)

When I last emailed you, I was urging you to vote online for Norman in the national straw poll of 200 liberal/progressive congressional candidates. It was a big success. HE CAME IN 2nd – winning the endorsement of Democracy for America, volunteer help and thousands in donations. The outpouring of support was a testament to his lifelong activism/advocacy for peace and justice.

Norman’s campaign keeps growing – 900 volunteers, nearly 4,200 individual donors. And he was just endorsed by SEIU California, the only non-elected official in the race to be endorsed by the powerful union.

For a grassroots/small donor campaign, Norman is closing in on an impressive $500,000 in donations.

HELP HIM REACH HIS GOAL by donating here.

Norman needs the funds for voter outreach. He is up against two corporate-connected Democrats who can raise a million dollars each, and buy up TV and radio. But Norman’s strong ground game can defeat their air game -- just as progressive Paul Wellstone did when he entered the U.S. Senate after being outspent 7 to 1.

If you have friends or relatives who live in the sprawling district that stretches along California’s coast from Marin County to the Oregon border, urge them to vote for Norman and join his army of volunteers.

Whenever I’m in Vermont I feel at home . . . because I’m among voters who’ve so wisely sent the great Bernie Sanders to Congress for two decades. (After hearing Norman speak, Congressman Mike Honda called him “a young Bernie Sanders.”)

When I’m on California’s North Coast, I want to have that same feeling. With Norman in Congress, that beautiful area will also feel like liberated territory.

--Jeff Cohen

PS. If you’ve already donated, please give a little bit more by March 31. That’s the last fundraising filing deadline before the primary, and Norman needs to show strength. His campaign website is here.

 

 
 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Robert Scheer: Voters Have Two Candidates, No Choice, Florida's Disastrous Self-Defense Law

 
 
Voters Have Two Candidates, No Choice

By Robert Scheer

Truthdig: March 22, 2012

With Mitt Romney's super-PAC limo now on cruise control to victory at the GOP convention, voters are left with only two reasons to vote against Barack Obama: Either they are desperate to return a white man to the White House or they feel strongly that it is time to break the glass ceiling denying Mormons the presidency.

Out of a sense of tolerance I could cotton to the latter—heck, why should the bizarre beliefs of Romney's church be a deal breaker? I'm hoping for a strong Jewish contender someday and wouldn't like her burdened with defending Old Testament claptrap.

The problem in this mind-numbing Republican primary season is that the campaign has exposed Romney as not just another white male Mormon like some of the fairly reasonable senators who have represented Utah. Or like Romney's own father, George, at one time the governor of Michigan. No, this Romney is now widely regarded as the vulture capitalist he is, a politician who is a say-and-do-anything opportunist with no moral limits on his outsized ambitions.

Nothing is sacred to the former Massachusetts governor, not even his own signature health plan that he sold to that state's voters as the standard for rational government decision-making as regards the deep problems faced by our economy. The weaknesses of what Romney and the GOP deride as Obamacare have been all too obvious in the plan Romney touted in Massachusetts—a mandate to sign up without the cost restraints that a single-payer government program would offer. Now, with a new national plan from Rep. Paul Ryan emerging from the U.S. House, Romney and the Republican Party generally seek to compound that error by undermining Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that offer at least a modicum of cost control. Instead, the candidate and his fellow Republicans would turn consumers over completely to the tender mercies of for-profit insurers.

The justification for gutting what little remains of enlightened government programs to aid the vulnerable is, of course, the dreaded federal deficit. (Lest we forget, seniors were foremost among the vulnerable until the arrival of the programs now under attack.) What is so outrageously hypocritical about the proposals from both Romney and Ryan is that they do not touch, and indeed would further open, the spending spigot that caused all of the red ink following President Bill Clinton's budget-balancing act.

Both Romney and Ryan want to increase President George W. Bush's tax breaks for the wealthy, which seriously cut revenues while treating as sacrosanct the Cold War levels in military spending that Bush put in place in a wildly irrational response to the 9/11 attacks. This week Ryan announced that defense spending is off-limits, and Romney has campaigned for an increase in what represents more than 40 percent of the non-mandated federal budget.

I can't wait for the moment in a presidential debate when Romney talks about the need for even more advanced U.S. weaponry to counter the emerging military threat from Communist China and Obama ever so coolly points out that Bain Capital, the company that Romney co-founded, has been supplying those Red tyrants with surveillance equipment to better monitor their citizenry.

With Ron Paul's fortunes as a presidential candidate declining, there is no pressure on GOP leaders to link a withdrawal from the imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan with a reduced federal handout to the military-industrial complex. Nor will the Republican leadership confront the party's responsibility for the nation's economic collapse, the subsequent loss in tax revenues, and the Fed and Treasury policies that bailed out the Wall Street charlatans who invented this meltdown.

Instead of reigning in Wall Street greed, the GOP is demanding a reversal of even the tepid efforts of the Obama administration to hold the financial industry accountable to honest business practices. And, at a time when the largest multinational companies have shifted jobs and profits abroad, the GOP stands for rewarding that betrayal of American workers by eliminating all taxes on overseas corporate profits.

The pity in all this is that a legitimate critique of the Obama record—present to some degree in the Paul dissection of the president's war policy and his continuation of the Bush Wall Street bailout strategy—will not be heard in the general election debate. Instead, on the one hand, we will have Obama offering clever-sounding arguments for establishment policies that fail to deal with high unemployment, a brutal level of housing foreclosures and sharpening income inequality. And on the other hand there will be a Republican Party so steeped in the ethos of greed, racism and war-mongering that it would leave even Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, were they alive, with no choice but to vote for Obama as the lesser evil.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer's new book,
"The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street."


Keep up with Robert Scheer's latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.

* * *

Florida's Disastrous Self-Defense Law

by John F. Timoney

John F. Timoney is a former Miami police chief, Philadelphia police commissioner and deputy police commissioner in New York. He is now senior police adviser to the Bahrain Minister of the Interior.

March 23, 2012, Manama, Bahrain

The very public controversy surrounding the killing on Feb. 26 of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, by a crime watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, was predictable.

In fact, I, along with other Florida chiefs of police, said so in a letter to the Legislature in 2005 when we opposed the passage of a law that not only enshrined the doctrine of "your home is your castle" but took this doctrine into the public square and added a new concept called "stand your ground."

Use-of-force issues arose often during my 41-year policing career. In fact, officer-involved shootings were the No. 1 problem when I became Miami's police chief in January 2003. But after we put in place new policies and training, officers went 20 months without discharging a single bullet at a person, while arrests increased over 30 percent.

Trying to control shootings by members of a well-trained and disciplined police department is a daunting enough task. Laws like "stand your ground" give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability. It is a recipe for disaster.

At the time the Florida law was working its way through the Legislature, proponents argued that a homeowner should have the absolute right to defend himself and his home against an intruder and should not have to worry about the legal consequences if he killed someone. Proponents also maintained that there should be no judicial review of such a shooting.

But I pointed out at the time that even a police officer is held to account for every single bullet he or she discharges, so why should a private citizen be given more rights when it came to using deadly physical force? I also asked the bill's sponsor, State Representative Dennis K. Baxley, to point to any case in Florida where a homeowner had been indicted or arrested as a result of "defending his castle." He could not come up with a single one.

The only thing that is worse than a bad law is an unnecessary law. Clearly, this was the case here.

The second part of the law -- "stand your ground" -- is the most problematic. Until 2005, in all 50 states, the law on the use of force for civilians was pretty simple. If you found yourself in a situation where you felt threatened but could safely retreat, you had the duty to do so. (A police officer does not have the duty to retreat; that is the distinction between a sworn police officer and the average citizen regarding use of force.)

Police officers are trained to de-escalate highly charged encounters with aggressive people, using deadly force as a last resort. Citizens, on the other hand, may act from emotion and perceived threats. But "stand your ground" gives citizens the right to use force in public if they feel threatened. As the law emphatically states, a citizen has "no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground."

During one debate, one of the law's proponents suggested that if a citizen felt threatened in a public space, he should not have to retreat and should be able to meet force with force. I pointed out that citizens feel threatened all the time, whether it's from the approach of an aggressive panhandler or squeegee pest or even just walking down a poorly lighted street at night. In tightly congested urban areas, public encounters can be threatening; a look, a physical bump, a leer, someone you think may be following you. This is part of urban life. You learn to navigate threatening settings without resorting to force. Retreating is always the best option.

As Florida police chiefs predicted in 2005, the law has been used to justify killings ranging from drug dealers' turf battles to road rage incidents. Homicides categorized as justifiable have nearly tripled since the law went into effect. Back in 2005, the National Rifle Association identified about two dozen states as fertile ground for the passage of laws just like this one. Florida was the first state to pass such a law.

Today, at least 20 other states have followed suit.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida can make all Floridians proud by being the first governor to reject and repeal such misguided laws.

John F. Timoney is a former Miami police chief, Philadelphia police commissioner and deputy police commissioner in New York. He is now senior police adviser to the Bahrain Minister of the Interior.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 24, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the

headline: Florida's Disastrous Self-Defense Law..

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Monday, March 26, 2012

FW: Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez: Silent Spring Dawns Hot, Dry and Merciless

 


From: Ed Pearl [mailto:epearlag@earthlink.net]
Sent: Sunday, March 25, 2012 8:39 AM
To: Ed Pearl
Subject: Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez: Silent Spring Dawns Hot, Dry and Merciless

 
Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

Silent Spring Dawns Hot, Dry and Merciless

This week, turning the corner into the astronomical Spring, we have gone abruptly from warm winter to hot summer. And I mean hot: it was 84 degrees Farenheit in western Massachusetts today, brightly sunny, with puffy white cumulus clouds against a brilliant blue sky, unobstructed by any leaves. No shade.

Today reminded me of a wax model: beautiful but blank. The fa├žade of beauty, with the crucial vital spark missing.

When I went for a walk up the mountain early this morning, the woods were eerily silent. I remembered mournfully the spring mornings of my childhood, where I would be awakened by the joyful singing of the dawn chorus of thousands of birds each happily greeting each other and the new day.

Reaching the top of the mountain having heard only the distant cry of a single phoebe, I stopped to sit on a rock and listen for a few minutes. All I heard was the dim rushing of the traffic on the road far below me, and the drone of an airplane churning its way across the sky.

Coming down again, a few chipmunks hurried out of sight along the path, and I was keenly aware that there were no acorns underfoot, despite the oak trees towering overhead. Last fall was a terrible year for acorns, so all the animals that depend on them for overwintering must be very hungry now. I know the bears are on the move, as one came and pulled down my bird feeder yesterday. I am thinking of bringing some sunflower seeds along on my walk tomorrow, to spread by the path as an offering of atonement.

While no one of us can shoulder personal responsibility for this tragedy of the commons, all of us who have benefited from the heedless extraction of oil and relentless destruction of the forests and the oceans must be aware of the extent to which we have brought this on ourselves, and taken the rest of the natural world along with us.

Will there come a day when the sun rises in the brilliant blue sky and looks down on a hot, dry planet, silent except for the hardiest of species, like the cockroaches and the ants, who survived previous major extinction events, and will once again continue about their business single-mindedly, able to wait out the eons while life reboots and resurges again anew?

***

This weekend I had the chance to see the new documentary film by Pamela Yates, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, which powerfully makes the point that the genocide in Guatemala was about land rights, with U.S.-backed military juntas working for the landowners and the corporations to clear the land of indigenous people and peasants so that big internationally funded projects like dams and mines could proceed unobstructed.

Two hundred thousand people, mostly indigenous Mayans, were massacred in the 1970s and 1980s in the service of American-fueled greed, in Guatemala alone.

It strikes me that this story is repeating now—if indeed it ever stopped—as we continue to fight over resources and land on our finite planet.

It is happening now in the forests of Indonesia, where on the island of Sumatra plantations the size of the United Kingdom, the size of Belgium—unimaginably huge tracts of magnificent rain forest with some of the richest stores of biodiversity on the planet—are being bulldozed and replanted with palms to feed international demand for palm oil.

The indigenous people who made the forest their home for millennia are being mercilessly deprived of their natural habitat just as surely as the rest of the flora and fauna there.

The loss of biodiversity, including the loss of ancient indigenous human cultures, is a tragedy that cannot be quantified. What is being lost is priceless.

It's all very sad, you may say, but all very far away, too.

But our summer temperatures in March have everything to do with the destruction of the last remaining old-growth forests in Indonesia, in Africa, in South America, in Canada.

Once the forest is gone, the topsoil will begin to erode.

Desert will prowl the borders of what used to be forest.

When, as in the Indonesian palm oil plantations, diverse ecosystems are replaced with monocultures, those monocultures more vulnerable to pest and climate disruption.

And then?

***

Lately I have been having recurring waking nightmares about food shortages. Already I am concerned, as a backyard gardener, that these hot, dry spring days will not provide the proper growing conditions for spring crops like peas and lettuce.

Imagine conditions like these being replicated across the globe.

Imagine a growing season where all over the planet we lurched from heat and drought to torrential rains and tornadoes.

In the US we have become accustomed to thinking of food insecurity as something that happens in other parts of the world.

Famine stalks Asia and Africa. It doesn't come near us.

This year, as I see how the natural world around me is struggling to provide for the chipmunks, the bear and the turkeys; as I greet the arrival of the few straggling migrant birds who have managed to run the gauntlet of a landscape devastated by chemical warfare and industrial agriculture; as I gaze out at the bare trees shimmering in the unnatural midday heat, I know in my heart that it is only a matter of time before our turn comes.

Today it is the indigenous people of Indonesia who are going down with their forests.

It is the desert people of North Africa who are starving, and the teeming masses of Asia who are fleeing the floods of torrential rains.

We in the huge, pampered gated communities of North America and Europe will be insulated from these shocks for much longer than those on the outside.

But our time will come.

And when it comes, it will be with the full force of every violent futuristic film we've ever dreamed up.

Waterworld, anyone? Mad Max?

***

Usually I try to stay positive and keep the flame of hope burning brightly, a beacon for myself and for others.

But today this stark, in-your-face, first-day-of-spring evidence of the coming train wreck of climate change has guttered my hope.

Time is running short for us, just as it is for the bears and the birds and the native peoples of the forest.

We are coming inexorably into Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.