Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

HUMAN FIGHTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: HARLAN COUNTY USA

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

I just watched the 1976 Academy Award winning documentary Harlan County USA, for the first time in a long time. It is a compelling, staggering testimony to the historical—and in countless places—current fight for the rights of laborers. If anybody thinks Unions are awful, or unnecessary, watch this film and decide how you, as a worker, would fight for even minimal rights without an organized group around you.

You can’t. You’d be doomed, destroyed and dead.

In short, Harlan County USA is about the strike that took place in dirt poor Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973, over 13 months—a repeat of sorts of what had taken place there and all over North America from the late 1800s into the 30s and 40s.

Barbara Kopple was the young director, and to make an extraordinary film, she risked her life, along with the strikers, to be sure. Throw in Black Lung, foul and inhuman working conditions and wages (hundreds of feet underground), strike breakers with sticks, pistols and machine guns, strikers (also with the occasional gun), brutal poverty, a corrupt United Mine Workers Union, murder, wives with more guts than you can believe, and an utterly uncaring, brutal Big Coal Corporation, and you get yourself a jaw-dropping film.

Here’s what I think is the original trailer.

Some people—brothers and sisters, after all—have it so tough, all you can do sometimes is weep.

Lots of love to you, and may all beings be treated a little better tonight,

Pete

RAW DEAL with RAW MILK: Big Business and Big Justice—what a surprise!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

If you see a situation in a self-described democratic society where people want to drink raw milk (which has been drunk for millenia and is still drunk in, say, that wild undeveloped outpost called France), under seemingly safe and organic standards, and people are not allowed to drink said milk, look around for excessive corporate/government involvement.

Oh yes, hidden behind the auspices of safety and justice, you will find it. And it seems to me, almost always, the judge will back the Big Guys.

An excerpt from a news article:

Selling unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada and a judge had found that Schmidt circumvented the laws by selling “shares” in his dairy cows to consumers.

In finding him guilty of contempt, the judge called Schmidt’s actions “not only illegal, but completely self-defeating.” Justice Cary Boswell added that Schmidt has every right to try to make the sale of raw milk legal, but he must do so in a manner that’s within the law.

What a joke. Can you imagine this fella and a few raw milk cohorts trying to go up against the Dairy Board, Big Business, Big Justice etc? And Martin Luther King should have done the same? Just abandoned the protests of “illegal” sit-ins in segregated cafeterias and so on? He should have just appealed to the legal institution?

The judge also said Monday’s ruling had nothing to do with the sale of milk, but instead focused on whether or not Schmidt knew he was defying a court order by continuing the raw milk sales.

Schmidt and his devoted consumers claim raw milk tastes better and say they have never suffered adverse health effects from drinking it.

Health officials say raw milk can carry bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, which carry serious, and sometimes deadly, health consequences.

Schmidt has operated his co-operative organic dairy farm near Owen Sound, Ont., for more than 20 years.

I’m not even going to check, but what’s the chance that the Dairy Board or whatever it’s called is against Michael Schmidt’s selling raw milk to people who want it? That same Canadian Dairy Board that I believe fought against calcium being put into soy milk because it increased competition?

Protectionism? Subsidies to Agribusiness and the Dairy Industry? Ah, yeah.

From Agricultural Regulations and Trade Barriers, by Chris Edwards:

The federal government has subsidized and regulated the dairy industry since the 1930s. Federal marketing orders for milk were begun in 1937. A dairy price support program was added in 1949, and an income support program was added in 2002. In recent years, dairy subsidies have cost taxpayers anywhere from zero to $2.5 billion annually depending on market conditions. More important, dairy programs stifle dairy industry innovation [like, say, how to monitor the production of organic raw milk from well-treated cows?] and substantially raise milk prices for consumers.

What a farce this “free trade” is.

Okay, I couldn’t control myself and looked up the Dairy Board’s involvement. Five seconds later, an excerpt from this article called, succinctly: Got raw milk? Don’t share, Ontario dairy board warns farmer:

Jacqueline Fennell, who runs Conavista Farm near Spencerville, Ont., about 55 kilometres south of Ottawa, said she received an order Friday from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, highlighting the sections of the Ontario Milk Act that she would allegedly violate by providing unpasteurized milk…

But Bill Mitchell, a spokesman for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, said her shareholder scheme flouts a law designed to protect food safety, and which bans not just the sale of raw milk, but also its distribution and delivery.

“Cow rental or share ownership scams don’t make raw milk consumption legal in Ontario,” he said. “As soon as milk moves off the premises, it has to be within the auspices of the Milk Act.”

He added that even farmers cannot take raw milk off their properties because it is considered unsafe.

“It is the health issue that’s our primary motivation here.”

It’s sad but, given the sickness of factory farms, I have trouble believing health to be their primary motivation.

I’m not saying there aren’t potential health hazards—which evidently there are, which history (and bad conditions) have shown. I’m saying this is a country that allows, for some clear reasons, cigarettes to kill millions of people (big corporations/heavily taxed); terrible, animal-tortured fast-food/processed food blathered in corn syrups and on and on (massive corporations) to damage and kill millions (Type II diabetes, etc, etc, whose incidence is vastly reduced by changing one’s lifestyle to crazy things like exercise and real food); and alcohol (massive corporations/heavily taxed) kills millions, damages countless lives, is involved in so much vehicular homicide and family violence—and just think of the unintended pregnancies!

Put another way, a person can’t drink monitored, organic raw milk from well-treated animals, but can drink pasteurized milk from brutalized cows. A person can’t eat monitored, organic raw milk from well-treated cows, but Big Gulps the size of my thigh, literally sugar water, are fine for kids—for breakfast, in fact (my sister sees this relatively often in her 7th Grade classroom).

More from the original article:

In November 2006, Ministry of Natural Resources [armed] officials raided Schmidt’s farm and seized farming equipment and computers. He was subsequently charged with failure to obey a written order barring him from making and storing raw milk products.

Schmidt lost 50 pounds after embarking on a hunger strike in 2006 to protest the charges.

He ended the protest by bringing a cow to the steps of the Ontario legislature. He drank a glass of milk immediately after milking the cow.

He’d be dead if it wasn’t for a sense of humour. And for the record, I eat very little dairy, period. None at home, a little if I’m out. It’s the udder principle of it all.

Wishing you all great love and freedom, and may all sentient beings including the lovely dairy cow be a little happier,

Pete xox

WATER WORKS: Or more specifically, how does water work?

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Here’s a (long) excerpt from an article by Daniel Aldana Cohen in Walrus magazine. I believe he’s actually the son of a former publisher of mine, Patsy Aldana, who is a fabulous and brilliant woman—so no surprise there.

Anyway, it’s about the water wars and economics in Bolivia, which is a sort of Ground Zero country for the fight for water as a human right. Corporate giant Bechtel’s strangling of the country’s water (gathering rainwater, I believe, became illegal) actually led to a remarkable revolution there, where Bechtel was thrown out and the first ever indigenous campesino was voted into power—by an astonishing 53%.

The country is a threat to the rest of the world simply because it appears, at least, to be fighting so hard to have an actual, working, vibrant democracy.

Here’s the excerpt, from Canada’s wonderfully informative Walrus magazine:

Private water makes a killing (though not exactly as promised)

Around the world, a growing freshwater crisis is causing disease and death, sparking violence, and exacerbating the food crisis. More than a billion people lack access to clean water, and still more go without sanitation. A debate is raging over whether to address escalating shortages via public institutions or privatization.

Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2006, Canada has moved forcefully into the privatization camp. For example, in April of this year, the Toronto Star reported that Canadian negotiators had blocked the United Nations’ Human Rights Council from taking steps to declare water a human right. [in case anybody wonders where Harper and co.—and the other side too—stand in terms of giving human beings access to potable water]. Yet Canadian-funded research conducted in Bolivia has suggested a very different tack—that a public, rights-based approach to water is the best way to distribute it fairly and effectively.

During the late 1990s, the World Bank began pressuring Bolivia to extend its campaign of privatization to its urban water utilities. It had little trouble finding allies in the country. By 1999, it had signed up the president, Hugo Banzer, an aging former dictator, and Manfred Reyes Villa, a wealthy businessman, former army man, and the popular mayor of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third-largest city.

[Like the sickness of communism, here's how bad privatization can get when in the hands of the wrong people]

Under Reyes Villa, Cochabamba’s water utility was sold to the only bidder, a subsidiary of the American corporation Bechtel, and prices rapidly skyrocketed as much as 200 percent. Under the Bechtel contract, it became illegal for city residents or peasants in surrounding communities to collect rainwater for drinking, irrigation, or anything else. The water that irrigated the farm fields of communities like Tiquipaya would instead be confiscated and rerouted into the leaky pipes beneath the city.

In early 2000, Gonzales joined hundreds of his neighbours as they poured into Cochabamba to join a massive and initially peaceful insurgency against the privatization. “We came down in columns, different communities taking their turn each day,” he recalls. “We were gassed and hit with rubber bullets.” A seventeen-year-old boy was killed during a day of street fighting, shot in the face by an army sniper who was later exonerated and promoted.

Following the violence, Reyes Villa changed his mind about the water privatization. Bechtel executives fled the city after local police told them they could no longer guarantee their safety. Anxious to avoid more violence, the national government declared the contract void.

Coming as it did after fifteen years of successive privatizations of state enterprises, the water war represented a turning point in Bolivians’ political consciousness. In the five years following, they overthrew three presidents before electing leftist Evo Morales, the continent’s first indigenous president, in 2005 with an unprecedented 53 percent of the vote.

Bolivia’s response to the oppression, and the ‘water shocks’, are the plus side of what can come out of what Naomi Klein calls the ‘Shock Doctine.’ After the shock—whatever it is—there is as much opportunity for solidarity and mutual care as there is for exploitation and disenfranchisement.

And if the new government eventually turns out to be yet another Big Man, may the people be able to respond in solidarity, and without being brutalized.

As Smokin’ Joe Frazier said in the documentary I just finished: “Shoot your shot. First man first. We was both dead. If he woulda hit me first, maybe I woulda gone down.”

Read the rest of the article, if you get a chance.

Lots of love to you—and may we stand up for people outside of our own family, tribe, corporation, country or whatever. May all sentient beings be happy, and may their thirst be quenched,

Pete xox

MARC EMERY: DUE TO A LACK OF INTEGRITY, OUR SOVEREIGNTY IS GOING TO POT

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Let me make it clear, for my own personal reasons, I don’t smoke pot. I don’t even drink (save possibly the very occasional toasting sip of champagne, when the event calls for it. Here it most certainly does not).

My point is, I’m not advocating for my own habits—although I deeply enjoy the habit of freedom.

Or as Benny Franklin wrote:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety [or self-righteous stupidity, a vote-or-two, or a pat on the head from a foreign government], deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Anyway, here’s yet another article of how, in my opinion, Prime Minister Harper’s pathetic following of America’s War on Drugs policy is a disgrace to so many things that can be loosely called freedom and integrity—and when exercised create a more beautiful Canada.

This is about the Marc Emery.

An excerpt—and kudos to the Vancouver Sun for printing the article:

Emery is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don’t think it’s a major problem.

His two associates were charged only as a way of blackmailing him into copping a plea.

It’s a scandal.

Emery is being made a scapegoat for an anti-cannabis criminal law that is a monumental failure.

In spite of all our pricey efforts during the last 40 years, and all the demonization of marijuana, there is more pot on our streets, more people smoking dope and more damage being done to our communities as a result of the prohibition. There is a better way and every study from the 1970s Le Dain Commission onward has urged change and legalization.

Regardless of what you think of Emery, he should not be facing an unconscionably long jail term for a victimless, non-violent crime that generates a shrug in his own country.

Emery is facing more jail time than corporate criminals who defrauded widows and orphans and longer incarceration than violent offenders who have left their victims dead or in wheelchairs.

The full article is here.

Is it any surprise, in a world where the debt in America via a “Conservative-run” government—ha ha ha—is over ten trillion dollars, people occasionally want to get stoned. It would be more accurate to call that cabal and most other governments a syndicate.

No pot-smoking on our watch, but drink your face off and kill yourself from cigarettes. Weird.

Love to you,

Pete

INTELLECTUAL SELF-DEFENSE AND THE CURIOUS ART OF SANITIZATION: The LEGACIES of MARTIN LUTHER KING and MUHAMMAD ALI

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

“So often in America we have socialism for the rich and ragged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.”
—Martin Luther King

Through research I have come to see just how deeply hated Muhammad Ali was by the vast majority of Americans in the mid-1960s (for instance he was loudly booed in his 1965 rematch, as Champion of the World, when he fought Sonny Liston a second time), and how we have forgotten that fact.

It is therefore with interest that I read today Mike Marqusee‘s piece for the Guardian on Martin Luther King’s legacy, where he points out the same effect of historical eradication.

It seems if we sanitize the right aspects of a “hero’s” past, citizens slowly forget just how much ‘Power’—whatever that is exactly—and the media loathe and will counter freedom of speech, non-violence, racial and economic equality and so on, when they are outside the acceptable boundaries of certain ideological and economic interests.

An excerpt:

It’s testimony to the awkward power of Martin Luther King’s life and work that so much effort has gone into sanitising his memory. Today he’s commemorated as an apostle of social harmony, a hero in the triumphant march of American progress. But at the time of his death 40 years ago today, his increasingly radical challenge to war and poverty had made him deeply controversial, spied on and harassed by his government, feared and loathed by millions of Americans…

I use the word Power advisedly, to be sure. I could not believe what big-name sportswriters wrote about Ali, too, in the mid-sixties. In Nat Fleischer’s Ring Magazine, Ali was still being called Cassius Clay in 1972.

In 1966 Ali was not named Fighter of the Year because of his negative influence on American youth. At the same time, I have read so many times how Ali’s words made a black person literally feel beautiful for the first time in their life—but that is not the influence sought, evidently.

Ali may have effected the willingness of some young kid (many with limited freedom in their own town) to be drafted and contribute his body, mind and machine gun fire to the invasion and all-encompassing demolition of a country he knew nothing about. Or as Ali himself summed up with profound if accidental concision in early 1966:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with no Vietcong.”

Black soldiers on the front lines in Vietnam largely opposed Ali’s and Martin Luther King’s anti-war stance in 1967, and they largely agreed with them by 1969. And so goes life, when enough is just too damn much, at least for those in the line of fire.

Or to quote George Orwell:

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

My point is how strangely anti-Establishment dissidents (and I use the word Establishment advisedly, too) in the past are glorified in the present by that same Establishment—leading us all, by not knowing the history, unable to recall why and how they were despised in the first place.

And if you think ‘Power’, under pressure, has changed, well, yes, Barbara Lee again.

In Acts in the New Testament, one could conclude many early Christians (or perhaps radical Jews) lived communally, and shared everything!—those socialist freaks.

Put another way, as David Rovics sings, Who Would Jesus Bomb? (I felt tears well up as I listened).

I feel the same head shake (but in the opposite direction), as I have written lately, with the legacies of Tiger Beat teen T-shirt pin-up Che Guevara and others amongst certain counter-culture folk.

But hey, that’s just moi.

Another excerpt from Marqusee:

In 1967, [King's] opposition to the war in Vietnam had been denounced by mainstream civil rights leaders and liberal opinion-makers, including The New York Times. While he agreed with the militants that the [Civil Rights] movement had to enter a new, more ambitious phase, he continued to advocate both non-violence and inter-racial alliances.

“We don’t enlist races in the movement. We enlist consciences. And anybody who wants to be free, and to make somebody else free, that’s what we want.

Marqusee’s article is here.

Expand, my friends, expand…it’s such a big world out there, with billions of others similarly-confined by their human nature (and then all that follows). Lots of love to you and yours, in joy and solidarity,

Pete

And here’s Wide Open, you beautiful sisters and brothers, here and gone.

SHOCKINGLY OFTEN, IN CONVERSATION AND HISTORY…

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

So many moments and comments keep coming up (say, Tibet, Iraq, Darfur and events historically), that relate to what Naomi Klein writes about in her remarkably clear and profoundly researched book The Shock Doctrine, that I thought I would post this blog one more time.

It talks about Charles Ferguson’s Iraq documentary primer on Iraq—No End In Sight—and then finishes with an excerpt and a link from an interview Naomi Klein gave about her book. I hope it resonates more than shocks, and inspires more than shocks.

By the way, dear sisters and brothers, don’t be fooled by the title No End In Sight. Everything changes, everything comes to an end. Everything re-news. Re-grows. More beauty, more kindness, more solidarity and love is possible in every moment, every action. Take a deep breath and begin today.

The blog is here.

A ten minute informative and punishing film rebuttal by Charles Ferguson to a Paul Bremer III op-ed in the NY Times is here.

Naomi’s interview is here.

And while we’re at it, here’s an interview with Stephen Lewis, Naomi’s father-in-law and (positive) crusader for Africa. Imagine the conversations at their dinner table.

An excerpt:

You know, it embarrasses me when people say, “Oh he’s such a great humanitarian” or “person of compassion.” I’m no more a person of compassion or with humanitarian instinct than anyone else in this world—or certainly in Canada.

I’m driven ideologically. My entire life has been filled with the conviction, which I imbibed from my father in particular, that you’ve got to spend a part of your life fighting social injustice and inequality or there’s no point being on the planet.

For me, the AIDS virus is the ultimate expression of social injustice and that’s why I’m so mad about it. Because it’s so profoundly wrong. I’m neither animated by spiritual inclinations, and nor do I retreat into them. For me, it is frankly my own social philosophy, my own ideology. I just think the struggle for social justice is the most important struggle there is. If AIDS violates it, then you fight AIDS.

And in case you feel overwhelmed, may I say that life remains an extraordinary experience of stunning beauty and overwhelming acts of kindness and love, so here’s a couple of songs celebrating said mystery and beauty.

Wide Open.

Naked Love.

Little Dreamer.

Free downloads! And lots of love to you and yours,

Pete

STAY STEADY, BREATHE DEEPLY, BE NOT SURPRISED: THIS IS THE MATERIAL WORLD

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

“Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!”
—Walt Whitman

There’s a great and amusing line in the Indian text the Bhagavad Gita. It says:

Armed with yoga, stand and fight.

It’s interesting, because one might ask, what has yoga got to do with fighting? Well, in the material world, if you are of a certain nature, everything. The line is saying, on one level, anyway, ‘stay steady in the material when everything is spinning wildly around you—this wild spinning is the way of the material world.’

In other words, don’t run and flutter and shake and twist with every new incoming problem, threat, news flash etc. If you do (and god knows we do!), you will be driven insane, the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.

I get that. That’s what a yoga pose (an asana) is—a symbol for standing with grace and steadiness in the material world. Doing an asana is to be in an awkward position and stay steady by steadying the breath, and understanding these fluctuations and madnesses all around us (and within us) are the way of the world—and in that way, quite predictable.

In this same spirit, I wrote the other day:

Sometimes I think one of the worst methods of gathering a complex knowledge of what’s going on in the world is by watching the news every night.

I know good people who watch the news every night and know virtually nothing original or insightful about world events—let alone anything comprehensive or expansive.

“Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”
—George Orwell

The daily deluge of political rhetoric allows new lies to become “facts” through repetition.

Like natural selection, this repetition not only changes, bit by bit, what was said or promised in the original rhetoric, recreating objectives, but it creates—probably due to excessive out of context information—what is known as a memory hole.

In other words, if knowledge is lost, it will be replaced by every stupefying bit of information that comes in from the outer world.

The rest of the essay is here.

And then I wrote even more recently, quoting the yogic idea of “stand and fight” again:

To be overly affected by… daily news flashes is to be hopelessly vulnerable. The appalling acts going on all over the globe have very little to do with [every little bit of boring, scandalous pseudo-news with which we are bombarded]. As it says in the Baghavad Gita, “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.”

In other words, understand, in varying degrees, these unfoldings [of boring, scandalous pseudo-news, and even serious, painful events that deeply effect innocent people] are part of the world. From there, breathe deeply and act according to your nature, as best you can. If love can be increased, or hate decreased, how beautiful is that?

The rest of this essay is here.

So you get what I’m trying to say: Not ‘relax’ per se, but (like I am trying to do, too), try to understand that these endless bombardments—magnified in the 2008 superhighway—are how the world, in variations on the theme, has always unfolded. Greed. Scandal. Gossip. Basically varying levels of consciousness with some of the lower versions dominating the airwaves and, thus, mass consciousness.

As it turns out, this same phenomenon was described in less spiritual/energetic terms in Rolling Stone magazine the other day. I thought I’d quote Matt Taibbi in his article Generation Squeeb: Barack Obama’s Reverend Wright controversy, and America’s squid-heart:

The endless onslaught of tiny scandals trains the electorate to be hyper-responsive to temporary, superficial outrages while simultaneously chipping away at their long-term memories [hence, the memory hole], their inclination to look at the big picture, their ability to grasp subtleties of opinion and policy.

So instead of talking about the fact that Barack Obama once introduced a bill to give a tax break to a Japanese company whose lawyers donated fifty grand to his Senate campaign, we’re freaking out for five minutes about the fact that Obama’s pastor thinks America spread AIDS on purpose in Zambia.

And instead of talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton took $110,000 from a New York food company she later helped by introducing a bill to remove import duties on tomatoes, we’re ranting and raving about Gerry Ferraro’s paranoid ramblings about Obama’s blackness.

We can’t keep our eyes on the ball and really think about the serious endemic problems of our system of government [in step with unelected multinational corporate power] because we’re too busy freaking out like a bunch of cartoon characters over silly, meaningless bullshit. And then forgetting about that same bullshit ten minutes later, so that we can freak out all over again about something else later on.

That’s just the way we are, and maybe it’s time to wonder why that is…

We can’t focus for more than ten seconds on anything at all and we’re constantly exercised about stupid media-generated non-scandals, guilt-by-association raps, accidental dumb utterances of various campaign aides and other nonsense—while at the same time we have no energy at all left to wonder about the mass burgling of the national budget for phony military contracts, the war, the billion dollars or so in campaign contributions to be spent this year that will be buying a small mountain of favors for the next four years. And we… shit, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Matt, remember your breathing! You’re onto something, so stand and fight without collapsing! Do not become cynically superior! See it is as the human condition that we are all under, in varying degrees! Love more, Matt! Matttt!

Matt continues…

I’m just tired of this tone that’s always out there when these scandals break, like we can’t fucking stand the existence of this Wright fellow for even a minute longer, not a minute longer!—when we all know that come Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, Jeremiah Wright will be forgotten and we’ll be jumping en masse in a panic away from the next media-offered shadow to fall across our bow. What a bunch of turds we all are, seriously.

God help us if we ever had to deal with a real problem.

The full article is here.

I would suggest statistics in Iraq that match and in some places are worse than in the Bush-labelled genocide in Darfur might just be that real problem. And the Chinese dictatorship is brutally and awfully—ugly yet admittedly—funding a heinous regime in Sudan to ensure their line to oil.

As one of the Chinese politicos said, “It’s just business.”

America has invaded Iraq, and bankrupted their own country, and still the issue actually drops out of sight in the election from time to time, and the military actions taken (now at five years and hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of displaced people) is always only misguided, never immoral, or internationally illegal.

This is one of those painfully and brutally distracted-by-scandal sicknesses.

But the point is: stay strong, my dear friends, keep breathing, do what you can but with ahimsa (causing as little damage as possible), and understand this is just the material world being itself.

Seek the balance point within yourself through deeper knowledge and understanding, whatever that journey may be for you.

In short, “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.” And yoga is a non-sectarian term, coming from the root ‘yug’ meaning ‘stay connected…to the the Source of your deeper, sustainable, love-expanding wisdom, whomever He or She or It may be.’

To beautiful sisters and brothers everywhere, that all beings may be seeking a little more balance, in an imbalanced world. Love more!

Pete xox

FIERY AND SATIRICAL: PETER DRUCKER, THE CORPORATION, and the INSANITY of NORMAL

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Admittedly, I was a little satirically fiery in the last post regarding the relentlessly passionate Paul Watson.

The blog unfolded from this emotion: observation and evidence show, whether I like it or not—and I don’t like it!—that there really are people who appear to want to take all they can, exploit all they can, even abuse, kill and rape all they want—as well as people who use others to spread terror to make it happen.

Not only that, it’s often sanctioned, legal and celebrated—in short, the norm.

SHOCK

The resulting shock to populations—as Naomi Klein and countless others have pointed out—allows even more pernicious exploitation, legislation and manipulation to take place.

This appears to be a significant aspect of what it means to be human, around the world, and in varying degrees, within us all—and within all of this, there is so much beauty, as well. How humbling. How possibly refining—for all the questions it then begs.

And assuming there are people like this everywhere, exploiting all that they can, at whatever cost, often within so-called “legal” boundaries, I just wanted the last blog to really call a spade a spade by satirizing what we think is crazy while pointing out the deeper madness of what is accepted as the norm.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

This norm—the unsustainable, profit driven exploitation of resources, the systemic, legal torture of billions of animals and the denial of even basic human rights (if necessary) and so on—is expressed unequivocally as a significant and exalted aspect of the corporate model, arguably the dominant motif of this incredible age.

I’ll let legendary business guru Peter Drucker sum it up—speaking without irony or moral confusion. From the film The Corporation:

If you have a business executive who really wants to take on social responsibilities, get rid of him fast. He doesn’t have the right sense of priorities and will do a poor job running the business.

This idea is a worldwide corporate motif, considered practical, common-sensical, and the norm.

A WHALE OF A CHOICE

On the flipside, disabling a whaling ship that adamantly refuses to obey international law—and for profit (and, granted, livelihoods) relentlessly massacres, say, endangered sea-life, which puts our life on earth at risk—by ramming it, is considered, if not a terrorist act, crazy.

Indeed, it is a little crazy—while noting the act is neither a random nor unannounced happening, and its sole focus is disabling inanimate property (granted, there are people on it) to stop ongoing mass slaughter.

But in the rapacious, collective phenomena of countless Transnational Corporations in conjunction with leaders of various ilk and their storm troopers, could some of their actions—by definition oblivious to effective “social responsibility”—not be considered a pervasive form of ongoing terrorism?

After all, terror is an aspect of what takes place everyday against individuals and populations all over the world—Iraq and Darfur, in part, being simply the obvious examples—when citizens simply by circumstance are attacked, killed or displaced as a result of policy—by both physical attack and/or environmental disruption.

THROUGH A GREEN LENS

Take a look through this staggering article, Casualties from the Iraq War (the Invasion of Iraq and its fallout). No current situation in the world, it says, has created more displaced people.

Then consider the corporate profits of oil corporations—the largest in history, of any corporations—security and surveillance companies, weapons corporations, and the stock portfolio of the inner circle of the Bush regime.

With the numbers in hand, consider then how big media corporations label the Khartoum government and its Janjaweed henchmen as heinous and genocidal (rightly) and the Bush government as misguided (instructive—hey, I feel the difference that facts don’t bare out, too).

As for my mood, having read about Paul Watson, his vegan stance in opposition to factory farm cruelty and the resulting environmental decimation—and seeing even as a director of the Sierra Club he couldn’t make fellow-directors see the irony of not speaking out, let alone contributing to the problem—I felt a twinge of “shock and awe,” and my response found itself on the page. It was fun.

For reasons perhaps superior intellects can figure out, big media and politics exist at a bandwidth of consciousness that lives off the tension created by ongoing bold-faced deception. The intensity of the lie, its destracting electrical charge, is its core power—all the rest are lesser details.

Iraq is never immoral no matter how immense the slaughter of children and women. Politicians have affairs and apologise—still hungry for the same. And why not? Emotional evolution is very difficult, I would guess, trapped at this plane. Infinite news spins round and round, information samsara (the cycle of repeating births and deaths, with no liberation), sucking our consciousness down by its centripetal force.

So be careful, and seek more edifying, beautiful, joyous, discerning association.

AUTONOMOUSLY YOURS

So I’ll leave you with this comment, which unintentionally seemed to sum up part of life’s experience for many of us—both a longing for the well being of all and desperation in its non-attainment. Let me know if you can relate. Then take a deep breath and carry on! With beauty!

It comes from Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, as the brutal Chinese government clamp down on Tibetans in the not so Autonomous Region:

Mr. Tenzin’s cellphone trilled and he grabbed his notebook. The call was a secondhand report of a protest breaking out Monday at a medical college in a province outside the Tibet Autonomous Region.

“We are quite helpless,” Mr. Tenzin said. “What we can do except disseminate information?”

Ain’t there a little truth in that sentence?—as the Chinese and countless other governments know.

As for me, I apologize for the limitations and generalizations of some of my comments here, as always. My hope is they are mostly edifying and inspiring, and hopeful, even for superior intellects. Armed with yoga—armed with consciousness, armed with love, armed with gratitude—stand and fight, and/or, stand and write.

And seek joy, solidarity, gratitude and laughter as much as possible.

Big fat hopeful love to the greatness of you,

Pete xo

FROM INNER-SPACE TO OUTER-SPACE (and back again): The Ongoing Longing For Who We Are

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
—Neil Armstrong, upon walking on the moon

Whenever I think of space travel and the fact that humans have landed on the moon—supposedly three billion people watched the original lunar landing, Apollo 11, July, 1969—my mind actually goes, ‘Yes, wow, geezuz—but…but so many of our brothers and sisters are still starving tonight.’

I know that comment’s a bit of a downer—bit imagine the despair of hunger.

Anyway, I feel the paradox—and as anyone who knows me knows, I can’t help that take on it. Life, almost by definition, seems to carry an unflinchingly massive discord between what can be done by humans, and what can’t seem to be done by humans.

For instance, humans ‘who have’ can’t seem to collectively help millions, even billions, of people ‘who don’t have’ from being hungry. Heck, we don’t really even know how to begin, what it would look like, or even what the comment actually means. For one day? For forever? And in the lands of the ‘haves’? Heck, if the food supply stopped coming from elsewhere, what would I do? The World Food Program, anybody?

And while we are not seemingly able to find a way to protect hundreds of millons of people from getting, say, highly-preventable diseases, a few of us humans do seem to be able to extract endless resources from the lands of those same people.

Another clip.

And consider the time when the lunar landings were taking place: North and South Vietnam were in hell from the American invasion. Russia was the brutal USSR. China was going through the hateful ‘Cultural Revolution’ etc etc.

I know, I know, okay. And those points weren’t even my point I wanted to make. So before you get too depressed or pissed off at li’l ol’ moi, I’m actually writing to say that space travel and the landing on the moon is and was a truly amazing and awe inspiring spectacle and achievement of technology—the moon, for the love of huge cheese slices.

Heck, it hadn’t been done since Tintin, Captain Haddock, Calculus and Milou did it in 1953, in Syldavia, while sinister forces plotted against them.

And the reason I’m writing about space today is because last night I watched the wonderful and wistful documentary In The Shadow of the Moon.

Reliving the lunar landings (actually, I was only four, so I’m probably reliving Ron Howard’s Apollo 13), I smiled a lot, and cried a little at the end when certain astronauts spoke of the miracle and beauty of this fragile planet, and the sheer lunacy—pun intended—magic and wonder of being alive.

God I wish we could love more—and see and feel a long process, an eternal process, instead of endless apocalyptic shrieks, judgement days, and a constant threat of dire circumstances.

I just really love humans.

Speaking of dire circumstances, one of the astronauts even spoke of the increasing amount of smog pollution seen around cities from spaceships—pollution that wasn’t seen in earlier space trips.

Ain’t we a lot of people doing a lot of things?

And when the moon landing happened in 1969, many of those on earth that appreciated what had taken place really took it as a ‘We did it’—‘We earthlings, sisters and brothers, did it’—regardless of where they lived. That’s kinda cool, temporary as that emotion might have been.

By the way, there are people today who think we humans have never landed on the moon—nine fakes—but simulated the whole thing on some desert-scape in Arizona.

Here are a couple of beautiful comments from the film in which the emotions of these ex-space travellers was contagiously palpable.

Edgar Mitchell Apollo 14:

“The biggest joy was on the way home. In my cockpit window, every two minutes: the earth, the moon, the sun, and a whole three hundred and sixty degree panorama of the heavens.

And that was a powerful, overwhelming experience.

And suddenly I realized the molecules of my body, and the molecules of the spacecraft, and the molecules in the body of my partners were prototyped and manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. And that was an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness. It wasn’t them and us, it was: that’s me. That’s all of it. That’s one thing.

And it was accompanied by an ecstasy. A sense of, “Oh my God. Wow. Yes.” An insight. An epiphany.”

Indeed. And yet in this “oneness” are all these countless individuals—trillions of beings—you and me. For me, that is an even greater, wilder mystery. Why, if there is an essential oneness, did individuality arise? And why back hair on top of that? No, seriously. Why these individual beings completely dependent on the atmosphere—or the water-sphere, or what have you.

This planet in relationship to itself—sulphur expressed from the oceans in just the right amount; oxygen expelled from the plants in just the right amount.

Individuality.

That is a fact that never ceases to fill me with awe.

And it seems to me that individuality, and with it the desire for relationship of some sort, are what gives meaning to being. No individuals, no relationships. No relationships, no love—for love by definition requires another being, be it human or divine or whatever turns your crank. Just as plants need animals and vice versa, love requires beings.

And is it not true, that when we are honest, when we are not too badly injured, all we really want is to live forever and be deeper inside the beauty of it all, free to experience more, and more deeply, with more emotion, without exploding like some spaceship under certain pressures?

Anyway, that’s what I dream of. More love, without causing harm.

If I dance down a street
with my eyes
And my feet feel it too
And my breath goes deep
And I see it in you
Would you be tempted
to lock me up
Or dance along?

And another quote. This one from George Cernan, Apollo 10 and 17:

“I felt that I was literally standing on a plateou somewhere out there in space. A plateau that science and technology had allowed me to get to.

But now what I was seeing, and even more important what I was feeling at that moment in time, science and technology had no answers for—literally no answers.”

I would say the same for love, and art, and laughter.

“Because there I was. And there you are. There you are, the Earth: dynamic, overwhelming.

And I felt that the world was just…there’s too much purpose, too much logic. It was just too beautiful to have happened by accident. There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me. And I mean this in a spiritual sense, not a religious sense.

There has to be a creator of the Universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern our lives.”

Ah, the mystery—the mystery of being an individual, and the mysterious inconceivability of simultaneous oneness. Welcome to your humanness, my friends, welcome to being. What a journey it is to inner space.

Lots of love to you—and may all beings be fed and loved,

Pete

To finish, a li’l Little Dreamer.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: CULLING THE BEAUTY IN A HYPER-MASCULINIZED WORLD

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

I ask no favors for my sex…All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks.
—Sarah Moore Grimké

A week or so ago, I was writing a blog about the courage of certain Women’s Groups, and how remarkable their efforts are—all over the world—in fighting for their right to social, physical, financial, creative and spiritual freedom and equality within their respective systems.

For some reason, before I got to really express said greatness—and the movements of all people who are almost sytemically oppresssed—I began by speaking way too much about the American Founding Fathers and the US Constitution.

Too wordy. What a shock.

But the blog’s incorrect constitution left my point in the fine print. My point was the stunning and unshakable courage all over the world of groups oppressed. While writing that blog, by the way, I coincidentally discovered International Women’s Day was upcoming—which was yesterday.

Whenever there’s an International “Anything” Day, that “Anything” is most likely in trouble.

In contrast, if you ever see, say, an International Weapons-Producing Day, International Fast-Food Day, International Dictator Day or International Big Media Day, know the world is probably moving in a less hyper-masculinized and progressive, heart-centred direction.

CELEBRATION

And so, I’d like to again express my respect, wonder and awe for these groups, and ask this: if anybody is inspired by any group who, under brutal political/ideological/theocratical climates, are fighting for women’s rights, democratic rights, farmers rights, peasants rights and so on, I’d be greatly inspired to hear about them.

If I get enough (or any) responses, I would like to make up a worldwide map of these soul and life and freedom-affirming groups—so we can just look at the degree of like-minded, courageous people.

The two groups I mentioned were an Iranian group I read about recently through alerts from Amnesty International; specifically, the arrest of Jelveh Javaheri, for fighting for women’s equality. This group is called, at least in English, We4Change: Iranian Women Struggle For Equality.

The other group is RAWA, the relentlessly courageous and strongly outspoken Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, whom I’ve known about for a long time.

Both must be careful with their every move, yet make their moves anyway. Further, when the drums of war beat, when invasion is threatened, these truly anti-oppression groups are almost never mentioned in the media, nor aided, let alone consulted, by an invading government claiming to be exporting democracy.

At the time the Iraq disaster began, there were many grass-roots groups fighting for democracy in Iraq—yet never celebrated or rarely brought to the table where the Big Boys gather.

So it goes for Iran today and all over—countless African and Middle Eastern countries, I am sure.

And so it was with RAWA—the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan—who were shouting as loudly as possible with limited funds and no mainstream media support—before the invasion of Afghanistan.

Imagine what groups like that could do with, say, a small percentage of the PR budget for a company like McDonalds, whose modus operandi is essentially maximize profits by mass producing disgustingly unhealthy food from billions of abused animals for increasingly fat and diabetic people—and may the environment be damned, too.

Thank you, Ronald.

CULLING THE BEAUTY

In a hyper-armed, hyper-warfare, hyper-aggressive, hyper-corporate, hyper-profit driven world, I tend to agree with holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl’s statement that, paraphrasing, under brutality, the best (in general) will not survive.

So putting aside gender for a moment (because ultimately it’s not about gender, he said, from his white man’s ivory tower), I would say that under brutality, the feminine principle is placedt under intense interrogation and pressure; instincts for nurturing, beauty, art, communication, expansive wisdom and creating spaces for everybody, are slowly culled from the physical and spiritual make-up of the human species.

As the defense of civilians decreases—and civilians by definition are largely a combination of women, children and the elderly—the world becomes hyper-masculinized. I’m, not positive of the statistics, but I recall reading that the civilian death too in World War I was 10% of all deaths, 50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam and 90% in Iraq.

Who exactly are these wars against? And either way, what is the human, spiritual cost?

If those stats are at all accurate, the increased disregard for life and the increased culling of the feminine principle (as above, anyway) is essentially a statistically predictble side-effect. And from it comes a higher percentage of people willing to communicate via the sword—even more so if resources are scarce and weapons are available.

Which brings me back to how much courage it takes for oppressed peoples to fight for their freedom, dignity and equality, and how inspiring it is to hear about them—and to try and make their cuase known and supported.

DENOUEMENT

Just to end, and although it goes without saying, I want to make sure I mention how these problems do not appear out of nowhere. The roots of distress and brutality in, say, Africa are deep and complicated. It is extremely difficult for most men, also, to live under corrupt, brutal governments and/or extreme poverty/unemployment.

In this excerpt from Uganda Rising, Dr Erin Baines of the Liu Institute, who spent years of her life in Northern Uganda, gives a concise and instructive synopsis of one possible cycle:

When the [IDP internal displacement camps] camps were created, it completely disrupted the gender division of labour, because men could no longer work, and they certainly didn’t have a political voice in things.

What happened is you had men become completely disempowered, lose their identity not only as Acholi [the main group affected in Northern Uganada], but also as men.

The only way they could continue to feel they had any kind of power was vis-a-vis the women.

So they could at least say this is my woman and you will do this for me.

All of this is compounded by the fact in order to fill their day or despair, men have turned to drink. And there is a high prevalence of alcoholism in the camps—which women brew—which intensifies the level of anxiety and agitation that men feel, which is then again unleashed on women and children in the form of violence.

Microcosms of that cycle, and variations on the theme, are seen all over the world, including in the margins and inner-cities of the West. To fight to get out of these conditions, to fight with and for dignity, is where countless unseen, unheard heroes are today.

Here’s to sisters and brothers all over—with love,

Pete xox

BARBARA LEE, TRIBALISM and the EVOLUTION of SPORT

Friday, February 1st, 2008

As the Beijing Olympics approach, and as I research boxing, sports and Muhammad Ali at his most political, a few quotes from Mike Marqusee’s Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, pages 11-14, commenting on the evolution of sport (and the comment on human nature):

At root there is something irrational and arbitrary about sporting partisanship. As Jerry Seinfeld once observed, “People come back from the game yelling, “‘We won! We won!’ No: they won; you watched.”

How is it that passive spectators come to feel they partake in someone else’s victory or defeat?

This leap of imagination, this widening of the definition of the self is a wonderfully human phenomenon, which is why, as Seinfeld realized, it is also a rich vein of comedy…

This phenomenon is clearly inherent in human nature, for is affiliation with a tribe any more rational? Humans generally pick the team closest in proximity—or today, often the team with the most famous player.

Doris Lessing discusses the phenomenon in Group Minds, a chapter from her book, Prisons We Choose To Live Inside:

“…what is dangerous is not the belonging to a group, or groups, but not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us. When we’re in a group we tend to think as that group does: we may even have joined the group to find “like-minded” people. But we also find our thinking changing because we belong too a group.

It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group.

Think back now to the horrors of 9/11. One person—one person—Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, voted against a resolution (HJ Resolution 64) authorizing the president to use (HJ Res 64):

“…all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks….[my italics].”

The general citizenry of beleaguered and largely illiterate Afghanistan—one of the world’s poorest countries, hammered by ten years of war with the Russian superpower, and then the civil war, and in the grip of a non-elected fundamentalist group—surely did not plan, authorize, commit or aid the terrorist attack in New York City.

And Barbara Lee? She was not even saying no to war. She was saying:

“We need to step back. We’re grieving. We need to step back and think about this so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. We have to make sure we don’t make any mistakes.”

A rational response, it would seem, under most any circumstances. The vote on this resolution was staggering. It passed 98-0 in the Senate and 420-1 in the House. Lee’s vote was the only one in opposition. For this she received immediate death threats, and had a bodyguard put on duty to protect her life.

Ted Kennedy might step up and support Obama and this person and that person can sing their own praises to the sky, but can you imagine the courage Barbara Lee’s decision took? Now that’s worth remembering…

I wonder if Barbara will ever be given a place in American history for that one dissenting vote—a Rosa Parks for the early 21st century, except Rosa had the NAACP behind her, I believe. Who did Barbara have?

Here’s a little more from Marqusee on the evolution of the sporting spectacle:

Modern, secular spectator sports—in the forms of boxing, horseracing and cricket—first emerged from the womb of parochial ritual and folk pastime in mid-eighteenth-century England.

[Modern, secular spectator sports'] midwives were rapid urbanization, the spread of market relations and the growth of an ambitious elite with both time and money to squander. The sporting realm preserved and organized the pointlessness, the triviality of play…

The loyalties and identifications [of the spectator] are not inherent in the spectacle; the tie between spectator and competitor is a constructed one, and the meanings it carries for either are generated by the histories—collective, individual—brought to bear on a contest that would otherwise be devoid of significance to all but direct participants.

Precisely because they are universal and transparent, innocent of significance or consequence, sports became charged with meanings; because they meant nothing in themselves, they could come to mean anything.

Noam Chomsky in an interview seen in Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.

You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? [laughter]

I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? [audience roars]

I mean, they have nothing to do with me, why am I cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any—it doesn’t make sense.

But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements—in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism.

That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.

I’ll finish with a thought-provoking point from Marqusee:

The egalitarian autonomy that is the presupposition of modern supports was overlaid with the prevailing hierarchies [with a society—class, race etc.].

A a result, competitors were to be judged by criteria extraneous to sports…Thus the “role model,” that incubus on the back of so many sporting champions, was born out of a need to tame the democracy of sport. It was a means of neutralizing its sublime indifference to social status.

Interesting, huh? It does not surprise me that boxers—with the raw ferocity it takes to fight—have challenged convention perhaps most aggressively. Jack Johnson was crazily fearless at the turn of the century. And then, of course, Muhammad Ali, whose image in 1964—he was booed before his rematch with Liston, as Champion of the World—was polar opposite to mainstream society than the beloved figure he largely is today.

Well, I guess we haven’t checked a score, but we’re a little more up to date in the world of sports. Lots of love to you and yours, and if you have kids, may your early morning hockey tomorrow not be too early.

Pete

PS For a little comic relief after all that high-brow sports analysis, here’s a live excerpt from Understanding Ken, about a ten-year-old Canadian boy in Spokane, Washington, USA for a hockey weekend, circa 1973.

A LESSING IN WAR: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN VIOLENCE HITS, WHEN WAR IS DECLARED

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

If you get a chance, see the previous blog about Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who has been jailed for sending an email to a pro-democracy correspondent (I believe in the States) “in which [Shi Tao] summarized instructions from the Central Propaganda Department about the correct political response journalists ought to take toward the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.”

Actually, Shi Tao’s courage offered exactly what Henry Kissinger didn’t, way back at the time of the massacre, when as an “independent observer” (running a company at the time called, I believe, “China Ventures”), he said on “the big TV”, paraphrasing, let’s not be too harsh on the Chinese government.

Thank you, Henry. That lie of impartiality was partial inspiration for this song, its second verse specifically.

Beijing Olympics, anyone?

But I wanted to give you a quote here from Doris Lessing that I have had to paraphrase for sometime, because way back I lost the book (Prisons We Choose To Live Inside), based on an Ideas Lecture series she’d given on CBC radion, I believe. The book remains missing, but I recently found the quote, in something I’d written a few years back.

When I read the comment in her book years ago, some part of it really imprinted on me, resonated, woke me up to the difficulty of being human, of negotiating and negotiations, of being peaceful.

Hold up what she says against what you’ve witnessed yourself, in the media, among friends, after 9/11 or any other horrendous event, and you may find it revealing.

We see the dis-ease all over the world, in varying degrees.

Lessing writes (pg 16):

In times of war we revert, as a species, to the past, and are permitted to be brutal and cruel. It is for this reason and many others, that a great many people enjoy war. But this is one of the facts about war that is not often talked about.

I think it is sentimental to discuss the subject of war, or peace, without acknowledging that a great many people enjoy war—not only the idea of it, but the fighting itself.

In my time I have sat through many hours listening to people talking about war, the prevention of war, the awfulness of war, without it ever being mentioned that for large numbers of people the idea of war is exciting, and that when a war is over they may say it was the best time of their lives. This may be true even of people whose experiences in war were terrible, and which ruined their lives.

People who have lived through a war know that as it approaches, an at first secret, unacknowledged elation begins, as if an almost inaudible drum is beating…Then the elation becomes too strong to be ignored or overlooked: then everyone is possessed by it.

These “forces”, whatever they are, exert an extraordinary pressure (I wrote an essay called Genocidosis, asking the same question from a different angle, when I was doing the two documentaries Uganda Rising and Hope In The Time of AIDS).

And institutional forces are similarly compelling on the individual, or the collective—indeed, both our responses and creations are interrealted and from human consciousness, manifested—self-evidently. Noam Chomsky once said:

I often have been asked what would be the first thing I would do as president of the United States.

Well, I would set up a war-crimes tribunal, in advance, for the crimes I was going to commit. I don’t mean that I am a bad person. But the way our institutions are structured, a person in such a position will be under pressures leading to criminal behavior.

I cannot think of anyone who has avoided it. So, I assume that I wouldn’t either.

I ask myself often, in my meditations: how much of what I do is free will? How much of what I do is just spontaneously—almost involuntarily—what this system (me) is compulsively doing, within the system it resides (biological nature and the manifestation of that system, human culture), despite having all the markings of individual, free thought?

It’s a humbling, disarming question.

A yogic saying is: “Habit is our second nature.”

Although not everybody wants either solidarity or greater community—I do—I write this wishing you inspired, expansive thoughts and actions, with discernment and compassion,

Pete

CHINESE JOURNALIST SHI TAO: TEN YEARS FOR AN EMAIL

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I just received this from Amnesty International, and can barely even comprehend the madness and sickness of it, in this bizarre thing called the human species. I thought I could at least put it out on the blog.

From his mother:

“[Shi Tao] has only done what a courageous journalist should do. That is why he has got the support and the sympathy from his colleagues all over the world who uphold justice.”
—Shi Tao’s mother, on accepting a press freedom award on his behalf

From Amnesty International:

[Shi Tao, a freelance journalist, writer, and poet] was detained in 2004 on the basis of an email he sent to a pro-democracy contact in the United States, in which he summarized instructions from the Central Propaganda Department about the correct political response journalists ought to take toward the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Shi Tao says the police had no warrant for his arrest or for the search of his home, computer, and notebooks. Three weeks later he was charged with “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.”

He was then isolated from family, his lawyer, and other prisoners until 25 January 2005. On 30 April 2005, after a two-hour secret trial, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Shi Tao to 10 years in prison.

Shi Tao remains in prison.

Journalists worldwide are standing behind Shi Tao. Please join them.

Quoting Shi Tao:

“Facing such tremendous adversities, I feel no shame, and I have not lost confidence in my future.”
—Shi Tao

I have no idea what needs to be added, except gratitude, compassion, love, hope, courage, strength, kindness, joy, integrity, humility—and discernment. I felt a chill of fear shoot down me.

The freedom of expression we have in Canada is so incredible, and understanding how it came to be, and how to protect it, and how to expand it (and trying to understand at all the vast polarities, beliefs and compulsions within human beings), is so profound, and also intimidating, because all concepts, zeitgeists and beliefs shift and change for seeming obvious and yet countless mysterious reasons.

That the Olympics—these games of so-called international cooperation—are being held in Beijing, of course, this year, is both paradoxical and discerning. One can only hope by association the level of freedom of speech expands (and Shi Tao, and all the thousands of other political prisoners, are released).

Signing the petition is free. The Amnesty International link is here. It takes about ten seconds. In countless cases, pressure really does help.

May you sleep well tonight, and may the world be improving. Lots of love to you and yours,

Pete

Marc Emery, Prince of Pot: Leave The Canadian Alone!

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I don’t know enough about the legalities (and even less about pot), but the Marc Emery extradition seems not only unnecessary—he’s Canadian!—it should be raising alarm bells for liberals, libertarians, small “c” conservatives, churchgoers, atheists, mystics and, well, anybody who is not a pledged and committed Statist.

Here’s an interview with Emery from a few days ago.

An excerpt:

QUESTION: This seems to be a very rare, specific situation, where they have targeted you in a very hard-line manner which is out of step with the Canadian approach to drugs.

EMERY: This is a non-violent crime they are accusing me of committing that has no victim. This is ideologically driven. The idea that they would seek to extradite me on this for a non-violent offense when there’s no one claiming harm, this is unheard of. I’ve run for political office ten times in Canada. It’s very unusual.

It’s clearly the DEA’s insistence on following this up that has driven Canadian authorities to attack me in this unprecedented way.

Working on the Muhammad Ali project, I am reminded of when Ali had his Heavyweight Championship of the World title taken away for his refusal to go to Vietnam—when, as anyone can tell, the two things have next-to-nothing to do with each other.

I don’t know the story very well, but how does a Canadian, living in Canada—a sovereign country—get extradited?

The rest of the Emery interview is here.

I am also reminded of the extraordinary double standards and hypocrisy with heinous crimes (and extraditions) in the War on Terror. Consider accused terrorist and naturalised Venezuelan Luis Posada Carriles, and his extradition situation in, yes, the US.

An excerpt:

Posada entered the U.S. illegally in 2005. Human rights groups and the Cuban and Venezuelan governments urged that he be tried or extradited for his terrorist activities, but for several months the Bush administration denied that Posada was even in the United States.

On May 17, 2005, the Miami Herald shamed the administration into action by publishing a front-page interview with Posada (who sipped his peach drink on his Florida balcony, described his leisure reading and commented cheerfully that at first he “thought the [U.S.] government was looking for me” but eventually realized that U.S. officials had no interest in finding him).

Only then did the administration detain Posada—but on immigration charges, not terrorism-related charges.

Since 2005, the administration seems to have done everything in its power to botch the immigration case against Posada, mishandling it so blatantly that on Wednesday an exasperated federal judge declared herself “left with no choice” but to throw out the indictment.

Although a different judge previously ordered Posada deported, Posada can’t legally be extradited to Venezuela because the court concluded that he might be tortured there.

So for now, Posada’s a free man—even though the administration has sufficient evidence to arrest him for his role in either the 1976 airliner bombing or the 1997 Havana bombings. For that matter, Posada easily could be detained under Section 412 of the Patriot Act, which calls for the mandatory detention of aliens suspected of terrorism.

The administration’s approach to Posada contrasts jarringly with its approach to suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. With the latter, the administration wastes no time on legal niceties. Foreign nationals have been illegally “rendered” to countries where they faced torture, interrogated in secret CIA prisons and sent to languish at Guantanamo, sometimes on the flimsiest of evidence.

Even U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activities have been dubbed “unlawful enemy combatants” and deprived of their constitutional rights. So why is the administration dragging its feet on arresting and charging Posada?

It’s not as if the evidence against Posada is seriously in dispute. In 1998, for instance, he “proudly admitted authorship of the hotel bomb attacks” to the New York Times, “describ[ing] them as acts of war intended to cripple a totalitarian regime by depriving it of foreign tourism and investment.”

He dismissed the civilian casualties as “sad” but assured the reporter that he slept “like a baby.” (When asked about these admissions in 2005 by the Miami Herald, he coyly replied, “Let’s leave it to history.”)

If all this sounds eerily familiar, it should. We’ve heard the same callous justifications for terrorism from Bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The full article is here.

Marc Emery…? Geezuz, for the love of God, or integrity, or for the sake of humour, or freedom…Leave The Canadian Alone…

The interview with Emery continues:

QUESTION: The issue of national sovereignty, which may or may not have been an issue here, seems to be what Canadians are interested in whether they support marijuana legalization or not. Can you speak to this idea of Canadian compliance with U.S. authorities related to this?

EMERY: Sovereignty is much more important in this situation. Larry Campbell, the former Mayor of Vancouver, was the keynote speaker at my Beyond Prohibition Conference in 2004. Nobody ever considered me a drug dealer. I have a wide body of acolytes and followers. It wasn’t about drugs. We were part of a political movement pushing for regulatory change.

There is clearly a difference between Canadian and American drug policy. What do you think are the implications on sovereignty here?

This has major implications if this goes ahead. This has implications on other national issues such as Quebec. This shows that Canadian citizenship has no worth. It means your country won’t stand up for you. Quebecers might choose to have a Quebec citizenship instead when they see what is happening to me. Canadian citizenship is worth a lot less than what it used to mean.

The interview, again, is here.

To repeat what Emery said—and it is vital in pointing out the sheer hypocrisy, might-is-right philosophy and the unstoppable direction of excessive enforcement:

EMERY: This is a non-violent crime they are accusing me of committing that has no victim. This is ideologically driven. The idea that they would seek to extradite me on this for a non-violent offense when there’s no one claiming harm, this is unheard of. I’ve run for political office ten times in Canada. It’s very unusual.

May all beings be happy. If Emery’s cause—the legalization of marijuana, Canadian sovereignity or whatever else you see in it—has meaning to you, do something.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

—Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

May all beings be happier, more loved, and love more, and protected by community and solidarity. It’s not easy being human,

Pete

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS AND THE BIG CHARADE: Second Thoughts on a Second Party

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

I read yesterday morning what was clearly a well-intentioned and seemingly insightful article from NPR writer Ron Elving. It was titled ‘Anti-War Forces Meet Frustration’.

An excerpt:

Anti-war activists have gained ground—both at the polls and in the polls—over the past two months. A new Democratic majority is in place in Congress, and surveys find well over half the public now wants to get the United States out of Iraq. Not one American in five supports the idea of sending more troops to fight there.

Yet, before this month is over, opponents of the war will get a double dose of disappointment.

Disappointment? Frustration? Why not add ongoing, even chronic, disillusionment, cynicism and hopelessness—emotions rampant these days, from school children on up.

And just to make a clarification, if these gains “at the polls” make no difference to the hopes of the anti-war activists, then it seems to me gains “at the polls” are irrelevant to anti-war activists, or anyone else.

Actually, upon second thought, maybe they do have meaning.

Maybe they’re a sort of brain-shifting reminder.

At least, upon reading gains “at the polls” have no meaning even with gains “in the polls”, I was reminded of what I already believe. And by the way, I’m hardly the first to come to this conclusion.

You don’t even have to brace yourself, or sit down—in fact you probably know it already, but whatever truth it posesses is so against what we read and debate about every second in the media, on line, at dinner parties and so on, that we’re paralyzed (often into pointless debates) by its possibility.

It is this:

All the political rallies and newspapers aside, all the rhetoric and pundits aside—and except for a few variations that keep the ruse alive—the Republican and Democratic parties are in essence one party.

I mean this without irony. I mean it factually.

You know what I’m saying, right?—or at least feeling, amidst the hopelessness of this charade that is way beyond Bush league.

I mean, who are these, like me, largely deceived, privileged people, sitting together in some sacrosanct building—people all vastly similar to each other in economic and education standards (high on both accounts)—somehow convincing themselves and us that they have, at the core, opposing ideologies?

And then, worse, fooling a schmuck like me to side with one or the other.

And to repeat the caveat of my point, there are, of course, from, say, a legal perspective, hotly contestable points of difference.

What I’m saying is most of these differences are the tip of an ideological iceberg, and the place where these two parties are in deep agreement is the rest of the iceberg—which is mammoth, underwater, and if never admitted to, could cause untold damage to the ship of democracy most of us hope is still in full sail.

Of course, some disagree with the above, at least in words.

Former President Bill Clinton, for example.

In an impromptu interview in 2000 with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, she asked him point blank:

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, are you there?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I am, can you hear me?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we can.

Oops, that was the opening. She said:

AMY GOODMAN: You are calling radio stations to tell people to get out and vote. What do you say to people who feel that the two parties are bought by corporations, and that they are…at this point feel that their vote doesn’t make a difference?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: There’s just not a shred of evidence to support that. That’s what I would say. It’s true that both parties have wealthy supporters. But let me offer you…let me just give you the differences.

And he goes on to give his informed reasons—then again, what else could a man who has lived off this two-party platform virtually his entire adult life believe? And being such an adept political man—a skill, it must be said, he is using for great good bringing millions of dollars and awareness to Africa and elsewhere to buy Antiretroviral drugs to fight HIV—who knows what he deeply believes about the system?

The full interview is here, and interesting—but not as politically revealing as its epilogue, which related to the fact that President Clinton said Ms Goodman was ‘hostile’ and ‘rude’ in her questioning. But that’s another story.

The point is, for President Clinton, the differences appear to be more important than the iceberg I was referring to.

Why?

I think on the one hand those outside of the Republican/Democrat alliance find the idea of alternative ideologies obvious, valid and even inspiring—ie., greater economic parity, the right to universal health care, rare or no invasions into sovereign states etc.

On the other hand, Republicans and Democrats, perhaps unconsciously, just aren’t cognitive that their identical beliefs make up the grand portion of their worldview, those being the “underwater part of the iceberg”—and if they are aware of them, they believe them to be inviolable.

Thus, the massive ideological similarities between Republicans and Democrats that could easily constitute one party—and are so painfully obvious to me and others—aren’t even included in the debate for Republicans and Democrats. For Republicans and Democrats, their “tip of the iceberg” differences make up the maximum diversity in the political spectrum.

But what then does that say about democracy—a long used and abused term, anyway?

This is a profound and minding-confusing question whose answer may account for much of the hopelessness, apathy and cynicism in the real world.

A FRACTIONAL EXCEPTION

And to be fair, and particularly under the pathologically extreme policies of, say, the Bush Regime, these ‘tip of the iceberg’ differences can in fact have relevance to the lives of millions of people in America, of course, and say Iraq and elsewhere—even Canada, with our Prime Minister following Bush policy a little too closely for many Canadians.

Even the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky were forced to acknowledge this during the 2004 election.

Chomsky, who believes that the Democrats and Republicans are “two” virtually indecipherable “factions” of the “one business party”, wrote at the time:

[John] Kerry is sometimes described as Bush-lite, which is not inaccurate, and in general the political spectrum is pretty narrow in the United States, and elections are mostly bought, as the population knows.

But despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally, there are differences. And in this system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes…

[When] it comes to the choice between the two factions of the business party, it does sometimes, in this case as in 2000, make a difference. A fraction.

That’s not only true for international affairs, it’s maybe even more dramatically true domestically.

The people around Bush are very deeply committed to dismantling the achievements of popular struggle through the past century…It’s an administration that works, that is devoted, to a narrow sector of wealth and power, no matter what the cost to the general population. And that could be extremely dangerous in the not very long run.

You could see it clearly in the way they dealt with, what is by common agreement, the major domestic economic problem coming along, namely the exploding health care costs. They’re traceable to the fact that the US has a highly inefficient healthcare system—far higher expenditure than other comparable countries, and not particularly good outcomes. Rather poor, in fact. And it’s because it’s privatised.

In another article Chomsky wrote:

The current incumbents [the Bush Regime] may do severe, perhaps irreparable, damage if given another hold on power—a very slim hold, but one they will use to achieve very ugly and dangerous ends.

In a very powerful state, small differences may translate into very substantial effects on the victims, at home and abroad.

It is no favor to those who are suffering, and may face much worse ahead, to overlook these facts. Keeping the Bush circle out means holding one’s nose and voting for some Democrat.

And then, even these views from Chomsky are opposed by a person (or group) with a different voice—as views should be in a well-functioning democracy.

Here’s the key, though:

In a well-functioning democracy, opposing views should not only be widely known, they should have tangible effects on the spectrum of debate allowed at the local and national level.

And so, David Walsh, on the always humorous Worldwide Socialist Website, writes about Chomsky’s 2004 ‘holding the nose’ vote for Kerry:

These are bankrupt arguments, which avoid the substantive political issues facing wide layers of the American population. If Chomsky admits that Kerry and Bush are merely two representatives of the same imperialist elite, how can he possibly justify support to either one? How will support for the candidacy of one or another of these reactionary figures contribute to the political clarification and long-term interests of working people in America?

The notion that the “small differences” between the two major parties can translate into “large outcomes” suggests that there is some means of ameliorating the crisis of American society other than its radical economic and social transformation, a solution that can be handed over to the other “faction” of “the business party,” the Democrats.

That there are differences between the parties is a truism. Otherwise, why would they exist as separate organizations?

So the point isn’t whether one agrees with the differing views, the point is whether one agrees that democracy by definition should include voices that the ideologies of the most powerful in the country disagree with.

Particularly when often those unheard views are what large sections of the population agree with—economic parity, universal access to health care etc—and would possibly agree with even more were these views given space in the debate.

The last line of Walsh’s argument—”That there are differences between the [Democratic and Republican] parties is a truism. Otherwise, why would they exist as separate organizations?”—accidentally leads us again to the big question.

If these Republican and Democrat ideologies are in essence the same, as I am saying, why then do they “exist as separate organizations”?

To repeat, I think it’s because for most Democratic and Republican leaders and their financiers, at their vast level of income and influence, they just don’t consider their similarities—similarities that protect and increase their income and influence—as part of the debatable political spectrum.

The debate is at the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg doesn’t exist.

Questioning aspects of the fundamental system of economics and acquisition are for Republicans and Democrats—consciously or unconsciously, justly or unjustly—outside the bounds of possible discourse.

Unfortunately invading other countries largely to control their resources is, for obvious and the above stated reasons, accepted doctrine. Only the details of how and when that invasion will be undertaken or continued is an allowable part of sustained national discourse—and only if cloaked in morality, pragmatism and liberation.

RESULTING PATHOLOGIES

With awarness of the Republicans’ and Democrats’ vast ideological similarities silenced by ommission—like the mass of the iceberg hidden by water—’tip of the iceberg’ differences become perversely magnified.

When this happens, deeper questions pertaining to solidarity, world opinion, equality, friendship, kindness and social justice remain outside the doors of Congress, big media, Wall Street analysts or the New York stock exchange.

And in this pathology of denial, thrown into this skewered view are further diversions like, say, gay marriage or on the job turban-wearing. These issues are important, of course, but have limited meaning in almost all lives, including probably most homosexuals (or even homosexuals who wear turbens).

But by ignoring the Republican-Democratic similarities, both debate and political democracy (and I use that term advisedly) become hopelessly delusional.

And seeing as we’re all temporarily living on a ball of rock, spinning around a sun, going who knows where and who knows why, who can afford more delusion in our wondrous yet troubled minds?

NAMING THE ONE PARTY SYSTEM (TO MAKE ROOM FOR ANOTHER)

It was the following paragraph from Elving’s article on frustration that really struck home, but perhaps not in the way intended.

He writes:

We confront the latest renewal of the most common headline in American politics: Democrats Divided. More a coalition than a classic, disciplined power party, the Democrats will always be divided when it comes to the toughest decisions on national security.

Calling the Democrats “a coalition”, as if that’s the problem, rang hollow given the state of current affairs.

However, if Elving had described the Republicans and the Democrats, together, as a “coalition,” the current political model of no change would start to make a lot more sense—and it would awaken our intelligence.

And had Elving been able to make that leap, he could also have seen that as a covert or even unconscious coalition, the Republicans and Democrats together actually embody that “classic, disciplined power party” he was talking about.

Unfortunately, they do so in a one party state—with a few bickering differences.

As bleak as this reality is—a reality difficult to accept given all of our cherished beliefs—we may have found a respectable name for people to use to at least try and explain this two party lie that has covertly left so much of the American population and the rest of the world full of despair:

The Republican-Democratic Coalition Party.

What do think?

To punch the point home, here’s George W Bush’s witty yet telling line, while talking to a wealthy gathering:

This is an impressive crowd—the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.

Worldwide, that’s got to be difficult for some people to read.

So what’s needed at the least are a few more parties not financed by people who throw parties to which 99.9% of the population will most likely never be invited due to their economic status or their differing beliefs.

DON’T PANIC

As bleak as this reality is, it’s important to note we’ve all been living with the condition for years, like an undiagnosed cancer.

So before a revolt breaks out or deeper depression sinks in, let’s explore a few positives:

For example, what if grasping the existence of this Republican-Democratic Coalition Party could actually inspire greater solidarity between us common folk?

Don’t you feel a little liberated already just in understanding why so little changes in a direction the majority of the population desire?

And how about this:

What if not grasping the possibility of this Republican-Democratic Coalition Party guaranteed this sort of Divide-and-Rule discourse found everywhere would continue—a style so many of us are poisoned by but unable to stop?

And it would.

This ongoing discourse we hear and even enter into that makes individuals or groups of people who have profoundly similar needs—which is most of us—believe with certainty that we are actually in opposition with each other?

That’s what happens when debate is entered into inside a huge lie of privilege and deception.

For at the heart of the matter—or on that submerged part of the iceberg that is never mentioned—most of us deeply know that the average Liberal or Tory (or NDPer or Green or even the Bloc) in Canada, or Conservative or Republican in the US, and most of the rest of us inside or outside of these ideologies, have, at our core, profoundly similar needs.

We certainly share the human condition—granted with widely varying and often unjust variables imposed.

Unfortunately, it seems that part of this human condition may also be to be duped by a certain percentage of humans who convince us that we in fact have very little in common.

This is a profound lie, and we don’t have to accept it—and with our actions everyday of greater solidarity, love, compassion for others, strangers, friends, family, even our purchases—we can refuse to accept it.

AS FOR DEMOCRACY…

Even in an essentially one party state, it must be remembered it is a one party state within a country that has championed an amazingly high level of human rights—human rights attained through human struggle.

Thus, there is much cause for hope.

And who can deny that, political democracy aside, democracy in simple forms remain vibrant and inspiring in so many spheres?

Across seemingly unbridgable differences of race, religion and even worldview, countless ‘movements of people’ have forever come together in courage, solidarity and love, to increase human dignity as a common value: the civil rights movement; the right of free speech; women’s rights; the battle for the forty hour work week; and millions of daily gestures that never get mention.

Democracy on the ground has great value.

Day-to-day rights to live as freely as possible are an inspiration.

America is doing pretty damn well in that regard.

NEWS UPDATE

Just minutes ago a friend called to tell me the distressing news that Bush is committed to the deployment of 20,000 more troops to Iraq.

In his announcement, Bush made himself ‘personally responsible’—a term that unfortunately probably thrills so many people who believe in individual responsibility, but don’t realise they are being duped by thinking George Bush is in accord with their desire for that individuality, let alone freedom.

Still, I would say that it is neither this pathology, nor even the inabilities of a majority Democratic Congress to make change that creates the ‘disappointment’ and ‘frustration’ Elving mentions.

I think that the deepest disappointment and frustration is created inside this lie we have come to believe: that the Republican and Democratic parties are independent ideologies, offering diverse views that have meaning to our everyday lies.

Proof of this lie reveals itself in infinite ways.

For example, pointless, uninspiring, vitriolic debates (not just in politics, check out any blog) that mask themselves under the right of free speech.

They are indeed that, but they create hatred, fear and inaction by reminding us of our minimal differences instead of profound similarities.

Proof is also found in ongoing journalistic cliches that appear oppositional, even insightful, but upon deeper inspection, offer us nothing but increased despair and confusion.

For example, and I’ll quote poor old Elving—duped like the rest of us—when he writes:

Despite calls from the anti-war base, and despite the efforts of outspoken anti-war members from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the Democrats are not even close to the consensus required to take that step. And it would take a mass desertion of the White House among the ranks of the Republican minorities in House and Senate to make up for the votes the Democrats cannot muster.

Anti-war activists are right to say that the Democrats ought to be standing up for all the voters who want the United States out of Iraq. More than any other issue, war fatigue added new votes to the Democrats’ totals in all parts of the country. The war in Iraq also enabled the Democrats to become the more realistic party. That is because they could acknowledge the evident deterioration of the situation there—a reality the White House looks delusional in denying.

The war also supplied what Democrats have been missing in many electoral cycles of the past 30 years—a sense of connection with the concerns of ordinary Americans.

I would suggest that outside of living in different countries, or death, there is only only thing that could really stop the Democrats for thirty years from having a “sense of connection with the concerns of ordinary Americans.”

It is, as polls so often show, the fact that the Republican-Democratic Coalition Party is invariably in ideological opposition to ‘the concerns of ordinary Americans.’

By way of example, isn’t it incoherently strange that a decent health care system can’t be established, but with virtually no resistance, billions of dollars can pour out of tax-payers’ pockets, into the war machine, creating a culture of death based on known fabrications, manipulations of evidence and the misery of millions, in our name?

Nobody I know, and I have a wide spectrum of friends and colleagues, agrees with this policy.

Wouldn’t you think the only difference as to which one of these two policies will be carried out—wars in foreign lands or improved health care—is will?

On that subject, is there one person in Congress or the Senate who actually has to worry about health care?

The lie is so well-perfected that it allows people like Ted Kennedy (and I use him purely as a symbol here) to be labelled anti-war.

Is that true—and if not—how does this happen?

HISTORY AS AN EXPERIMENT

It is often said that under extreme duress, a person’s true nature will be revealed. One could perhaps extrapolate the same for political ideologies.

The horrific terrorist attack on September 11, in some perverse way, offered a case study.

Four days later, on September 15, 2001, a nation in understandable shock stood by as Kennedy (again, purely as symbol) and the rest of the…

… US Congress approved a resolution authorizing President Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against anyone associated with the terrorist attacks of September 11. The measure passed 98-0 in the Senate and 420-1 in the House.

98-0 in the senate and 420-1 in the House, with the enemy unknown.

A unanimous vote is remarkable—something probably not even near repeated at different historical times for, say, the abolition of slavery (which took a civil war) or women’s rights (19th Amendment—finally, in 1919, 304-89 in the House, 56-25 in the Senate).

In an interview in Global Values 101, Amy Goodman told this telling story:

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times…was [recently] asked at a forum why they [the press] did not ask tougher questions on the eve of the invasion with one of President Bush’s extremely rare news conferences. She said—I am paraphrasing—because the weight of history was on our shoulders.

That is exactly when you ask the question, when you look at how many servicemen and -women have died in Iraq.

If those questions are not asked, it does a disservice to to the servicemen and -women of this country, not to mention how many Iraqi civilians have died.

Tens of thousands of people the U.S. administration supposedly went in to liberate and save are now dead.

And here we are, in excessive amounts of frivolous debating, and deafening silence, up to our hearts and souls and beliefs in carnage.

The weight of history is on our shoulders.

To finish, I think it’s time to remember that on September 15th, 2001, there was one dissenting vote.

One.

For this lone act of listening to her conscience and speaking her inalienable right, she is barely remembered—I once couldn’t even remember her name—let alone exalted.

In September of 2001 she was vilified and required protection due to death threats.

She is Barbara Lee—a black Congresswoman from Oakland/San Francisco. I define her with the words ‘black’ and ‘woman’ because, for some reason, it gives me pleasure to do so.

Maybe I feel it makes her all the more courageous, all the more profound—perhaps because there’s never been a black or female President.

Either way, here are her comments at the time, in an interview with Mother Jones (who is, for the record, another woman worth looking up):

MJ: Did you know before casting your vote that you were likely to be the only dissenting member of Congress?

Lee: Oh, no—I did not know that. Many members have these same concerns. The use of restraint is of concern to a lot of them. We don’t want to see this spiral out of control; we don’t want to see the cycle of violence continue.

We all agree that we’ve got to bring these terrorists to justice and to make sure that they’re never allowed to perpetrate such an evil act as they did. And so all of us are dealing with that.

We know that the President has the authority to go to war under the War Powers Act.

The Congress has a responsibility to provide the checks and balances and to exercise some oversight. I don’t believe that we should disenfranchise the people of America in the war-making decision-making process.

At least minimally, we should be able to know which nation we’re planning to attack and have some input into that. We should know what the exit strategy is. I’m not talking about all the details of a war plan, but certainly we should have more than a five-hour debate.

To me, that’s just not the best way to make public policy.

I’m convinced that Congress’s role in this is to look at every dimension of international terrorism and to help develop a strategy to combat it, to stamp it out, and ensure the safety of our country. That’s why I voted for the $40 billion [disaster recovery and antiterrorism package].

You know, some people don’t think I should have voted for that. But I’m convinced that we’ve got to secure our airports, finance anti-terrorism programs, and provide the resources needed to deal with this—as well as to help the communities recover, and the families of the victims.

Some people were calling me un-American and all that. I know that I’m unified with our country. I feel and I know that my actions are as American as anyone else’s.

I’m trying to preserve the people’s right to have some kind of oversight and some say in the cycle of violence that could occur if we go into war without an end in sight.

That’s what the one person out of 519 in the “Republican-Democratic Coalition Party” thought, and then acted accordingly.

One can surmise that the rest—good-standing members of the Republican-Democratic Coalition Party—thought something different, or at least not enough in line with Lee’s beliefs to cast a no vote against where America is tonight.

What you and I think of the current situation is, of course, personal—but it is even more personal for average, hard-working (and dying) civilians all over the world, including in America.

What the heck, since we had Barbara Lee spout opinions that brought her vilification and death threats, why not finish with Chomsky?

We have a free political system because there’s one party run by business; there’s a business party with two factions, so that’s a free political system.

The terms freedom and democracy, as used in our Orwellian political discourse, are based on the assumption that a particular form of domination—namely, by owners, by business elements—is freedom.

The media have a particular institutional role. We have a free press, meaning it’s not state-controlled; that’s what we call freedom. What we call freedom is corporate control.

Here’s the good thing. If you’re American, and you voted for either the Democratic Party or Republican Party, you won.

It was democracy that lost.

This is Pete McCormack, of BS News, saying love more—Republicans, Democrats, Tories, Liberals, independents, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Indians, Inuits, idiots, even me—love more.