Thursday, November 26, 2009

in praise of turkeys


"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: the little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country.

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

--Ben Franklin in a letter to his daughter

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am the autumnal sun

Sometimes a mortal feels in himself Nature
-- not his Father but his Mother stirs
within him, and he becomes immortal with her
immortality. From time to time she claims
kindredship with us, and some globule
from her veins steals up into our own.

I am the autumnal sun,
With autumn gales my race is run;
When will the hazel put forth its flowers,
Or the grape ripen under my bowers?
When will the harvest or the hunter's moon
Turn my midnight into mid-noon?
I am all sere and yellow,
And to my core mellow.
The mast is dropping within my woods,
The winter is lurking within my moods,
And the rustling of the withered leaf
Is the constant music of my grief....
-- Henry David Thoreau









Photos by David James Walden, my boy

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pioneers! O Pioneers! used to market Levi's!



Pioneers! O Pioneers!
By Walt Whitman
1819-1892

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental
blood intervein'd,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress,
(bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon'd mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill'd,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill'd.
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Life's involv'd and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding
on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call--hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind,
Swift! to the head of the army!--swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Woe to the poor in Rio!

Despite the efforts of Oprah and the Obamas, it didn't take the International Olympic Committee long to eliminate Chicago from the competition to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Expected to be one of the final two candidates, the city was ousted in the first round. I'm sure this intends a complex message to reach feeble American-warmonger-greedy-capitalist-bully-imperialist-fat-faced-consumer-run-amok ears, and one that I'm sure we'll not take time to understand. Okay, so, whatever.

Congrats to Rio! But, no! Woe to the poor and marginalized of Rio is a more authentic sentiment. Olympic victory has put them all in harm's way, to be sure. According to the Geneva-based Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), hosting the Summer Games is an excellent excuse to have a big ol' poverty crack down. COHRE has documented the following housing trends in Olympic host cities: evictions of tenants from low-rent housing; evictions resulting from gentrification; significant decreases in boarding-house stock; inflated real-estate prices; weakened legislation protecting tenants; criminalization of poverty; temporary or permanent privatization of public space; and temporary or permanent suppression of human rights and, particularly, freedom of assembly.

Congrats to Chicago are in order.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

frisky bears in my yard






Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eduardo Galeano: Is justice right side up?

I Hate to Bother You
By EDUARDO GALEANO

I’d like to share with you some questions–some flies that keep buzzing in my head.
Is justice right side up?
Has world justice been frozen in an upside-down position?

The shoe-thrower of Iraq, the man who hurled his shoes at Bush, was condemned to three years in prison. Doesn’t he deserve, instead, a medal?

Who is the terrorist? The hurler of shoes or their recipient? Is not the real terrorist the serial killer who, lying, fabricated the Iraq war, massacred a multitude, and legalized and ordered torture?

Who are the guilty ones–the people of Atenco, in Mexico, the indigenous Mapuches of Chile, the Kekchies of Guatemala, the landless peasants of Brazil—all being accused of the crime of terrorism for defending their right to their own land? If the earth is sacred, even if the law does not say so, aren’t its defenders sacred too?

According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Somalia is the most dangerous place in the world. But who are the pirates? The starving people who attack ships or the speculators of Wall Street who spent years attacking the world and who are now rewarded with many millions of dollars for their pains?

Why does the world reward its ransackers?

Why is justice a one-eyed blind woman? Wal-Mart, the most powerful corporation on earth, bans trade unions. McDonald’s, too. Why do these corporations violate, with criminal impunity, international law? Is it because in this contemporary world of ours, work is valued as lower than trash and workers’ rights are valued even less?

Who are the righteous and who are the villains? If international justice really exists, why are the powerful never judged? The masterminds of the worst butcheries are never sent to prison. Is it because it is these butchers themselves who hold the prison keys?

What makes the five nations with veto power in the United Nations inviolable? Is it of a divine origin, that veto power of theirs? Can you trust those who profit from war to guard the peace?

Is it fair that world peace is in the hands of the very five nations who are also the world’s main producers of weapons? Without implying any disrespect to the drug runners, couldn’t we refer to this arrangement as yet another example of organized crime?

Those who clamor, everywhere, for the death penalty are strangely silent about the owners of the world. Even worse, these clamorers forever complain about knife-wielding murderers, yet say nothing about missile-wielding arch-murderers.

And one asks oneself: Given that these self-righteous world owners are so enamored of killing, why pray don’t they try to aim their murderous proclivities at social injustice? Is it a just a world when, every minute, three million dollars are wasted on the military, while at the same time fifteen children perish from hunger or curable disease? Against whom is the so-called international community armed to the teeth? Against poverty or against the poor?

Why don’t the champions of capital punishment direct their ire at the values of the consumer society, values which pose a daily threat to public safety? Or doesn’t, perhaps, the constant bombardment of advertising constitute an invitation to crime? Doesn’t that bombardment numb millions and millions of unemployed or poorly paid youth, endlessly teaching them the lie that “to be = to have,” that life derives its meaning from ownership of such things as cars or brand name shoes? Own, own, they keep saying, implying that he who has nothing is, himself, nothing.

Why isn’t the death penalty applied to death itself? The world is organized in the service of death. Isn’t it true that the military industrial complex manufactures death and devours the greater part of our resources as well as a good part of our energies? Yet the owners of the world only condemn violence when it is exercised by others. To extraterrestrials, if they existed, such monopoly of violence would appear inexplicable. It likewise appears insupportable to earth dwellers who, against all the available evidence, hope for survival: we humans are the only animals who specialize in mutual extermination, and who have developed a technology of destruction that is annihilating, coincidentally, our planet and all its inhabitants.

This technology sustains itself on fear. It is the fear of enemies that justifies the squandering of resources by the military and police. And speaking about implementing the death penalty, why don’t we pass a death sentence on fear itself? Would it not behoove us to end this universal dictatorship of the professional scaremongers? The sowers of panic condemn us to loneliness, keeping solidarity outside our reach: falsely teaching us that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, that he who can must crush his fellows, that danger is lurking behind every neighbor. Watch out, they keep saying, be careful, this neighbor will steal from you, that other one will rape you, that baby carriage hides a Muslim bomb, and that woman who is watching you–that innocent-looking neighbor of yours—will surely infect you with swine flu.

In this upside-down world, they are making us afraid of even the most elementary acts of justice and common sense. When President Evo Morales started to re-build Bolivia, so that his country with its indigenous majority will no longer feel shame facing a mirror, his actions provoked panic. Morales’ challenge was indeed catastrophic from the traditional standpoint of the racist order, whose beneficiaries felt that theirs was the only possible option for Bolivia. It was Evo, they felt, who ushered in chaos and violence, and this alleged crime justified efforts to blow up national unity and break Bolivia into pieces. And when President Correa of Ecuador refused to pay the illegitimate debts of his country, the news caused terror in the financial world and Ecuador was threatened with dire punishment, for daring to set such a bad example. If the military dictatorships and roguish politicians have always been pampered by international banks, have we not already conditioned ourselves to accept it as our inevitable fate that the people must pay for the club that hits them and for the greed the plunders them?

But, have common sense and justice always been divorced from each other?

Were not common sense and justice meant to walk hand in hand, intimately linked?

Aren’t common sense, and also justice, in accord with the feminist slogan which states that if we, men, had to go through pregnancy, abortion would have been free. Why not legalize the right to have an abortion? Is it because abortion will then cease being the sole privilege of the women who can afford it and of the physicians who can charge for it?

The same thing is observed with another scandalous case of denial of justice and common sense: why aren’t drugs legal? Is this not, like abortion, a public health issue? And the very same country that counts in its population more drug addicts than any other country in the world, what moral authority does it have to condemn its drug suppliers? And why don’t the mass media, in their dedication to the war against the scourge of drugs, ever divulge that it is Afghanistan which single-handedly satisfies just about all the heroin consumed in the world? Who rules Afghanistan? Is it not militarily occupied by a messianic country which conferred upon itself the mission of saving us all?

Why aren’t drugs legalized once and for all? Is it because they provide the best pretext for military invasions, in addition to providing the juiciest profits to the large banks who, in the darkness of night, serve as money-laundering centers?

Nowadays the world is sad because fewer vehicles are sold. One of the consequences of the global crisis is a decline of the otherwise prosperous car industry. Had we some shred of common sense, a mere fragment of a sense of justice, would we not celebrate this good news?

Could anyone deny that a decline in the number of automobiles is good for nature, seeing that she will end up with a bit less poison in her veins? Could anyone deny the value of this decline in car numbers to pedestrians, seeing that fewer of them will die?

Here’s how Lewis Carroll’s queen explained to Alice how justice is dispensed in a looking-glass world:

“There’s the King’s Messenger. He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t begin until next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.”

In El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero found that justice, like a snake, only bites barefoot people. He died of gunshot wounds, for proclaiming that in his country the dispossessed were condemned from the very start, on the day of their birth.

Couldn’t the outcome of the recent elections in El Salvador be viewed, in some ways, as a homage to Archbishop Romero and to the thousands who, like him, died fighting for right-side-up justice in this reign of injustice?

At times the narratives of History end badly, but she, History itself, never ends. When she says goodbye, she only says: I’ll be back.

Translation from Spanish: Dr. Moti Nissani

Among his other achievements, in 1971, Eduardo Galeano wrote The Open Veins of Latin America and, in 1976, escaped death at the hands of CIA-financed Argentine death squads.

FROM Counterpunch, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

subvert the global food paradigm!

There is a spate of recent films spilling the beans about the corporate takeover of the global food economy. Many are available online or through Amazon and Netflix.

Please watch some of these. Show your kids. Host a screening in your community. Donate a copy or two to the local library or public school system. Encourage teachers to show the films. Spread the word! Subvert the dominant food paradigm! Refuse to play along anymore!

Food, Inc., the first enviro-food movie to be screened in major theaters across the country, has brought food consciousness in the United States to a new level.

Fresh: The Movie is the perfect follow-up screening to Food, Inc. because it shows the flip side—positive change being created by farmers, students, thinkers, and business people in the U.S. today.

French Fries to Go documents Telluride, Colorado's quest to run city buses on recycled fryer oil.

Garden Cycles: Faces From the New Farm is the story of three women on a three-month bicycle-powered tour of urban gardens throughout the Northeast.

Polycultures: Food Where We Live looks at communities in Northeast Ohio that are coming together to grow a more sustainable, just, and local food system.

The Greening of Southie is about Boston's first LEED-certified residential green building and the way it affected a community.

Eating Alaska is a documentary by a vegetarian filmmaker who moves to Alaska and marries a hunter. The film looks at the ethics behind food choices and how politics, society, religion, and taste all play a role.

Sustainable Table: What's on Your Plate? traces West Coast food production from field to table.

To Market to Market to Buy a Fat Pig tours outstanding farmers' markets from Baltimore to Hawaii.

The Real Dirt of Farmer John looks at one man and his family farm. Farmer John and his story will have you reconsidering stereotypes about farmers.

The Garden examines the largest community garden in the U.S., 14 acres of green in South Central Los Angeles, and the fight to keep it there.

The World According to Monsanto looks at this behemoth of a multinational agricultural biotech corporation and their dominance of patents on genetically engineered seeds and pesticides.

Seeds of Deception focuses on how genetically engineered food is making its way into our daily diets.

Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food looks at who is controlling the world's food supply and the consequences of genetically modified food on health.

The Future of Food examines the complex web of market and political forces that affect what we eat and what we will eat in the future.

Food Matters takes a look at the often overlooked connection between food and our nation's current state of health. With the health-care debate raging, watching this film feels extra-timely and important.

King Corn investigates the staggering scale of the corn related food economy in the U.S. in an entertaining way. While you're at it check out Carey's two part quest to go corn free.

Two Angry Moms shows two angry (and awesome) moms striving to improve school lunch with simple changes, like having fresh fruits and vegetables included on cafeteria trays.

Our Daily Bread is shot like a high end art-house film sand hows minute after minute of shocking footage of industrial food production and high-tech farming.

Super Size Me now feels like a classic among all these newer films. Watch as Morgan Spurlock spends 30 days eating nothing but McDonald's while investigating the companies' extremely long reach into school cafeterias and countries around the world.

Media That Matters: Good Food is a collection of 16 short films on food and sustainability.

The Greenhorns is an upcoming film on enterprising, hopeful, and young farmers that are bringing an infusion of youth and a wave of excitement to the one of the oldest professions of all.

The End of the Line chronicles how demand for cod off the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1990s led to the decimation of the most abundant cod population in the world, how hi-tech fishing vessels leave no escape routes for fish populations and how farmed fish as a solution is a myth.

Mondovino explores the impact of globalization on the various wine-producing regions. It pits the ambitions of large, multinational wine producers, in particular Robert Mondavi, against the small, single estate wineries who have traditionally boasted wines with individual character driven by their terroir.

We Feed the World is a film by Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer about food and globalization, fishermen and farmers, long-distance truck drivers and high-powered corporate executives, the flow of goods and cash flow – a film about scarcity amid plenty.

McLibel is a story of two activists who took on McDonald's in the longest trial in English history. They won.

The Cove follows a team of activists and filmmakers as they infiltrate a heavily-guarded cove in Taiji, Japan where more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are being slaughtered each year and their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is being sold as food in Japan, often times labeled as whale meat.

The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil tells the story of the Cuban people's efforts to feed the population and create a low-energy society after losing access to Soviet oil in the 1990s.

Information from the Serious Eats website. Thank you, Serious Eats!

Monday, August 10, 2009

you can't hide your lyin' eyes, er ears


I’m sure you’ve seen the Sweet Surprise commercials. There are several to target different consumer groups, but all involve a person #1 expressing hesitation at the offer of a high fructose corn syrup-laden “treat” and a smug HFCS-pusher asking sneeringly, “Oh yeah? Well, what’s so bad about HFCS?”

In the ads, person #1 hems and haws and has trouble articulating a satisfactory reply. HFCS person pats person #1 on the head condescendingly and says, “I thought so. Don’t worry, high fructose corn syrup is just like sugar. In moderation, it’s part of a healthy diet.” Person #1 quietly accepts the offered Frankenfood while DDB Chicago, the creator of the ads, and the Corn Refiners Association, creator of the poison, high five at their clever game, played to the grave detriment of the confused end-consumer.

I’m going to enlist my fledgling filmmaker son to help me produce a commercial of my own. The script will look something like this:

Corporate Shill Cornelia: High fructose corn syrup is just like sugar. In moderation, it’s perfectly peachy for you.

Vigilant Consumer Veronica: Oh, no, Cornelia. Fortunately for you, I have a PhD in molecular biology and can help you understand how terribly you’ve been duped.

When an individual consumes sugar, the pancreas responds by increasing the production of insulin which enables the glucose in the bloodstream to be transported into cells and used as energy. The body also increases the production of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate the appetite and send a satiety signal to the body. This tells us that we’ve had enough to eat, a crucial component in the pursuit of “moderation.”

HFCS, in contrast, doesn’t cause insulin or leptin production nor increased cellular energy. You see, every cell in the body can metabolize glucose, but HFCS is only processed in the liver, like fats and alcohol, where it’s converted into triglycerides. The “energy” locked in HFCS stays largely inaccessible to the body, and most people know that elevated triglycerides — which we commonly refer to as high cholesterol — can lead to a whole host of health problems, including hardened arteries and heart attack. With HFCS, the moderation mechanism is never triggered; we never feel satisfied. Maybe this explains why 30% of American children are obese and sluggish, and why Lipitor, which is used to treat high cholesterol, is the best-selling drug in the country today. With approval by the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors are now prescribing it to children as young as 8.

Cornelia, I know this is a lot to digest and, believe me, I've only begun to scratch the surface. The dangerous way HFCS is made, the genetically-modifed corn and enzymes that are used in its production, the fatty deposits and liver cirrhosis that may result from its over-consumption, the criminal complicity of the FDA, even the tale of interference with free-market mechanisms that led to its prevalence in the food supply, are all feature-length films in themselves.

Please, Cornelia, take my advice. Get educated about HFCS. Read labels. Protect yourself and your family from high fructose corn syrup. It truly is deadly, and there’s no smug satisfaction in that for me.

[hugs weepy Cornelia, hands her a tissue. children run into scene, grab offered apples, run off laughing and playing. pan to crushed box of Fudgsicles on picnic table, melting, chalk outline, puddle of congealed goo, like blood, surrounding] CUT.





------

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the spirit of revolt is upon us


There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable. New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life. These ideas are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions. The accepted ideas of the constitution of the state, of the laws of social equilibrium, of the political and economic interrelations of citizens, can hold out no longer against the implacable criticism which is daily undermining them … Political, economic and social institutions are crumbling. The social structure, having become uninhabitable, is hindering, even preventing, the development of seeds which are being propagated within its damaged walls and being brought forth around them.

The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seems just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality. The conflict between new ideas and old traditions flames up in every class of society … the popular conscience rises up against the scandals which breed amidst the privileged and leisured, against the crimes committed in the name of “the law of the stronger,” or in order to maintain these privileges. Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted. They perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.

In periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of the sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee. They produce precisely the opposite result. Instead of order they bring forth chaos; instead of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interests, war – a perpetual war of the exploiter against the worker, of exploiters and of workers among themselves. Human society is seen to be splitting more and more into two hostile camps, and at the same time to be subdividing into thousands of small groups waging merciless war against each other. Weary of these wars, weary of the miseries which they cause, society rushes to seek a new organization. It clamors loudly for a complete remodeling of the system of property ownership, of production, of exchange all economic relations which spring from it.

The machinery of government, entrusted with the maintenance of the existing order, continues to function, but at every turn of its deteriorated gears, it slips and stops. Its working becomes more and more difficult, and the dissatisfaction caused by its defects grows continuously. Every day gives rise to a new demand. “Reform this,” “Reform that,” is heard from all sides. “War, finance, taxes, courts, police, everything would have to be remodeled, reorganized, established on a new basis,” say the reformers. And yet all know that it is impossible to make things over, to remodel anything at all because everything is interrelated; everything would have to be remade at once. And how can society be remodeled when it is divided into two openly hostile camps? To satisfy the discontented would be only to create new malcontents.

Incapable of undertaking reforms, since this would mean paving the way for revolution, and at the same time too impotent to be frankly reactionary, the governing bodies apply themselves to half-measures which can satisfy nobody, and only cause new dissatisfaction. The mediocrities who, in such transition periods, undertake to steer the ship of state, think of but one thing: to enrich themselves against the coming debacle. Attacked from all sides they defend themselves awkwardly, they evade, they commit blunder upon blunder and they soon succeed in cutting the last rope of salvation. They drown the prestige of the government in ridicule, caused by their own incapacity.

Such periods demand revolution. It becomes a social necessity; the situation itself is revolutionary.

When we study in the works of our greatest historians the genesis and development of vast revolutionary convulsions, we generally find under the heading “The Cause of the Revolution” a gripping picture of the situation on the eve of events. The misery of the people, the general insecurity, the vexatious measures of the government, the odious scandals laying bare the immense vices of society, the new ideas struggling to come to the surface and repulsed by the incapacity of the supporters of the former regime – nothing is omitted. Examining this picture, one arrives at the conviction that the revolution was indeed inevitable, and that there was no other way out than by the road of insurrection … But, between this pacific arguing and insurrection or revolt, there is a wide abyss – that abyss which, for the greatest part of humanity, lies between reasoning and action, thought and the will to act. How has this abyss been bridged? … How was it that words, so often spoken and lost in the air like the empty chiming of bells, were changed in actions?

The answer is easy. Action. The continuous action, ceaselessly renewed, of minorities brings about this transformation. Courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission and panic.

What forms will this action take? All forms – indeed, the most varied forms, dictated by circumstances, temperament and the means at disposal. Sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, but always daring; sometimes collective, sometimes purely individual, this policy of action will neglect none of the means at hand, no event of public life, in order to keep the spirit alive, to propagate and find expression for dissatisfaction, to excite hatred against exploiters, to ridicule the government and expose its weakness and above all and always, by actual example, to awaken courage and fan the spirit of revolt.

When a revolutionary situation arises in a country, before the spirit of revolt is sufficiently awakened in the masses to express itself in violent demonstrations in the streets or by rebellions and uprisings, it is through action that minorities succeed in awakening that feeling of independence and that spirit of audacity without which no revolution can come to a head.

Men of courage, not satisfied with words, but ever searching for the means to transform them into action – men of integrity for whom the act is one with the idea, for whom prison, exile and death are preferable to a life contrary to their principles, intrepid souls who know that it is necessary to dare in order to succeed – these are the lonely sentinels who enter the battle long before the masses are sufficiently roused to raise openly the banner of insurrection and to march, arms in hand, to the conquest of their rights … Whoever has a slight knowledge of history and a fairly clear head knows perfectly well from the beginning that theoretical propaganda for revolution will necessarily express itself in action long before the theoreticians have decided that the moment to act has come.

Nevertheless the cautious theoreticians are angry at these madmen, they excommunicate them, they anathematize them. But the madmen win sympathy, the mass of the people secretly applaud their courage and they find imitators … Acts of illegal protest, of revolt, of vengeance, multiply.

Indifference from this point on is impossible … By actions which compel general attention, the new idea seeps into people’s minds and wins converts … Above all, it awakens the spirit of the revolt: it breeds daring … The people observe that the monster is not so terrible as they thought; they begin dimly to perceive that a few energetic efforts will be sufficient to throw it down. Hope is born in their hearts, and let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope – the hope of victory – which makes revolutions.

The government resists; it is savage in its repressions. But, though formerly persecution killed the energy of the oppressed, now, in periods of excitement, it produces the opposite result. It provokes new acts of revolt, individual and collective. It drives the rebels to heroism, and in rapid succession these acts spread, become general, develop. The revolutionary party is strengthened by elements, which up to this time were hostile or indifferent to it. The general disintegration penetrates into the government, the ruling classes, the privileged. Some of them advocate resistance to the limit; others are in favor of concessions; others, again, go so far as to declare themselves ready to renounce their privileges for the moment, in order to appease the spirit of revolt, hoping to dominate again later on. The unity of the government and the privileged class is broken.

The ruling class may also try to find safety in savage reaction. But it is now too late; the battle only becomes more bitter, more terrible, and the revolution which is looming will only be more bloody. On the other hand, the smallest concession of the governing classes, since it comes too late, since it has been snatched in struggle, only awakes the revolutionary spirit still more. The common people, who formerly would have been satisfied with the smallest concession, observe now that the enemy is wavering. They foresee victory, they feel their courage growing, and the same men who were formerly crushed by misery and were content to sigh in secret, now lift their heads and march proudly to the conquest of a better future.

Finally, the revolution breaks out, the more terrible as the preceding struggles were bitter.

The Spirit of Revolt, Pyotr Kropotkin, 1880.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good fer you, Little Buffalo Billy!



"It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping very quiet and hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up to the moon-lit sky and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over the bank. Instead of hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet way, I instantly aimed my gun at his head and fired.

The report rang out sharp and loud on the night air, and was immediately followed by an Indian whoop, and the next moment about six feet of dead Indian came tumbling into the river. I was not only overcome with astonishment, but was badly scared, as I could hardly realize what I had done. I expected to see the whole force of Indians come down upon us. While I was standing thus bewildered, the men, who had heard the shot and the war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a tumble, came rushing back.

'Who fired that shot?' cried Frank McCarthy.

'I did,' replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and I saw the men coming up.

From that time forward I became a hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first Indian I had ever shot, and as I was not then more than eleven years of age, my exploit created quite a sensation."

--from Buffalo Bill's Own Story

I thought we were to revere Buffalo Bill Cody for his legendary ability to kill buffalo, not Indians! Apparently, he was an all-purpose killing machine.

Eric and I passed this lovely bronze sculpture while driving through Oakley, Kansas, yesterday evening. It was created by Charles Norton to commemorate the murderous heroics that took place on the surrounding plains and gave rise to the legend of Buffalo Bill.

Here, I'll let Buffalo Bill tell it:

"The construction of the Kansas Pacific railroad was pushed forward with great rapidity, and when track-laying began it was only a very short time before the road was ready for construction trains as far west as the heart of the buffalo country. Twelve hundred men were employed in the work, and as the Indians were very troublesome it became difficult to obtain sufficient fresh meat to feed such an army of workmen. This embarrassment was at length overcome by the construction company engaging hunters to kill buffaloes, the flesh of which is equal to the best corn-fed beef.

Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter, Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and made me a good offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract with them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes per day; that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country, and as I would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from the road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one man with a light wagon for the transportation of the meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They could afford to remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything.

They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided I furnished them all the fresh meat required.

Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific railroad, and it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate name of "Buffalo Bill" was conferred upon me by the road-hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never been ashamed of it.

During my engagement as hunter for the company a period of less than eighteen months I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair breadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating."

--from Buffalo Bill's Own Story


Wow! Colonel Cody killed more than 4,000 buffalo in eighteen months, taking only the hams and leaving the rest of the meat to the buzzards and the starving Indians.

However, if you do the math, Colonel Bill Cody fell considerably short of the required twelve buffalo per day. He was supposed to kill 360 majestic beasts every month but, by his own braggadocious account, he brought down fewer than 250. So, tell me, why the big kudos? Maybe he made up the shortfall by killing a couple hundred Indians. In any case, the man was a few humps shy of becoming a hero in my book.





------

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shadow art in the French Quarter

Friday, July 10, 2009

Playing by Lake Dillon





Wednesday, July 8, 2009

do you blame them?










Saturday, May 9, 2009

Phony Sedon-y


I mentioned in my last post that I'd had a visceral negative reaction to Sedona -- undeniably one of the most beautiful places on earth -- which surprised and dismayed me. I had a vague sense that I was offended by the opulence and pseudo-spiritualism of the place, but that didn't completely explain my snarky attitude which, I've come to understand, usually masks a deeper response to perceived injustice or dashed hopes.

I found an answer in the form of a book I happened to pull from my brother's bookshelf: An American Child Supreme -- the education of a liberation ecologist, by John Nichols. It's a memoir of sorts, and tries to decipher how any of us -- born into a culture that very nearly ensures that we become bigots, greedy consumers, warmongers, and environmental parasites -- develops a social conscience.

John Nichols tells of the life-changing -- often seemingly innocuous -- events, people and books that transformed him from a product of a privileged upbringing and Mayflower pedigree to a liberation ecologist (as opposed to naturalist or environmentalist), a more radical superstratum of social ecology.

I won't go into any of that, although it was fascinating to me. I'll just write the words that I scratched frantically into my little notebook so I'd not lose them or allow myself to forget them. I wasn't sure how they related to Sedona, but somehow they did.

Myself, I do not have the courage or the fanaticism that motivated Diana Oughton (of the Weather Underground) to build bombs, but I cannot envision the changes we need without some sort of apocalyptic reaction against the current levels of violence generated by the daily economic activities of the multinationals that feed and clothe us.

Territorial shooting wars are only a small fraction of the greater (and more horrific) violence of a world market that levels forests, pollutes the oceans, impoverishes people and toxifies topsoil in order to bring us our hamburgers, polyester golf slacks, and Marlboro cigarettes. "The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret," writes Eduard Galeano. "Every year, without making a sound, three Hiroshima bombs explode over communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This systemic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics."

Environmental collapse is now universally caused by monopoly capital plundering earth's biological and human resources for profit. The profit is generated by the labor of those underdogs, whose energy is thus co-opted to destroy the environment. This means that our most destructive environmental problems are tied to their inequality. . . . That inequality is causing a downward social spiral on earth and eco-devastation. Profit requires demolition. The racism that deforms our nation (and the globe) is a tool used by a capitalist society to maintain class divisions for profit-making reasons, so racism is also a main component of biosystem toxicity.

John Nichols sums up the philosophy of a liberation ecologist when he quotes Tom Athanasiou's book Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor, whose words are directed at environmentalists:

"The time for such political innocence is over. . . .it is past time for environmentalists to face their own history, in which they have too often stood not for justice and freedom, or even for realism, but merely for the comforts and aesthetics of affluent nature lovers. They have no choice. History will judge greens by whether they stand with the world's poor."

That must be it. I distrusted Sedona because it quite obviously doesn't stand with the world's poor, nor even the nation's middle class. It is an enclave for affluent nature lovers whose social consciences are buried in crystals and energy forces, $4 iced teas and expensive gauzy skirts.

Sedona seems to care not a whit about social or economic justice nor -- I'd wager a guess -- about wreaking environmental havoc in Utah and New Mexico to keep its own little slice of Eden energized and enflowered. There is no need for Sedona to worry about the larger world, neither liberation for its people nor the sustainability of its global environment. Sedona exists unto itself and its wealthy denizens -- to be owned, developed and distributed and enjoyed at their directive.

Sedona-Boynton-Canyon

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ya'at'eeh from Tuba City


I'd envisioned myself hiking alone in Sedona for three magical days, vortexed into a frenzied energy, taken by wizened hippies to a hillside lair for impromptu meditation. Instead, in spite of the brazenly gorgeous Sedona landscape, I felt the whole place to be a pseudo-spiritual, wildly affluent, corporate-run and supremely phony tourist trap. I was dismayed to feel this way about such a beautiful place, and tried to lecture myself into giving further consideration, but to no avail. I got the hell out of Nirvana Dodge after a single (albeit lovely) hike.

That was yesterday. Today I headed north out of Flagstaff on Highway 89 with no particular plan. Shortly after the city faded from the rearview and I was facing the open road, I turned on the radio and heard "You're listening to Indian Public Radio." This heralded a perfect Tony Hillerman-esque adventure, I was sure of it, and I was flooded with good cheer.

From the radio came gentle Indian flute sounds, haunting-dancing-with-wolves-vision-quest sounds, which had the hair on my arms standing instantly at attention. Within thirty seconds, however, a techno track and a Navajo-accented rapper barged into the song, resulting in a somewhat bizarre Eminem/Kokopelli kind of thing. I was enthralled.

A retrospective about Harold Drake's radio show "The Church in Your Hogan" was next, followed by a short discussion of cultural taboos associated with Indian suicide, and an admonition to speak openly about such things. Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, and then this song by some sweet-voiced Hopi girls:

Hey, Cousin! Nice to see you again!
Do you have any duck tape, Cousin? Because my muffler fell off again.
Duck tape. Sigh. Indian glue.

I was becoming giddy.

I took the Navajo Trail (Highway 160) east onto the Navajo reservation and soon came upon Tuba City, a dusty little town of 8,000 residents and seemingly little else. I drove down Main Street and saw house after house boarded up and nothing but dry dusty fields all around. I don't know where the actual people live, but the town seems reserved for ghosts. In front of the elementary school, at two in the afternoon, were twenty long yellow school buses awaiting what couldn't possibly be that many kids. In fact I didn't see any kids, yet one after another the buses pulled slowly away from the curb. Maybe each rural denizen has his or her own bus.

I went into the trading post/interactive Navajo museum ($9)/internet café hoping to find authentic Indian crafts. The store had some very nice moccasins which, on closer inspection, were made by Minnetonka Moccasins -- a big corporation headquartered in Minnesota. I tried on a cute black straw cowboy hat made by some beachwear company in Oregon. Then I spied a truly adorable backpack purse of Indian-patterned wool and leather, manufactured -- big sigh -- by Pendleton, the company responsible for the boiled wool jackets of my Junior League days.

I couldn't find anything else to do in Tuba City, so I ate some trail mix in the car, drank some warm water from my CamelBack, and did some research on Tuba City. Here are some fun facts:

1. It is the Navajo Nation's largest community.
2. It was founded by the Mormons in 1872.
3. It was a uranium boom town in the fifties, and regional headquarters for the Atomic Energy Commission.
4. Songwriter-musician Glenn Danzig got his ass kicked in a Tuba City nightclub. It was caught on tape and can be seen on YouTube.
5. SPC Lori Piestewa of Tuba City was the first woman killed in the current war against Iraq. She died in the same ambush that injured her best friend, Jessica Lynch.



Friday, May 1, 2009

Oh, how I love the unfettered soul!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu pandemic? Oh, really?

Do you have an uneasy sense that someone's trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Does the hullabaloo over a looming swine flu pandemic seem a bit overblown? The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert level (a 6-point scale) to 4 and is considering moving it to 5 today, with only 7 confirmed deaths worldwide! Keep in mind that seasonal flu kills 40,000 every year in the US alone, so why the sudden grave concern?

I don't claim to understand all the factors at play here, but one thing I do know: I am FAR more concerned that my government will use manufactured fear somehow to my detriment -- likely another lost civil liberty or two and large profits or other benefits to a chosen few -- than I am about contracting the demon swine flu.

A few facts to bolster your immune-to-bullshit system:

--Thus far, only 97 cases of so-called swine flu have been definitively identified worldwide, mostly in Mexico (26 confirmed, 7 deaths) and the U.S. (64 confirmed, no deaths). About 1600 suspected cases, including 159 deaths, are reported in Mexico. Sad as this is, it does not add up to a pandemic swine flu outbreak. We love to make this shit up for some reason. Remember the one million Americans who were supposed to die of swine flu in 1976? WHO has forgotten about them, I suppose, because they refused to become cooperative statistics.

--The virus at issue has nothing to do with swine. In fact, it hasn't been seen in a single animal. And you can't possibly get it from eating pork which I see as an unfortunate truth, because a good reason to stop eating pork would be a welcome silver lining to this "worldwide health crisis."

--No existing vaccines can prevent this new flu strain. So no matter what you hear – even if it comes from your doctor – don't get a regular flu shot. They rarely work against seasonal flu and certainly can't offer protection from a never-before-seen strain.

--Speaking of this strain, it doesn't seem to have come on naturally. According to the World Health Organization, this particular strain has never before been seen in pigs or people. And according to Reuters, the strain is a 'genetic mix' of swine, avian and human flu. Was it created in a lab? We don't know yet, and I doubt we'll find out anytime soon.

--The drug companies are getting excited, and that's never a good thing. According to the Associated Press at least one financial analyst estimates up to $388 million worth of Tamiflu sales in the near future – and that's without a pandemic outbreak. Imagine the payday when everyone begins to flip out!

--Let's not forget that Tamiflu comes with its own problems, including side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, cough -- the very symptoms it purports to relieve! But, oh well, at least the drug company benefits financially from Tamiflu sales. No one benefits if we don't take it, which makes the whole pandemic thing seem like a wasted opportunity.

--Vaccines for this flu strain won't have to jump through all those annoying hurdles like clinical trials for safety and effectiveness (which, if you know anything about the FDA, are usually a waste of time anyway). That won't, however, stop the government from mandating the vaccine for all of us – a very likely scenario. And if the vaccines are actually harmful -- killing people, for example, which they certainly will be -- the vaccine makers will be immune from lawsuits. D'ya suppose they could bottle up some of that fail-safe immunity for the rest of us?

"Swine flu" is endemic to a sick system created by pigs. Your best defense against swine flu – your only real defense in any manufactured health crisis situation – is a bullshit-proof immune system.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

how lovely to be a woman

video
Lara in CMJH's Kids on Broadway. Sweets!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

a pinch of psychedelic

During the kids’ Snow Break last week, we chanced to visit the Denver Art Museum’s Psychedelic Experience exhibit. Dozens of groovy rock posters from the late sixties, mostly advertising shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, were on display, occasionally retro-enhanced by black light. More interesting to the kids, however, was an adjoining exhibit where ancient artifacts were displayed in a seemingly authentic sixties pad. There were LPs (how they laughed!) and record players, a giant console television, magazines from the era (first man on the moon was a big hit), shabby furniture covered in tie-dyed material, and a couple old-fashioned telephone booths with rotary phones. One by one, the kids went into the graffiti-covered booth and closed the door, sat on the bench and tried to figure out how to dial the phone. Seriously, it wasn’t obvious to them.

The terms LSD and psychedelic were ubiquitous throughout the exhibit and the kids asked me their meanings. I think I was able to explain LSD satisfactorily but had a hard time defining psychedelic, although I know psychedelic when I see it. It turns out that today is a birthday of sorts for both LSD and psychedelic, a perfect time to answer my own question!

From Today in Literature:
LSD was first synthesized on this day in 1943 by Albert Hoffman, and the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond coined the term “psychedelic” on this day in 1956, by way of a poetic exchange with Aldous Huxley. Huxley had enthusiastically volunteered himself as a guinea pig for Osmond’s drug experiments and, after some initial reluctance, Osmond had agreed — he said he didn’t “relish the possibility, however remote, of finding a small but discreditable niche in literary history as the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad.” The two felt that a new word was needed to capture the nature of the new experience; Huxley offered his coinage in rhyme:

To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a gramme of phanerothyme.


Osmond replied with his improvement, and entered Far Out history:

To fathom hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Churchill not guilty of academic misconduct

Literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish, weighs in on the report of the “committee of faculty peers” that found Ward Churchill guilty of academic misconduct.

“The verdict did not surprise me because I had read the committee’s report and found it less an indictment of Churchill than an example of a perfectly ordinary squabble about research methods and the handling of evidence.”

“The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him. Which is good, because if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs.”


In the New York Times column, Fish concludes his Churchill-exonerating analysis by claiming that he doesn’t question the integrity of the committee leading the witch hunt, excusing their dishonesty with “they just got caught up in a circus that should have never come to town.”

Apparently Stanley Fish didn’t see any of the lying douchenozzles on the stand, or read their vomit-inducing 125-page report trashing Ward Churchill’s 30-year stint as polemicist laureate. Still, I appreciate Mr. Fish setting the record straight: Ward Churchill is not guilty of academic misconduct. I hope David Lane, Ward’s wildly fabulous attorney, is gearing up to sue the stuffing out of the next bastard who publicly claims he is.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Churchill juror Newill explains it all

A few interesting things about the Ward Churchill jury came to light today (a sigh of relief from Pirate Ballerina!). The jury thought -- right up until the judge gave them their instructions -- they were to determine whether Ward Churchill was guilty of academic misconduct. When they realized they needed only to decide only whether the 9/11 essay was a substantial motivating factor in his dismissal, they agreed very quickly that it was.

Although apparently the jury took their deliberations seriously, they didn't want to have anything to do with the damages portion of the process. They hoped the judge would do the job for them but when they found out that wasn't permitted, they gave it a half-hearted shot. This from Westword's interview with juror Bethany Newill:

Once Judge Larry Naves reiterated that the jury had to tackle this task, Newill confirms that "the majority of us were in favor of giving him money," but they didn't know how much to award. "We were given a four-page set of rules to determine the amount, and there was also an option that we didn't have to do it. And one of the rules said there needed to be a preponderance of the evidence to show the financial effect it had on Ward Churchill. And there was no real dollar amount other than the loss of wages."

Ultimately, the jurors followed the lead of David Lane, Churchill's attorney. "He said, 'What price can you put on a reputation?'" Newill remembers. "And we all decided that there's not a price you can put on a reputation. And even though this was protected speech, there are still consequences to your actions and your words. When Ward Churchill wrote that essay, he had to think that people would be affected by that, negatively or positively, and that he would need to reap the consequences on his reputation." Still, she emphasizes that "it wasn't a slap in his face or anything like that when we didn't give him any money. It's just that David Lane kept saying this wasn't about the money, and in the end, we took his word for that."

No doubt, a jury of peers! Just not Ward Churchill's peers!

Tim DeChristopher talks Edward Abbey


Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah disobedient civilian, was interviewed on Democracy Now! today. Amy Goodman asked him what relevance Edward Abbey had to his move to disrupt the bidding process for oil and gas leases in Utah's red rock country.

His answer:
I think that the most powerful relevance of Edward Abbey to what I did was his statement and really his expression of the idea that sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul, because I think that’s what I had seen throughout my work as an environmentalist previous to this, where I had seen this massive crisis and massive challenge that we were facing in climate change, and I saw that my efforts of writing the letter here and there and riding my bike and things like that weren’t really aligning. My actions weren’t aligning with my sentiment of how serious this threat was, and I knew that. And so, I felt that kind of conflict within myself.
And when I stepped it up at this auction and was putting myself out there and winning all these parcels was really the first time I felt like my sentiment—or I felt like my actions were aligning with my sentiment. And I felt this tremendous sense of calm when I started doing that, because for the first time that conflict within me was gone, and I knew that when I was, you know, standing up and risking going to prison, my actions really were aligning with how big of a crisis this is.

A grand jury indicted Tim DeChristopher Wednesday afternoon with two felony counts of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. If convicted, Tim could face up to 10 years in the slammer. This, despite the fact that Ken Salazar cancelled the contested leases because the government failed to follow its own procedures, but more on that later!

For now, tune in to KRCC at 7 to hear Tim (and then Noam Chomsky) on Democracy Now! tonight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mr. Churchill, meet Mr. Churchill


Closing arguments will be heard this morning in the Ward Churchill trial and then the case goes to the (very young and earnest) jury.

Winston Churchill said “history is written by the victors” which has been a central thesis in much of Ward Churchill’s work. It’s scrumptiously ironic that when Ward Churchill wins his case against CU, he’ll become a contributor to the “Master Narrative” he so despises. I’m guessing his chapter will be full of tales of brave Indiginists and murdering technocrats, white male regents and the soulless women who love them. Academia will be recast as the valiant protector of the ruling elite and the mighty slayer of free thought and open debate. The jury of young, multiracial, unsophisticates will be consecrated as puissant defenders of justice. A few vindictive ex-wives and some illicit boys’ room puffing may be tossed in to add color.

When Ward Churchill prevails against the esteemed institution that called into question his academic integrity, his reputation as a scholar and a brilliant polemicist will be restored. More importantly, the master narrative will no longer be inscrutable.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it,
ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

— W. Churchill

Monday, March 2, 2009

Machine men with machine hearts

This weekend the kids and I watched Charlie Chaplin’s brilliant 1940 movie The Great Dictator. The film was released before the United States’ entry into World War II when our country was still at peace with Nazi Germany. Charlie Chaplin was an outspoken critic of Nazism and fascism while most Americans were either ignorant of or complacent about European goings-on. The Great Dictator is ingenious in its inexorable skewering of Hitler and Mussolini, done with complete levity and irreverance, a task made possible by Chaplin’s lack of foresight into the coming Holocaust. He admits he likely wouldn’t have made the film had he known about Hitler’s final solution.

Chaplin plays two characters in the film: Adenoid Hynkel (Adolf Hitler) and an obscure Jewish barber who resembles the great dictator. Chaplin undertook a meticulous study of Adolf Hitler’s manner of speaking in preparation for the film, and some of the most brilliant scenes are of Hynkel’s speeches, spoken in authentic German-sounding gibberish, delivered with all the wild-eyed passion, choking and spitting of Hitler himself. Hynkel is surrounded by cronies with amusing names: Goebbels is Herr Garbitsch (pronounced Garbage), Göring is Herr Herring, and leading the opposition is Benzino Napaloni — a portmanteau of Benito Mussolini and Napoleon Bonaparte.

In a plot twist near the end of the film, the Jewish barber is mistaken for Adenoid Hynkel and is called on to make a victory speech to thousands of Germans cheering the successful invasion of neighboring Osterlich (Austria). Bumbling to center stage completely unprepared, the imposter Herr Hynkel delivers this address to his buoyant followers:

I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor - that’s not my business - I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls - has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish…

Soldiers - don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you - who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate - only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers - don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written ” the kingdom of God is within man ” - not one man, nor a group of men - but in all men - in you, the people.

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers - in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting - the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality.

The soul of man has been given wings - and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow - into the light of hope - into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Manitou Springs Carnivale parade!


I posted some photos from yesterday’s Carnivale parade in Manitou on Not My Tribe’s Facebook page. Very colorful! Go see!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pie in the economic sky


Eric and I had fun in Costa Rica playing with a rainbow in the hills outside Santa Elena. We traveled down a narrow bumpy road until the bright double rainbow appeared to end in the backyard of the only house in sight. An inspiring illusion to be sure, but still only an illusion. Rainbows are like that, aren’t they? Manipulable to a point; there, but not, depending on your vantage point; seen by all, fully comprehended by few. As kids we dreamed of finding the promised pot of leprechaun gold, but we never could quite get there. The promise forever remained only a promise.

Chasing rainbows has become our financial pastime of late. Golden parachutes, speculation, valuation, debt forgiveness, creative accounting, off-book transactions, suspense accounts, slush funds, contra accounts, accruals, clean opinions, full disclosure, extraordinary items, going concerns, immateriality — I could go on for hours. We have a financial system that’s impossible to discern, is largely illusory and widely un-understood. Even by its makers.

The fractional reserve system, patently illegal not so long ago, means that our money isn’t a paper representation of what actually is, it is only what they say it is, which is whatever it is, I suppose. I’m told it’s lost 50% of its value in the past decade which means, I guess, that it’s now something other than what it was. And who knows what it will be tomorrow?

It would seem that printing off billions more crisp banknotes to give to soulless corporate people, whose paper assets and liabilities can be altered with the stroke of a pen, means little to anyone except the publicly-traded rich.

Is it any wonder that no one - which includes everyone - can get their arms around this mess? We don’t understand what’s really going on so we keep doing what we do, which is whatever that is, on any given day. Today Obama is coming to Denver to sign his economic stimulus plan into law — 1588 pages of freshly-printed unread paper that will solve our economic crisis and put us back on the road to financial prosperity.

I can’t recall where the momentous event is to take place, but I imagine it’s somewhere over the rainbow.