Monday, May 31, 2010

Good Guys vs Bad Guys

Americans are accustomed to having complex realities framed in a cowboy movie fashion, so that they can easily be swallowed without thinking.

Whenever the US military kills someone, be it bombings, drone assassinations, or old-fashioned kick-down-door-and-kill-everyone-inside, the victims are always the "bad guys". Because, of course, we all know that the US is the "good guy".

We also have things personalized for us. Financial speculation isn't systemic to capitalism, it's that evil Bernie Madoff. Energy speculation? Kenny Lay. War profiteering? Dick Cheney.

This simplistic way of looking at problems is in full view in the ongoing disaster of the oil gusher in the Gulf.

The right blames Obama, although the really far out ones blame North Korea, or environmentalists. The left blames BP, or if they're really radical, Halliburton.

The posturing continues. Bobby Jindal holds press conferences and demands that the government DO something. Obama announces sternly that BP will be "held accountable". (Just like he's "held accountable for the civilian deaths in Afghanistan? I bet BP executives are shaking in their boots!)

I will quote right wingers when they're correct, and my co-worker told me something his Green Beret Vietnam veteran Dad told him when he bought a motorcycle.

"Some mistakes can't be fixed".

Damn straight! This unshakable belief held by the right and the left that SOMETHING could fix this mess is another typically American axiom.

If we can send a man to the moon, we can certainly.....fix this gusher, cure cancer, provide free energy, etc., (or my personal favorite "why can't we send all of them?").

I used to work in a rehab hospital, full of car crash survivors who were now paralyzed. The paraplegics would sit around all day and discuss when science would find a cure for their paralysis. The quadriplegics couldn't discuss anything, being unable to speak because of their endotracheal tubes. That was many years ago, and there is still no cure.

Some things can't be fixed.

This is why we had a moratorium on off-shore drilling. George H. W. Bush, who was also a veteran with a bad experience, one that couldn't be fixed, signed an executive order banning off-shore drilling, which was allowed to lapse by the Democratic Congress in 2008. It was recognized that an oil spill would be an unfixable disaster, and the only way to avoid it would be not to do it in the first place.

Now we watch the posturing, the finger pointing and the fervent beliefs that the gusher can be stopped, the environment can be "made right", and that someone will pay.

No. The gusher will stop when the pressure eases. The environment is damaged, and cannot be made right. The only ones to pay will be the wildlife that pays with their lives for the spoiled demand by the American people that their "lifestyle", as they like to call the car centered, cheap agribusiness-supplied fast food consumption, air-conditioned, plastic-wrapped way of living that has evolved over the last 60 years, continue unchanged.

But if you point out that our infrastructure must be changed, people scream "Impossible".

Yes, the same folks who are quite sure that a oil geyser a mile undersea can be stopped are equally sure that the American "lifestyle" is written in stone. Never mind that each zoning decision, each marketing decision, each federal pork decision has gone to make the mess we're in, and each COULD BE UNDONE!

People like lights at night, that is true. And the whales were about hunted to extinction before we switched to electricity. Do you hear anyone screaming today that they prefer whale oil to coal? No. As long as the lights come on, people are satisfied.

Do we really need every cheese slice wrapped in plastic? Do we really need every piece of trash we toss to be wrapped in plastic? Do we really need to continue "stimulating the economy" by widening roads and building McMansions?

Just like "good guys vs bad guys", the "economy vs the environment" is a false dichotomy.

The environment is real. It is the natural wealth that we evolved to live in. We breathe air, we drink water, we eat food. The capitalist economy that produces what we call wealth by turning the natural wealth of our Earth into consumable, disposable products for sell is man made, and can be changed.

Nay. It must be changed, or we will find out the hard way that some things, like destroying our ecosystem, can't be fixed.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spy vs Not Spy

Iran tried an American citizen for espionage and was subjected to great pressure to let her go. There were impassioned denials from the West, impassioned demands for her release and impassioned denunciations of Iran's cruelty and lack of fair trial standards. (omigod, how embarrassing, for the US to accuse Iran of lack of fair trials!). Eventually, they did let her go. I am not privy to the deal that was made for that outcome.

Now, Iran is holding three hippy kids in prison and accusing them of being spies. The silence from the "world community" (the US and its minions), is interesting.

Note to Iran. The US doesn't really care about these kids. You have no leverage with them. And this lack of concern kind of shows that they're not really spies.

However, I'm betting that Roxanne Saberi really was a spy!

Another note to Iran. Whoever had their camera trained onto Neda Agha-Soltan, (a beautiful Iranian girl, who was on a side street near the June demonstrations last year), at the exact minute that a sniper shot her in the head, and immediately managed to get the footage of her death publicized around the world?

I'm guessing "spy".

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Progressive ADHD

When Sarah Palin led the mentally challenged in chanting "Drill, baby, drill"!, progressives were all over it, pointing out that off-shore drilling was a danger to the ocean environment and our coasts.

But now that the worst has happened, and an undersea oil gusher spews toxic oil unchecked, progressives have changed their tunes.

All of a sudden, they are talking about BP, and how criminal it is, and how this whole thing could have been prevented by the proper gadget which was left off the destroyed rig.

Yes, progressives like Thom Hartman and Amy Goodman are pretty much implying that off-shore drilling can be perfectly safe, if the right gadgets are installed.


This is the time to be talking about getting off of our addiction to oil! Not how to properly build an oil rig.

Clearly, we are pathetically continuing our addiction long past the intervention stage. We are like nicotine addicts, who smoked the carton, and are now rooting through ashtrays looking for butts.

Peak oil, global warming, ocean acidification and oil gushers, wars for oil, what will it take for politicians to stop spending the Treasury on oil based infrastructure?

We need to rebuild our infrastructure to discourage car and air travel. Quit subsidizing the addicted. Why should the rest of us pay for wars, highways, airline bailouts and urban sprawl? Let the cost of oil rise to its true value, and stop the tax handouts.

But Obama's "stimulus" plan mostly involves widening roads!!

What is wrong with these people? Are they homicidal and suicidal?

It is definitely time for some interventions.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goons Killing Dogs

One of the stories that Dhar Jhamail told in his book, "Beyond the Green Zone" that affected me deeply was about US soldiers breaking into an Iraqi family's house, and when their dog did its job and barked at them, they shot it. The mother of the house was furious, and screamed at them, so they shot her, also.

I could relate to that woman. I love my dogs, and if armed goons shot one of them, I would not be able to accept it passively.

Here is a video of cops in Missouri, breaking down a family's door, and shooting their dogs.

The crime? Possession of marijuana. And after what looks to be 10 heavily armed men shoot their way through the house, they arrest the parents of the 7 year old, (who was present while they broke in, threw his dad on the floor, and killed his dogs), with the charge "child endangerment".

Why shoot the dogs? They were trying to protect their property from armed invaders. Clearly, in American terms, that made them bad guys. And terrorists, yeah, that's it. Maybe even, gasp, al Quaida! Wave the flag, folks. The heroes took out terrorist al-Quaida dogs!

Allowing the police to profit from stealing people's property is a recipe for oppression, and yet it goes on daily, unreported by the corporate media, who prefer to dwell on non-events like the Times Square non-explosion.

And setting up a paramilitary force in every town to enforce laws, especially laws against non-violent offenses, gives us proof that we live in a police state. Just because they haven't knocked your door down and shot your dog yet, doesn't prove that you are free.

Most Germans had absolutely no problems with the SS, either.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

In The News

"Controlled burn" of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Car that didn't explode in Times Square.


Which perpetrator caused more harm?

Which perpetrator will be prosecuted?

Which is more likely to happen? Ordinary Americans will now be watched more, inspected more and hassled more by the security state in the name of fighting "terrorism",
OR is it more likely that BP and Halliburton will lose their corporate charters and be fined and prosecuted for the massive destruction that they have caused?
We live in a country in which we are routinely solemnly promised by our President -Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat, white or black - that their job is to protect us. From terrorists.
Not from bankers, or oil companies, agribusiness or for-profit health care. Nope. From terrorists and that is all.
And the way they "protect" us is by accusing every single one of us of being terrorists. That's right. Show your papers. Take off your shoes. Pee in this cup. Pay for guards and police and cameras and ID chips, while oil pours into the Gulf and bridges collapse and people are thrown out of their houses.
Is something wrong with this picture?

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Talk

"Arise then….women of this day!’

Arise, all women who have hearts!

Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,

For caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience,

We, the women of one country,

Will be too tender to those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with

Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe out dishonor,

Nor violence indicate possession."

Yes, the great Unitarian and feminist, Julia Ward Howe’s original Mother’s Day proclamation in 1870 was a call for women to come together and make peace. Horrified by the carnage and misery of the Civil War, she called for a better way. At the time, women were considered, by virtue of their nurturing capacities as mothers, to be more inclined to peacefulness. Sarah Palin was not yet born. Women were encouraged to use their kinder and gentler natures to speak for peace.

Today, 140 years later, Mother’s Day is a money maker for Hallmark, a day to honor individual mothers and sell more stuff. Other mother's children toil in sweatshops to produce trinkets for us to give our mothers.

I was asked to speak about my experience of motherhood. I have three kids, born in different cities, in 2 different decades, with 2 different fathers. The circumstances made a huge difference in my mothering.

Like a good Unitarian, I believe in 19th century Enlightenment ideals of the perfectability of the human race, and I took my job as a mother seriously. I intended to be the perfect mother, which I defined as kind and loving, nurturing and also intelligence stimulating, because I took to heart research which showed that it was environment and not genes, that determined intelligence.

I had my first child in the traditional post WWll way, in the hospital, isolated, while my husband paced in the waiting room in the way popularized in the situation comedies of the time. Those comedies never showed the mother to be, scared, in pain, alone even while in a room with 5 other laboring women, most screaming or moaning in pain. At the end, they tied me to a guerney, pulled out my baby and briefly showed her to me before taking her away until the next day. Not so funny.

The next day, I got my baby and a bottle to feed her with. I explained that I intended to breastfeed, and the nurse brusquely informed me that I had to bottle feed, or the doctors wouldn’t let me take her home. Stubbornly, I tried anyway, but she was asleep for the entire hour I had her.

Four hours later, when I went to get her again, the nurse told me that she had cried for four hours and I had better give her the bottle. Four hours! A sixth of her life! I was absolutely devastated and gave her the bottle, resolving to try again when I got home 3 days later.

After 3 of the longest, most boring, most depressing days of my life, seeing my newborn only 4 times a day, I took her home. She was now used to the bottle and didn’t want to switch. It took two days of her crying, me crying, my mother telling me that I was starving her, etc., before she accepted the switch.

No wonder the year she was born had the highest percentage of bottlefed babies ever. If I hadn’t been convinced by Adelle Davis that she would die if bottlefed, I might have given up.

There I was, stuck in suburban LA with a newborn. Long hours of walking and bouncing a crying baby, with no help from my husband unless I threatened bodily harm, truly was horrible.

Other women had discovered the same thing, and the third wave of feminism was in flower, with demands that men help with children and housework, as well as for equal pay for equal work and the Equal Rights Amendment .

How’d we do? More men now help with the childcare, at least. I remember 15 years after my husband refused to take the baby with him on a walk to the store, because people might see him with a baby!, seeing a big, tattooed macho Mexican guy walking around the swap meet with his infant. So that changed.

The Equal Rights Amendment? No.

Equal pay for equal work? Not so much. But the capitalist class seized on the women’s movement, twisting it for their own purposes. A living wage used to be a family wage, with one person able to support a family on a full-time job.

Corporate media now pushed the idea that women’s liberation meant never leaving the workforce, even to nurture an infant. With women now staying as wage workers with only brief timeouts for childbirth, American business could save on labor costs. Minimum wage no longer was a family wage, which now took 2 workers, one making 57% less than the other one. Such a deal!

The 70s fight to commodify motherhood by hiring out the actual caretaking parts to others was resisted by rightwingers and hippies, but economic forces and the selling by the corporate media of fulltime wage slavery as the “progressive” thing for a woman to do won out. Interestingly, the right wing, like the good corporate slaves that they are, have internalized the commodification so much that Republican mothers now boast about how little time they take off from work to produce their offspring and hand them over to child care workers. It's like machisma!

Ironically, bottle feeding had been sold as the progressive thing to do back in the 20s, with “modern” women bottle feeding and only the poor and backward still breastfeeding . As I mentioned, in the 70s it started to be widely recognized that breastmilk was superior to formula, and educated and progressive women resumed, while the poor and backward stuck with bottlefeeding.

But breastfeeding has also been commodified. It now involves fossil fuels, including an electric breastpump, plastic bottles, a freezer, and a paid child care worker, to what was formerly a loving and physical relationship between a mother and her child.

Mothering became much easier for me when I left my husband and moved into a child ghetto. In those days, discrimination against children was perfectly legal, and most apartments advertised “No children or pets”. So when I found a place which took kids, there were 5 other women with toddlers there, and I discovered that if I offered to watch their kids, they were more than happy to let me. So I would sit out and read a book, while our children played happily for hours.

I managed that way for years, until I met Rich and moved to San Francisco, where we moved into an apartment that allowed children and I offered to babysit the girl upstairs, giving my daughter a friend and me a break.

My second child was born at home, with Rich and my sister and my friend and my dog all with me. What a difference from the first time! I bonded with my second child within the first few hours, instead of months. Any here who have had good experiences with childbirth in a hospital can thank those of us who cut into hospital income by refusing to participate in that dehumanizing experience more than once.

Plus, although I still had to walk the baby to keep her from crying, I could walk the streets of San Francisco, instead of a suburban living room. It was much more interesting. And, Rich put in many hours of baby time. These things made me a much better mother the second time. Infrastructure matters!

I planned to have my third child at home, but I went into premature labor. Totally freaked, I went to the hospital to stop the labor, but instead had another horrendous hospital experience, complete with another baby started on bottle feeding in the hospital. I had learned from the previous experience, though, and switched to breast feeding in two long hours, instead of two days.

Although I still believe that newborn primates should be held constantly, and babies should have fulltime mothering and plenty of visual, auditory, proprioceptor and tactile stimulation, I now think that there should be a lot of social support for the parents. The nuclear family isn’t enough.

Every time I lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids, I was a happier mother, because my kids were happy to have playmates. Everytime I lived with no support, motherhood overwhelmed me.

But my problems pale beside of the problems of mothers in other countries.

There are 4 million Iraqis, 2 million Pakistanis, and 3 million Afghans who have been driven from their homes by US bombs, drones and ethnic cleansing. Homeless, cold, hungry, living in tents, or crowded apartments, forced into prostitution to support their families, how nurturing can these mothers be? Shouldn’t we people of this country be too tender to those of other countries, to allow our sons (and now daughters, also sold to us as “women’s liberation”) to be trained to injure theirs? Shouldn’t we spend Mother’s Day raising our voices in protest over the treatment of mothers and children in countries unfortunate enough to be targets of US imperialism?

What would Julia Ward Howe do?

Julia Ward Howe called for “a general congress of women without limit of nationality to be appointed to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions and the great and general interests of peace”.

It’s about time we took up the cause of the original Mother’s Day call for peace, and insist on using instruments such as the United Nations as the framework for working out differences, instead of rubberstamping American invasions and bombings. The walkout of Americans and their flunkies from the UN when Ahmadinejad spoke recently was undiplomatic, against UN principles and downright rude. Who raised these people? Their mamas should be ashamed.

Tell our politicians in the name of gentle womanhood that we want peace and we want it now.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

They Went That-a-Way

Faced with a precedented disaster in the Gulf, the corporate media has picked BP as the scapegoat.

Disregard that oil spills are a predicted and expected part of offshore drilling, which is why they are opposed by environmentalists. Disregard that they cannot be cleaned up easily, and that much death and damage will be done before any "clean-up" begins.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is now posturing before the cameras, demanding the the US government and BP break out the ShamWow and wipe up the mess. This is the same Bobby Jindal who pushed for more offshore drilling.

Interesting, though, is the anointment of BP as the scapegoat. Only the non-corporate media even mention that Halliburton was working on the rig, under contract to BP.

As I pointed out in Some Pig, people are absurdly easy to misdirect. An angry mob pulls up on horseback, a man points and says "They went that-a-way", and there they all furiously ride.

Apparently, Dick Cheney and his corporation remain off-limits to criticism, and oil spills will be blamed on technical difficulties and not inherent flaws.

BP, Exxon, Shell and other oil companies have all been involved in environmental devastation over our planet.

And yet, US consumption of oil has sky rocketed even since the days when we were oil exporters! Urban sprawl, SUVs and pickup trucks, massive highway construction, it all continues.

And Obama pushes road construction as a job creator, to save us from economic downturn.

FDR had people planting trees, writing plays and compiling oral histories, along with infrastructure building.

There is no reason that we couldn't do the same now, but with public transportation and decentralized energy production as the preferred infrastructure.

Oh, wait, there is. Massive construction corporations, massive energy corporations, etc., have a complete stranglehold on our government.

The killings will continue until morale improves, and we, the people, take our country back and give the death penalty to lawless corporations.


Wow. It's worse than I thought. Those scapegoating BP are the responsible ones. The right wing crazies are blaming either eco-terrorists or North Korea!!!

You can't make this shit up!!! Oh, wait, they do.

Just realizing that 33% of the people of this country will believe them, no matter how crazy, is depressing.

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