the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, March 22, 2003  

The Agonist reports that one of the soldiers injured in the attack on the 101st Airborne has died. No doubt all of the families with someone in that division are praying that it isn't them, please, not them. But then they think, 'Who do I wish it was? Do I want some other family to get this grim news? No, I really don't want anyone, anywhere, to ever have to get it.' I'm glad I read this Ted Barlow post earlier today where he says:

...Glenn links to a story about a town in Iraq eagerly greeting American troops, and says,"This is the "peace" movement's worst nightmare, isn't it?"

Common misconception, apparently. The "peace" movement's worst nightmare would be that these troops would lose their lives in battle, or after being exposed to chemical or biological weapons. Now that the invasion is underway, I can pretty much guarantee that every member of the "peace" movement would love to hear that the Iraqis laid down their arms and surrendered without loss of life on either side...

But I wish these windbag vultures screaming for blood would put their fine sentiments about 'our men and women' into action. Because it sure would be nice if they supported them enough to fully fund their healthcare. Healthcare for people like R., when he comes back, and he will. For people like my grandfather who served in WWII. Take them off their pedestal for once, and have a genuine discussion about their needs, and the needs of their families. The country loves them when they're dropping bombs, but could give a damn when their families are on food stamps and their children's education funding is cut. With friends like these, our troops don't need enemies.

And one more thing... Will George Bush kindly go back to being a drunk couch potato so that I can go back to being a generally sober agnostic? This has got to be the most expensive AA recovery the world has ever seen. Anyway, currently suffering alcohol deficiency, will go forage for wine.

posted by Natasha at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK |

Dealing with Bullies

Recently, Digby had an essay about how the bullying of this administration has not only affected the Democrats and our ex-international partners, but now is also affecting "friends" of Bush in Congress, conservatives that express a difference of opinion, and even those in the business world. The Washington Post article has a number of quotes that that people should read. It is important to note that most of these groups feel threatened and intimidated by this administration. (I can't get over the fact that they treat their friends this way!!!)

So why would this gang think they could always get their way by bullying? Awhile back, Digby had an essay where he posited that the Democratic leadership failure to stand up to Bush earlier caused them to misjudge how they should deal with other nations, which in turn led to their total failure in the diplomatic arena.

The bullying would not be such a great problem, except, now it affects the whole world. Because they are so good at intimidating their opposition, this gang has gotten used to using the tactics of intimidation and now expects it to work all the time.

So we have an administration (and a Dear Leader, wannabe emperor of the free world) that believes that they can do whatever they want. George W Bush has forced this country into a preventative war without having to get anyone's say-so and now, frighteningly, he is glorifying in his power.

Now that Bush has gotten a country to go war, what else is he doing with this power? Besides bombing the sh*t out of the Iraqis, his administration is opportunistically trying to force the right-wing agenda onto the American public. dKos's post showed that they will push their agenda harder during the war because they think they can intimidate their "friends" (the Republican deficit hawks) by making an issue of their patriotism:

The wavering centrists heeded the orders delivered by the White House and Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to support the president while he waged war in Iraq. They, however, made it clear they voted for the budget only because they expect a more acceptable version to emerge from negotiations between the House and Senate.

Dream on. As PLA documented, John McCain found out as did other moderate Republicans, Bush's promises are not worth the paper they are printed on. Turkey felt they had to insist that they get their deal in writing and even with that, the Bush administration publicly humiliated them.

It is clear that letting the Bushies have their own way on everything, feeds their sense of self-aggrandizement. What should we do to stop their bullying? Schools have had to work on the problem of how to deal with bullies for awhile and they have solutions that we might adapt. [Aside: why am I not surprised that Bush has the emotional age of a middle school bully?]

So what do we do? Orincus advocates shining a light on those that use intimidation to advocate violence. Some others say that if you keep your head down and don't disturb your neighbors, then you shouldn't have to worry about bullying. Others advocate noisily rallying against bullies. So what really does work?

One of the world's experts on bullying in schools can help as we try to find a way to counter the bullies in the White House. Dr. Ken Rigby has been studying bullying for a long time and has come up with a thesis that says the success of stopping bullying is based on the level of commitment that teachers (or adults) bring to that goal. He recommends that people who are serious about trying to counteract bullying begin by understanding how to get a commitment on what approach the group thinks will work. He says a concerted approach is more effective than a more ad-hoc, everyone do their own way approach. And he provides a worksheet that can be used by schools to help decide on tactics to confront bullies. I suggest we study the techniques and find ones that we think will work.

I think it is important to not to use belittling language when standing up to them. Calm and rational statements will do much more to defuse their power, because they rely on anger and fear to get their way. If we allow things to escalate out of control, they win.

The danger we face right now is that Bush's vision of the world will be the one we are stuck with unless we can find a way to stop his agenda and to expose the bullying. The battle right now has two fronts: 1) not giving into Bush, and applauding any signs of courage we see in our leaders, and 2) finding a way to have the American public really see the type of person in which they are putting their trust. I think that if the American public really sees that side of Bush, most will no longer support him.

I believe we need to stop being the doormats of Bush and crew. It is essential that we stop letting them intimidate us. This gang will never stop pushing the envelope until they finally come up against a barrier that totally and completely stops them. And we need to stand together as that barrier.

Update: Here is a FAQ that I found that talks more about what one can do to deal with bullies.

posted by Mary at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK |

Bill Keller, Pundit

When people are apportioning blame for those did the most to bring us the disastrous policies of George W. Bush, I think that Bill Keller will be given credit for his part in helping. Bill Keller, NY Times columnist, has written a lot about Bush, and this administration. Today, he has a column in the Times that says it is Colin Powell's fault that Bush is not paying attention to other more critical needs and that he should quit so President Bush can find someone he trusts more.

At least if the president had a secretary of state he fully trusted, the State Department might be allowed to attend to the other grave problems it has given short shrift: the flammable dispute between nuclear India and nuclear Pakistan, the dangerously slow rebuilding of Afghanistan, the multiple woes of South America and the toxic problem of North Korea's nuclear program.


Mr. Powell is not, of course, entirely to blame for the mess of the past few months. If you're apportioning fault, you can cast plenty at the French for demonstrating to the president that Mr. Powell's patient diplomacy was pointless. We can blame Mr. Rumsfeld, the anti-diplomat, who dispensed insults to uppity allies as if they were corporate subordinates. (Getting the president a more compatible secretary of state might allow Mr. Rumsfeld to get out of the business of undermining foreign policy and back to the business of reforming the military.) We can blame the White House national security staff, which is supposed to choreograph something resembling a coherent strategy. We can, of course, blame the man at the desk where the buck stops.

[Ed: I would certainly hope so. Bush should certainly get some of the blame.]

Bill Keller seems to be suffering from a distinct sense of buyer's remorse. Because just last January, he wrote a true hagiography about what a wonderful, and yes, bold man George W Bush is. Why he was even better than Reagan. Keller didn't have any comment about whether Bush's vision was good or bad, just that it was bold.

What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made so far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlements gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of American productivity. In the world, America rampant -- unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.

I wonder if Keller ever thought about what his wet-kiss to Bush would produce? When you have someone who is so arrogant and so full of himself as Bush, what do you think this praise would produce? It must have been thrilling for Bush and Rove to read the NY Times and see Keller's assessment. And I imagine that Bush and crew certainly felt that they had been given a green light by Keller for their plans. Keller seemed to be fascinated with his picture of Bush: what a powerful President we have and how it is inevitable that Bush would by sheer force of will take the country into the glorious world envisioned by the radical right.

Aided and abetted by our wonderful punditry who enjoy their proximity to real power and to such a bold and audacious President.

Thank you, Bill Keller.

[Ed: thanks to Digby for pointing out Keller's last idiocy.]

posted by Mary at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK |

Martyrdom or a messy end?

Did he die accidentally while protesting against the war in Iraq or commit suicide?

As bombs fell on Iraq and San Francisco experienced a wild day of protest, the strange odyssey of Paul Aladdin Alarab revived an age-old argument about putting suicide barriers on the famous bridge.

Bridge authorities and witnesses said the 44-year-old Kensington real estate agent climbed over the east rail Wednesday near the middle of the span, tied one end of a rope to the bridge and wrapped the other end around his arms, then demanded to talk to the media.

As officers tried to talk him back to safety, he read a statement denouncing the war, then let go of the rope and fell 235 feet to his death.

If the victim had been someone other than this second-generation Iraqi-American, the assumption would likely be an accidental death. However, his personal history, including a previous plunge from the same bridge, a drinking problem and domestic difficulties, makes that assumption questionable.

It was not the first time the man. . .had staged a dramatic protest on the bridge.

In 1988, while protesting treatment of the elderly and handicapped in America, he tried to lower himself into a 33-gallon garbage can hanging from a 60-foot rope, according to news reports.

Alarab lost his grip, fell 220 feet and was sucked out to sea, but survived with broken ribs and two collapsed lungs.

Why would a person who was among the handful of an estimated 2000 jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge to live to talk about it take even the slightest chance of injury in the same place a second time?

A friend of the family speculated that Alarab, whose father immigrated from Iraq, might have believed he could survive the long fall again and jumped for the shock value.

If the venture was planned and had succeeded, it would have attracted the attention Alarab wanted and focused attention on opposition to the war. And, as a person of Iraqi descent, he might have become a hero to Iraqis, other immigrant families and Muslim-Americans.

However, experts say a small minority of successful suicides have tried to take their lives before. Alarab may have been one of them. Indeed, in both plunges, claims of political activism may have been used as veneers to mask personal turmoil.

Jerome Motto, a retired UCSF professor of psychiatry, said Alarab may have been so disturbed by the outbreak of war that previously bearable pain suddenly became intolerable.

"There are some people who experience the same thing as everybody else, but their nervous system responds in a hyper-sensitive way," Motto said. "When emotional pain exceeds a certain point, the world constricts: Things that are ordinarily meaningful are eliminated from one's vision, and all that is left is the pain."

It seems to me Alarab's ethnicity mattered regardlessly. As an Iraqi-American, he may have been contacted by the government apparatus tracking men with ties to the Middle East. It is likely he has family members in Iraq. And, I know minority Americans are often concerned about their children's future. How will children named 'Alarab' be effected by being linked to a country being demonized? These may have been some of the things on the protester's mind before he took the plunge, purposely or not.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK |

Takin' it to the bridge

Your correspondent arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square, "Portland's livingroom" at about 5 p.m. Friday, after keeping the rescheduled appointment with the hairdresser lest she be read out of polite company. An estimated 500 protesters were gathered in the right quadrant of the Square, across from Nordstrom's, listening to speeches by anti-war activists. The motley group included a larger representation of people over 30, some of them still in corporate dress, than I saw among yesterday's protesters. The many banners and signs focused almost exclusively on the invasion of Iraq. Smaller groups of demonstrators assembled at other locations near and on the cobblestoned Square.

The protesters were joined by phalanxes of about 100 police officers on foot, bicycles and horses. Police cars were used to block vehicular traffic onto the mall. I observed no arrests while at the Square.

I listened to speeches, took photographs of the assemblies and caught up on the news using the T-Mobile WiFi connection at the Starbucks on Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The general tone during rush hour downtown on a chilly, blustery and rainy Friday evening was somewhere between normal and subdued. MAX trains and east-west buses were clearly running on schedule. Some demonstrators milled and mixed with office workers and consumers. I saw as many newly acquired shopping bags filled with merchandise at Pioneer Courthouse Square as I did anti-war signage.

The first mercantile difference I noticed after leaving the Square was a block away at Pioneer Place Mall, the downtown shopping center. Security personnel had left the multi-level twin building, where they usually patrol inside, and were standing along the perimeter of it, their numbers supplemented by the PPD, Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies and FBI agents. Inquiries to several store clerks resulted in the news that sales and traffic were down somewhat. However, there were enough customers for the difference not to be striking.

After falling out of the Gap, with a new pair of jeans for only $12.99, I walked west, intending to hop on a number 15 bus to my home in northwest Portland. That is when things became more interesting. This reporter was to spend about another hour battling the elements. Traffic along Washington St. was sparse. Then, except for police cars, it seemed to stop altogether. I ambled from Fifth to Third and was able to see why.

Around 7:00 p.m. protesters in a coordinated effort to prevent downtown traffic from moving marched down streets near NW 4th toward the Morrison Bridge.
About 6 demonstrators were arrested, as was a television cameraman who made contact with an officer, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, the police spokesman.

A group of several hundred protesters had gathered on and in front of the north-south bridge. Efforts to get closer to the action were fruitless. For the first time in my life, a SWAT team member told me, along with a few other people attempting to walk south, to turn back or be detained. No traffic had crossed the Morrison Bridge when I left the scene at about 8:15 p.m. I did so by taking a number 20 bus on Burnside St. The bridge demonstrators had shut down for hours Thursday was open as the action moved to its closest neighbor, though it had reportedly been temporarily blocked again Friday.

Portland has been leading in numbers of protesters and arrests of them among smaller cities since American and allied troops entered Iraq. If the war continues through Spring break, when thousands of college students will be relieved of their normal regimen, it is likely participation in demonstrations will increase.

Why bridges, non-Northwesterners may ask? Portland is a city of bridges. Access can be hampered, if not halted, by blockages of these structures. Takin' it to the bridge is an effective way for activists to get their message across.

Photograph: A rare pro-war protester at Pioneer Couthourse Square Friday evening.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, March 21, 2003  

Around the Web:

If you want up-to-date war news and commentary, try for the headlines from the best warbloggers.

Tensions rise as North Korea accuses the US of planning a preemptive strike against their nuclear facilities, something that they have insisted they will interpret as an act of war. High level hostilities with the South have risen with the coming of the annual US/South Korea joint military drills, but person to person contact between North and South has become more open and almost widespread.

Chinese fishing boat sunk by Sri Lankan rebels, in what may be a case of mistaken identity.

Australian farmers furious over potential loss of the Iraqi market to US farmers, plan to sue their government if they get cut out of future trade deals.

US troops not welcome in the southern Phillipine region of Jolo where a 13 year US invasion and slaughter nearly a century ago continues to loom large in the thoughts of area residents.

Iran and Russia to expand ties. And here, some discussion of the geopolitical shifts in the region unfolding after 9-11 and the possible post-Iraq implications.

Iran and India held their first joint naval exercises early this month. This follows talks for a joint pipeline project between the two countries, and a Pakistani warning against a preemptive strike by India. Though while there is a long history of Pakistan and Iran proxy fighting in Afghanistan, they are not unwilling to talk about security cooperation.

A reader of IranMania ponders the popularity of Reza Pahlavi.

Developing nations have had it up to here with attempts by more industrialized countries led by the US to foist cigarette advertising and unfettered imports on their already-poor-and-unhealthy-enough populations.

Why french fries are partly to blame for our growing water crisis.

Russian sponsored Chechnyan peace plan up for referendum.

Richard Perle, international shady dealer and superhawk, rejoices over the death of the UN. Before posting, we found Body and Soul taking him to task, and linking to Lisa English's parting shots on the subject, which further directed us to a BuzzFlash Editorial on the triumph of the John Birch society in our national politics. I'm reminded again of Bush's comment during his SOTU address: "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country."

What do the headlines of 1991 have in common with the headlines of 2003? WampumBlog tells us.

posted by Natasha at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK |

Report from Little Beirut

Portland's reputation for spirited political activism was in jeopardy when the city council voted against signing a declaration against the war on Iraq weeks ago. The threat has been well met Thursday. Thousands of demonstrators have disrupted business as usual at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Bryant Park, Second and Burnside, and even on I-5. A heterogeneous population, dissenters range from senior citizens professing civil disobedience, to 'suits' taking breaks from work, to bicyclists from Critical Mass, to animal rights advocates yelling "bomb the zoo, not Iraq!"

The group blocking the Burnside bridge lasted the longest on a cold and rainy night. Despite police assaults with pepper spray and flash grenades, about 50 people were still engaging in a sit-in at midnight. Hundreds had completely prevented through traffic earlier. Every 15 minutes, police rousted, handcuffed and trundled off a few more protesters.

After some on foot observation Thursday evening, I've been watching the coverage on television, mainly KATU, Channel 2, an ABC affiliate. The tone of the reportage is shrill even to a journalist's ears.

"Very, almost violent, protests."

"We've never seen a protest quite like this."

"They've been pushing and shoving, blocking our cameras, very combative."

Some demonstrators interviewed seem to be selected for their unattractive appearance or weird behavior. For example, several minutes were devoted to The Dancing Woman. She is an effervescent brunette who shows up at public events and dances, often alone, whether there is music playing or not. She seemed as oblivious to the reason for the demonstrations as she is to everything except the polkas she hears inside her head.

There has always been tension between television and print reporters. Those of us on the print side consider our broadcast brethren, especially the locals, more sources of entertainment than information. However, there is a much uglier edge to the current situation. Channel 2's reporters behave as if they are adversaries of the anti-war protesters instead of members of the fourth estate trying to report the news as objectively as posssible.

Despite a steady parade of arrests at various sites, it is unclear how many people were cited, taken into custody, or booked and released. A report of only 100 by the Oregonian seems too low. Funding failures have made it unlikely persons suspected of charges as minor as disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or criminal trespass will be jailed for even a day. Defendants in much more serious cases are being matrixed back on to the streets within hours of their arrests.

As for the police, who have been the subject of much controversy under the reign of a former Los Angeles assistant chief, Mark A. Kroeker, complaints of misconduct and brutality have been minimal so far. They may look like storm troopers, but their conduct seems to be reasonable.

I don't mean to create the impression Puddletown has been idled as the raindrops keep falling on our heads and the pepper spray stings our eyes. The tide against the war may not be rising. Wednesday, people interviewed downtown seemed to remain loyal to their pre-war opinions. It is not clear how representative the protesters are. I look forward to seeing Monday's public opinion poll data for the Pacific Northwest and the nation. Meanwhile, busy dispatching reports of local demonstrations to news organizations, I missed an appointment at the beauty salon yesterday. When I called to reschedule, I was energetically chided by the owner. "We're trying to run a professional place here," she said. Maybe I don't have my priorities straight.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, March 20, 2003  

Around the web:

Trinicenter is keeping a close watch on the US Crusade.

Tom Tomorrow posts a letter from a reader that brings home what it should mean to support our troops. May they all die of a peaceful old age, with their loved ones around them, and a full life behind them. And the same for the Iraqis.

Orcinus puts up a first hand account of the demonization of environmentalists.

The Asia Times points out that the French will not go quietly. They also bring us a word from our sponsors in crime, who turn out (who knew) to be big fans of the movie High Noon.

What now, Neville... pardon, Tony?

TBogg brings us a column to read, the prayer of an American general. The question isn't whether or not it is the prayer of an American general, which is plainly isn't quite, but whether or not people around the world would believe that it is.

The Agonist has blow-by-blow war updates.

posted by Natasha at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK |

Thank You, Mr. President

Dear sir,

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your actions since taking office. During the 2000 election cycle, it was difficult for me to convince some of my acquaintances that you were indeed a frighteningly unbalanced, proto-fascist theocrat with a boundless contempt for women, the environment, and all individuals making less than $400,000 per year. To my shameful delight, I have not had to endure a single "I told you so" since your ascendency to office.

I am further pleased to report that your immediate order to reinstate the global gag rule has already been responsible for many deaths, that corporate polluters are gleefully running amok, that the wealthy are ripping off the rest of us without let, and our civil liberties are in more danger than perhaps they have ever been. The minority groups that Republicans so carefully wooed have now been shown conclusively that the only time they can expect Republican support is when they become wealthy and sign on to the rich-white-guys-get-to-run-everything agenda. Or, if they agree to serve as sycophantic poster children. Those who didn't realize that that's what they had signed up for are surely all straightened out now.

On the economic front, an unrepealable debt tax* is set to turn us into another third world nation. We'll be there in short order as your administration mounts up the deficits so high that the only thing government can afford to do any longer is pay interest on a sum that cannot, and was never intended, to be repaid. (And also, the guns required to keep unpopular regimes in power. Governments rarely seem to be unable to afford munitions.) Though the mounting sense of peril in those of us who have been paying attention at all will surely be creating lots of jobs in the ethanol industry, which will be a great consolation to the increasing rolls of the unemployed. And ironic, considering that you established your credentials of faith by proclaiming yourself ethanol-free.

Further, our proudly democratic country has become a criminal aggressor nation, in a war which was not even properly declared, the real reasons for which have not been made public. Our nation has become a party to torture, and a willing silent partner to murder**. I am ashamed to be any part of this, and I'm furious that your corporate backers will be drinking their fill of the blood money from this war.

Many people don't know all the particulars of these cases at present, though. Because mysteriously, on your watch, our free press has completely abandoned even the pretence that they actually report news and don't simply recycle Republican press briefings.

I would petition England to take us back at this point, but your comrade, Tony "Chamberlain" Blair, doesn't seem like the person we should be looking to for relief. And so, I'm left with the sole option of bringing my deepest wishes before you, Mr. President, in the hopes that you can provide a remedy: 1) Please take care of the situation in North Korea before Kim Jong Il obliterates the western coast of the US. I hope you'll overlook the fact that we didn't vote for you, and recall instead the godawful huge gobs of cash we add to the federal till, and the godawful huge gobs of cash that your energy industry partners extort from us at every opportunity. And, 2) please, please, please, prove to me that I was wrong in everything I ever said about you.

It takes a lot to get me to sincerely desire to be publicly proven wrong, no doubt a greivous flaw in my makeup, which I've struggled with all my life. I now find myself in the position of wishing with all of my being to be proven so wrong that I will never again be able to speak out on any political topic without blushing from tip to toe. Since I can only be pleased that this humbling and spiritually enlightening experience has come to pass in my consciousness, it is for this that I extend to you my deepest gratitude.


* Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)

** Is it worse because this refers to an American? No. It just means that we get to hear about it in more detail than we ever will the deaths of the nameless citizens of other countries.

posted by Natasha at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, March 19, 2003  

Beyond Human Despair

A few years ago I realized I was a passionate birder. It crept up on me slowly, as I spent more time really paying attention to birds as they went about their business. As I watched, listened and observed, I realized that one of the fascinations was, for the most part they lived their lives totally outside any concern for human doings. If you've ever watched a chickadee come nonchalantly to the feeder outside your house or been awakened by a love-sick flicker pounding its brains out on your metal chimney, it becomes obvious, they don't really need or care about what humans are doing and that their world just barely intersects with ours.

Today as the bombs started falling, it seems important to remember that although events in our human world seem so urgent and so horrible, there is another world outside our ken that goes on, adjusts to our insanity and simply survives our presence. (Birds have to survive what we create, but I rejoice in knowing that the earth will outlast and outwit humans. There is a majesty in the timelessness of the rocks that puts human passion, pride, and desire to possess in its place.)

During the past few months, I've found myself white-hot with rage both at the administration and at myself for not finding a way to thwart their drive to war. (Was there one more letter I could have written, one more person I should have tried to convince? Why didn't I see this earlier and act sooner?)

Today, I have to forgive myself for my failure to stop their war. And I have to try to get past the anger and pain I feel, so I can endure and so I can find a way to act with others to wear away the granite heart of this administration as a soft, but steady drip of water eventually wears away a mountain. Remembering that we humans are a small part of the eternity is one way to regain my soul, my courage and my sense of perspective.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and children's lives many be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-- Wendell Berry

posted by Mary at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK |

Forty-eight Hours

The beleaguered North Carolina tobacco farmer who has held Washington in thrall by parking his tractor at the mall and threatening to detonate explosives if challenged has given up.

Dwight Watson, 50, of Whitakers, N.C., left the tractor he had driven into a pond near Washington's monuments at noon Monday. He backed away with his hands raised and was taken into custody.

Police said Watson claimed to have explosives, but a preliminary search of the tractor and the surrounding area after his surrender turned up no explosives and no weapons.

Watson managed to bring much of normal activity to a halt in the area and slowed traffic for commuters, as well. Thousands of workers got an unexpected day off because authorities feared Watson might use his tractor as a vehicle bomb.

Police shut down several streets, including Constitution Avenue between 15th and 23rd streets NW. They said the same streets would remain closed today if the standoff was not resolved. Several agencies were expected to remain closed today if the situation continues, including in the south annex of the Department of the Interior, which affects about 1,200 of the agency's 6,000 employees. Officials yesterday told only essential personnel to report to work at the Federal Reserve Board, which has 1,700 employees in Washington.

Coming after the tensions of the snipers' escapade and right before a likely war, the incident raised questions about whether Americans are ready to deal with a single angry man, not to mention the thousands who may be enraged by an attack on Iraq many consider unjust.

``What this shows is, one or two people can really throw a metropolitan area into chaos,'' said Richard Clarke, who recently retired as one of the longest-serving, senior counterterrorism officials in the White House. ``I assume that the sniper incident, the anthrax incidents and perhaps the tractor incident are not lost on people who might want to make further mischief in the future.''

Watson, as obscure a person as any before his 48 hours in the limelight, presented his mission as a cause celebre during his flirtation with fame. He "said in a midday telephone interview that his goal was to deliver a message to the American public about the plight of farmers or "die trying." He has compared himself to what he considers the martyrs to government oppression at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.

Like some other farmers, Watson blames Uncle Sam for his troubles, "citing policies that have made it difficult for them to compete internationally. Watson estimated that he earns about 8 cents on each pack of cigarettes that uses his tobacco."

And, the famous tobacco lawsuit settlement that attempts to compensate the states for the millions of dollars they expend as the result of smoking related illnesses? "He said he wants the government's landmark $206 billion 1998 settlement in a lawsuit against tobacco companies thrown "in the garbage can, where it belongs."

Watson seems to be a man out of touch with the times. My maternal grandfather was also a North Carolina tobacco farmer. My uncles, who came of age just in time for the Korean War and were both injured in it, carried on the tobacco business until it was no longer cost effective. They were then forced to sell off a sizable acreage of timber lands to support themselves. They did not like losing their livelihood, but adjusted to the way things were. One of them even admitted he was relieved to wash his hands of the morally dubious enterprise. It is unclear why Watson, a younger man, did not realize forces that cannot be intimidated by mere 'big talk,' as they say down South, meant he needed to diversify his crop or find another job.

Perhaps Watson is off his seasoned, durable Carolina hardwood rocker, as bloggers Roger Ailes and Jesse Taylor of Pandagon say. Some of his remarks, such as referring to the government as 'Nazis' and asserting God inspired his bizarre protest, suggest as much. Nor is it exactly normal for someone to develop the grandiose belief he, alone, can change agricultural policies, health innovations and international trade.

It is uncertain which of the images Watson conjured -- anti-government 'freedom fighter, victimized Southern farmer or nut case -- will dominate. But, he provided a 48 hours as interesting, in its way, as the one this entry is not about.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK |

Note to music lovers:
The lyrics to the talented pianist and vocalist Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam are available at The Nina Simone Web. To hear a clip from the song, which she penned in 1963, go to Rolling Stone Recordings.

posted by J. at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK |

Mississippi Goddam

The usual suspects are claiming Democrat U.S. Rep. James Moran's recent statements saying Jews have too much impact on American foreign policy are equivalent to Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott's lifelong commitment to maintaining racial segregation whenever possible and obstructing the development of a just society.

Speaking at a northern Virginia forum a week ago, Moran said that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this. . . The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."

Moran has been roundly criticized for his intemperate remarks by the Democratic leadership. In addition, he has resigned under pressure from a leadership position.

However, critics say Moran's quick backpedaling is not sufficient.

Former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who now heads a group called American Values, claims Moran's conduct is actually worse than that of Lott.

"I think there clearly is a double standard," Bauer told Wednesday. "It's been clear in Washington for many years that conservatives get one mistake, and liberals have the slate wiped clean with each new day."

Moran's remarks could be considered more offensive than Lott's, Bauer believes, because of their context and timing.

"Moran's contemporary comments are much more ugly and bigoted than Lott's observations on a 50-year-old presidential race," he charged.

Crucial to Bauer's attack on the Democrats are two misreprentations:

(1) That L'Affaire Lott resulted from a single crude statement uttered by the senator, and

(2) That Lott's support for segregation, or at least obstruction of racial equality, has not been ongoing, when in fact it has.

Those of us who have acquainted ourselves with the facts know Trent Lott has a long history as a 'unreconstructed' Southerner and is a member of at least two white supremacist organizations, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Council of Conservative Citizens. He has ignored and sometimes insulted that portion of his constituency that is African-American.

Linda Chavez takes the attack farther, attempting to claim Moran is the paid agent of Islamic radicals:

Last year, Moran revealed he had received more than $10,000 in campaign contributions from three Muslim men accused of raising more than $1.8 billion for Muslim charities that allegedly funneled some of the money to terrorist organizations, including Hamas. At first, Moran said he wouldn't return the contributions, arguing, "In our system of justice, you're innocent until proven guilty -- not the reverse." Moran changed his mind and gave back the money only when media attention became too embarassing.

It has not been established that every charity accused of being a front for terrorism is one or that fundraisers knowingly contributed to radical organizations in the Middle East and elsewhere, assumptions built in to Chavez' assertions.

Chavez, a veteran conservative commentator and rare minority voice for the far Right, goes on to make a flimsy claim of a pattern of anti-Semitism and racism by Democrats. Like Bauer, she would prefer Moran resign, though her voice was not among those urging Lott to leave the Senate.

Perhaps emboldened by his defenders, Lott, only a few months after the exposure of his shameful past, is claiming he is an innocent victim.

"Clearly, there is a double standard," Lott told nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity. "It was observed this very morning at my breakfast table that my remarks were interpreted to mean one thing but that Moran's remarks were clear in what he said."

Like Bauer and Chavez, Lott ignores the complete lack of ambiguity about his history of bigotry. Instead, he blames the Democrats.

"The whole issue was stirred by some people for partisan reasons. It became a media obsession," he told Hannity. "It got to the point where I thought my leadership position was being undermined."

Indeed, one gets the impression that the man from Mississippi is just as clueless about what is wrong with his views as he has ever been. Some of my peers would probably ascribe that to age. At 62, Lott may be incapable of seeing that he has been a towering, diseased tree in a forest of pathology, they would say. However, a generation gap does not seem to be the problem. Lott's claim of victimhood is similar to that of Daniel Swan, a Mississippi cross-burner half his age.

Publicity about the cross-burning case, which had drawn little attention — even in Mississippi — before [Judge Charles] Pickering's nomination, has put Swan's small trucking company out of business, he said.

"All of the sudden, all of my customers dried up," he said.

The cult of Southern victimhood is often key to understanding the mindset of many whites in the region. However, it, whether expressed as a claim the North invaded the South during the Civil war, that a segregationist has been a fine senator for Mississippi or that terrorizing an interracial couple and their young child is not racism, is a lie.

Like Trent Lott, writer Susan Cheever was in Mississippi in 1966. She says:

I wasn't surprised, on June 10 of that year, to hear that three white men had murdered an innocent black farmhand named Ben Chester White. According to federal prosecutors, White, a 67-year-old caretaker on the Carter Farm on the Liberty Road east of Natchez, had been tending to chores when Ernest Avants, Claude Fuller and James Jones pulled up in a green Chevrolet and asked for his help finding their German shepherd. They bought him a soda, shot him almost 20 times with a rifle and a shotgun and threw his body in nearby Pretty Creek. Then, they drove away. According to testimony, they crazily hoped that the brutality of the black man's murder might bring Martin Luther King Jr. to Natchez so they could assassinate him. They used Ben Chester White as bait.

As was the norm, the murderers of B.C. White went Scot free. One of them was finally convicted of aiding and abetting the 1966 homicide this month. Cheever is not mollified.

The South has changed, people tell me. Last Friday, after all kinds of legal shenanigans, Ernest Avants, the only one of the three suspected murderers of Ben Chester White who is still alive, was convicted in federal court in Jackson of aiding and abetting murder. Does time effect justice? When we say that the wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine, surely we don't think about this: A family deprived of their father because three racists in a Chevy had an evil plan.

. . . It's no longer true that a white man can murder a black man and get away with it forever. These days, he can only get away with it for 37 years.

Cheever has not forgotten what she learned as a young civil rights worker in Mississippi -- that the injustices perpetrated there were far worse than everday evil elsewhere. "Murderers were going unpunished, hatred and racism were triumphant," Cheever knows. That is the society Trent Lott sought, and is still seeking, to maintain.

Evil can occur anywhere. But, Mississippi? Goddam.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, March 18, 2003  

The Seven Deadly Sins

Reading Seeing the Forest's post on how Bush's friends are salivating on making a profit on the death and destruction resulting from Bush's war made me think about the seven deadly sins. I thought it would be good to see which of the particular deadly sins are operative for Bush.

Looking through the seven deadly sins, I can identify 5 of them that seem to be relevant to Bush.

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity. Do you not agree that Bush exhibits an overweening pride?

Thomas Aquinas said of Pride "inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin ... the root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule."

Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation. Bush definitely does not like to share the limelight. One example was the scuttlebutt that we heard when the Times wanted to name Bush and Cheney as the man of the year, and Bush refused to share that designation with Cheney.

Thomas Aquinas said of Envy: "Envy according to the aspect of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life... Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it."

Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath. No question that Bush is an angry and vindictive man.

The Travelers' Guide to Hell says, "Anger is ruled by the sign of Mars. It points out that this is the Sin most likely to harm other people, particularly when mixed with another Sin. For example, Anger + Envy = armed robbery. Question: write a short essay describing what Anger + Sloth might look like."

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness. The greed that manifests itself in this administration is quite remarkable in its overtness.

Thomas Aquinas said of Greed: "it is a sin directly against one's neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them... it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man contemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work. And as we all know, unlike Clinton, Bush keeps regular hours, doesn't have trouble sleeping even when sending troops into war and also is not fond of thinking too hard.

Thomas Aquinas said Sloth is "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good... [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds."

My assessment is that Bush is not guilty of the following sins. Perhaps these are the sins that the conservative Christians find most reprehensible and why they demonized Clinton so much.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

I do appreciate that our latest administration has such high marks for morality.

Update: Digby has a link to the WSJ article that does such a good job of reporting on the Bush friends who plan to profit from the post-war rebuilding effort. So nice of them to offer to help.

posted by Mary at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK |

Spitting on Rachel Corrie's grave

The tale of my fellow Pacific Northwesterner Rachel Corrie's death is a tragic one to most people I believe.

Corrie, 23, of Olympia, was killed Sunday when she stood in the path of an Israeli army bulldozer that was razing a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.

It was a brutal death. The bulldozer essentially swallowed Corrie, crushing her skull and chest before backing over her.

An International Solidarity Movement activist uses the word 'murder' to describe Corrie's demise:

At about 5.20 pm today Rachel Corrie from Olympia in Washington State, USA died of her injuries in A-Najar Hospital in Rafah after being deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer.

Rachel had been working as an ISM activist in Rafah for seven weeks when she was killed trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes and property in the Hi Salaam area of Rafah.

Though I will stop short of adopting that usage without having additional information, I must take exception to the glee that has greeted Corrie's death in some parts of the blogosphere. "Terror Advocate Dies in Accident" the Opinion Journal shrieks. It goes on to damn the dead woman with no praise whatsoever.

Corrie not only backed anti-Israeli terrorism; she also hated America. An Associated Press photo shows Corrie, her face contorted with hate, burning a "mock U.S. flag" at a pro-Saddam rally last month. (Hat tip: Little Green Footballs.) Reuters reports on a "symbolic funeral" that drew some 1,000 Palestinian Arabs. One of them tells the "news" service: "We fly a U.S. flag today to show our support to all American peace lovers, those like Rachel." If she were still alive, no doubt she'd have burned the flag.

It's a shame that Rachel Corrie died the way she did. It's shameful that she lived the way she did.

Virulently Zionist Little Green Footballs has dedicated much of the last few days to vilifying Corrie. Coverage and/or comments range from the comparatively sympathetic description, "An asshole [who] died fighting for the wrong side in the front lines of a war," to remarks too obscene to repeat. Reportage that suggests negligence or worse on the part of the Israeli army is summarily dismissed.

Meanwhile, Amish Tech Support informs us of the humorous nature of Corrie's death.

Was Rachel Corrie a perfect person? Doubtlessly not. May she have been, Lord forbid, young and naive? No question about the former and possibly in regard to the latter. However, what I have read about Corrie suggests a young adult with insight, intelligence and belief in the fundamental decency of human beings. I suspect she refused to move away from the bulldozer because she believed the man driving it would not run her down. She miscalculated the capacity for evil of her adversary and paid the ultimate price for doing so. Those who sully her name join that man in failing a simple test of human decency.

Actually, Rachel Corrie doesn't have a grave. Her body is still in Israel despite her parents' wishes. It is unclear if her remains will be returned to the United States. The war ultimatum delivered by President George W. Bush last night has been cited as complicating the matter.

The Israeli army prevented an ambulance carrying the body of a US activist who was crushed to death by a bulldozer a day earlier from leaving the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said.

. . .Corrie's parents were not able to fly from Washington DC to attend the funeral due to travel restrictions imposed by the United States on US citizens wishing to go to Israel in the context of an imminent war in Iraq.

Scoop has set up an email address to which those of us mourn her death can send condolences.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 17, 2003  

Antidote to the War Fever

Today has been a day a number of us have been waiting for, for a very long time. Having swung between hope that we could avert this war and dread that there was nothing that could be done to stop it, today we have heard that there is no stopping this war now. It's been a day filled with anguish and anger, fear and sorrow, and words upon words of what comes next. Because it is so easy to be consumed with the negative energy that surrounds this day, I thought it would be good to think just a bit about the beauty and life-affirming Global Candlelight Vigil for Peace that was held yesterday in thousands of communities throughout the world.

The beauty and serenity that rolled across the world was little noted in the news today, over taken by the news this morning that Bush declared that the waiting was over and Diplomacy done. But, standing with my neighbors last night, sending my prayers to the heavens, and thinking of the Iraqi innocents and the brave men and women who are now the instruments of George W Bush's vision, I felt some peace and strength knowing that there are and will continue to be people all over the world who will stand with me during these times.

Some pictures can be found here: Washington, DC, Leh, Ladakh, India, and Paris, France. Visit MoveOn's Vigil website to see more.

Here are a few of the articles written up about the vigils yesterday.

NY Times: Vigils Are Held Around the World to Oppose Military Action

Washington Post: On the Mall, Songs of Old Carry Current Plea for Peace

Portland Oregonian: A woman in black: Patty Perrin. I particularly identified with Patty's words:

My mind began to focus on my task. I realized I was there because women the world over are not being heard. I was standing there for all women, especially the women of Iraq. I found myself imaging some Iraqi woman standing beside me, maybe the lady in the sunglasses. She would be some mother who also loves her country, her home and her family. A woman who does not want to be bombed. An Islamic mother.

Despite the relentless drive to war, it was good to stand with my neighbors and in solidarity with the millions of others that gathered to send a prayer into the night.

posted by Mary at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK |

Diversity and the Democrats

Kos of DailyKos informs us presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sang for his supper at this weekend's California Democratic Party annual conference.

Dennis Kucinich, taking the stage, belted out the tunes. He started with:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

And having warmed up, sang some more.

There was a palpable cringe throughout the convention hall.

The sometimes blunt Kos makes no bones about his jaundiced impression of Kucinich. Like this commentator, he believes some of the policy positions Kucinich supports, such as "the elimination of all trade deals and nuclear disarmament" are so pie in the sky they might as well be made of cheese.

But I am convinced: those who said Kucinich would drain votes from Dean were wrong. Kucinich is so far to the left as to make Dean look downright moderate.

These are interesting times for diversity among Democrats. Last week, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia was forced to resign a leadership position after he presented Right Wingers with an opportunity to attack the party by making statements some people considered anti-Semitic.

Former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who now heads a group called American Values, has written House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), asking her to "publicly disavow the anti-Semitic slander of Rep. Jim Moran."

Bauer claims Moran's conduct is actually worse than that of demoted Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

"I think there clearly is a double standard," Bauer told Wednesday. "It's been clear in Washington for many years that conservatives get one mistake, and liberals have the slate wiped clean with each new day."

Is Moran's conduct worse than that of a die-hard segregationist? Of course not. However, a tendency to speak before he thinks has made him a continual source of mortification.

In Missouri, neo-Confederate Democrats have joined their Republican brethen in an effort to hound the Democratic governor from office. His crime? He dared move the Confederate flag inside two memorials to the Confederate dead. For decades, two Confederate flags flew on state property in Missouri, at the Higginsville and Fort Davidson state historic sites.

The flags came down Jan. 14 after Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt of St. Louis - [Gov. Bob] Holden's former boss - issued a statement in South Carolina [site of another battle over the flag] that the Confederate battle flag should no longer fly "anytime, anywhere."

. . . The governor said he believes the flag may be appropriately displayed in a museum, where it is subject to "historical interpretation."

Gephardt, who is also being harassed by neo-Confederates, has clarified the statement above. He opposes the standard of secessionists flying in public places.

Meanwhile, Georgia Democrats are stuck between Stone Mountain and a hard place -- mollifying the conservative Democrats who bolted the party to elect the first Republican governor there in more than a century, and pleasing the minorities and urbanites of Atlanta and other cities. Again, the symbol of this fracture is that old flag.

But, the peak of embarrassment over some of our partisans may not have been reached. Talk show host and convicted patron of the oldest profession in the world Jerry Springer has announced he may run for the U.S. Senate as, you guessed it, a Democrat.

The former Cincinnati mayor told an audience in Dayton that he can't imagine anyone voting for him at this point.

Racy topics, brawling, chair-tossing and crude language are the norm on his show.

A poll released this week by the University of Cincinnati found that 71 percent of Ohio voters surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of him.

Springer says he will decide this summer whether to run for the Senate as a Democrat next year.

Like fellow Ohioan Kucinich, Springer is an ardent opponent of the impending invasion of Iraq. However, it seems unlikely his opposition to bombing Iraqi citizens will overcome his propensity for baiting American television audiences.

A diverse batch of Democrats indeed. I guess it is the price we pay for being the party of the people.

--Mac Diva

posted by J. at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, March 16, 2003  

Why are we so afraid?

CalPundit has an interesting post today about Newsweek’s cover story on why America (or as Kevin says: Bush) scares the world. He goes on to comment on how frightened Americans are these days and how this leads to our lashing out at everyone, friend or foe.

I think that one major contributor to this fear can be laid to the feet of our wonderful, trustworthy media. I watched my friend’s mother become more fearful and more of a recluse as her information about the world was limited to what she saw on the nightly news. The local nightly news has become a remarkably steady diet of crime stories that feed the worries and fear of Americans. Studies have been done that show as people watch more local TV news, they become more fearful about crime even if there is not reason for them to do so.

The study shows an interesting relationship between peoples' TV-watching habits and their fear of crime. "People who watch more televised local news are more fearful but total TV watching is unrelated to fear," asserts Chiricos. "Seeing local television news seven or more times a week is a fear trigger. People who watch with that kind of frequency are twice as fearful as those who don't watch local news at all."

Fear of crime (murders, school shootings, kidnapping, etc) is driven by the fact that to increase their profit margins local TV news shows more crime than ever before (if it bleeds, it leads). During the ‘90’s as the prevalence of actual crime went down, the amount of crime shown on local TV news went up and so did the fear of Americans.

Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine did a very good job of showing this by contrasting the nightly news of Canada and the US. In Canada, the news is much more balanced and it discusses things that are useful for people to know to be informed citizens. However, US viewers don’t get that type of information, rather, they are “entertained” by crime after crime.

Then 9/11 came along and the dangerous world just got more dangerous. There were even more people out to get us. The news media certainly got a viewing boost from reinforcing this. And on top of that, I believe our government has been purposely frightening Americans in order to distract people from potential scandals and to move their unpopular agenda. The Duct Tape incident was the most obvious example of this.

But, people don’t have to give into their fears and they can find ways to overcome fear. One way is to emulate people that display courage in the face of danger. One of my particular favorites for this is Aung San Suu Ki for her incredible courage in opposing the brutal military dictatorship. Tendentious (via Seeing the Forest) had a great post of some heroes that also show that people can continue to act courageously despite their fear and they act as inspirations to the rest of us.

One thing we should demand is better leaders who act to quell the fear people have by putting the world into perspective and who show how to be courageous when it is necessary with dignity and compassion. And I hope that perhaps we can find a way to take back our media so that it can once again educate and inform people so we can start acting like responsible citizens.

The Global Vigil where millions of people gathered in prayers and silence was also an excellent way to help provide a way to stand against the fear and despair people feel these days. I'm very grateful to the people who came up with this idea. It was truly an antidote to the forces of darkness.

posted by Mary at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK |