Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mujahideen-E Khalq (MEK): The Terrorists that the United States Uses

Frontline had a great show tonight, background on the conflict with Iran. You can watch the whole show online. The most interesting part to me was this information on a terrorist group that is protected by the U.S. I hope you too find this worth passing on, so that more people know what our government is doing.When Islamic extremists in the Middle East first began using terrorist tactics, the United States did not condemn them. The United States used them. Even today, in the middle of the "War on Terror," the U.S. government will protect any terrorist group that the U.S. finds useful.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Give 'Em Hell, Catch Hell

Tim Harris of Real Change caught hell this week for satirizing the upcoming 'Homelessness Awareness' event as "United to Extend Homelessness."

I can't link you to the satirical flyer; it's only "published" as a PDF that can be downloaded from his classroom Wiki (which is currently dormant between class sessions). A sample:
The Unite to Extend Homelessness Community Resource Exchange will provide easy answers to deep-seated problems by producing a spectacle of good will that does little or nothing to solve homelessness, except on a case by case basis. Getting vital services can be challenging and time-consuming — especially when so many are in need and so little is available. This one-day feel good event won’t change that. The Community Resource Exchange is a transparent public relations ploy that began in San Francisco and has now been embraced by the Bush administration and implemented in over 200 cities.

Some of the problems that will not be addressed include the wholesale abandonment of the poor by the health care system; the daunting realities of structural unemployment; how Vietnam-era veterans are treated like shit; and the fact that the legal system in America provides justice only to those who can afford it.
The sponsors of the event could have been listed as United Byway; Committee to Extend Homelessness; Church Rumble of Grumble Seattle; Kingdom County; Paul Allen Town; Belle-Richer-Than-You; Rentounce; Bent. Tim didn't do that; he used the unaltered names and logos of United Way; Committee to End Homelessness; Church Council of Greater Seattle; King County; City of Seattle; City of Bellevue; City of Renton; City of Kent. That drew the ire of Sandy Brown, head of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. He didn't like the Church Council's identity being associated with this sort of thing:
Faith communities have long asked how they can work to end homelessness while avoiding uncomfortable and divisive discussions of poverty and inequality. It All Starts at Home is an interactive symposium that will give faith communities and service organizations the tools they need to continue addressing homelessness in an uncontroversial and depoliticized manner. This symposium will bring together groups from across King County to discuss how the faith community and big philanthropy can provide political cover while the federal government abdicates what little remaining responsibility it has for housing the poor. The seminars will co-opt whatever energy exists to address poverty and inequality by channeling all of our resources into well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate charitable efforts.Each attendee will go home with a resource book that scrupulously avoids the question “why?”

Seminars presented at the symposium will not include: Structural Unemployment in America and Why So Many of the People Filling Our Prisons are Black; Who Benefits When the Feds Abandon Housing for the Poor; How to Develop a Revolutionary Analysis of Deepening Global Poverty (e.g., IMF, World Bank, NAFTA); Creating Your Own Poverty and Inequality Study Group; Moving from Charity to Justice: Pros and Cons; and Understanding How Self-interest Defines the Limits of Our Response.
My personal opinion is that if Sandy Brown doesn't want to look like a collaborator, he should stop acting like one.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Watch "Cheney's Law" Exposed On Frontline Tonight!

TONIGHT - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - Frontline reports on Vice President Dick Cheney's three-decade, "secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power." Please: see it, digg it, blog it, buzz it, shout it!

George Bush Knows Exactly When to Say "Democrat Party"

On the October 15, 2007 "Daily Show" Tony Snow downplayed Bush's reference to the "Democrat Party" as an example of how our dear boy Bush just gets his tongue tangled sometimes. In 2004, Bush got his tongue tangled only in solidly Red states. Everywhere else, Bush always pronounced "Democratic Party" clearly.

The point is not that I find "Democrat Party" to be offensive. The point is that Bush intends it to be offensive, and knows that it fans hostility when he uses it. Tony Snow is just as hypocritical now as when he was being paid for it, and Bush's "uniter not a divider" pretense was never worth more the breath it took to push it.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Lighter Footstep says "Si Se Puede!"

"Yes we can!" A great quote today from Chris over at Lighter Footstep:

"It's often argued that all the individual action in the world won't offset the environmental damage caused by one dirty coal plant halfway across the globe, and there's truth to that. If there's one thing politicians are good at, though, it's getting in front of a parade. When people act, politicians follow. That's what they call 'leadership.' And we need to let them lead us exactly where we're headed -- toward the agreements we'll need to make sure the process of greening the planet fair for everyone."
Not too long ago, I read another article I agreed with, arguing that all the lists of personal actions "you can do to save the environment" are just deflecting attention from doing the hard stuff: changing the system, challenging the corporate interests that are doing the major damage.

And I agree with that too -- IF all you are doing is changing your personal actions, you are avoiding confrontation with systemic actors. At the same time, if all you are working on is changing the system then you are not only avoiding any personal change, your speeches to other people will sound like empty rants.

It isn't either-or. We need to work on our personal lives AND work on changing the system.

Chris's comments point to where the two intersect. The people making decisions that affect our lives have to maintain their power by constantly convincing us that they have that power, and that we have none. In reality, they only have the power we give them. If there were no consumers, corporations would go bankrupt. If voters could not be bought with campaign dollars, politicians could not be bought with campaign contributions.

Jello Biafra said, "Don't complain about the media; become the media." Don't complain about the economy, become the economy; don't buy what you are told to buy, demand what you want to buy and if corporate business won't sell it to you, trade with your neighbor for it. Don't complain about the government, be the government -- like Americans are supposed to be. Politicians work for you, and if they are doing a bad job, then you are being a bad supervisor.

Don't change your lifestyle thinking that alone will change the world. Change your life because that is the beginning of changing the world.

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Blog Action Day: Building Bridges

Liberal, neoliberal, conservative, neoconservative, libertarian – as different as our politics may seem, in reality we all hold much the same values. (see The Moral Sense by James Q Wilson)

We prioritize values differently, and it can be frustrating when what you consider critically urgent is at the bottom of everybody else's list (while they "waste" time and money on something at the bottom of your own list). We also have different ideas about how to apply our common values, and it can come as a shock when someone you have long regarded as an ally suddenly opposes your project (like local Seattle environmentalists have split on the transportation proposition on this November's ballot).

It may be hard to remember, in the middle of frustration, that those differences are a good thing. If we had to all work on just one thing, the earth would probably be three miles deep in whales. Everybody loves whales, including me; but I do not love the idea of 6 billion people working 24/7 to save the whales. Somebody's got to take care of the other stuff. Fortunately, we all have different priorities.

It's also good that even when we have the same goals, we have different ideas on how to pursue them. None of us sees everything; viewing any subject from more than one viewpoint yields a fuller picture of a problem and a better approach to it than any one person can come up with alone. If everybody saw things exactly the same way, we’d all run over the same cliff that none of us spotted.

In the end result, it is good that we have individual differences – but only if we are willing to listen to each other, understand each other, work on combining our differences. Polarized debate strangles everybody's neurons. We all stop making progress toward our goals and turn our efforts to building our bunkers.

My personal plea on this October 15th, Blog Action Day, with fifteen thousand bloggers writing about environmental issues and millions of people reading those blogs, is that each of you:

  1. read a blog by somebody you disagree with;
  2. describe for yourself what they are actually saying;
  3. keep redoing #2 until they agree that you understand them;
  4. identify goals and values that you share;
  5. find one thing you can work together on toward a common goal.

Here's what I see as 10 goals we all share in common:
  1. The health, welfare, and education of children is important to all of us, both emotionally and practically.

  2. Clean air, clean water, clean ground, safe and nutritious and sufficient food, are critical to the survival of all of us.

  3. Life is highly adaptable, but thrives best within certain parameters of climate and resources. Maintaining and even expanding those parameters is therefore important to all of us.

  4. Good public health is essential for the good personal health of all of us. This includes the health of plants and animals; most majorly damaging human plagues have originated in our livestock.

  5. All living things are intricately interdependent in a complex biosphere human science is only beginning to understand. It is critical to our mutual survival to maintain the health of that biosphere, which includes its genetic diversity.

  6. Trade, both in the free exchange of goods and services and the free exchange of ideas, has been a foundation of human prosperity and advancement. It is in the interests of all of us to protect an atmosphere for free and fair trade. That requires an atmosphere of equal rights enforced by law; a universal standard of justice. It requires protection and support of the weaker members of society so that all are equal in bargaining power in the marketplace and in the enforcement of contracts. The maintenance of equal trade, equal rights, and equal justice is therefore a common good, a common survival goal.

  7. Accurate knowledge is a critical survival resource. Increasing our mutual knowledge, and policing error, is another common good. Increasing the knowledge and the critical and creative thinking skills of another is an increase of our own good. The passion over "intellectual" debates is understandable as being driven by survival instinct.

  8. The most important factor to individual human survival, since we became social animals, is other human beings. The creation and maintenance of social bonds is important to all of us, whether we like thinking of it as something we need, or not. People do need people. We will all be better off by making sure that others have strong social bonds, as well as ourselves.

  9. We are each unique, with unique gifts. Other people can see things, think of things, say things, make things that I do not, that I could not. It benefits me to appreciate and encourage the uniqueness of others. The increase of human creativity and individual expression is a common good.

  10. An ethical culture, in which all people are treated as we ourselves would like to be treated, is important to all of us. Promoting an ethic of honesty, fairness, kindness, and compassion protects us personally from fraud, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
These are my observations of what people of all political stripes already act like we value, even when we don't do it successfully. These are survival goals that can bridge ideological divisions. They seem a good starting point for working together on practical projects and policies. And each of them are things we can each act on in our own small ways every day.

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No Impact Man: taking "Be the change" seriously

This is a great blog, by a man trying to live green in New York City. I recommend reading the whole story.

A lot of the comments on Digg sneer at the idea, without doing any extensive reading of the reality. One comment pointed out that the average life expectancy at the turn of the century when "life was simpler" was 47.

The life expectancy of a homeless person in the U.S. today is 47. We have a growing number of homeless people, and NOT because there has been any boom in laziness, drug addiction, alcoholism, or insanity. It is because we have a society/economy run on the idea that pursuing your own benefit no matter what the expense to anyone else (or the common environment) is a GOOD thing.

The creation of poverty, homelessness, untreated illness, early death, dirty air and dirty water does not benefit anyone. We can do something about it. Many people each doing a little bit creates greater and more lasting change than a few people doing big bits.

No Impact Man is doing his little bit. Write On!

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You Get What You Pay For: Chevron’s Human Rights Problems Span Three Continents

I saw Chevron's greenwashing "Human Energy" ad for the first time tonight, and my BS meter began screaming. I knew I'd seen something that ran counter to the ad's claims. It didn't take much searching to find it: last month, a federal judge ruled to force Chevron to stand trial in the U.S. for the massacre of Nigerian villagers.

And there's more:

How did things get to this point? The Free Market Missionaries convinced us -- not all of us, but enough -- that:
  • Pursuing personal benefit no matter what the cost to anyone else is a moral stand, and all talk about "the common good" is evil communism;
  • The only human values, the only values of any kind, are those that can be sold on the market so that a businessman can make a buck off them. Anybody who says there are personal benefits not measurable by money is trying to take your money (except MasterCard, who wants to give you money).
  • Laws against murder, theft, and violating contracts are just and proper (we couldn't do business without them) but laws protecting health, safety, the environment, the common good, or any other value we can't make an immediate profit on are nanny-state attempts to tell you what's good for you. Government shouldn't tell you what's good for you! That's the job of private business! ("Private" meaning "it's none of your business how we do it.")

The American public bought that, and paid for it, and is paying for it. We created an economic system that rewards unethical behavior and, surprise, we get unethical behavior.

We created it, we can uncreate it. An economy that rewards ethical behavior and penalizes unethical behavior is not a Big Brother (or Big Nanny). Most people don't have to be told what's right and what's wrong -- that's why we have laws to enforce right and wrong on those who do have to be told. We want to live in an ethical society. That is the real American way.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore Donates Nobel Prize Money to Alliance for Climate Protection

Al Gore has donated his Nobel Prize money to further the work that got him the Nobel Prize. Upcoming: resource links for debunking "climate change denial."

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rash of Noose Incidents Reported | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

"Nooses were left in a black Coast Guard cadet's bag, at a Long Island police station locker room, on a Maryland college campus, and, just this week, on the office door of a black professor at Columbia University in New York." And it's gotten international notice. Is this the image we want to show the world? What do we do about it?

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All Quiet on the Seattle Abortion Front

The October 3rd Real Change carried a story on the "40 Days for Life" prayer vigil beginning outside clinics that offer abortions. The national campaign may be hotter in other areas of the county; it seems pretty tame here in Seattle. The only other local news coverage on it is a small blip on the Seattle P-I blog.

I hope that the people not showing up at the daily prayer vigils are out doing something real to save real lives -- like making sure that all women know how to use contraception, have access to contraception, and have access to adequate medical care and all other resources if they do become pregnant.

A moral commitment carries a moral duty to effective action. Standing around looking self-righteous is not effective action.

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Adventures in Bloggery: Learn What's Real

Dr. Wes Browning, satire columnist for a great metropolitan weekly newspaper (Real Change), congratulates George Bush for exposing the communist plot of children's health insurance. "Whether the communists like it or not, this is a capitalist country. If you aren't part of the profit, you're part of the problem."

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Run Off: Jean Godden Goes to the Environment

Dr. Wes, satire columnist for a great metropolitan weekly (Real Change), has fun with Seattle Councilperson Jean Godden's campaign literature.

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Night Light: Wiki Thought Control: The CIA, The Pentagon, Homeland Security

One of the most complete reports on government alterations to Wikipedia. Hot blog, overall.

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Adventures in Bloggery: Muddy Waters

Dr. Wes Browning writes a weekly satire column for the Seattle street newspaper Real Change. Sept. 26, 2007 starts: "This won't be a fun column. Jesse Macbeth has got my panties in a knot this week."

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Apesma's Lament: The City Spectacular

"It had actually never occurred to me that the trend toward cities as upscale islands of wealth might be related to globalization, but now that Timothy Gibson points it out, I'm feeling like someone who's been napping for the last decade or so."Tim Harris is the founder/director of Seattle's street-newspaper, Real Change, which has covered issues of homelessness, poverty, gentrification and displacement for just over 13 years. In his personal blog, Apesma's Lament, he gets to expand on those issues, and others, more extensively than in the 400 words we give him each issue in the Director's Corner. He also gets to use stronger language. He makes thinking deeply look like fun.

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Energy Inspirations from Burning Man

Someday I've got to go to Burning Man. Or I'll lose all my Old Hippie cred. :DFrom the page: "Among the theme camps at the event was a designated Alternative Energy Zone, featuring some 50+ participants who offered a guided tour of their various alternative energy devices, even handing out cookies baked in a solar oven."

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Should Green Blogs Discuss Politics?

Does the American political system seem unresponsive to the needs of the American people? Maybe because so many American people have the attitude that "politics" is a bad word.From the page: "It seems obvious that politics play a role in society’s response to big environmental issues. America’s response to Global Warming, for example, has been dictated by its political leaders to a great extent. But yet, few blogs that discuss environmental issues discuss politics. Why is that?"

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Bus Chick, Transit Authority

A bus-rider's blog; carried online by the Seattle P-I, and in print by Seattle's Real Change.

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Blog Action Day. One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Making positive use of the Blogosphere! From the site: "On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future."

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YouTube - Columbus Day clip from The Canary Effect

Some real history for Columbus Day; video excerpt from The Canary Effect.

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stop War the Geeky Way [ Pic ]

What you can tell about me from my first Digg blog: I am a peace activist (aka damn lefty liberal), a geek, and I am all for using humor to make a point.

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