31 March 2008

Howard Zinn on Election Madness

Howard Zinn

Elections matter, when backed by the power of the people
By Howard Zinn

[This article first appeared in the March, 2008, issue of The Progressive. Must say, Zinn's perspective is worth paying attention to. We do go a bit bananas. -- .td / The Rag Blog]

There’s a man in Florida who has been writing to me for years (ten pages, handwritten) though I’ve never met him. He tells me the kinds of jobs he has held—security guard, repairman, etc. He has worked all kinds of shifts, night and day, to barely keep his family going. His letters to me have always been angry, railing against our capitalist system for its failure to assure “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” for working people.

Just today, a letter came. To my relief it was not handwritten because he is now using e-mail:

Well, I’m writing to you today because there is a wretched situation in this country that I cannot abide and must say something about. I am so enraged about this mortgage crisis. That the majority of Americans must live their lives in perpetual debt, and so many are sinking beneath the load, has me so steamed. Damn, that makes me so mad, I can’t tell you. . . . I did a security guard job today that involved watching over a house that had been foreclosed on and was up for auction.

They held an open house, and I was there to watch over the place during this event. There were three of the guards doing the same thing in three other homes in this same community. I was sitting there during the quiet moments and wondering about who those people were who had been evicted and where they were now.

On the same day I received this letter, there was a front-page story in the Boston Globe, with the headline “Thousands in Mass. Foreclosed on in ’07.”

The subhead was “7,563 homes were seized, nearly 3 times the ’06 rate.”

A few nights before, CBS television reported that 750,000 people with disabilities have been waiting for years for their Social Security benefits because the system is underfunded and there are not enough personnel to handle all the requests, even desperate ones.

Stories like these may be reported in the media, but they are gone in a flash. What’s not gone, what occupies the press day after day, impossible to ignore, is the election frenzy.

This seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. It is a multiple choice test so narrow, so specious, that no self-respecting teacher would give it to students.

And sad to say, the Presidential contest has mesmerized liberals and radicals alike. We are all vulnerable.

Is it possible to get together with friends these days and avoid the subject of the Presidential elections?

The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of clichés with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry.

Even in the so-called left periodicals, we must admit there is an exorbitant amount of attention given to minutely examining the major candidates. An occasional bone is thrown to the minor candidates, though everyone knows our marvelous democratic political system won’t allow them in.

No, I’m not taking some ultra-left position that elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity. Yes, there are candidates who are somewhat better than others, and at certain times of national crisis (the Thirties, for instance, or right now) where even a slight difference between the two parties may be a matter of life and death.

I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.

Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.

The unprecedented policies of the New Deal—Social Security, unemployment insurance, job creation, minimum wage, subsidized housing—were not simply the result of FDR’s progressivism. The Roosevelt Administration, coming into office, faced a nation in turmoil. The last year of the Hoover Administration had experienced the rebellion of the Bonus Army—thousands of veterans of the First World War descending on Washington to demand help from Congress as their families were going hungry. There were disturbances of the unemployed in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle.

In 1934, early in the Roosevelt Presidency, strikes broke out all over the country, including a general strike in Minneapolis, a general strike in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands on strike in the textile mills of the South. Unemployed councils formed all over the country. Desperate people were taking action on their own, defying the police to put back the furniture of evicted tenants, and creating self-help organizations with hundreds of thousands of members.

Without a national crisis—economic destitution and rebellion—it is not likely the Roosevelt Administration would have instituted the bold reforms that it did.

Read all of it here.

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Uncle Al Wants You : Gore To Recruit 10 Million Green Crusaders

Al Gore at the UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty images

Massive volunteer force and tv campaign aimed at Congress
By Susan Goldenberg /The Guardian / April 1, 2008

Washington -- Al Gore yesterday launched a drive to mobilise 10 million volunteers to force politicians to act on climate change - twice as many as the number who marched against the Vietnam war or in support of civil rights during the heyday of US activism in the 1960s.

During the next three years, his Alliance for Climate Protection plans to spend $300m (about £150m) on television advertising and online organising to make global warming among the most urgent issues for elected American leaders.

The wecansolveit.org initiative aims to build up pressure on the next US president to support stringent mandatory emissions controls when they come before Congress, and take a leadership role at the renegotiation of the Kyoto treaty.

Environmental activists yesterday described the plan as the most ambitious public campaign launched in the US.

"The resources are completely unprecedented in American politics," said Philip Clapp, of the Pew Environment Group. It is equally ambitious in targets. The Alliance has already reached out to organisations as diverse as the Girl Scouts and the steelworkers union to try to broaden its appeal.

Gore told the Washington Post that he launched the initiative because of his concerns that US politicians had balked at supporting strong legislation on climate change.

"This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public's sense of urgency in addressing this crisis," Gore said. "I've tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it."

Environmental activists said it was crucial that the campaign focus attention on green jobs and other positive consequences of going green - rather than the potential costs.

"What I am particularly hopeful about is that their advertising campaign will emphasise the economic opportunities," said Reid Detchon, executive director for energy and climate change at the United Nations Fund. "That is where the political leverage is, particularly at a time when the economy is faltering. The opportunities for business and job creation are very large in this transition."

The initiative was widely seen as the logical extension of campaigns such as moveon.org, which supports liberal causes and Democratic candidates and has more than 3 million supporters, and stopglobalwarming.org, which has more than a million supporters.

Chris Miller, director of US Greenpeace's global warming campaign, said: "The movie An Inconvenient Truth and Gore's work were incredibly strong in raising awareness. The step that it didn't take is telling people how to solve the problem. This [campaign] is going to reinforce that there are steps we can take in our personal lives, but that ultimately it will take political leaders to solve the problem."

But channelling growing public awareness and concern into a political force has proved difficult. Gore wants a 90% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 - a more ambitious target than those of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, who favour an 80% cut, or John McCain, who supports only a 60% reduction.

Last January, the League of Conservative Voters analysed transcripts of television interviews and debates with all the Democratic and Republican contenders for the White House. By January 25, the candidates had been asked 2,975 questions on a range of issues.

Only six of those mentioned the words "climate change" or "global warming". That is not much greater than the level of media interest in the candidates' positions on UFOs. They were asked three questions on UFOs in the same study.

But as Gore told CBS on Sunday night: "I'm not finished yet."

The campaign is getting a hefty kick-start from Gore. The former vice-president has donated earnings from his Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, his Nobel peace prize, and his job at a venture capital firm. In the first ad, a voiceover by the actor William H Macy says: "We didn't wait for someone else to storm the beaches of Normandy. We didn't wait for someone else to guarantee civil rights." Future ads will feature political adversaries such as Newt Gingrich, a conservative Republican, in an attempt to elevate the cause above political divisions.


Thanks to Harry Edwards / The Rag Blog

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The Real Issue Is Whether We Are a Nation of Laws

No One is Leading
By Mark A. Goldman / ICH / March 31, 2008

The American people have no one leading the charge for the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law.

My point is not that few Americans are engaged and energized in doing good things, but simply that there is no individual who is leading… no one with whom you and a great many others are willing stand and fight in order to defend your country and your heritage.

Vying for political leadership are the two principal nominees hoping to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. And there’s also the Presidential candidate for the Republicans. But none of these candidates have made the ongoing perpetration of crimes — against our Constitution and the American people — an issue or a cause worth fighting for.

I'm not going to recount here all the ways that the Constitution and the rule of law have been trampled upon in recent years. A Google search on "Bush crimes" might be time well spent for anyone who needs a review.

Apparently most citizens have been talked out of their patriotism by the mainstream media, the two main political parties, and our elected officials — those traitors who conveniently forgot their oath of office while the Constitution was being so denigrated.

One issue in the upcoming election under discussion is the ending of the war in Iraq. But on close inspection we see that that, in and of itself, would be a bogus issue. The real issue is whether we are going to recognize the illegitimacy of the war, the crimes that were committed to instigate the war, and the ongoing crimes against the Constitution and innocent people in the administration of the war. The war itself was a direct attack on the Constitution and the American people... and of course on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The real issue is whether we are a nation of laws… i.e., do we believe in the rule of law… or have we simply given up on the American Experiment and the Constitution itself. If we acknowledge that the war was illegal — that egregious crimes were committed in its execution — then it will follow that we must end the war. But what follows is much more than that.

Just talking about ending the war and bringing our troops home, without addressing the shredding of the Constitution, is a betrayal of every American and every soldier who ever fought in this war or any other. Are we going to reclaim ourselves as a Constitutional republic or have we given up trying to be the America that was originally conceived into being by the Framers?

Beyond the war and its illegality, are the following travesties that need to be addressed:

1. the illegitimate elections that fraudulently put criminals in charge of our government and kept them there.

2. the ongoing destruction of government itself by the purposeful evisceration of nearly every oversight function of government. Lies permeate government offices everywhere. That’s why the economy is failing, why we have no energy policy, why our educational system is behind the rest of the developed world, why all citizens do not have access to affordable health care, why our food supply is at risk, why our children are at risk even when they play with toys, why our infrastructure is in a state of decay, why inflation is stealing from every paycheck, why the over-bloated military industrial complex is bankrupting our country, why Congress no longer works as a body representing real people… and the list goes on and on.

3. when and how are we going to recognize and take responsibility for the crimes we have committed against other members of our human family?

If we refuse to acknowledge the crimes, and if we refuse to find and stand with a leader who is willing and able to honorably seek justice in their resolution, we will be surrendering our rights, our freedoms, and our heritage to the true enemies of our republic — we will be surrendering to ignorance, arrogance, cowardice, and greed. I invite you to review the following links as you consider your response.


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If You Think the Current Squabbling Is Bad

Knives and Pistols Drawn: Lively Fight at Texas Democratic County Convention

San Antonio, Texas, May 28, 1892 - The Democratic County Convention today, for the purpose of selecting delegates to the State, Congressional, Senatorial, and Judicial Conventions, was one of the most exciting political meetings ever held in the city. The convention was controlled by Gov. Hogg's supporters, although 75 per cent of the delegates were Clark men. The bulldozing tactics of the Hogg leaders reached a climax when the Committee on Credentials was appointed. Not a Clark delegate was on the list.

The Clark men raised such a vehement protest against the gag rule that the excitement of the two factions became intense, and a free fight ensued. Knives and pistols were drawn by a number of Mexican delegates on the Hogg side of the house, and rush was made for the Clark men. Men were knocked down and tramped under foot. Owing to the close quarters of the belligerents, weapons could not be used freely, and no one was seriously injured. The police rushed in and quelled the disturbance.

The Clark delegates then withdrew from the convention and proceeded to the Belknap Armory, where they held a separate convention and selected a full list of delegates. Those to State Convention were instructed to vote for Clark for Governor. A Hogg delegation was selected by the first convention. A new County Executive Committee was chosen by the Clark convention.

From Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

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Hot Shots and Classic Takes

Billboard sighting in Berkeley. Photo by MediaDissent.

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Getting the Attention of the Bandit Class

If It's Not Dead on Arrival, Someone Should Shoot It Quick: Paulson's Fixit Plan for Wall Street

It is being billed as a "massive shakeup of US financial market regulation", but don't be deceived. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposals for broad market reform are neither "timely" nor "thoughtful" (Reuters) In fact, its all just more of the same free market "we can police ourselves" mumbo jumbo that got us into this mess in the first place. The real objective of Paulson's so called reforms is to decapitate the SEC and increase the powers of the Federal Reserve. Same wine, different bottle. Paulson's motive is to preempt any regulatory sledgehammer that might descend on the entire financial industry following the 2008 election. There's growing fear that an incoming Democrat may tote a firehose down to Wall Street.

If Paulson's plan is approved in its present form, Congress will have even less control over the financial system than it does now and the same group of self-serving banking mandarins who created the biggest equity bubble in history will be able to administer the markets however they choose without the inconvenience of government supervision. That's exactly what Wall Street, the Treasury Secretary and the folk at the Fed want; unlimited power with no accountability.

Paulson is expected to lay out guidelines and principles that are intended to help regulators supervise the financial markets. According to AFP:

"The President's Working Group on Financial Markets said the current regulatory structure is working well despite calls by some US lawmakers."

In other words, the failing banking system, the housing meltdown, and the frozen corporate bond market are all signs of a robust financial system? This may be the most ludicrous statement since "Mission accomplished". The system is imploding and people are being hurt by the fallout. Thirty years of industry-led lobbying has dismantled the (admittedly frail ad porous) regulatory regime which made US financial markets the envy of the world. Whatever credibility and transparency once existed were washed out in the Clinton era, as with Glass-Steagall and government oversight of the explosive growth of over-the counter derivatives instruments. Now the system is prey to all types of dodgy debt instruments, suspicious "dark pool" trading and off-balance sheets operations which further reinforce the belief that cautious investment is no better than casino gambling.

"The regulatory line of sight today is by the counterparties," the official said, adding that the guidelines should be "beneficial to industry." (AFP)

How is that different than saying, "Caveat emptor"? That's not a motto that inspires confidence. Many people still naively believe that planning their retirement should not have to be a Darwinian tussle with a crafty junk-bond salesman.

Under Paulson's plan, the Federal Reserve will be granted new regulatory powers, but whatever for? The Fed doesn't use the powers it has now. No one stopped the Fed from intervening in the mortgage lending fiasco, or the ratings agency abuses or the off-balance sheets shenanigans. They had the authority and they should have used it. The folks at the Fed knew everything that was going on---including the mushrooming sales of derivatives contracts which soared from under $1 trillion in 2000 to over $500 trillion in 2006---but they decided to cheerlead from the sidelines rather than do their jobs. The fact is, they were worried that if they got involved they might upset the gravy-train of profits that was enriching their bankster friends.

Former Fed chief Greenspan used to croon like a smitten teenager every time he was asked about subprime loans or adjustable rate mortgages. And, as New York Times columnist Floyd Norris points out, (Greenspan) "praised the growth in the derivatives market as a boon for market stability, and resisted calls to use the Fed's power to increase regulation." Of course, he did. It was all part of Maestro's "New Economy"; trickle-down Elysium, where the endless flow of low interest credit merged with financial innovation to create a Reaganesque El Dorado. There are no regulations in this version of Eden, not even "Don't bite the apple". Anything goes and to heck with the public, they can fend for themselves.

Now its Paulson's job to keep the neoliberal flame lit long enough to make sure that government busybodies and bureaucratic do-goodies don't upset the cart. That means concocting a wacky public relations campaign to convince the public that Wall Street is not just a pirate's cove of land-sharks and bunko artists, but a trusted ally in maintaining a strong economy through vital and efficient markets.

Read all of it here.

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Get 'em While They Last

The New Yorker

Thanks to Harry Edwards / The Rag Blog

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Physician, Heal Thyself

Former Surgeon General: Mainstream Medicine Has Endorsed Medical Marijuana
By Dr. Jocelyn Elders / AlterNet / March 26, 2008

A historic document from the 124,000-member American College of Physicians certifies the medical value of marijuana.

One of America's largest and most important groups of physicians has moved to cut through the clutter of political controversies over medical use of marijuana. Lawmakers and the public alike would do well to pay attention.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group in the United States. Its 124,000 members are doctors specializing in internal medicine and related subspecialties, including cardiology, neurology, pulmonary disease, oncology and infectious diseases. The College publishes Annals of Internal Medicine, the most widely cited medical specialty journal in the world.

In a landmark position paper released in February, these distinguished physicians are saying what many of us have been arguing for years: Most of our laws have gotten it wrong when it comes to medical marijuana, and it's time for public policy to get in step with science.

Right now, the laws of 38 states and the federal government bar use of marijuana as a medicine. Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, defined as having no accepted medical use and being unsafe for use even under medical supervision.

ACP's position paper urges "reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions." The document goes on to call for protection of physicians' right to "prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law" and "strongly urges protection from civil or criminal penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws."

ACP supports its position with 10 pages of scientific documentation and references. They cite data showing relief of the nausea, vomiting and wasting that can worsen the misery of cancer, AIDS and other diseases; of the pain and tremors associated with multiple sclerosis; and for relief of pain caused by a variety of other conditions. They note that marijuana in combination with some pharmaceuticals may produce more benefit than either drug alone.

ACP calls for more research, but then adds a critical point: In some areas, the efficacy of medical marijuana has already been established, and it's time for studies designed to determine the best dose and route of delivery.

The ACP position paper demolishes several myths, starting with the notion still proclaimed by some politicians that marijuana is unsafe for medical use. The College notes that the most serious objection to medical marijuana -- potential harm to the lungs from smoking -- has largely been solved by a technology called vaporization, already proven in scientific studies.

The ACP position paper also explains that there is no reason to believe that protecting medical marijuana patients leads to increased drug abuse. "Marijuana has not been proven to be the cause or even the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse," the doctors write. "Opiates are highly addictive, yet medically effective ... There is no evidence to suggest that medical use of opiates has increased perception that their illicit use is safe or acceptable."

This is an historic document. Large medical associations are by their nature slow, cautious creatures that move only when the evidence is overwhelming. The evidence is indeed overwhelming that, as ACP put it, there is "a clear discord" between what research tells us and what our laws say about medical marijuana.

It appears that voters and lawmakers in a number of states will consider medical marijuana proposals this year, and Congress will again be asked to stop federal attempts to interfere with the 12 state medical marijuana laws already in place. It's time to end that "clear discord" and put science ahead of politics.

See more stories tagged with: medical marijuana

Dr. Jocelyn Elders served as U.S. Surgeon General from 1993 to 1994, and is currently distinguished professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock.


Thanks to Steve Russell / The Rag Blog

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Art : New York Salutes its Garbage

SHHHH! No trash talking...

How, exactly, would the Big Apple rot if nobody picked up the trash?

Within a couple of weeks the city would be carpeted with trash -- more than 120,000 tons of it, according to Robin Nagle, the Sanitation Department's "anthropologist in residence." (It's an unsalaried job that she talked the department into creating.) Rats would be rampant and bolder than ever. There'd be typhoid and dysentery. It'd get violent -- the rich would hire private garbage haulers, plus armed guards to keep the riffraff from dumping in wealthy neighborhoods.

The stink would be unimaginable. The tourist trade would crash, probably wrecking the economy.

"At that point," Nagle says, "we could just push New York City into the river."

David Segel / Washington Post /March 26, 2008


Sanitation workers from 100 years ago in a window display at N.Y.U., visible from the street. Photo by Michael Nagle / NYT.

Nothing’s Wasted, Especially Garbage
By Edward Rothstein / New York Times / March, 2008

There is nothing more disgusting than garbage that doesn’t know its place. That’s one reason it’s garbage in the first place. It is something we are done with, that no longer belongs near us. It must be removed, taken away. Otherwise it contaminates, disgusts. The anthropologist Mary Douglas suggested that the very definition of dirt was “matter out of place”: a hair on one’s head is one thing, a hair in a glass of water is another. A half-eaten plate of food is a savored delicacy in one context, a mound of waste in another.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that there is a Nimby reaction to garbage dumps. Of course they shouldn’t be in my backyard. That would be the very essence of pollution: breaking down the boundary between refuse and refuge.

Maybe there’s also something profound to be discerned in how we look at garbage. If a fortune-teller can read the future in soggy tea leaves, what might be discovered if we look carefully at milk cartons and used paper towels, cooking grease and moldy bread? There is much to understand about garbage, and a reluctance, because of its very nature, to look too closely.

In folklore, for example, the rag picker and dust sweeper are often possessed of an intimate understanding of people, an insight that eludes those of us who turn away from such matters. There is also a strong element of economic class in the way garbage is regarded. The shantytowns of the world’s poor are constructed out of the discarded flotsam of urban life, but one privilege of the wealthy is to be separated from garbage quickly and decisively.

Garbage that doesn’t seem to know its place may also be suggestive. It is, at least, in a modest series of display windows at New York University, at the corner of West Third Street and La Guardia Place in Greenwich Village in New York City. The windows are a result of a collaboration between the university and the New York City Sanitation Department and were previously shown at the department’s quaintly named Derelict Vehicles Office, where abandoned cars and wrecks enter Purgatory.

The windows, at the Kimmel Center for University Life, describe themselves as “the first step toward founding a museum for the Department of Sanitation,” for this is an agency that, unlike its brethren the New York City Police and Fire Departments and the Transportation Authority, does not have its own museum. The exhibit grew out of a course given last fall, “Making a Museum,” that had the unfortunate subtitle “Materializing Regimes of Value With the New York City Department of Sanitation.”

“What is the cognitive, practical, and cultural role of garbage in contemporary life?” the syllabus asks. Unfortunately the use of jargon (“regimes of value”) inspires some wonder about whether that role has also affected rhetoric. But judging from the curriculum, the class, taught by Haidy Geismar, a professor in N.Y.U.’s museum studies program, and Robin Nagle, an anthropologist, was meant to explore concretely how an exhibition about this often overlooked subject might be approached.

The impetus came from Ms. Nagle, who has long been fascinated by the Sanitation Department, went through job training there, wrote a diary about her experience for Slate in 2004 and is completing a book about the agency. That intimate connection probably helped in putting together this modest show’s most intriguing textual panel, a glossary of the Sanitation Department: Air mail is defined as “garbage thrown at the truck from windows above.” Blood money is “overtime for working snow once the novelty has worn off.” Tissue is “a desk job, an easy job.”

The displays themselves are both celebratory and restrained. In one window a panel about recycling, with the heading “Trash and Transformation,” is mounted above a pile of dry, nonorganic trash, ranging from old LPs to a pink flamingo — examples of what is defined here as mongo: “objects plucked/rescued from the trash.” Another pays tribute to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, which was about to close just before 9/11 and was then quickly put to use in the processing of the ruins and debris.

There are also historical photos of sanitation men posing in pristine uniforms in the early 20th century. They were given the angelic name of White Wings, though the era’s streets, full of refuse, human waste, and horse manure, made it unlikely they would end the working day in as crisp a fashion. There are also mentions of the job’s dangers: a sanitation worker in 1996 died almost instantly when an illegally dumped drum of hydrofluoric acid was crushed by the truck’s mechanism, spraying him with the corrosive chemical.

One of Ms. Nagle’s main concerns is the invisibility of “san men” as they are called, the ways in which people look past them, almost straining to ignore their work. But that is not too surprising given that garbage is something that is meant to be exorcised, “taken out” or incinerated. One traditional measure of luxury is how little it is possible to come into personal contact with garbage or its removal.

A museum about how New York, and by implication all modern cities, deals with garbage, might actually redeem its subject matter, not earning it much affection perhaps but revealing its hidden influences and powers.

But there is also much to understand about the odd place garbage now holds in middle-class life.

At least in part the impulse to redeem garbage and its handlers is found not only in these windows. Spurred by environmental concerns, attitudes have been shifting.

Instead of wanting to excommunicate our trash, we often treat it as if it were not refuse at all.

We classify our waste, create different containers for it and carefully label it, the way we would collections of cherished objects. We are even instructed to rinse some garbage.

It is as if we were fetishistically preparing dead matter for resurrection or afterlife. That is, of course, the idea, and there are many reasons reclamation might be a practical goal. But a devout attitude attaches to the rituals, a feeling of virtue that seems to transcend considerations of cost.

Recycling is still far more expensive than alternatives, not even counting the time and resources devoted to it in every household.

The rituals are also rigorous. In New York punishments are meted out even if the wrong kind of plastic bag is used for garbage inside sealed, labeled recycling containers.

Put aside discussions of resources and cost; think of what a change this is in attitude. We have redeemed the untouchable, atoned for past wrongs, embraced the forbidden, made democratic the contact with waste. We must now all embrace our inner garbage.

“Loaded Out: Making a Museum” is on display 24 hours a day through May 5 in the windows of New York University’s Kimmel Center, corner of La Guardia Place and West Third Street, Greenwich Village.


Robin Nagle, unpaid anthropologist at New York's Sanitation Department, holds a 1950s pan scraper from her exhibit, on display at New York University. Photo by Helayne Seidman /for The Washington Post.

Nagle spent more than a year working with New York sanitation teams, sometimes hauling bags, sometimes driving garbage trucks. She ended up with a huge amount of material for a forthcoming book, "Picking Up," and a somewhat smaller collection of what is known as "mongo." It's a sanitation crew term for something plucked out of the trash for reuse.

Technically it's prohibited, but apparently it will get you in trouble only if a supervisor has it out for you and can't nail you for something else. Otherwise, nobody seems to mind.

"I would guess that about half of the guys mongo," Nagle says.

A mongo sampler is part of "Loaded Out," including luggage, an electric fan, gloves, a framed photo of an old car, a vinyl record of a Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand duet. Typically, stuff like this gets repurposed in a variety of ways.

"Some sanitation workers eBay their mongo, or they sell it in a yard sale," Nagle says. "One guy gave it to his church. Another guy found this really beautiful white cashmere scarf and he took it to the dry cleaner and gave it to his wife on Christmas. I don't know if he ever told her it was mongo."

Let's hope not.

David Segal / Washington Post / March 26, 2008


Robin Nagle's diary as a New York sanitation worker in training.

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30 March 2008

Federal Continuity Directive 1: Beyond Duct Tape

Lifted shamelessly from Bad Attitudes.

Freedom Through Fear


But today’s topic in the post-election prolonging of Bush ideology is the attempt to reinforce and extend the primacy of the “global war on terror“ (GWOT in Bush-speak) as the federal government’s mission.

To that end, the Department of Homeland Security recently issued Federal Continuity Directive 1. This 87-page document, arriving more than seven [sic - should be six] years after 9/11, is the distillation of the best strategic thinking and guidance of the Administration’s senior leadership on carrying out what Secretary Chertoff calls “the most critical functions necessary to lead and sustain the Nation during a catastrophic emergency.”

Let’s see how far DHS has progressed since the days of Tom Ridge and duct tape.

Right off the bat the gripping title — Federal Continuity Directive 1 — tells us that this is a document of critical importance for the safety of our country. The impressive cover page with the stylized fightin’ eagle carries the same message:

Now we’ll look inside FCD1 to sample its wisdom. It’s hard to select, because almost any page is rich with unintentional self-parody, but let’s start with some basics…

First, the directive answers a question many Americans have been asking for years: What is the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security? Gathering intelligence about threats? Preparing for emergencies? Protecting citizens? All wrong answers. The correct answer is on Page 7:

Maintaining and revising as necessary the various agency PMEFs and MEFs in order to meet requirements for continuity, including ECG, COG, and COOP.

Okay, got that?

For those of us charged with preparing federal agencies for emergencies, FCD1 provides some deep and insightful thinking on what to do in its “Program Management” guidance. Afraid that its wisdom might prove too knotty and perplexing for the average bureaucrat, DHS provides a helpful graphic summary of our responsibilities:

And for those who failed rebuses as children, the text informs us that Leadership, Staff, Facilities, and Communications are the “four pillars” of our program.

OK, then, now that we have learned how to manage the program, what is the program? Again, a handy graphic summarizes:

See how simple and colorful protecting our country is! Stack the three circles on top of the yellow triangle, just like in Montessori school. What are NEFs, PMEFs and MEFs? That’s the heart of the document, but you’ll have to find out yourself from the complete FCD1.

As I hope this brief selection has shown, FCD1 is not about protecting citizens or preparing for emergencies. It’s sad and scary to realize that it’s not a parody, but the best thinking and main work product of the Bush appointees charged with keeping the country safe.

What is the real purpose of this compendium of vacuous bloviation, consultant babble, and bureaucratic neo-acronyms?

First, to extend and strengthen the reign of the Bush Terror Presidency within the federal government. FCD1 has a companion volume (with the unsurprising title of FCD2) of mandatory terror-related busywork for bureaucrats.

This ensures that we will spend months filling out forms, preparing reports, conducting training, and running exercises to document our preparedness for a terrorist attack. The message to the federal bureaucracy is the same as the BushCo message to the public: pretending to fight terror is what this country is about.

If you work for the government, your mission is not health care, or environmental protection, or job creation, or safety. Your job is to pencilwhip terrorists with your program plan and your four pillars.

The second objective is the same as for almost any Bush initiative: Siphon off federal money to favored contractors. The Bush White House will enforce compliance with these directives, and former Homeland Security officials are lining up to develop the plans and manage agencies’ security programs. If that means your agency will have less money for its real mission, don’t worry because your mission is not important.

If the Bush plan works, and the primacy of terror management can be embedded deep within the government, we bureaucrats will continue to fight the phony Global War on Terror long after the Bushies have vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So watch out jihadis, and fear my newly sharpened pencil.


[+/-]

Texas Conventions : A Real Challenge

Ecstatic Obama delegate at Dallas Convention. Photo by Dallas Morning News.

Several Rag bloggers and members of MDS/Austin attended the Travis County Democratic conventions in Austin on March 29, 2008. Most were delegates for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Between 8 and 10 a.m., traffic was backed up for many blocks in every direction trying to get into the parking lots. Lines getting credentials were almost equally imposing. It took an hour and a half once we hit gridlock to get inside the building.

My duties as an Obama delegate took about half an hour out of eight hours inside the Exposition Center. The biggest delay was the credentials committee trying to get its act together. Many speeches by Democratic Party politicians all saying the same thing – we’re having this little family feud right now, but in November, we have to be together regardless.

The most interesting person saying this was ex-Democratic Party chair, Terry McAuliffe, now a major staff person for Hillary Clinton. He clearly said he would be working for Barack Obama in November if Obama was the nominee. Since he’s a hack for the corporate wing of the party, hopefully Obama won’t take him up on that.

Obama carried Austin by a wide margin and won enough delegates in the conventions statewide to surpass the margin Clinton earned by winning the primary. The final total for Texas will be 99 delegates to the national convention for Obama and 94 for Clinton.

David Hamilton / The Rag Blog
Texas Jokes End Today
by Melody Townsel / Daily Kos /March 29, 2008

Hello, all:

I'm just back -- literally, JUST back -- from Texas' 23rd Senatorial District's Democratic convention. I left my house at 6:15 a.m. I walked in at 12:30 this morning.

I'm exhausted. I'm thrilled Obama won by such a wide margin. I'm honored to have been selected to attend our state convention. I'm pissed as hell at HRC's national campaign.

And, after countless hours of phonebanking and organizing for Obama, an hourlong early voting process, a four-hour caucus process, and 18 hours of county convention, I've decided that I'm no longer willing to put up with anti-Texas jabs from Kossites, slurs against my patriotism from Republicans, and just about anything else from Clinton supporters.

Unlike Kath, I was largely unable to take photos because my credentials were challenged. Along with the credentials of a large swath of the elected delegates.

After six or so extremely hot, crowded, confusing hours, many of us were unable to determine why, exactly, our credentials had been challenged. The Clinton camp had announced that they were targeting the 23rd district for credentials challenges and, by god, that's what they did.

By the end, the Clinton folks were willing -- hell, eager -- to throw out not just random individuals but the entire delegation of 2 precincts. (So much for voter enfranchisement, eh, Hills?)

The protest process was tailor-made for alienating committed voters, wearing them out to the point where they would drop out. By the end of the night, the convention floor was abuzz with tired, pissed-off voters who now hate Hillary with the fire of a thousand suns.

I'm one of them. Thanks for sucking those 10 or so hours away from me, Hills. Love ya. Mean it.

In the end, the Hillary camp did successfully win challenges on 22 delegates. Out of a total of 2,650. When the announcement came, we calculated that the 10-hour delay of the start of our convention averaged roughly a successful challenge only every 30 minutes.

So we stayed. Surprise, Hillary! Not a single delegate OR ALTERNATE left early from my precinct, which meant that the delegation not continuing on to state spent 12 hours making the Texas delegate count official.

So, take that, HRC! Your sniper fire was unsuccessful.

Dad, I'm putting you on notice. You choose to question my patriotism again because I oppose Iraq, you'll rue the day.

And the next time we're Bush-bashing around here, remember our 18 hours of non-stop conventioneering -- and think twice about messing with Texas.

Peace out, y'all. I'm off for beer and a bed.

UPDATE: I just woke up. Beer and sleep GOOD! First, thank you all for your wonderful comments and expressions of support. I've tried to read them all, and respond where I could. I accept them all on behalf of all our Texas delegates, whom, as you can read in the comments, spent Saturday in one of the concentric circles of hell.

I won't bother to rehash all the news reports that have come in with results. I will throw up this quote from the Dallas Morning News Trailblazers blog:

Barack Obama handily won District 16 by 59 percent-41 percent. But he crushed Hillary Rodham Clinton in Sen. Royce West's District 23 -- 82 percent to 18 percent. Clinton barely made the "threshold" of 15 percent to get any delegates at all from the county.

I'm off for coffee in a few minutes, and I'm going to start figuring out my response to the HRC campaign's challenges.

Many of you asked the nature of the challenges, and all I can tell you is that the vast majority of us never figured out the exact grounds on which we were charged -- and the conditions were so crowded, hot and crazy that it wasn't practical to push any further than to get your credentials and get seated. (It was, in fact, so miserable that a few people passed out and EMS was called twice.)

My current plan of attack is to bombard our Texas superdelegates with our collective dissatisfaction with the 12 hours of bullshit. I'll post a diary soon with a call to action to that effect, but I'll need to do some research to pull together a list of our supers and their contact info.

Once again, I thank you all very, very much!

More from Melody Townsel's Diary.

Texas Conventions Get Wild

The conventions Saturday were electing about 7,300 delegates to the state Democratic Convention, June 5-7 in Austin. Those delegates will make the final decision on how the 67 caucus delegates are divided.

Typically, only a few hundred people turn out for the local conventions, but this year party officials had to find larger venues because tens of thousands of delegates attended.

Traffic jams leading to the Travis County Exposition Center for the Senate District 14 and Senate District 25 conventions caused numerous delegates to abandon their vehicles more than a mile away and walk to the convention.

The Senate District 11 convention in Pasadena had more than 1,200 people show up at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall. The parking lot overflowed into a nearby elementary school, and cars lined the streets for blocks.

At the Senate District 6 convention, an area of heavy Clinton support, there were more than 40 precincts who had no delegates show up for the convention.

Clinton received about 64 percent of the popular vote in the Senate District 6 in the March 4 primary, but only 55 percent of the delegates attending Saturday's convention backed her.

That gave Obama an opportunity to make up for losing ground in Webb County, where Clinton received all 51 delegates to the state convention because Obama's delegates did not reach a 15 percent threshold attendance for claiming delegates. He had received 20 percent of the vote in the primary there.

One of the wildest conventions was Senate District 19 held at a San Antonio warehouse. When there was a fight over the list and credentials of registered delegates, the warehouse owner threatened to expel the convention.

At the Senate District 13 convention at Texas Southern University in Houston, an Obama stronghold, Clinton supporters unsuccessfully tried to gain delegate strength by asking Obama backers to switch so they would be elected as delegates to the state convention. Obama came out of the convention with 272 state delegates to Clinton's 69.

When U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, a superdelegate pledged to Clinton, spoke to the Senate District 13 convention, some Obama supporters booed her.

Despite the hassles Saturday, many Democrats said the turnout excited them about their prospects of breaking the Republican political hold on Texas.

"I wish we could bottle this enthusiasm and carry it over to November, which I think we will do," said Rodney Griffin, temporary chairman of the Senate District 13
convention in Missouri City.

R. G. Ratcliff / Houston Chronicle / March 29, 2008

Read the entire story here.

[+/-]

The Disembodied Lightness Is Sheer Illusion

Well, this just sucks, especially since I'm an IT manager for a small manufacturing company. Welcome to the real world.

Richard Jehn / The Rag Blog

Google Data Center along the Columbia River in Oregon.

It is no coincidence that search engine giant Google is building its newest computer center near the Dalles Dam, a huge hydroelectric power plant in Oregon. Buying electricity directly from the plant costs one-fifth as much as Google would be paying in California. Besides, the Columbia River supplies inexpensive water to operate the eight multistory cooling towers designed to handle the waste heat from tens of thousands of computers.

Users are accustomed to the results of their searches appearing on their computer screens almost magically. Calculations have now been performed to determine the share of power consumption that can be attributed to a single Google search. Depending on the initial data, one Google search consumes enough electricity to run an 11-watt, energy-saving lightbulb for 15 minutes to an hour.

As long as Google refuses to release numbers, such calculations will remain only a guessing game. But one thing is certain: In 2006, according to a study commissioned by the German Environment Ministry, Germany's roughly 50,000 computer centers consumed as much electricity as a nuclear power plant can produce in the same amount of time.

This thirst for energy also affects the climate. Economists with the US-based information technology research firm Gartner estimate that computer technology (including telephones, mobile wireless networks and printers) is now responsible for 2 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions -- or, in other words, just as much as all air traffic does.

These numbers reveal that the sheer, disembodied lightness of the data world is nothing but a pretty illusion. In fact, it is a world built on real world data processing factories that, when it comes to power consumption, are reminiscent of the early days of industrialization. Computing with electrons is just as physical as the melting of steel or rolling of sheet metal. In both cases, no one cared much about resource consumption during the early phases.

Read all of it here.

[+/-]

An Israel-Palestine Peace Plan - D. Hamilton, et al

The Rag Blog / March 29, 2008
Last updated, April 5, 2008

Our recent debate on Israel/Palestine/Zionism/anti-Semitism seems to have run its regular course without much resolution. While articulate statements were made, I don't think it was unifying or moved the debate forward much, if at all. Hence, I propose that we take on the project of writing a just, fair and comprehensive peace plan for the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

My motivation is based on two assumptions. One, the basic elements of such a peace plan have been apparent for a long time. Two, we would probably agree much more on a plan for resolution than we do about who is more aggrieved.

I'm working on my plan now. I look forward to a more fruitful discussion.

David Hamilton / The Rag Blog

Israel - Palestine Peace Plan.
Proposed by David Hamilton


My personal preference is a one state solution – one secular country governed by democracy, including Jews, Arabs, Christians and seculars. As one who considers practically all organized religions to be divisive and reactionary, I don’t support any non-secular states, regardless of their particular religious affiliation. Unfortunately, that is not considered possible in this circumstance at this time. Consensus opinion is that a two-state solution is the only viable option. The general framework is “Land for Peace”. This means that Israel gives up land that it currently occupies to the Palestinians in exchange for a guaranteed peace.

This plan assumes the support of a unified Palestinian leadership. The purpose of writing this plan is to demonstrate that the general elements of a just peace plan are and have been apparent for a very long time. It is also hoped that in focusing on solutions the subscribers to this list will find more unity.

Principal provisions.

1. The Palestinian Authority (including Hamas), the bordering states of Lebanon (including Hezbollah), Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, all members of the Arab League, and Iran recognize the government of Israel within borders established by this treaty, establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel and sign an omnibus non-aggression treaty with Israel.

2. Israel withdraws all its military forces and governmental authorities from the West Bank in its entirety, returning to the 1967 “Green Line” and turning over all authority for the region to the Palestinian Authority. If mutual agreement can be reached, border adjustments may be negotiated directly between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority based on the principal of equality. That is, equal land of equal value exchanged by both sides. No Israeli “security corridors” may cross Palestinian territory. Existing Israeli settlements on the West Bank may remain, with individual civil and property rights guaranteed, but under Palestinian authority.

3. The capital of the Palestinian Authority will be located in East Jerusalem.

4. The “right of return” wherein Palestinians have the right to return to property they lost in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel will be relinquished by the Palestinian Authority in return for 50 billion dollars in development aid to be provided over the next 10 years.

5. The Golan Heights will be returned to Syria and completely demilitarized.

6. A separate religious shrine will be established including the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall. This shrine will be autonomous, governed by an equal number of Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and will not be considered part of either Israel or Palestine. It will be designated a “world heritage shrine” and have a police force composed of UN provided personnel under the direction of the governing board of religious leaders. Admittance to the shrine will be guaranteed to all.

7. A modern multi-lane highway will be built between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip across Israeli territory. Israel will have the prerogative to insist that there be no exits on this road. No tolls may be charged and no road blocks established by the Israeli government.

8. Israel will sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thereby opening its nuclear weapons facilities to IAEA inspection and agree to negotiate with all parties toward the establishment of a nuclear weapons free Middle East.

Your comments on this plan are cordially invited.


Point One assumes getting Hamas and Hezbollah to the table.

Of course, there was a time when getting Fatah to the table was a pipe dream. It was done by leaning on Fatah's state sponsors. In this case, the primary state sponsor is Iran. Who will do the leaning? The US has no credibility with Iran as it did with Fatah's state sponsors.

Who will guarantee the demilitarized status of Golan and, more importantly, who will control the water?

Since a "right of return" for Palestinians combined with democracy would potentially destroy the Jewish state (I do hope your revulsion extends to Islamic states), would you settle for money compensation like we have in the US for property taken by government?

I like the idea of leaning on Israel to sign the nuke treaty but Clinton was the last Prez to lean on Israel about anything and, before him, Carter. The problem is that as long as the US backs anything Israel does with no limitations the Israeli hardliners have no reason to give an inch.

The idea of a superhighway with exits that can be closed is pretty inventive. Probably a good idea to put a weapons checkpoint at each end, too.

Not only is a political solution to the status of Jerusalem necessary, the idea of the UN recognizing the status of the site and guaranteeing access is excellent. Let both sides claim a Jerusalem address as their capital.

In my callow youth, I thought that the Temple Mount should be wired with a nuclear device that could only be triggered by simultaneous use of keys put into the hands of the most radical Muslim, the most radical Jew, and the most radical Christian to be found. With power comes responsibility. Or not.

Steve Russell

David Hamilton's proposal should be the template for a large segment of the work done on all progressive blogs and salons. Of course, analysis and anecdote and opinion and propaganda and news-reporting are the basic products of this - and related - media. The missing ingredients - almost universally - are policy and program. But this is exactly where we should be headed - to a major extent.

The only objection can be that we're not smart enough - or motivated enough - to perform this task. (Powerlessness is not a legitimate excuse, because, if we husband this process, we will create the power.) Is this true? Are we all helpless? Are we all victims or victims-to-be? Do we only know how to criticize, how to demonstrate, how to whine? It's not true, is it? We can construct solutions, and knowing the extent and basic nature of the problems, our solutions should be better than most.

I propose - a la David's approach - that some segment of your contribution should consist of policy or program formulations to improve our lives and those of our fellow Earthians. Maybe 1 out of every 3 posts by any individual should be an outline of suggested solutions. Don't like GM food? What should we do? Save seed? Support an organization that does save seed? Create, join, publicize a, say, Sustainability organization that has a policy platform that includes heteroculture?

The Rag Blog has become a potential big-time blog under Richard's and Thorne's guidance. How about a subsection devoted to policy and program discussions? Rather than a daily news format, that section would have major categories with ongoing, long-term threads. Each category could have a coordinator, whose main responsibility would be to summarize the past week's discussions, and who would always be trying to formulate a best-practices position paper on the subject. When enough participants agree on a paper, then it becomes a formal position for this salon.

The other duty of a coordinator would be to try elicit responses from other salons which might share an interest. As you may be aware, our fragmentation is a large part of the obstacle to power that we face. Coming together on policy and program may or may not solve the existentialist dilemna, but at least we can debate looking forward, instead of backward.

OK - that was off-thread. As to Israel and Palestine, I don't know. All that I do know is that the Israelis cannot keep their collective adrenaline levels high forever, which is apparently the chief electoral strategy of Likud and Olmert's party. Best to make some deals, and soon. Stopping the settlers/settlements would be a good thing, but then they would have to throw the fundamentalists under the bus and re-legitimize Labor. Still - that's the logical move in terms of the national interest.

Paul Spencer

"As to Israel and Palestine, I don't know. All that I do know is that the Israelis cannot keep their collective adrenaline levels high forever, which is apparently the chief electoral strategy of Likud and Olmert's party. Best to make some deals, and soon."

Paul's statement above would be all there is to say if the hardliners could not count on some timely terrorism from the other side to keep their electoral troops in line.

Cue the moral equivalency brigade. Yes, there is a sense in which the Israelis are "terrorists" when they use modern tech to fire back. They know non-combatants will get killed. Yes, the US, being a hi tech society, is predisposed to accept low tech warfare as "terrorism." Nobody who can't see the flaws in this argument, I predict, will have anything to do with bringing peace to the Middle East.

Steve Russell

Surely no one can challenge David's chutzpah for tackling head-on one of the most perplexing problems of my lifetime.

I must, however, question two of his points:

1. "Existing Israeli settlements on the West Bank may remain, with individual civil and property rights guaranteed, but under Palestinian authority."

Were the settlement properties obtained according to rule of law? On whose authority were the settlers' individual and property rights guaranteed? Was the acquisition of land and the authority under which it was acquired, in fact, legal under international law? If the answer is -- as I understand it to be (see links below) -- generally "no," then the settlers on confiscated public and private land must be relocated to pre-occupation Israel, with reparations by the Israeli government to offset financial loss and hardship -- and soften the political fallout. This solution may, in fact, be acceptable for the East European immigrants who were lured by cheap real estate subsidies and might not wish to continue to reside in an Arab-controlled environment, but a substantial number of the settlers are Zionist fundamentalists for whom the reestablishment of Eretz Yisrael is considered a historical and religious imperative. Here Israel's resolve for peace will be tested as dramatically as it was during the shutdown of the Gaza settlements in 2005.



2. The second issue lurks at the epicenter of the conflict: the confiscation -- often at gunpoint -- of Arab and Sephardi lands carried out under the directive of Plan D (enacted sixty years ago this month) by the Zionist Haganah paramilitary underground as well as Irgun and Lehi armed gangs. In recent years, actions such as these have been called "ethnic cleansing."

David suggests that Palestinians should relinquish "right of return" in exchange for 50 billion dollars of development aid. The problem with this solution is that it is a collective answer to many tens of thousands of individual injustices -- a million Palestinians uprooted from their homes and more than 450 Palestinian villages bulldozed into rubble.

While I think collective reparations are necessary to build a viable Palestinian nation, I think the underpinnings of a permanent solution must be based on fair compensation to the descendants of the 700,000-800,000 Palestinians who were expelled and another 250,000 displaced and exiled internally within Israeli borders during the Naqba or Catastrophe, as the exodus came to be called in Arab lands.

Today there are 4.4 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations and at least another million who are not registered. International law recognizes the rights of refugees to regain their property or, alternately, to receive compensation and support for voluntary resettlement, and this right was affirmed for the Palestinians by U.N. Resolution 194 in 1948. An overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe refugee rights is the single most important obstacle to enduring peace, and almost 70 percent, according to the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center's Aug. 2007 poll, believe refugees should be allowed to return to"their original land."

This sentiment suggests that Israel and its international underwriters should shift course, acknowledge the negative outcome of its leaders' policies six decades ago, and embark on a pragmatic course toward a two-state solution. I believe Israel should put aside its current "stick and bigger stick" policies and embark on bold reconciliation initiative, sort of a "carrot and bigger carrot" policy:

The carrot: Israel will announce that refugees displaced in 1948 will be allowed to return as Israeli citizens, with Israel offering to pay for rebuilding or replacing confiscated property and destroyed homes and businesses. Citizenship benefits will be the same as Israeli Palestinians -- which, it should be noted, come with caveats and provisions not required of Jewish citizens.

The bigger carrot: Alternately, Israel would offer the refugees a "generous" compensation package to pay for relocation within the newly created Palestinian state. Thus the Israel government will wager that most Palestinians are, at the bottom line, realists and, recognizing that old Palestine is no more,will opt for taking the bigger carrot and being part of the creation of a historic new Palestinian nation.

The settlements in the Occupied Territories, presently home to almost a half-million Jews, should be part of the "carrot/big carrot" offer, as the housing, manufacturing and business base, and infrastructure, provide a powerful stimulus for the Palestinian families who for three generations have lived in squalid refugee camps. Israel missed a golden opportunity when it bulldozed the abandoned settlements in Gaza -- including a large Israeli organic greenhouse operation employing Palestinian workers -- and should not repeat this mistake under a new comprehensive and permanent peace plan. The transfer of property and infrastructure should be entrusted to a trusted international development organization or the U.N. in order to guarantee that the former settlements do not become resorts for corrupt and high-living Palestine Authority apparatchiks.

I maintain that by giving Palestinians the choice of return to Israel or a future in Palestine, most will chose the latter. More important, the dynamic of choice will do more than anything else to signal Israel's desire to recast its own history in a manner consistent with the currents of humanism and love of peace which run so deep in Jewish culture and thought over millennia.

Jim Retherford

This touching faith in the rule of law as an obstacle to the viability of a Jewish state in the midst of Islamic states of varying degrees of orthodoxy (funny in itself for a religion that professes not to have an orthodoxy) would perhaps be more palatable if it did not come from the U.S.

I hold dual citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.

When you have finished applying to my people the principles you are trying to set up for Palestinians, I will be more disposed to take you seriously.

The standards with which you wish to destroy Israel would also destroy the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--all very recent settler societies.

Applied with no time limit, those same standards would destroy all civilization, everywhere.

Get real.

Steve (Russell)

Alan , who is on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, says:

Steve is saying that if Palestine is saved for the Palestinians then civilization as we know it is at risk. Hmmm, maybe not so bad considering where our Western "civilization" has placed us. His argument is that all claims by those who were forced off their land are the same for all in all times. So if the Israeli government were forced to give back all the land they stole then so would all imperialistic land grabbers everywhere no matter how ancient the claim.

Hmmm, not so bad an idea. The Native Americans are still being beaten up today, not to mention the not so far in the past rip offs. Similarly the Palestinians are being murdered as we speak. The Klu Klux Klan settlers are taking up every square foot of Palestine that they can, creating more "facts on the ground" that they can use as bargaining chips or simply just own. Allowing these thugs to hide behind bogus religious claims is sickening.

I could not follow Steve's contradictory non-logic on Native Americans: we should apply the same standard to the Native Americans that we apply to the Palestinians if we are to be considered "serious" but then he says we cannot do this very thing for "his people". I hope he doesn't speak with his forked tongue around the Cherokee.

The Native Americans here are united against any uranium mining. Other Native American groups are walking from Alcatraz Island to Washington D.C., The Long March, to protest the continuing rip off of Native Americans. I will met up with them soon. Native American sovereignty has been denied for too long.

Alan Pogue

As I try to explain in my written but not yet published book on the subject, tribal sovereignty is way more complicated than you are making it (since you are speaking post-Westphalia and we predate that) and you perhaps miss my point.

You can't own land. Land owns you.

All land titles, at all times and places, are only bargaining chips, fictions around which life happens to us while we are making other plans.

In Tejas, a full title search goes back to land grants from the Spanish Crown. What a joke!

You are right that Jewish settlers are consciously trying to affect the final product by creating "facts on the ground." Those "facts" have whatever import we choose to give them, just like the fact of a 15 year old wearing a bomb.

Steve Russell


Please carefully reread my post. I am not advocating a one-state solution or the destruction of Israel, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, all "civilizations," or Oz. I am advocating a revolutionary transformation of all of the above into truly civilized social entities.

The issue, I think, that burns most rancorously in the Palestinian pysche is the Naqba, the theft of home and homeland by armed gangs while the world watched and did nothing. I believe that this contentious matter eventually can (and must) be resolved through Israel's acknowledgement of past leadership mistakes by Ben-Gurion and Co. and payments of fair (and very large) amounts in reparation and development grants.

The old Palestine no longer exists, and the surviving Palestinians who were adults during the Naqba now are in their 80s -- grandparents and great-grandparents of at least three generations who have been born and raised in exile -- in the camps, crowded villages, or urban ghettos of Gaza, the West Bank, Golan Heights, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

My proposal dramatizes my belief that most Palestinians, if given the *choice* of return to what no longer exists in Israel and a future in the New Palestine, within the very communities that have developed over the past 60 years, would chose the new Palestinian state. Such a decision, of course, would be eased by infusion of lots and lots of cash.

Put yourself in the place of a 60-something Palestinian in the Occupied Territories: What would you do if your experience of your homeland is your parents' and grandparents' faded pictures, nostalgic stories, and bitter anger plus whatever vague memories a five-year-old might have of your family routed out of home and forced into exile? Would you burn to return to the old village, now a rock-strewn pile of rubble -- or maybe the site of a new mall or condo project -- and to second-class citizenship in a strange land with strange language? Or would you take the money and opt to work with your present community -- amidst the people you have come to know and trust -- to build a new homeland? I think it's a no-brainer... IF the money is there.

Your other comments are rather interesting, given how lawyers are known to appreciate conciseness of language and meaning ...

1. "... settler societies"?!? What a clever little phrase to whitewash centuries of genocide and cultural devastation under the banner of the Euro-American doctrine of Manifest Destiny!

2. "... all civilizations"?!? For crying out loud, what is civilized about what the United States government did to the Cherokee, Shawnee, and Creek; the Seminoles (my great-great-great grandfather wrote *The Exiles of Florida: The Crimes Committed by Our Government Against the Maroons Who Fled From South Carolina and Other Slave States* in 1858 to expose the government's dark motives in forcing the Seminoles out of their Everglades homeland); the Great Sioux Nation; the Iroquois Confederacy; the Apache; the Comanche; the Nez Perce; and the list of atrocities goes on and on. (And let's not forget what the U.S. government continues to do to Leonard Peltier.) What Australia did to the Aboriginal People, New Zealand to the Maori ...

Pardon me if I fail to find anything *civilized* about "civilization" as practiced by the so-called "settler societies." In fact, using language to objectively connote reality -- as I believe it must if one is to "get real" -- I would argue that so-called Christian Euro-barbarian soldiers sacked indigenous civilizations on every continent where we ventured during the past two millennia -- from the peaceful Arab and Sephardic tribespeople of the Levant a thousand years ago to the Cherokees only a little over a century ago.

I would further posit that our American inability to grasp time and history beyond the sound bite or the 48-hour news cycle is one result of our repression of collective guilt over our own crimes of ethnic cleansing.

But I digress. The subject is Israel-Palestine.

3. "... [my] touching faith in rule of law"??? Your Honor, I have no faith in "rule of law" as an end-in-itself. Fascist Germany had rule of law -- the law was ruled by the Nazis. The U.S. is moving from a historically revolutionary egalitarian concept of rule of law to law ruled by the corporate and militarist oligarchy. So rule of law really has to do with who rules over the law, and since the early '60s in Bloomington I have worked not to advocate for rule of law but to demand justice, a principle (in my thinking) that transcends law and its putative rulers.

4. "...destroy Israel ... destroy the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand ... destroy all civilization, everywhere ... " This idea seems to unravel you. Why? Are you so attached to the trickled-down spoils of Western "civilization" and its investitures?

Spring is a magic time in Bloomington, so I hope you have time to stop and enjoy a walk through Dunn Meadow, carefully avoiding the throngs of making-out couples. If you cross paths with Willis Barnstone, please give him my fondest regards. He is the most decent human being I have ever met. I understand that his health is not good.

If you ever stop by the Runcible Spoon, ask whether my old compadre Allen Gurevitz is around. A poet and anarcho-communist-mystic, Allen is the ur-source of much movement history in all of its fascinating Heartland contradictions, from the founding of the Bloomington W.E.B. DuBois Club and Sexual Freedom League to Clark Kerr's Halloween hook-up with dancing robots and the devil himself. You would enjoy knowing him.

Onward through the fog ...

James Retherford

PS. I gotta say that I did not follow your thinking on Islamic "orthodoxy" and the Jewish state. Are you describing as Islamic states those countries in which the vast majority of the population is Muslim and as Jewish state Israel where the vast majority is Jewish? Last I looked, the only country I would describe as a theocracy is predominately Shi'ite Iran, a non-Arab nation with a special history at the hands of U.S. and British "nation-builders." Meanwhile, the same Islamic fundamentalists we are fighting in "the war on terror" are also engaged in overthrowing Arab states considered too secular, even states with dual systems, secular law and Sharia, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.


I respect David's attempt at a so called "peace plan" but in my opinion there are major problems. Quite honestly, this plan would be much more difficult to implement than a one-state solution. What is needed and would be much more successful is a non-violent Israeli and Palestinian civil rights movement with clearly stated objectives.

Anyway, I will state my concerns with the proposed peace plan.

1. The events of 1948 and the Palestinian refugees are totally overlooked. This is the major problem with the proposed peace plan. Peace is not going to happen if the refugee problem is not solved, period! Israel's relationship with the Palestinian refugees is THE root of the conflict. And not just the 4 million refugees in the ghettos of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, but the refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank. Let me remind you that 80% of the population in Gaza are refugees! Where did they flee from? Why do they call themselves Palestinian? Not because they are from Gaza but because they are from lands that became Israel in 1948.

Do you seriously think $50 billion in development aid is going to end this conflict?! This is essentially what you are proposing. The refugees must be offered the right to return to Israel AND monetary reparations for the original crime of expulsion. Otherwise they will continue to feel oppressed by the state of Israel. Human rights cannot be negotiated. And yes, the right of a refugee to return is as basic a human right as free speech and freedom of religion, especially when people have been expelled because of their ethnicity, because of their religion.

Furthermore, there is no Palestinian Authority that can sign off on the Palestinian right of return. Whatever solution comes about, it must be implemented between Israel, the UN (as caretaker of Universal Human Rights), and the individual refugees themselves.

They must be offered the explicit right of return OR to remain where they are and receive some sort of equivalent compensation for their loss of property and the crime of expulsion. It is not reasonable to think that any peace can be negotiated between Israel and any sort of Palestinian Authority that does not approach the millions of Palestinian refugees directly and sincerely.

I just can't believe that the proposed peace plan is any more reasonable than a one-state solution. The State of Israel, as it is held hostage by political Zionism today, would never accept an equal Palestinian state. It will always be seen as a puppet state. It's not simply a matter of connecting the dots between Hamas, Fatah, Likud, and Labour. That's not peace.

Additionally, the stated peace plan COMPLETELY ignores Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. What of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in Israel but are still refugees? What of the 1 million Palestinians who live under a state and in a society which explicitly discriminates against them in almost all aspects of their lives? What of the reality that mainstream Israeli opinion holds that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship should be "transferred" to the new Palestinian state?

Peace will not come by negotiating the legitimization of the status quo. Peace will come after an Israeli-Palestinian movement which confronts all aspects of political Zionism's conflict with the indigenous reaches critical mass. It's time to start getting creative.

Mishal Al-Johar
Palestine Solidarity Committee

From Michael Eisenstadt --

Mishal Al-Johar writes:

The events of 1948 and the Palestinian refugees are totally overlooked. This is the major problem with the proposed peace plan.

Peace is not going to happen if the refugee problem is not solved,period! Israel's relationship with the Palestinian refugees is THE root of the conflict. And not just the 4 million refugees in the ghettos of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, but the refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank. Let me remind you that 80% of the population in Gaza arerefugees! Where did they flee from? Why do they call themselves Palestinian? Not because they are from Gaza but because they are from lands that became Israel in 1948. Do you seriously think $50 billion in development aid is going to end this conflict?! This is essentially what you are proposing. The refugees must be offered the right to return to Israel AND monetary reparations for the original crime of expulsion. Otherwise they will continue to feel oppressed by the state of Israel. Human rights cannot be negotiated. And yes, the right of a refugee to return is as basic a human right as free speech and freedom of religion, especially when people have been expelled because of their ethnicity, because of their religion.


Mishal Al-Johar is overlooking something. Yes, Israel expelled and appropriated the property of ~750,000 Palestinians in the course of their "War of Independence." The Israelis were fighting for survival against the Arab armies (not the Palestinian army for they had none) which were attempting to extirpate the Zionist pre-1948 enterprise. Ben Gurion gave the explicit order to the Israeli army to maximize the number of refugees in the course of fighting because not to would have been to not take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity. When such a crime is doneby a government it is exculpated as "raison d'etat."

The Palestinians lost their land in a passage of arms in war. Israelis will NEVER NEVER NEVER accept the right of return for it would be to overturn the present regime's demographic reality. That is for Israel non-negotiable.

As for the crime of expulsion, I would remind Mishal that all regimes are founded on a crime (Montesquie), every political entity in the whole world is based on the dispossession of the previous inhabitants of that place. The Israeli's "crime" is to have done it only 60 years ago. If it is a crime for Israel, it is a crime foreveryone else. If you are a U.S. citizen and believe that this is so, I advise you to deed over your property if you have any to the nearest American Indian so as to live up to your principles.

Like the Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after Germany lost the war in 1945 (1 million of them plus died in the course of this operation), like the Croatians expelled from Yugoslavia more recently, and all the others, the Palestinians may if they wish forget their loss and get on with their lives. Or they may undertake another passage of arms (already tried by Nasser).

Michael Eisenstadt

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We Need to Lead by Example, Not Threats

Toward a Humanist Foreign Policy
by Carl Coon

President George W. Bush has proved to be as much of a disaster on foreign affairs as on domestic issues. More, if possible. And not just on Iraq. On many other issues, including global warming, missile defense, population growth, and now Iran, he has been just as flagrantly wrong as he was on the supposed weapons of mass destruction held by Saddam Hussein. It’s not just that he’s getting bad advice: his narrow worldview is upside-down to begin with. Combine that with his desire to seek advice only from people who will fortify his prejudices, rather than from the ones who know and understand the issues, and you get a dangerous combination.

It was a national tragedy that we had this kind of person at the helm when the terrorists struck on September 11, 2001. Bush used the attack to justify a foreign policy aimed at world domination, accompanied by an even more systematic and thorough attack on our civil liberties, all in the name of “protecting” us against further terrorist assaults. As a result we are no longer admired abroad–we are feared and hated–while on the home front we face an erosion of our rights, an extraordinary accession of executive power, and an assault on the wall separating church and state.

I think it was Henry Kissinger who once observed that absolute security for any one country meant absolute insecurity for its neighbors. The Bush response to a serious, but not existential terrorist threat, has been entirely disproportionate. We built up our conventional military forces and then used them against Iraq, a country that wasn’t even threatening us. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda continues to regroup in the frontier regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan while we stride across the globe like some modern colossus, threatening anyone who disagrees with us, turning a deaf ear to their arguments.

There has to be a better way, and of course there is. We need to lead by example, not threats. We need to listen to others, learn what their problems are, and exercise our talents and ingenuity toward finding solutions that help everyone to the extent possible. We need to take the dawning environmental crisis seriously and show that we’re willing to make our share of needed sacrifices. Above all, we need to recognize that we have to sacrifice some of our national sovereignty if we are to cooperate effectively on global problems with the rest of the world.

This last point is critical and is least understood, not only by Bush and his accomplices, but by many, if not most, Americans. The fact of the matter is that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t insist on total security for us and us alone, and expect full cooperation from everyone else. Cooperation requires some sacrifices, some concessions, from each of the partners.


The tradeoff between liberty and security is as old as humanity itself. Any human society that endures has rules that constrain its members in ways that make cooperation possible. So we prize liberty but fear anarchy. We are all for free choice but insist that everyone should respect the law of the land. We recognize that there’s a contradiction, or at least a tradeoff, between our yearning for as much individual freedom as possible, and the maintenance of public order, but we also believe that a just society can have its cake and eat it too. We admire societies, including our own, to the extent they have worked out institutions and attitudes and principles that maintain order while maximizing freedom. We deplore both failed states, where chaos reigns, and dictatorships, where order is maintained only by force. Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

Until now, there has been no such thing as a global society. The most complex societies have been nation-states. There is a global authority, the United Nations, but it has no teeth. On the most important issues, a sovereign nation can ignore any UN attempt to constrain or control its behavior. It’s true that many international and regional organizations, buttressed by treaties and conventions, bring a modicum of law and order into specific areas of international relations. They are useful and respond to real needs. But on the most important issues, any member of the UN can defy its authority, and the only recourse the UN has is to try to persuade other nations to put pressure on the miscreant. This sometimes works with small and powerless countries, but the big ones can behave as they please. When the chips are down, the current global society resembles Dodge City from the mythology of the cowboy movie, where victory goes to the fastest draw.


Humanity is now in a transitional phase, moving reluctantly from Dodge City to a global society ruled by law. We’ve seen this kind of transition before, on more limited scales. Some combination of circumstances alters the environment and the existing social order comes under great stress. People get desperate enough to commit to a substantially different order that involves cooperating with former competitors, even enemies, in a larger society. There are problems of adjustment but eventually almost everyone is integrated into the new order and few want to go back to the old one. Our own nation’s history tells the story: thirteen colonies, each of them filled with pride at its particular history and character, hesitantly agreed to form a confederation. From that, the tighter bonds of a federal republic were created and now here we are. Who wants to go back?

Our history of morphing from thirteen small societies into a subcontinental giant was extraordinary. Usually the process involves more trauma, more false steps (I say this even while acknowledging that our civil war was a thoroughly traumatic affair). European history is more typical in that respect. How many wars have been fought on European soil since the Roman Empire collapsed? And how difficult is it still, when all the disadvantages of narrow nationalism have been revealed, and all the blessings of union are being unveiled, for the several national parties to agree on the institutions and modalities of union?

All this suggests that creating some kind of law and order that will include the whole globe will be an enormously complicated task, one that certainly will not be fully accomplished during the lifetime of anyone alive today. But it’s equally plausible that some such order will evolve eventually, if humanity is to survive at all. Right now we are living in a fool’s paradise, based on an uneasy equilibrium backed up not by an effective international rule of law but by a balance of terror, known as mutually assured destruction. No nation-state is mad enough to use nuclear weapons first, not so far at least, and all are concerned lest some of those weapons fall into terrorist hands. But is this the best guarantee of stability that we can leave to our grandchildren? If this is the best we can do, will there be that many grandchildren left to receive our inheritance?

Read all of it here.

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