Sunday, February 28, 2010

Raw With Love, by Charles Bukowski

little dark girl with
kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
I won't blame
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
I won't blame you,
I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and I won't use it

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"If you act, as you think, the missing link..."

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, " the Queen remarked

-Alice in Wonderland

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Political Philosophy of Oscar Wilde by Wendy McElroy

February 25, 2010

The renowned playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “A man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.” At the height of his career in 1895, Wilde dominated London dinner-tables, stages, and opinion. Two of his plays opened that year to rave reviews by both critics and the public. His epigrams and activities were repeated — often by him — in the best of homes while his philosophy of art and life were printed in newspapers of note. Wilde was intensely admired and intensely disliked because he was, among other things, a propagator of radical ideas.

Aesthetically, Wilde advocated art-for-art's-sake — the theory that art should be judged on its own merits rather than upon the morality or politics it expressed. Personally, he declared pleasure to be the purpose of life even though the Victorian era surrounding him assigned that role to “duty.” He was also homosexual. These aspects of Wilde have been documented in hundreds of books and essays but Oscar Wilde “the libertarian” and advocate of social reform has received comparatively little attention.

In the book Liberty and the Great Libertarians, Charles Sprading includes an excerpt from Wilde's essay “The Soul of Man Under Socialism.” This essay and the lengthy poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” — of which Benjamin Tucker published the first American book edition in 1899 — are Wilde's most important political works. Wilde was primarily a playwright, a poet, and a novelist who only occasionally strayed into political theory. His importance as a libertarian stems from the events and consequences of his life as much or more than from his political writing. This is particularly true in the area of penal reform.
Part of the reason Wilde's libertarianism is overlooked is because like many 19th-century libertarians, including Tucker himself, Wilde sometimes called himself a “socialist.” Just as the term “liberal” has evolved, however, the term “socialist” was often used in a different way than it is today.

“The Soul of Man under Socialism” is Wilde's most direct commentary on politics but the ideal of socialism expressed is confused and contradictory. For example, Wilde assumes socialism will create a society in which production problems are solved and machines perform all drudgery, leaving the individual free to express himself. Thus, self-expression or “individualism” is the goal of Wilde's socialist vision. Individualism is defined as the ability to pursue artistic goals without submitting to the “tyranny of want.” Wilde presents a paradox: namely, embracing “the collective” will not only result in individualism but also in artistic expression without social or state control. Thus, the essay does not argue for socialism on economic or moral grounds but on rather naive artistic ones.

Wilde's arguments against private property are equally vague, contradictory, and aesthetic.

Wilde believed private property had a “decaying” effect on man's soul. “It [private property] has made gain nor growth its aim,” he explained. “So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing was to be.”
What the essay consistently expresses without confusion is Wilde's rejection of state control over the individual. He writes,
What is needed is Individualism. If the Socialism is Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first.... I confess that many of the socialistic views that I have come across seem to me to be tainted with ideas of authority, if not of actual compulsion. Of course, authority and compulsion are out of the question. All association must be quite voluntary. It is only in voluntary associations that man is fine.
In its final form, Wilde's socialism closely resembles Tucker's libertarian anarchism. Wilde writes,
Individualism, then, is what through Socialism we are to attain to. As a natural result the State must give up all idea of government. It must give it up because, as a wise man once said many centuries before Christ, there is such a thing as leaving mankind alone; there is no such thing as governing mankind. All modes of government are failures. Despotism is unjust to everybody, including the despot, who was probably made for better things. Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust to the few. High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.... The form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all.
This essay is not considered important by the English Socialist movement, perhaps because its voluntaryism opposed the movement's dominant tendencies. But according to Wilde biographer Robert Sherard, the essay was popular with the public.“ [M]illions of copies were sold in Central and Eastern Europe.... In America large pirated editions were printed and sold by revolutionary groups. In England its most immediate result was to create feelings against Wilde among the influential and moneyed classes.”
Wilde's ideas created a backlash and his transparent homosexuality caused gossip. When the prominent father of one of Wilde's lovers decided to make a public stir, Wilde ignored the advice of friends. On April 3, 1895, he brought the Marquis of Queensberry to trial on charges of libel based on a note that Queensberry had written to Wilde, accusing him of posing as a “somdomite” [sic]. The trial was a disaster. Not only did Wilde lose his case but information from it made him liable for criminal prosecution.
On Friday, April 26, 1895, Wilde was tried under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1895. The Act had come into effect four months prior with a clause that created the new offense of indecency between male persons in public or in private. Until this point, private acts had been outside the legal sphere. On the basis of private and consenting acts, Wilde was prosecuted twice and eventually sentenced to two years at hard labor. The last one-and-a-half years were spent in Reading Gaol.
The trials of Wilde were sensational. The best legal professionals of the day were brought into conflict over a notorious man being prosecuted under an unpopular law — the recent Act was nicknamed “the blackmailer's charter.” Although Wilde retained a tenuous foothold in the sophisticated society he had charmed, he was now thoroughly disliked by the general public.

The first prosecution (April 26, 1895) ended inconclusively with the jury unable to agree on some of the counts. The government could have dropped the case at this point. Nevertheless, on May 20, 1895, Wilde was tried again on similar but amended charges. He was found guilty.

The impact of the last case was immense. Considering the controversy it caused and the reform that followed, the ensuing imprisonment of Wilde was a mistake even from the government's point of view. “In view of the sensation which he had created,” the biographer Hesketh Pearson observed, “he should have been told to leave the country.”

Why did the matter continue? Sir Frank Lockwood, then Soliciter General, is reported as saying that he dared not drop the matter for “if I did so it would be said all over the world that we dropped the case owing to the names mentioned in the Marquis of Queensberry's letters.” These letters had been introduced by the marquis into the first trial and identified various members of “high society” as homosexuals. Among them was Lockwood's nephew by marriage.

Wilde did not receive a fair hearing in court or in public opinion. Newspaper coverage was so prejudiced that one editor risked being sent to jail for contempt of court by publishing the details of the jury's voting in the second of the three trials even though Wilde had not yet been convicted of any offense. The atmosphere of the court in the third trial was best expressed by Justice Willis who, in passing sentence declared it to be totally inadequate as the case had been the worst one he had ever tried. Presumably this included murder trials.

One of the few newspapers to strongly protest the prosecutions and imprisonment was Benjamin Tucker's Liberty. “[T]he imprisonment of Oscar Wilde,” Tucker wrote, “is an outrage that shows how thoroughly the doctrine of liberty is misconceived. An man who has done nothing in the least degree invasive of any one; a man whose entire life, so far as known or charged, as been one of strict conformity with the idea of equal liberty ... is condemned to spend two years in cruel imprisonment at hard labor... Men who imprison a man who has committed no crime are themselves criminals.”

Controversy continued during Wilde's imprisonment. Prison life was brutal. Hard-labor prisoners were confined to badly ventilated cells for twenty-three hours of every day, with only primitive sanitation. They slept on planks of wood. Letters in the London Daily Chronicle complained loudly about the miserable conditions in which Wilde lived and his resulting mental state. The controversy prompted R.B. Haldane, a Liberal M.P. and member of the Home Office Committee, to visit Wilde and investigate the claims.

Wilde was released from prison on May 19, 1897. That same month a letter from him was published in the Daily Chronicle under the heading “The Case of Warder Martin, Some Cruelties of Prison Life.” The letter described a small child who spent 23 hours a day in hideous conditions in solitary confinement for stealing food, an offense for which he was not convicted. When the child refused to eat the wretched prison food, Warder Martin tried to encourage him with a sweet biscuit; Martin was dismissed for doing so.

Most of this letter dealt with the treatment of children in prison. Children were subjected to the same brutality as adults but as Wilde observed: “a child can understand a punishment inflicted by an individual such as a parent or guardian, and bear it with a certain amount of acquiescence. What it cannot understand is a punishment inflicted by society. It cannot realize what society is.” The letter continues to describe individual children Wilde had seen during his imprisonment. “The child’s face was like a white wedge of sheer terror … the next morning I heard him breakfast-time crying and calling to be let out. His cry was for his parents…. Yet he was not even convicted of whatever little offense he has been charged with.” Wilde also described the plight of a retarded prisoner who was punished constantly for his harmless but strange behavior. The man went insane.

This letter attracted a great deal of attention and, according to Francis Winwar, it “succeeded in bringing prison reform.” Biographer Frank Harris credited the letter with bringing about improvement in the treatment of children in British prisons.

On March 24, 1898, Wilde published another controversial letter in the Chronicle. This letter, headed “Don’t Read This If You Want to Be Happy Today,” was prompted by the Home Secretary’s Prison Reform Bill which was then under debate in the House. The Bill suggested such reforms as increasing the number of inspectors and official visitors who had access to the prisons. Such reforms were “useless,” Wilde argued, and again pointed to the wretched conditions of prison life.
The misery and tortures that prisoners go through in consequence of the revolting sanitary arrangements are quite indescribable. And the foul air of the prison cells … is so sickening and unwholesome that it is no uncommon thing for warders, when they come in the morning out of fresh air and open and inspect each cell, to be violently sick.
The reform measures he suggested were: adequate food, improved sanitation, adequate reading material, visitors once a month, the right to send and receive a letter at least once a month, non-censorship of mail, and adequate medical care. The letter ends: “And the first and perhaps the most difficult task is to humanize the governors of prisons, to civilize the warders, and to Christianize the chaplains.” The letter was signed “the author of ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol.’”

“The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is one of the most acclaimed poems of the English language. It is also a major piece of literature in penal reform. The Ballad deals with the hanging of a prisoner named C.T. Wooldridge that occurred while Wilde was imprisoned. It chronicles Wilde’s horror and despair.
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
 We had no word to say;

In the Ballad, Wilde does not question the validity of any particular law, but deals with the cruelty and degradation caused by all Law:

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.
But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

Because of Wilde’s notoriety, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” was published under the pseudonym C.3.3. — the number assigned to Wilde at Reading Gaol — Block C, third cell on the third floor. The poem was immensely popular. The first edition of 800 copies (plus 30 copies on vellum) sold within the first week and was quickly followed by a second edition of 1000. Within three months there were six printings and translations appeared in almost every European language. It has remained one of the most published works in English.

It was widely and loudly received. Even the London Times devoted a lead article to praising it. Although the ballad was poetry, it was received as though it were a pamphlet on prison reform. The Daily Chronicle’s review was typical; the Chronicle devoted two-thirds of a column on the leader page and concentrated heavily on the horrors of prison life portrayed by the poem rather than the poem itself.

Liberty devoted a column to reviewing this (as Tucker put it) “incomparable poem.” He urged “every reader of Liberty … to help this book to a wide circulation by asking for it at the bookstores and newsstand in his vicinity.” One-quarter of the next issue’s space was used in reporting the response of other publications to the Ballad.

Shortly after its publication Wilde wrote to George Ives, a criminologist and leading figure in penal reform: “I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long and red with monstrous martyrdoms. Nothing but the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act would do any good.” Wilde planned another work on prison life but he died before it could be actualized.

The aftermath of prison killed Wilde, both psychologically and physically. During his imprisonment, his beloved mother died. His wife divorced him and Wilde never again saw the two sons for whom so much of his work had been written. He was bankrupt and deserted by friends. Upon release Wilde left England but even in France, where he initially settled, many hotels refused to house or feed him. Although money was a constant problem and inhibited his ability to write, he sent checks to prisoners he knew were being released. Other than “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” Wilde produced no work of quality after his release.

 Physically, Wilde’s death was the result of an injury to his ear caused when he fainted one Sunday during compulsory religious services. Despite his complaints of great pain, Wilde was denied treatment for months. It was only through the pressure of Wilde’s friends and officials that he was eventually hospitalized for the injury. Unfortunately, it formed into an abscess.

Many people considered Wilde's social conscience to be a break with his past but Wilde had consistently opposed injustice. Years earlier in 1886, a bomb exploded in the Chicago Haymarket killing several policemen; a show trial resulted and ended in the hanging of a group of socialist anarchists who became known as the “Chicago Martyrs.” In England,

George Bernard Shaw assumed the thankless task of circulating a petition on their behalf. With one exception he was unable to obtain a single signature of note to protest the injustice. Shaw wrote that of all “heroic rebels and sceptics on paper, there was only one of them who had sufficiently the courage of his convictions to make a public gesture on behalf of the anarchists. This was Oscar Wilde.”

Wilde’s sympathy toward radicals was shown again when a young poet, John Barlas, felt impelled by social indignation to commit an act of “propaganda by deed.” It consisted of firing a revolver in the House of Commons. Although he and Barlas were not on good terms, Wilde went forward to bail him out and afterwards stood as his security when Barlas was bound over.

His sympathy toward penal reform can be traced back to “The Soul of Man” in which he wrote, “One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment, than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.”

Throughout his career, Wilde also spoke out against censorship. The rehearsals for his play “Salome” were in their third week when, in June 1892, a license necessary for public performance was denied on the grounds that the play introduced biblical characters onto the stage; this was prohibited by an ancient law whose original purpose was to suppress Catholic mystery plays. Wilde deplored this action in a lecture at the Author’s Club and in interviews. In more dramatic moments he declared intentions to renounce his British citizenship. Nevertheless, “Salome” was not produced in England until 13 years later, 5 years after Wilde’s death.

Today Wilde is remembered, and rightly so, on the merits of his later plays which satirized the moral/political/social customs and standards of his day. He was a brilliant man with a tragic life that — as Benjamin Tucker put it — was “one of strict conformity with the idea of equal liberty.”

Wendy McElroy is the author of The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival (Prometheus Books, 1998).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dolphins Clandestinely Killed In 'The Cove'

[Sam Seder already did a radio show about this so....that must mean that NPR is behind the Sam Seder curve...or something...]
February 24, 2010
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February 24, 2010
Every year, thousands of dolphins are secretly killed in the Japanese fishing town of Taiji.
National Geographic photographer-turned-filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and a covert team documented the slaughter for the film, The Cove.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can Barbie's spiked heel help crack engineering's glass ceiling?

Mattel, Inc.
"Slide rule in your pocket? Or are you just happy to see me?"
Barbie has a new career as a computer engineer, and technical women are cheering the development as another way to help attract girls to careers in science, high-tech, biotech and the other occupations of the future.
Backers include the likes of IEEE Fellow Dr. Karen Panetta, director of the NerdGirls program that aims to break down the negative sterotypes of women engineers and help young female students translate their interest into degrees.

Leah Jamieson
, a past president of IEEE and Dean of the College of Engineering at Purdue University speaks regularly on the importance of encouraging women to pursue careers in technology.

These are important messages for young girls hoping to secure their futures and for our society as it tries to afford the widest opportunity to all.

But will a hunk of plastic help? Will the business end of Barbie's spiked-heel help break the glass ceiling -- stylishly?

Meanwhile, Mattel, Inc., owner of the brand, says computer engineering Barbie comes "dressed in a funky tee with binary code design . . . with Bluetooth headset, laptop bag, and pink laptop." Tattoos and body piercings optional, I suppose,?

Posted By: Tom Abate

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


by Sam Smith

Last Saturday I spent eight hours with three dozen other people in a basement conference room of a Washington hotel engaged in an extraordinary exercise of mind and hope.

The topic was, by itself, depressingly familiar: building an anti-war coalition. What made it so strikingly different was the nature of those at the table. They included progressives, conservatives, traditional liberals and libertarians. Some reached back to the Reagan years or to 1960s activism, some - including an SDS leader from the University of Maryland and several Young Americans for Liberty - were still in college.

In a time when politics is supposed to be hopelessly polarized along the lines proposed by Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann, the most heated debate occurred not between left and right but over tactics between Ralph Nader and Bill Greider.

There was an economics professor from a naval war college and the executive director of Veterans for Peace; there was Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation, me from the Progressive Review, and editors from the American Conservative and Reason Magazine.

The session had been conceived by long time activist and current head of Voters for Peace, Kevin Zeese, along with artist George D. O'Neill, Jr. who had been chair of the Rockford Institute, a leading traditional conservative intellectual think tank in the 1980s, and who had worked on Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign.

What we shared was an antipathy towards war. It was not so much that we were anti-war as we were seeking a post-war world. Our approaches might differ but our goals were, at worst, next door.

As Zeese put it in an introduction the session, it was about "views from the right, left and radical center, views that reflect those of many Americans which are not represented in the political dialogue in Congress or the White House, or the mainstream media. Throughout American history there have been times when movements developed that were outside the limited political dialogue of the two major parties. . .

"Polling actually shows majorities often oppose war and escalation of war. But these views are not represented in government or the media. In addition, opposition to war is not limited to people on the left; it covers the American political spectrum and it always has. There is a long history of opposition to war among traditional conservatives. Their philosophy goes back to President Washington's Farewell Address where he urged America to avoid 'foreign entanglements.' It has showed itself throughout American history. The Anti-Imperialist League opposed the colonialism of the Philippines in the 1890s. The largest anti-war movement in history, the America First Committee, opposed World War II and had a strong middle America conservative foundation in its make-up. The strongest speech of an American president against militarism was President Eisenhower's 1961 final speech from the White House warning America against the growing military-industrial complex. In recent years the militarist neo-conservative movement has become dominate of conservatism in the United States. Perhaps none decry this more than traditional conservatives who oppose massive military budgets, militarism and the American empire.

"Of course, the left also has a long history of opposition to war from the Civil War to early imperialism in the Philippines, World Wars I and II through Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes socialists, Quakers, social justice Catholics and progressives. Indeed, the opposition to entry into World War I was led by the left including socialists, trade unionists, pacifists including people like union leader and presidential candidate Eugene Debs, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams and author and political activist Helen Keller. . .

"Opposition to Vietnam brought together peace advocates with the civil rights movement, highlighted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s outspoken opposition to the war. . . .

"What are the ingredients for a successful anti-war, pro-peace movement?

- The anti-war movement needs to be a reflection of not just the left but of Middle America and traditional conservatives who oppose war.

- A successful anti-war peace movement cannot give up the flag of patriotism. It needs to grab hold of America's patriotic impulses and show the United States can be the nation many imagine us to be-leading by positive example, helping in crisis, being a force for good, rather than propagating military dominance and hegemony.

- A successful anti-war movement needs to be a place where veterans, from grunts to generals, can openly participate, share their stories and explain the lessons they learned from American militarism.

- A well organized anti-war movement will have committees not only reaching out to military and business, but to academics, students, clergy, labor, nurses, doctors, teachers and a host of others.

- The 1960s tactics of big marches and congressional demonstrations have their role but they are not sufficient. The media and government have adjusted to them. We need to use tools like voter initiatives and referenda to break through and put our issues before the voters. And, we need to learn from around the world what has worked; for example, general strikes, whether of a few hours or few days, have shown unified opposition to government policy

- Make war relevant to Americans' day-to-day lives by constantly linking the cost of war to their communities, incomes, and bank accounts. People need to learn that Empire is not good for the U.S. economy.

- Both parties are dominated by pro-militarist elected officials. The anti-war movement needs to be strong in criticizing candidates who call for a larger military, escalation of war, or other militarist policies."

Clips from the bios of those at the session suggest the unusual cross-ideological and cross-cultural presence:

- A Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He also is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance and served as a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

- His leading work includes a biography of historian William A. Williams, the Encyclopedia of the American Left, five volumes on the lives and work of the Hollywood Blacklistees, . . . and eight volumes of nonfiction comic art (adaptations of Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel, graphic biographies of Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman, The Beats, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, etc).

- He has been a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, and currently covers national security for its National Affairs section. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, and a senior correspondent for The American Prospect.

- An associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and a Research Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. From 1982 to 1984, he was the senior economist for health policy, and from 1983 to 1984 he was the senior economist for energy policy, with President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.

- Founding member of the Washington chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists; executive board member of the National Alliance of Third World Journalists. . .

- Founding Managing Editor and current Executive Editor of The American Conservative. Research director of Pat Buchanan's 2000 campaign.

- Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. His volunteer social and economic justice activist work include membership in Military Families Speak Out, coordinating committee member for the Bring Them Home Now campaign against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Co-Chair of United For Peace and Justice.

- Legislative aide for the armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 through 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 through 1986. An opponent of the Iraq War, has written for the Marine Corps Gazette, and Defense and the National Interest. . .

- For over four decades has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups to advocate for solutions. . .

- Active within the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties at various times. As a boy, he supported George McGovern for president in 1972 partly because of the Democrat's anti-war stance. In the mid 1970s, he became a conservative who backed Ronald . . .

- Managing editor of Reason magazine, is the author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America.

Notably absent from the session were members of the extremist center, liberal professors seeking to prove their manhood by backing yet another war, legislators afraid to challenge the Pentagon, belligerent bullies and the cowardly complacent. And everyone in the room was trying something different.

Which, when you come to think of it, is just what happens when you make peace. People who have been shooting at each other sit down and find a way to share some space. One might expect that anti-war activists would understand this, but too often we all regard our political beliefs not as the product of imperfect and struggling minds but as our sacred identity, our justification and our privileged demographic. We reduce politics to the theology of the self-righteous rather than as an imperfect search for better times.

As I sat around that table, I tried to recall those few occasions when I had experienced something close to this - few, that is, since the days when I sat around the family table as the third child of six and learned about living with those different from oneself and more than willing to say so.

Some of the later times worked; some didn’t. One that worked was the anti-freeway coalition of the 1960s and 70s that kept Washington from becoming another Los Angeles. It was started by among the least likely activists - black and white middle class homeowners whose neighborhood was about to be ruined. It expanded to include those of us in the civil rights group SNCC as well as the all white Georgetown Citizens Association. I once wrote of the leader, "By all rights, Sammie Abbott should have been disqualified as a DC leader on at least three grounds: he was too white, he was too old, and he lived in the suburbs. Instead, this short man with a nail-file voice became the nemesis of public officials for years. Abbott, the grandson of Arab Christians who fled Turkish persecution in Syria, had been a labor organizer, a bricklayer and a World War II veteran with a Bronze Star."

There was only one qualification to join the anti-freeway movement: opposition to freeways. And the success of our effort - rare among such highway protests - left a mark on a city colony devoid of rights and helps to explain how - just two years after the riots - we were able to form a biracial third party that would hold seats on the city council and/or school board for 25 years.

I would come to think of it as existential politics - in which one defined one's existence by one's actions rather than by one's ethnicity, class, party registration or magazine subscriptions. And it was a sort of politics that would become increasingly rare.

But it didn't always work. In the mid sixties, I was editing a neighborhood newspaper in Washington's biracial Capitol East. Things were already well beyond the capacity of any one community to solve. America's cities were starting to burn and you could feel the heat even in Capitol East. In September 1967, anti-poverty activist Lola Singletary convinced the white businessmen of H Street to form a organization dedicated to involvement in community problems.

In late 1967 I came up with the idea of pulling together the various leaders of Capitol East into an informal leadership council with the possibility of forming a major neighborhood coalition. Fourteen people attended a meeting on January 31: 7 white and 7 black. Among our purposes:

- To share our group differences so we can increase our knowledge of one another's group positions, plans and needs.

- To increase opportunities to share our group concerns so that we can better support one another's group efforts.

- To unite in common action where we have agreement.

It was too late. A little more than two months later, the riots broke out and Capitol East had two of the four major riot strips, including H Street. Hope had burned up as well.

then in 1995, as part of the Green Politics Network, I joined a number of other Greens in hosting a conference of third party activists. Over a hundred showed up, ranging from one of the founders of the American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Perot backers, Democratic Socialists of America, and followers of Lenora Fulani. It was a recklessly dangerous idea for a Washington weekend, but John Rensenbrink, Linda Martin, and Tony Affigne seemed to know what they were doing and I was happy to go along. We established two basic rules:

- We would only discuss issues on which we might find some agreement.

- We would reach that agreement by consensus.

I was one of the kickoff speakers and said:

"As a simple empirical matter you can say that one of the great characteristics of Americans is not merely opposition to a system of the moment but antipathy towards unnatural systems in general -- opposition to all systems that revoke, replace or restrain the natural rights of humans and the natural blessings of their habitats.

"This, I think, is why we are here today. If nothing else binds us it is an understanding of the damage that heartless, leaderless, mindless systems have done to the specifics of our existence. . .

"Further, in our distaste with the systems suffocating our lives, we are very much in the mainstream. These systems have done half our work for us, they have lost the people's faith. . .

"We must stake out a position with real programs for real people, with our enthusiasm on our sleeve and our ideology in our pocket, with small words and big hearts, and -- most of all -- with a clear vision of what a better future might look like. We must tackle what Chesterton called the "huge modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul.". . .

"This then is our task. Let's embrace it not as sectarians or as prigs but as a happy fellow members of a new mainstream. Not as radicals permanently in exile but as moderates of an age that has not quite arrived. Let's laugh and make new friends and be gentle with one another. Let's remember Camus' dictum that the only sin we are not permitted is despair. . ."

Despite the wide range of views present, despite the near total absence of Robert's Rules of Order, the final document, with full consensus, called for nothing less than a major transformation. The group unanimously agreed to support proportional representation, campaign finance reform "to provide a level playing field in elections;" initiative, referendum and recall; better ballot access; the end of corporate welfare; strong environmental policies; sexual and reproductive freedom; an end to the war on drugs and treatment of addiction as a health matter rather than as a crime; a dramatic cut in military expenditures; workplace democracy and the maximum empowerment of people in their communities "consistent with fairness, social responsibilities and human rights."

Not bad for a meeting at which nobody yelled at anyone.

Interesting stories but how rare.

Now Kevin Zeese and George O'Neill have to try to build on the spirit in that basement last Saturday and turn it into something that all can see. Perhaps it will be a catalyst as was, say, the Seneca Falls conference was for women's rights. Perhaps it will be nothing but another nice try that didn't work out.

We may never know. After all, only two women who attended Seneca Falls conference lived long enough to vote.

We do know, however, that good futures are built on the efforts of those unafraid of failure. At a time when a majority of Americans consider their system broken, we can either consign ourselves to being victims or we can, as we did last Saturday, come together in new ways, with new ideas and new allies and start replacing a failed system with communities that work.

Kevin Zeese
George D. O'Neill Jr

Howard Zinn Tribute: Ralph Nader Part 1

Monday, February 22, 2010

Colin Ward, RIP

Colin Ward, 1924-2010

My favorite left-anarchist writer, Colin Ward, has passed away at age 85. Ward was the most practical radical I've ever read: Rather than sketching out utopian blueprints of a society without a state, he searched for empirical examples of everyday people organizing to solve their own problems. Once he started looking, he found that voluntary, non-authoritarian cooperation was everywhere. Utopia, he wrote in his 1973 book Anarchy in Action, is "already here, apart from a few little, local difficulties like exploitation, war, dictatorship and starvation."

Because he took his ideals seriously, Ward butted heads regularly with both the conventional left and the conventional right. In the '80s and early '90s, his column for New Statesman & Society was peppered with examples of the Tory government failing to live up to its rhetoric of liberty and decentralized power. At the same time, he was harshly critical of the social democratic left. In one of his most famous passages, he pointed out that
When we compare the Victorian antecedents of our public institutions with the organs of working-class mutual aid in the same period the very names speak volumes. On the one side the Workhouse, the Poor Law Infirmary, the National Society for the Education of the Poor in Accordance with the Principles of the Established Church; and, on the other, the Friendly Society, the Sick Club, the Cooperative Society, the Trade Union. One represents the tradition of fraternal and autonomous association springing up from below, the other that of authoritarian institutions directed from above.
As Stuart White notes in his tribute to Ward, the writer was
a formidible and dedicated opponent of what is often understood as the Fabian tradition. This comes across very clearly in his work on housing where he was always highly critical of state-heavy efforts, led by middle-class housing professionals, to provide housing for the working-classes. In this context, he argued for the alternative left tradition of cooperative self-help in the form of tenant cooperatives, self-build projects and squatting. He pointed repeatedly to the illogicality of local governments - often Labour-controlled - who would rather destroy unused council housing stock than allow it to be occupied by squatters.
These squatters, to be clear, were not self-righteous trustafarians seizing a private home while the owner took a holiday. They were ordinary families finding uses for resources the state had left fallow. Such self-organization was a longtime theme in Ward's work. Quoting White again: "Much to the consternation of the [postwar] Labour government, many thousands of working-class people responded to acute housing shortage by taking over and adapting disused military bases. While his comrades in the anarchist movement struggled to see the point, Colin saw this as an example of what he would later call 'anarchy in action': direct and cooperative self-help." Ward's interest in the institutions that people build from below took him to areas that radical writers rarely touched: He wrote appreciative histories and sociologies of holiday camps, allotment gardens, amateur music-making, even the street culture of urban children.

Ward had an eye for the creativity of ordinary people and the ways we use that inventive energy to transform our environments. He didn't have trouble imagining a society immersed in liberty and spontaneous order, because he knew that liberty and spontaneous order were what sustained society in the first place, even if they sometimes had to take a stunted form.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The 30 Most Important Cats of 2009

[Thanks for the link, Bibimimi]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Frustrated Owner Bulldozes Home Ahead Of Foreclosure

Man Says Actions Intended To Send Message To Banks

POSTED: 10:42 am EST February 18, 2010
UPDATED: 6:36 pm EST February 19, 2010
Like many people, Terry Hoskins has had troubles with his bank. But his solution to foreclosure might be unique.Hoskins said he's been in a struggle with RiverHills Bank over his Clermont County home for nearly a decade, a struggle that was coming to an end as the bank began foreclosure proceedings on his $350,000 home."When I see I owe $160,000 on a home valued at $350,000, and someone decides they want to take it – no, I wasn't going to stand for that, so I took it down," Hoskins said.

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Hoskins said the Internal Revenue Service placed liens on his carpet store and commercial property on state Route 125 after his brother, a one-time business partner, sued him.
The bank claimed his home as collateral, Hoskins said, and went after both his residential and commercial properties."The average homeowner that can't afford an attorney or can fight as long as we have, they don't stand a chance," he said.Hoskins said he'd gotten a $170,000 offer from someone to pay off the house, but the bank refused, saying they could get more from selling it in foreclosure.Hoskins told News 5's Courtis Fuller that he issued the bank an ultimatum.

"I'll tear it down before I let you take it," Hoskins told them.And that's exactly what Hoskins did.

The Moscow man used a bulldozer two weeks ago to level the home he'd built, and the sprawling country home is now rubble, buried under a coating of snow."As far as what the bank is going to get, I plan on giving them back what was on this hill exactly (as) it was," Hoskins said. "I brought it out of the ground and I plan on putting it back in the ground."Hoskins' business in Amelia is scheduled to go up for auction on March 2, and he told Fuller he's considering leveling that building, too.RiverHills Bank declined to comment on the situation, but Hoskins said his actions were intended to send a message."Well, to probably make banks think twice before they try to take someone's home, and if they are going to take it wrongly, the end result will be them tearing their house down like I did mine," Hoskins said.

Hoskins said he's heard from people all over the country since his story first aired Thursday, and he said most have been supportive.He said he sought legal counsel before tearing down his home and understands the possible consequences, but he has never doubted his decision once he made it."When I knew I was going to lose it, I decided to take it down," Hoskins said.

Friday, February 19, 2010

1978 - Weston vs Calvello at Kezar Pavilion

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creating Change Often Means Taking Risks: 6 American Revolutions to Inspire and Provoke

U.S. history contains more than one insurrection

By Mickey Z.
Astoria, NY, USA | Thu Feb 18, 2010
changes road sign
The road to revolution?

Andy Dean/Thinkstock

From grade school, we learn to swoon at the call of "Give me liberty or give me death." What we usually don't learn is how often this sentiment has been put to the test throughout American history. Many of the freedoms and rights we enjoy today were not just given to us, they were won by people like those described below. They are not presented as "heroes" but instead as our folk tales, our cave drawings, the episodes that can inspire us as we take on the essential challenge of rescuing our eco-system.

WATCH VIDEO: You Can Also Choose What Not To Do
George Orwell once said: "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary." Brace yourself for some much-needed truth-telling...

6 Lesser Known American Revolutions

1. Lowell Mill Girls Get Organized
Lowell, Massachusetts was named after the wealthy Lowell family. In the mid-1800s, they owned numerous textile mills, which attracted the unmarried daughters of New England farmers. These young girls worked in the mills and lived in supervised dormitories. On average, a Lowell Mill Girl worked for three years before leaving to marry. Living and working together often forged a camaraderie that would later find an unexpected outlet. In response to poor conditions, long hours, strict dress codes, lousy meals, and more, the Lowell mill workers (some as young as 11) did something revolutionary: the tight-knit group of girls and women organized a union. They marched and demonstrated against a 15% cut in their wages and for better conditions, including the institution of a ten-hour workday. They started newspapers. They proclaimed: "Union is power." They went on strike and their efforts spread.
Learn more about the Lowell Mill Girls

2. Jack Johnson Wins the Heavyweight Crown
Thirty-nine years years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, Jack Johnson became the first black man to hold the world heavyweight boxing champ. Winning the title was the easy part for Johnson, easily the greatest boxer of his era and one of the most powerful counter-punchers ever to put on a pair of gloves. The hard part was getting white champions to fight him. When Tommy Burns was guaranteed $30,000 to fight Johnson on Dec. 26, 1908, the title changed hands. Racist America may not have been ready for an outspoken black man as their heavyweight champ, but Johnson lived as pleased and defeated all comers. That led authorities to find another way to knock him out: trumped up legal charges. Even so, Jack Johnson's athletic exploits, however, cannot fully reflect his impact on sport, culture, and society.
Learn more about Jack Johnson

3. Lizzie Jennings Gets on the Bus
On July 16, 1854, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jennings, a 24-year-old schoolteacher setting out to fulfill her duties as organist at the First Colored Congregational Church on Sixth Street and Second Avenue, fatefully waited for the bus on the corner of Pearl and Chatham. This particular day, Lizzie opted for a bus without the "Colored Persons Allowed" sign. The New York Tribune described what happened next: "She got upon one of the Company's cars...on the Sabbath, to ride to church. The conductor undertook to get her off, first alleging the car was full; when that was shown to be false, he pretended the other passengers were displeased at her presence; but (when) she insisted on her rights, he took hold of her by force to expel her. She resisted." Like Rosa Parks, Jennings' behavior was no impetuous act of resistance. Jennings was making a statement that went as far as hiring a lawyer and winning a court case. Just one day after the verdict, the Third Avenue Railway Company issued an order to admit African-Americans onto their buses. By 1860, all of the city's street and rail cars were desegregated.
Learn more about Lizzie Jennings

4. Hugh Thompson Steps Into the Line of Fire
Hugh Thompson, Jr. arrived in Vietnam in late 1967 and quickly earned a reputation as an exceptional Navy pilot. In their book, Four Hours at My Lai, Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim also describe Hugh Thompson as a "very moral man. He was absolutely strict about opening fire only on clearly defined targets." On the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson's sense of virtue would be put to the test. Flying in his H-23 observation chopper, the 25-year-old Thompson used green smoke to mark wounded people on the ground in and around My Lai. Upon returning a short while later after refueling, he found that the wounded he saw earlier were now dead. Thompson's gunner, Lawrence Colburn, averted his gaze from the gruesome sight. Unbeknownst to Thompson at that point, more than 560 Vietnamese had already been slaughtered by Lt. William Calley's Charlie Company. All Thompson knew for sure was that the U.S. troops he then saw pursuing civilians had to be stopped. Bravely landing his helicopter between the charging GIs and the fleeing villagers, Thompson ordered Colburn to turn his machine gun on the American soldiers if they tried to shoot the unarmed men, women, and children. Thompson then stepped out of the chopper into the combat zone and coaxed the frightened civilians from the bunker they were hiding in. With tears streaming down his face, he evacuated them to safety on his H-23.
Learn more about Hugh Thompson

5. Eugene Debs Runs for President From a Prison Cell
Debs was one of the most prominent labor organizers and political activists of his time. He was also nominated as the Socialist Party's candidate for president five times. His voting tallies over his first four campaigns effectively illustrate the remarkable growth of the party during that volatile time period:
  • 1900: 94,768

  • 1904: 402,400

  • 1908: 402,820

  • 1912: 897,011
America's entrance into World War I, however, provoked a tightening of civil liberties, culminating with the passage of the Espionage and Sedition Act in June 1917. One year after it was voted into law, Debs was in Canton, Ohio for a Socialist Party convention. He was arrested for making a speech deemed "anti-war" by the Canton district attorney, given a 10-year prison sentence and stripped of his U.S. citizenship. At his sentencing, Debs famously told the judge: "Your honor, years ago, I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." While serving his sentence in the federal penitentiary, Debs was nominated for the fifth time, campaigned from his jail cell, and remarkably garnered 917,799 votes. Learn more about Eugene Debs

6. The Stonewall Riots
Like all oppressed groups, progress, and reform begins with taking a stand against discrimination. For the gay rights movement, that stand was symbolically taken on Friday evening, June 27, 1969 in what has become known as "Stonewall." Police raids on gay bars were not uncommon in the pre-Stonewall era. Patrons were subjected to fines for "indecency" and often found their names published in newspapers as a result. The revolutionary tenor of the 1960s helped change some of that, but New York City Mayor John Lindsay was in the middle of a difficult campaign run and the Stonewall Inn was operating without a liquor license and with alleged ties to organized crime. It seemed like a good place for a high-profile law-and-order photo op. At 1:20 AM, later than the usual raid—which obviously increased the chances of intoxicated patrons—eight officers from New York's First Precinct entered the bar. Only one of the cops was in uniform. Arrests were made but precisely how the riot began is still subject to debate. Whichever story you prefer, what happened next is not in doubt. Stonewall patrons said no. They attacked the eight cops, driving them back into the bar where they sought refuge. The angry throng laid siege to the bar as NYPD reinforcements arrived on the scene. In no time, a crowd, estimated at over 2000, was waging a pitched battle with more than 400 cops. The riot lasted all night and less massive skirmishes occurred for the following two nights. Arrests and injuries were numerous. Mayor Lindsay had his photo op...but it was not what he had bargained for.
Learn more about Stonewall

Radical Links
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On February 17, 1872...

Harper's Weekly featured a cartoon about the Free Love movement.

This Harper's Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast warns against the allure of the Free Love movement advocated by Victoria Woodhull.

In 1872, Victoria Woodhull, the well-known advocate of Free Love and women’s rights, became the first woman to be nominated for president. She ran on the Equal Rights party ticket at a time when she and other women were not legally allowed to vote. She and her sister, Tennesse Claflin, published their own newspaper, The Woodhull & Claflin Weekly.

Clinical trials show medical benefits of pot

The first U.S. clinical trials in more than 20 years on the medical efficacy of marijuana found that pot helps relieve pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis and certain neurological conditions, according to a report released Wednesday by a UC research center.

The results of five state-funded scientific clinical trials came 14 years after California voters passed a law approving marijuana for medical use and more than 10 years after the state Legislature passed a law that created the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego, which conducted the studies.

Dr. Igor Grant, a UC San Diego psychiatrist who directs the center, called the report "good evidence" that marijuana would be an effective front-line treatment for neuropathy, a condition that can cause tingling, numbness and pain.

"We focused on illnesses where current medical treatment does not provide adequate relief or coverage of symptoms," Grant said. "These findings provide a strong science-based context in which policymakers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care."

Despite California's passage in 1996 of Proposition 215, which allows patients with a valid doctor's recommendation to grow and possess marijuana for personal medical use, the federal government classifies marijuana as an illicit drug with no medical use and has closed pot clubs and prosecuted suppliers. Thirteen other states have passed similar measures legalizing medical marijuana.

Proponents of medical marijuana see Wednesday's news as the turning of the tide for what they hope would become federal acceptance of pot's therapeutic benefits.
A first step

"This is the first step in approaching the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), which has invested absolutely nothing in providing scientific data to resolve the debate," said state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who noted that marijuana showed benefits throughout the AIDS epidemic in helping people afflicted with neuropathy and other ailments.

Dale Gieringer, a Berkeley resident who is executive director of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, agreed.

"This is finally the evidence that shows that the (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) stance that marijuana does not have medical use is just wrong," he said. "It's time for the Obama administration to act."

During the study, volunteers were randomly given marijuana or placebos.

The marijuana was obtained through the University of Mississippi, which has a contract with the federal government to provide the only pot that can be used for scientific research. Grant said the research required heavy federal oversight.
Long-term issues

He noted volunteers had the same amount of pain reduction with low doses of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, compared with high doses of THC. He also said evidence casts doubt on long-term negative impacts of marijuana use, while acknowledging there have not been formal studies on the question.

"There is not very strong evidence that marijuana, for example, produces emphysema or lung cancer or permanent brain damage," Grant said.

That doesn't mean marijuana is harmless, he said. "Anything you smoke in a combustible form has potential risks, but the safety profile seems to be better for it than some other drugs like tobacco," he said.

The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research has approved 15 clinical studies, five of which were completed and reported Wednesday, and two are in progress. While researchers said more studies are needed, the future of the center is in doubt.

The center has spent all but $400,000 of the $8.9 million in research funding it started with in 1999. Leno said the state doesn't have the money to continue funding it.

"It may be close to the end of its life unless there's foundation money to continue the work," Leno said.
To read the report

The report by the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research can be found at

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