Archive for the ‘Freedom!’ Category

Freedom of Sting

In Freedom!, Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

After Shirley Sherrod and ACORN, yes, we can definitively answer, we (and especially The New York Times) have learned nothing.

Ummmm….update…not looking like the apologies for the apologies are coming anytime soon.  Looks like The Times has not looked at how extremely this tape was edited, nor have many readers.  Some readers brought up the excellent point that  Mr. Schiller’s opinions had nothing to do with NPR policy, and  Mr. Schiller even qualified all his remarks as being “without my NPR hat on”–ALL OF THEM.

James O’Keefe deserves some “muck-raking” (as his website claims to be) journalism turned on him.  Isn’t mis-representing who you are to an organization against some kind of law?  And stinging someone while lying about yourself…this is what we are teaching our kids to grow up to be?  Interesting that Mr. O’Keefe has once been arrested on felony charges for attempting to change the phone system in Sen Landrieu’s office…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_O%27Keefe

But distressing that the New York Times is apparently not vetting its sources, and relies on right-wing sources they hyperlink to, like blog “The Daily Caller,” and The Washington Examiner, both obviously highly tilted rightward, as the “primary” sources for the initial story.


Reader of  NYTimes Jonathan Cohen says it best:

Scarsdale, New York  March 8th, 2011   1:50 pm

A few questions:

Why is anything James O’Keefe made into a news story?

How come anything James O’Keefe releases is not held-up until full story and video’s come out?

How come James O’Keefe is not in jail or at the very least under investigation(s)?
And: How many other people, public and private, have said the very same thing about Tea Party? Why is it news?
Recommended by 169 Readers
If you watch the full 2-hour video (http://www.theprojectveritas.com/nprjudge), you see, once again, heavy and judicious (vicious) editing at work to make a man, Ronald Schiller, who, while busy lamenting the loss of the differentiation between fact and opinion in our society, is led into a trap of opinion and spin, which he tries to politely dodge, but inevitably gets pulled into.
The edited version makes implications that were not there–Mr. Schiller’s laughter did not indicate he had any clue that his interviewers’ website promoted a “return to Sharia law,”– among many.  It leaves out Mr. Schiller’s lengthy discourse on how he himself has been a lifelong, “proud” Republican, and how not just he, but other lifelong Republicans have ended up voting Democratic recently because the current Republican party is not the one he grew up with and recognizes–one that is for fiscal responsibility, and government staying out of people’s personal lives. (And indeed, just like with Clinton, in President Obama they have ended up with a a Republican president exceeding their wildest dreams).
The fake U.S. head of the Muslim Brotherhood then says on tape to Mr. Schiller, “See, as a black Muslim, I am truly and highly offended by the racism and the bigotry and the Islamaphobia that is coming out of the tea party, the teabaggers, whatever you call them. What is NPR doing, and what can we do to help to make sure this kind of situation can be curtailed and stopped?” Mr. Schiller had made NO remarks up until  that point about racism or the tea party.
Mr. Schiller immediately replies, “Well, I think NPR’s point of view, always, is to be an independent voice of reason and to report news, fairly, and so on..[then starts mentioning the Juan Williams scandal]…Our feeling is, that if a person expresses his or her opinion, which anyone is entitled to do in a free society, they are compromised as a journalist.  They can no longer fairly report.  And the question that we asked internally was, can Juan Williams, when he makes a statement like he made, can her report to the Muslim population, for example, and be believed? And the answer is, no, he lost all credibility, and that breaks your basic ethics as a journalist.  And, NPR is one of the few news organizations left that stands by that kind of code of ethics. And so much news…I sort of bristle at the idea that these other organizations call themselves news, because they really are opinion, and they don’t pretend to be other than that, except they call themselves news…NPR tries to avoid that at all costs…”
Indeed, they do.  But apparently it is simply not reasonable to have a society with even a tiny closet of reason, when we are only supposed to have 2 walk-in closets of “left” and “right”….we have to be sure to eliminate middle ground like public t.v.  and radio, under the guise of not supporting “leftist propaganda.”
Griot Walter Rhett helps transform the wound of daily politics with parables that transcend time and mortal flesh:
Just think, the man was cured and Jesus got into trouble for helping him out! What a God! People were mad at him for working a miracle, for using his supernatural skills. In restoring the man’s health with only a spoken word, he broke all kinds of religious laws and rites because his saving grace didn’t rest on the day proclaimed by religious authorities.

Such misguided condemnation by a mob towards Jesus’ healing is  what this feels like…Mr. Schiller was defending his commitment to truth and ethics, which ultimately lead to healing of broken spirits in our society, and his words were twisted out of his mouth to suppose he was spewing bigotry, racism, and disdain for “non-intellectuals.” A liberal arts college/education is not to be confused with being politically liberal, as some of the Republicans like to blur and intentionally confuse, was one of the points Mr. Schiller also implied.   He was wincing at the statements about Jewish people at the end, but he kept emphasizing NPR doesn’t take sides or express opinions.
Republicans are all around me, and many are my best friends, (especially because they don’t pontificate like Mr. Brooks!)….but, guess what?  They want clean air, clean water and hate traffic and wish there was an alternative. They are upset by the BP oil spill and sad dolphins are dying and are uncertain whether or not it is really safe to eat fish anymore, still…upset they might inadvertently start treating (or causing)  their cancer by drinking radioactive runoff water from hydro-fracking in the Pittsburgh, PA municipal water supply, while hoping it will be the right type of radiation for the chemoradiation they can’t afford…They are members of the National Guard and are the most warm-hearted, giving, chatty, friendly neighbors in the world.  They are heavily involved in animal rescue work, etc…. As Brook loves to say, not in so many words, people are complicated! (And, no matter how you vote, the corporations stay in power and get their way with us, and the environment).
But agendas are simple.  And to see one public institution after the next punched in the face, and, rather than fighting back, just giving up?  Really? Apologizing? Really?  Calling Social Security an entitlement? Damn right! IT’S OURS!  We paid for it! Don’t steal it from us!
The only spine in evidence in the U.S. is in Wisconsin…as the horrifically undemocratic warfare of the Republicans continues…will this stripping of public unions by last night’s illegal vote stand?  Or will a combination of legal appeals and massive protest restore their rights….will recalls be successful?  Or will the next election cycle somehow magically reverse the corporate will that was manifested in the 2010 elections, despite no obvious check to the unlimited flow of billions of anonymous campaign cash?
The best punctuation to this post is to go watch jasiri x’s “What if the Tea Party Were Black? ” on YouTube.    He takes every single tactic that has already been done by the Tea Party, he shows the Facebook page, the Fox clips, and asks, what if black people had done the same thing?  How long did the Black Panthers last in America, versus the Tea Party today?    What is freedom of speech…is it freedom of sting? Freedom of spin?   Will people give up talking because everything is twisted to accuse everyone of mean-spirited hypocrisy, of non-cooperation with the authorities?   Can anyone speak without looking like a hypocrite?   I would love to hear a conversation between Martin Luther King, Jr, and Congressman Peter King.   What if the Tea Party was black?  Would all of this look different?

Good Will’s Miss Deborah

In Freedom!, Random Life on March 6, 2011 at 11:30 am

Whenever I do believe I might go crazy, falling right into the crazy-making trap our politicians love to stir up, I go to our Good Will store just up the road.

Chances are, Miss Deborah is going to be there, greeting you with a smile full of teeth that dazzle away the most toothless leaders of our world, and a voice that sails across the room as if it was meant for your ears only, exactly as some of us felt sitting in the third row in first grade, hanging onto every word of our teacher.

Her voice is crisp and gravelly all at once, and to watch her in action for just a few minutes, you would come to believe she wasn’t at work in what is supposed to be one of the world’s drabbest places, but at a family reunion, where every fresh entrant through the door is bringing platefuls of homemade deviled eggs, and other goodies.

She remembers everyone.  So if she’s seen you once, the next time you walk through the door, she’ll  say,  “Oh, hello!  It’s so good to see you again….how can I help you today….”

People above age 70 reading this post might be looking at me like an alien from another planet.  Yes, this is how the world used to be quite a bit more, in the “old days.”

In the old days, there was no such thing as “customer service.”  There were no canned scrips that the managers were monitoring their employees for repeating…As soon as that happened, customer service died, because people rightfully balk at being controlled.  So the employees have a dual fight in themselves to see how much they can get away with rebelling at the boss, while also genuinely wanting to serve people, but, according to their own way, not the script.

But Miss Deborah brings it all home.  Not just me, but many of her customers marvel at her spirit.  “Where do you get your good attitude?” they ask.   “It is just God shining His light,” she simply answers.   If anyone has had trouble with faith, be it God, Allah, Buddha, or Mother Earth, Miss Deborah smooths the troubled waters.

My daughter sometimes marvels at things I do, and says to me,  “Mom, they should put you on the news! ” …how little does she know, the people who least represent the best of our spirit and the best of our possibilities make it to the news.

So in homage to her, I am putting Miss Deborah in the news today, right here in this blog post.   This is the citizen’s news, and Miss Deborah deserves the top center blazing headline.   We should stop paying attention to so many kooks, and start noticing the Miss Deborahs of the world, who give out so much love to all of us, unnoticed.

Individually Rapped

In Freedom!, Random Life on March 4, 2011 at 1:42 am

“This revolution has transformed Libyans, has made us feel that there is a thing called freedom that must be won, and that one should not enjoy it alone, at the expense of others’ happiness, toil or lives…

…Our revolution is a revolution of the people, people who can no longer stand the stench of tyranny, who cannot be healed by handouts.” — Mohammad al-Asfar, “Libya’s Patient Revolutionaries,” NYTimes

“real gangstas make billions making slaves of civilians
making slaves of ya children making slaves do the killin
really the game’s brilliant create the pain and the illness
then sell you the medicine that they claim will heal it
Real Gangstas don’t need guns to leave ya brains on the ceiling
they teach ya self hatred and leave ya chained by ya feelings”

~ jasiri x, “Real Gangstas”

Are we individually wrapped in our feelings like a plastic spoon? Or can individually rapped dreams soar into a collective swoon?

“The hollow cry of broke” is at least half true, not because we lack money, but because our society is broke when it divides me and you.

Tomorrow (March 4, 2011),  the nurses of Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. are holding a one-day strike for better staffing ratios, and to attempt to resolve a now year-long dispute over shift differentials and firings of senior nurses during the “snowmaggedon” storm last year .


“Executives at the hospital have said that they are under enormous pressure to trim costs. Admissions at the hospital are down, as they are elsewhere.”

Maybe people are too scared to go to the doctor for illness…they realize it is a gamble on either their home or their health if they don’t have insurance…even with insurance, the cost of premiums and high deductibles is an effective tax…countries with universal health care only appear to pay  higher tax rates than we do because we accept healthcare as a cost of living.

Sometimes we pay the health insurance executives twice, as in the case of another 8% rise in our condo fees after a 10% rise last year…due to a staggering projected increase in the cost of our condo maintenance workers’ health insurance over the next 2 years, to  7/10 as much as payroll itself.  Wow–the cost of health insurance for the workers almost equals the cost of water for the entire condominium community.  We pay fully for their insurance, as well as our own private health plans, if we have them.

Not just our community, but condo associations and towns all across the U.S., would be relieved of an immense burden if we had a medicare for all type system funded by our taxes.

So, _The Washington Post_  article cited above also undermines the nurses with a strategy similar to the events in Wisconsin and Ohio…they are well paid, what are they complaining about?  The problem is, the median income for this area, which Fairfax County, VA, is a big part of, is $150,000…which has pushed home prices to such astronomical levels that a majority of people are paying upwards of 60% of their incomes to their homes….and is why nurses are driving in from 2 hours away, as noted in the article.

I cannot find the article I read from 2010, but this one from 2007 states a problem that continues:

“For example, a medical services manager who earned $87,300 a year could afford only 14 percent of the homes in the Washington area last year, compared with 49 percent four years earlier, the study said.”


But the issue is as much about unity, dignity, and the power to control their work environment–the hospital– as about specific wages…it is heartening to see that the pastor of the church recognized that his congregants had been served by these nurses…and as a community member, I plan to join their picket line too…I could only be there in spirit in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Wisconsin…but tomorrow is the day to lend my voice in the flesh to unity, in defiance of the dominant narrative of division that plays throughout our media, that may as well be “state-run,” since it is wholly “corporate-run.”

And if we were really successful tomorrow,  it would dovetail into a much larger community movement for a more affordable health care system paid through our taxes…not only eliminating health insurance companies, but also restructuring the non-profit/for-profit hospital system, creating more community hospitals, and also focusing more on people, with high-nurture, low-tech delivery of care.  Ah, to return to the days when nurses really did give you a warm bath, a soothing back rub, fresh, sweet-smelling sheets, and held your hand…couldn’t you be cured of almost anything if you had the right nurse doing so? And even if it didn’t cure,  you wouldn’t mind enduring the insult of illness so much?

We were just in the hospital twice in the last 3 months, and this op-ed by Dr. Verghese rang so true, as our nurse, also, had  her back to us while she filled out a computer screen and asked my daughter to rate her pain–not even making eye contact, let alone holding her hand! (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/opinion/27verghese.html?scp=1&sq=treat%20the%20patient,%20not%20the%20ct%20scan&st=cse)

As Mr. al-Asfar sang above, this thing called freedom not only should not, but cannot, be enjoyed alone…it shrivels if we have all the freedom in the world to raise our voices, to collect in the streets and at the doors of employers, but rather than uniting and exercising that freedom, we remain dispersed…and, worse, divide ourselves in a petty blaming that keeps our wrath from the rightful targets.

Tomorrow is a day to bring all the high-spirited idealism nourished by the revolutions of the last weeks to our own streets.   If they can overcome all fears and obstacles, so can we. We will one day rejoice in proportion to our efforts.  Now is the time for those efforts!


Vacuuming Sand

In Freedom!, Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Nature abhors a vacuum, but apparently one cannot be maintained in sand.  Our (U.S.) democracy has buried its head so deep in a sand-less country that it has at last popped its head out on the other side, proving you cannot dig a hole to China, but if Democracy is ever to be made whole–that is, wholly run, owned, and operated by people, as opposed to despots– it may happen in the Arab region.

Maybe it is finally time to thank Goldman Sachs and all the other major and minor players for accidentally (?) heralding a flourishing of massive, unstoppable, profound people power across at least a third of the planet.
Only to the extent that the shadow international banking cabal continue their private market machinations unchecked, forcing western governments across the globe to enact draconian austerity cuts in continued effects from the 2008 meltdown, effectively socializing Wall St.’s losses while keeping their “private” gains, does the hypocrisy of the west’s professed love of democracy literally collapse…

Nothing so clearly reveals the profound oligarchic nature of western “democracies” than the refusal to investigate, prosecute, regulate, reign in, or jail obviously criminal fraud, money-laundering, and mob cronyism (propelling a “shadow” derivatives market of trillions in a non-public, non-regulated market, whose net worth may actually dwarf the known public GDPs of many economies around the world).

Obviously, doing so is  impossible, because the bankers have effectively purchased western governments around the world. (See movie, _Inside Job_, for blunt summary).   And it would indeed be like trying to put Humpty back together again to extricate all these shadow transactions from our real money we have deposited in terms of our savings, mortgages, and pensions.  But the western governments currently work for the bankers,  not people,  giving them our public monies both directly with bailouts, and indirectly with tax codes.

We remember the exquisitely simple wisdom of the Glass-Steagall act–separate people’s deposits in banks from speculative investment activities in two separate systems: depository, and commercial investment banks.  The commercial banks (Wall St.) then had to play with their own money, or anyone they could attract to their casino.  Since the repeal of Glass-Steagall (1999), they get to play with everyone’s money (our mortgages, our pensions, public and private) while putting none of their own skin in the game….just extracting fees for setting up the casino (being a “market maker”).

But as Boehner and crew whine on about the “mandate” from the American people to gouge out their own eyeballs today in order to see more clearly in the future, the East is busy making markets whose collateral is their earnestness, their long-suffering, and whose righteous vindication is a deposit that effectively topples the ruses of western wealth and power as being measured only in dollars and guns.

It is as if any revolutionary fervor that once created such fire in our bellies as to declare, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal….,” and to then purify that mission in abolishing slavery after a bloody civil war, and then in making sure EVERYONE got the vote, is being directly slurped right from the vacuum of collapsing western democracies, into emboldened people declaring the vividness, strength, and vitality of eastern democracies.

They are doing so with remarkable discipline and resolve: especially in the wisdom of adhering strictly to non-violence as the absolute subversion of a state who measures power by force. The “shy intellectual” Gene Sharp (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html?scp=1&sq=shy%20intellectual&st=cse) distills the wisdom of undermining autocracies by surprise by refusing to play by the established rules/norms of guns and money…made more powerful by remaining peaceful even as they are brutally attacked, as is happening now in Bahrain.

The continued strikes and protests from Egpyt to Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Bahrain demonstrate an absolute determination not to return to business as usual: no longer will a few at the top keep the wealth while everyone else quietly slaves and suffers.

It is as if they are writing the playbook for what might happen decades ( ? or less?) from now in the U.S., when the staggering debt of generations of college students who can’t find jobs implodes, foreclosures continue to throw millions to the streets while exorbitant home prices effectively keep people saddled in a lifetime of debt, seniors don’t receive the social security and medicare they paid their whole lives into, job loss is accelerated by massive government layoffs and public sector union busting (further demolishing tax revenue sources)(Go Wisconsin!), and starvation accelerates,  in an economy that sold its manufacturing foundation and national identity to globalization.

The protesters in the middle east win with sheer numbers, non-violence, and determination what can’t be won with repression and violence. When things get bad enough, for every Joe Hill that is brutally murdered, a hundred more come singing peacefully, and more determined, behind him. It is this unstoppable force of freedom that strengthens day by day in the East, made stronger the more attempts made at repressing it.

Spin has a way of floating into irrelevancy when enough people have lived under hypocrisy and hunger long enough. Right now, the hypocrisy of our democracy has just enough spin to stay in orbit…and the East is showing us how quickly hypocrisy can be toppled for an authenticity that is palpable all over the world, when people see their common dreams obliterate perceived differences.
All the people who have lost their lives, or will lose their lives, in this massive struggle for freedom right now have not, and will not die in vain. We in the West owe an immense debt to them for leading the way further from our own imperfect struggles for freedom, towards actual democracy, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and real hope.

inspiring reading at http://www.aeinstein.org/