Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I don’t trust you.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Remember our suffering. Not theirs, at our hands. Sorry if I am bitter.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

“Palestinians will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” (Matan Vilnai, Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense, 29 February 2008)

Due to cutoffs in fuel, the UN refugee relief agency cannot deliver food to one million Gazans. There are about 1.5 million people living there. (I feel so ashamed.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A few uncomfortable facts from the Land of the Free™: we have the highest incarceration rate on the planet. We imprison more of our population than any other country. Over half of inmates in federal prisons in 2006 are there for drug offenses. These data come from a report in today’s New York Times, mirroring the earlier work in February of the Pew Center for the States which found that for the first time in US history over one in 100 American adults are in prison or jail. Proud to be an American...

Monday, April 21, 2008


Happy Pesach!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finally, some recognition of a global disaster. (Yet once again the focus is on the threat of political volatility and not the more basic humanitarian problem of millions facing starvation.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“Citizens of a country that maintains a military subjugation in its backyard that is no less cruel than that of the Chinese, and by some parameters even more so, and against which there is practically no more protest here, have no justification in denouncing another occupation. … The Palestinians are not as nice as the Tibetans in the eyes of the world. But the Palestinian people deserve exactly the same rights as the occupied Tibetan people … there is no difference between a Tibetan and a Palestinian — they both deserve the exact same freedom. … There is also no point in asking which occupation is crueler, the Chinese or the Israeli. The competition is harsh and bitter. The Chinese killed and imprisoned more Tibetans, in Lhasa there is less freedom of expression than in Nablus, but in general, the extent of Israeli repression in the territories is much greater today than Chinese repression in Tibet. Nowhere in the world today is there a region more besieged and confined than Gaza. And what is the result? The world calls to boycott the occupier in the case of China, while absurdly, with regard to the Palestinians, the world is boycotting the occupied entity, or at least its elected leadership, and not the occupier. This, it seems, has no parallel in history. … Is there any other way to describe this, except a double standard?”

— Gideon Levy (in Ha’aretz, 13 April 2008)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why is the worldwide crisis in food prices considered a nonevent by every major US news outlet? According to the Google news aggregator, only the BBC, Voice of America, AP and the Sydney Morning Herald gave it any coverage. Checking the CNN homepage; it’s another horse race story about Clinton and Obama, this time on their “faith.”

Maybe this is premature; I’m going to check the New York Times. The top story in their world news page reads that the National Security adviser of the United States “said foreign leaders would be more effective influencing China with… ‘quiet diplomacy’”—let Beijing immolate a few dozen more Tibetans, we don’t want to spoil the celebration. Okay, here’s a bulletin closer to the mark; it addresses the riots in Haiti over “rising food prices”. But no big picture. Maybe when millions of Americans are in danger of starvation our media will take note that there is a problem.

NOTE: So apparently I missed this but the main page still has Hillary-Barack at the faith forum as their top story.

Friday, April 11, 2008


R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut (from “Requiem,” in his final book A Man Without a Country, p. 137 [2005 hardcover edition, Seven Stories Press]):

The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
“Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do.”

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.

And this wonderful bit of prose earlier on that only grows more haunting and, well, painfully honest and eloquent (from chapter 9, pp. 98-101):

“It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the U.S. Constitution.

“But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’├ętat imaginable.

“I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: ‘C-Students from Yale.’

“George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

“To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, and published in 1941. Read it!

“Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

“PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

“And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he’s against gay marriage.

“So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

“They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin’ day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don’t give a fuck what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!”

An American patriot left us one year ago today. You will always be remembered; God help us if we don’t.

p.s. Last month, an ABC reporter asked about two-thirds of the population opposing the war and whether that should matter; the Vice President of the United States answered, “So?” The reporter, Martha Raddatz, followed: “So, you don’t care what the American people think?” Arrived this contemptuous remark in reply: “No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls” (editorial in the Battleboro Reformer of Vermont, “They don’t care”)

Monday, April 07, 2008


This is funny to me because sometime last year I tried to compile a list of the towns the area codes encompass but then I just found that someone -- a feminist no less -- actually took the trouble to map it. (Just for fun.)

Friday, April 04, 2008


Today marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. These are extended passages from his April 4, 1967, speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (see the entire address here)

…In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear.… Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

…[W]e increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese — the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs….

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

…What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

…Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

…The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy—and laymen—concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

…I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

…War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

…This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.… We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

…If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

[Rest in peace.]