Follow by Email

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sharon Jones, "This land is your land"

This cover of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land brings out the original spirit, keeps the acoustical purity, but adds blues and contemporary note. Woody would be pleased.   For more on this song and another take see my arts blog: http://notesjotsflics.blogspot.com/2009/02/this-land-is-your-land.html

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Simplfy, Endure and Pray, but Work for Justice.

One of the things unemployment does is make you reevaluate your priorities and your possessions.  I was already low income, so I had little in the way of expensive services or habits to cut off.  I had already almost eliminated by CD and video buying habits  I used to haunt  I have although large numbers of books and vinyl in storage.  In the near future I will be trying to sell many of these books on line, my original intention for many of them.  I have brought a batch of them  home to begin put them on line.

I have also been going through my video collection (in my rooming house room) purging out all the mistakes, duplicates, and I'm tired of that already films. I have gotten together about 100 to 150 DVD and VHS to sell off, along with some games and x-box equipment I got from departing roommates. (I'm not a gamer.) This is a little bit to extend the unemployment funds without selling what I may find of use for film nights at church or with friends.

Today I saw on the news how many people are graduating out of unemployment still unemployed, without an income.  While the bankers have recovered and proclaimed the recession over, we are reducing our lives down to less and less. Sure, no Obamavilles have have appear yet, but the sense of prosperity is gone for most Americans. (See Hoovervilles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooverville)

Friday I was in a Bible study on the book of Job.  I think my roommate and friend Scott, in light of how many of us are suffering now (including him--he is reduced in hours at work now) wanted to study Job. Job has always been the classic study in suffering because of how well he takes it.  Not well in the sense of not complaining.  He complains almost bitterly to God over his losses and his illness.  But his complaints are a prayer to God that is not conditional on material results.  He prays because he is innocent and faithful.  He wants restoration, but he knows that God has his ways and times.  He seeks a mediator (for a Christian that is a foreshadowing of Christ.) We suffer in this life not as punishment for sins (for we are all sinners, even a Saint sins seven times a day and yet our suffering is not allocated according to our sins) nor for the sins of others (except in the sense of original sin).  Most of our suffering is either natural, or if inflicted by man, seldom has a just cause.  And yet most of the suffering others inflict on us is not deliberate or mean spirited, but simply from the shortcoming of economic and social activity, or the alienation and poor communication that divides us.

  Later in the Bible we read Ecclesiastes where it addresses this by saying "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." We suffer a life that makes no sense unless there be a God.

So immediately like Job, I see the need to pray, to argue my case with God.  Not because he will necessarily restore me in this life.  I may die poor.  That's Gods choice.  But because either in this life or the next I want him to restore me.  If I am in the wrong let him show me.  If I am not, I still have faith in him, but I seek through his son mediation for restoration of my well being.

However, we are not to be fatalists either.  The old saying that God helps us when we help ourselves applies. We who are poor or unemployed are to seek justice, are to seek social change.  That is the lesson I get from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers movement.  We don't have to choose being the spiritual and the seeking of justice.  In fact they need to be tied together.

The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

This is an interview by Steve Allen of Bob Dylan followed by his singing the song.  I publish it today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. because, although it was not a civil rights protest song, it is a result of the civil rights movement, which Dylan strongly supported.

We Shall Overcome (SNCC Freedom Singers, Chicago 2007)

The SNCC Freedom Singers were the official  singing group of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a group of students who went don't South to help with voter registration, protests and organizing.  Dr. Bernie Reagon Johnson of Sweet Honey in the Rock and her husband Cordell Johnson were singers in the group.  Here they are in a 2007 Chicago concert, reunited.

Martin Luther King "I have a dream"


For those of us growing up in the 1960's this speech came to explain the civil rights movement. 

Reflecting on the Meaning of Dr.King for a White Kid

I was growing up right in the time from the height of the civil rights movement to the beginnings of the anti-Vietnam war movement.  As an adolescent I watched civil rights demonstrators, including Dr. King and John L. Lewis beaten and attacked by dogs, and wept over the murders of civil rights organizers.  I learned the connection between race and poverty in America from the media, from books and from first hand exposure.  My sisters Mexican friends who lived a block away were poor.  But I also discovered that my white friends up the block and her white friends around the corner were also poor.  I also discovered that prejudice was not limited to race.  My class mates said horrible things about the mentally ill, which stung me, because my mother was mentally ill.

So the civil rights movement and Dr. King began to represent a lot of things to me. He was about a fight against prejudice and intolerance.  But he was also about fighting poverty.  He was about the bravery of non-violence.  He was about a group bringing itself up the way we Irish Catholics had.  But also about ending forever the holding of people down He was about legislation and government action that would help, but also about a change of  racial additude ,community norms. and institutional relationships.

President Johnson did some of the things King wanted, and I was very aware of the election between Johnson and Goldwater and what could be it's effect on war, poverty and race in America.  I viewed Goldwater as an extremist supported by people like my John Bircher Uncle.  I started to identify with the slain President and FDR whom many in the preceding generation admired.

But I went beyond those ideas, reading on my own and becoming disappointed when it became clear that the Vietnamese did not want us there and that Johnson was breaking his promise of a small war.  The civil rights movement had diminished by then and the student movement had burst onto the scene in Berkeley with the Free Speech Movement.  I had moved from Seattle to California by then and reading the liberal San Francisco Chronicle in the 1960's was like having a ringside seat on the student movement, the farmworker movement, the anti-draft protests, the Black Panthers.  Suddenly California was the nexus of the movement.

And the national news included Dr. King's poor people campaign, along with the northern efforts of the civil rights movement. Soon people were organizing everywhere, even in almost all white Appalachia. And Dr. King was trying to unite the civil rights movement, the anti-poverty movement, the labor movement and the peace movement.  

I quickly became anti-war, pro-farmworker and a young radical.  a pretty girl signed my yearbook "to my favorite radical." I volunteered at the local peace center and went to peace demonstrations.  I distributed anti-war materials to my classmates.  I prepared for applying for a Contentious Objector status or a refusal of induction.

I wasn't Black, Mexican or Indian, so except for the ethnic memory of anti-Irish prejudice and the prejudice against the mentally ill, I could only indirectly identify with minorities. Nor was I poor and I would not be so until some periods of my adulthood.  I had never known what it was like to be hungry, to old to be a depression baby and the son of a successful union electrician.

But I did know what being non-violent meant. My identification with King was increasing my identification with Ghandi.  I started to refuse to fight back against the bullies as my own commitment to peace.  That was my practice for draft resistance.

I went to a largely white school, a about 90% white.  But there was a a group of black kids from over in "the circles" which, together with the "boardwalk" area were the poor parts of Santa Cruz in those days. ( Now land prices there are too high for there to be a poor part.) There was also a sprinkling of Mexican kids, although most of the Mexicans lived on the other end of the county, in Watsonville. But the liberalizing influences of San Francisco and the new local UC campus were being felt and sentiment among my peers was running against the Vietnam war, and therefore for the poor and minorities.  King was a hero to most.

The day Martin Luther King was shoot we poured out of our classrooms in numbness and grief.  We had a assembly and after our principal spoke, Norman Gulliford, the youth leader for the local Black Panthers spoke. (I understand he is now known as Dr. X)  He read the Black Panther Program and talked about racism and capitalism..  None of the school officials tried to censor him.   We were released from school for the day and told we could go home, or downtown for a memorial march. A couple hundred of us went downtown and were joined by streams of adults and university students.  The weekend after the march the local left, in a rare burst of unity, tried to form a Martin Luther King Coalition of the NAACP, the Hispanic groups from Watsonville, the Panthers, the local peace groups and the anti-poverty groups.  But everyone was busy with their own organizations, so soon it became an unused spare desk in the Peace Center office.

We moved on as a country to other assassinations and tragedies and I moved on to no showing at my induction and doing my alternative service anyway, even though I had been denied my C.O. status.

Dr. King got lost in the shuffle as I became a more bitter opponent of the government and  our society forgot the civil rights and anti-poverty efforts.  But gradually both I and our country have recovered the legacy of Dr. King.

If Dr. King were alive today I am certain he would be marching for immigrant rights and fighting against the ways in which the Tea Party is trying to take away the fourteenth amendment.  He would be fighting against the dissolution of our social safety net. He would be telling middle class blacks and Hispanics not to forget the road they had to come down and to help the fight against poverty.  He'd be trying to get us out of Middle East Wars and trying to end unemployment.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Remember King as a Man of Peace

I have borrowed from  a local Seattle organization about the upcoming MLK Jr. day March.  More can be found at http://www.mlkseattle.org/


"Many Voices United to Build the Beloved Community"
Monday,January 17,2011
Garfield High School

The Martin Luther King Celebration Committee announces the 29thAnnual region-wide Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration on Monday January 17 , 2011. Workshops at 9:30am-11am, Rally at 11am, and March at 12pm.
This year we will March from Garfield High School (23rd Ave & Jefferson) to the Federal Buidling on 2nd Ave. Immediately after the March refreshments will be served at Garfield's lunchroom FREE to all participants!
Seattle has one of the largest annual Martin Luther King Day Celebrations in the U.S. We honor  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work toward racial equality and economic justice for all people, for his commitment to nonviolence, and for his stand against war and militarism.
"The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated."
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


In light of recent events, for me the most salient thing for this years King day celebration will be remembering King as a man of peace and God in the Gandhian tradition.    Maybe I will go with a sign saying "Remember those who were felled by assassins bullets" 


Anyone in the Seattle area who wants to "go together" to Mondays events email me at j.f.drake@hotmail.com

Time to Pause for Prayer

The events of the last several days and the coming events have inspired me to write almost exclusively political articles.  The tragedy in Tuscon, the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the news I got from the United Farmworkers Union were all things I wanted to remember in some way.  Many of my conservative friends and readers do not agree with my opinions concerning the events in Tuscon or most of the other things I wrote on.  Some of you may even have reservations on my thoughts on gun control.  My liberal readers may disagree with what I posted on abortion.  But what stood out for me in the Presidents speech in Tuscon was his call to unite, to work together and to pray.

A great deal of my blogging does not revolve around politics, but this week posts have.  Politics is like all other things of this earth.  It will pass away.  Sure I believe in my politics and believe that it's a way to seek justice.  But in the end it passes away just like wealth, pleasure, power, fame and indeed all the good and bad things of the earth.  In the end we are left as human beings standing before God.

So if we can't do anything else together let us pray together.  This weekend across the country we will remember Martin Luther King Jr., a man of God and a man of peace.  He was felled by an assassins bullet just like the victims in Tuscon.  Take the time this weekend to pray for an end to violence. 

Wyatt Earp --Gun Control Advocate

In the aftermath of the killings in Tuscon let us remember a real American hero, Wyatt Earp. Yesterday, January 13th was the anniversary of his death I I do apologize for noting it late.

Wyatt Earp was a true hero of the post civil war west.  His older brothers had fought in the war and he sought out being a lawman as a way to live out some of the values they fought for.  Gun slinger image aside, there is one thing that Earp was consistent on.  He was always a gun control advocate.  In both Dodge and Tombstone he got passed by local government and enforced rules requiring people to park their guns when they came into town.  What he saw was that hard working cowboy getting drunk at the local saloon and guns didn't mix.  His famous shoot out at O.K.Corral was all about enforcing the local gun control law.

The ammo clips that Jared Loughner used in his killing spree had been previously outlawed under the automatic weapon controls that have expired.  Please, in honor of both Wyatt Earp and the victims of this senseless tragedy, let us pass into law the legislation proposed to outlaw them again.  If Wyatt Earp were still a law man in Arizona, we might have a fearless advocate for common sense gun control there.  Instead we will have to supply that voice.

Civil Rights of the Unborn

Consistent Life, an organization I support because it opposes unjust war and abortion at the same time, in their recent email newsletter to me quotes Fr. Frank Pavone director of Priests for Life:

“January 15 is the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on or around that day we observe a national holiday in his honor. A week later, on January 22, we recall the tragic decision made that day in 1973 by the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade, unleashing a policy of abortion on demand  . . . Both the civil rights movement and the pro-life movement are evidence of this common engagement. Both movements seek to secure equal rights for marginalized human beings, despite their appearances . . . Defending the equal dignity of every human being after birth strengthens our witness to the rights of those in danger before birth, and vice-versa. The witness, in fact, is ultimately one.” 

UFW delivers Ruby Ridge Petition

For regular readers of my blog it's no secret that I support the efforts of farmworkers to obtain justice. I carry in my wallet a card that says I am a supporter member of the United Farmworkers.  I recently inserted a link for those who wanted to sign the UFW petition to help the workers at Ruby Ridge farm.  (http://roominhouseblues.blogspot.com/2011/01/farmworkers-at-ruby-ridge-farms.html) UFW has emailed its supporters to thank them for posting links on Facebook or blogs. Here is a press release and a photo.  Yes I know that I should rewrite the press release and that the photo is a little blurry, but I have only a little time for this today.  Thank you to any readers that responded. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

Thousands urge Spokane lender to help end 

Ruby Ridge Dairy’s abuse and retaliation against workers

More than 30,000 signatures gathered during online petition

Ruby Ridge Workers and supporters on the way to deliver petitions.


SPOKANE, WASHINGTON – A delegation led by Ruby Ridge Dairy workers, UFW leaders and supporters will hand deliver thousands of signatures from an online petition urging Spokane-based lender Northwest Credit Services to help halt labor rights violations by Ruby Ridge Dairy.

According to Ruby Ridge Dairy workers, they are not allowed to take breaks or provided with clean drinking water. Workers also say that they have been threatened with a gun by the owner when they ask for better working conditions. Workers from Ruby Ridge approached the United Farm Worker for its assistance in the summer of 2009 in trying to solve those issues. As a result, Ruby Ridge Dairy fired 12 workers, all of whom have filed suit against the Dairy for wage and hour and other state law violations.

Ruby Ridge workers and their supporters approached Northwest Credit Services last summer asking the bank to consider labor and human rights as part of its corporate responsibility. The lender has not responded. Northwest Credit Services lent Ruby Ridge dairy $13 million. A Northwest Credit Services loan document issued to Ruby Ridge on January 28, 2008 clearly states: “Mortgagors agree to comply with all laws, ordinances, regulations, covenants, conditions and restriction affecting the Property use including without limitation all environmental laws. Also not to use or permit the use of the Property for any unlawful or objectionable purpose or for any purpose that poses an unreasonable risk of harm, or that impairs or may impair the value of the Property."

Dairy workers will be joined by farm workers from other Washington areas, students from Eastern Washington University, Whitworth College, Peace and Action League, MeCHA from EWU and other local Spokane organizations to hand in the petition signatures gathered by the UFW, Americna Rights At Work (ARAW) and other local organizations.

Who: A delegation of Ruby Ridge Dairy workers, students, farm workers and community organizations.
What:  Delivering online petitions with more than 30,000 signatures to Northwest Credit Services protesting abuse at Ruby Ridge Dairy
When: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.
Where: Northwest Credit Services Headquarters, 1700 S. Assembly St., Spokane, WA

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Myths about Jared Loughner

It is actually amazing what an abundance of information there is about Loughner's political views.  But I actually won't start there.


The first myth I want to dismantle is simple, in fact I have already addressed it. It's the alleged incomparability of politics and mental illness.   I have worked with the mentally ill and find that they range all over the place on politics, from the apolitical to the intensely political. And they range from left to right.


The day of the Columbine shootings a Bipolar friend started calling gun dealers to chew them out for there role in the massacre and to tell them he believes in gun control.   I think the irony of this should not escape our notice.  We automatically assume that the mentally ill are apolitical and violent.  He demonstrated the opposite.


I should say here that there is at least as much evidence of Loughner's right wing politics that his mental illness, in fact on a documentary level more. While he may have been on medication, Loughner seems to have no official diagnosis and we are being treated to diagnosis from affair from pundits and guest shrinks.  I was even told by someone that you can tell Loughner is crazy by looking at him.  When I look at him, I think skin head, a matter we will get to later. 


Another myth is that Loutishness' rants about grammar point to his mental illness.  In fact it's one of his firmest ties to the far right.  These come from the theories of a far right blogger named David Wynn Miller, who purports himself a judge. Miller is a former tool and die maker who gives seminars on government control of grammar and how to fight it.  He invented what he calls Mathematical Interface for Language or Correct Language.  He claims only nouns have legal authority and the government is trying to introduce other words as legal authority.  He is only one of many right wing sources for the theory of government control through language Below a website about the Loughner/Miller issue, and Miller's own website. .


http://www.allyourtv.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2403:loughner-writings-about-grammar-point-to-anti-government-mind-control-theory&catid=51:featuresfeatures
http://dwmlc.com/
Also see Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wynn_Miller


Loughner himself  wrote on his website, according to the Economist, that" You don't allow the government to contol your grammar structure listener?  The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.  What is government if words don't have meaning?"


"What is government if words don't have meaning" is the question he asked  Congresswoman Giffords. Her failure to answer it to his satisfaction is why he pursued her.  His friends who have been a source of misinformation about him failed to comprehend the political nature or source of this question.  He further suggested that the people of Arizona were 'illiterate.'


Indeed his reading list, including both Orwell and the proto-libertarian Ann Rand also underlies his obsession with language.  Both wrote of the governments use of language to control the populace and the mind.


Miller himself claims not to know Loughner but agrees with his web postings concerning grammar and government mind control. Miller is one of many "common law gurus" who travel giving seminars advocating right wing ideas about law.  He calls himself a " Plenipotentiary-Judge"


Loughner, in a "One Video available at  Slate Magazine   "Pima Community College and the local police are 'unconstitutional.' " Loughner uses this to argue against bills he owes.
http://www.slate.com/BLOGS/blogs/weigel/archive/2011/01/08/alleged-arizona-shooter-leaves-youtube-myspace-trail.aspx


Loughner also said" If the property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution then the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and laws. The property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution. Thus, the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and laws.
In conclusion, reading the United States Constitution, I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.No! I won't pay debt backed with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver!"
The idea of a currency backed by gold and silver, along with opposition to the federal reserve as controlled by international bankers, is a standard belief of the right wing patriot movement and the militias. While clearly in a deranged context, Loughner is explicitly proposing right wing ideas here. 
There Loughner claimed to be in the 'political information business'.  He said that government officals and the people were listening and talked about his new currency.   He also called for a new language. 
Especially pointed is what he said about terrorism,


Terrorist

If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. I define terrorist. Thus, a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem."

He further states," he majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution.

You don't have to accept the federalist laws.

Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws."


Then there is the Jared reading list from his myspace page: Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno."

Animal Farm and Brave New World both deal with anti-socialist themes and language. Fahrenhiet 451, a book I like, deals with government suppression of books. Mien Kampf is of course a far right book, but the Communist Manifesto is for various reasons, common on right wing reading lists.  The John Birch Society at least used to publish there own edition of it.  The first person I knew who read it was my John Birch Society member Uncle. "We the Living" is an Ann Rand book, espousing her proto-libertarian views.   Almost every book on the list, includsing the childrens books, could be viewed as espousing anti-authoritarian views.  


Another myth is that Jared Loughner was not interested in voting. In fact he was registered to vote Republican.  See: http://blog.politicalpsychic.net/2011/01/11/jared-loughner-was-a-republican-screen-shot-proof/republicanparty-loughner/  At least two sources I have checked say he voted in 2006 and 2008, although at one time he may have been registered independent.  


Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch article on who is Jared Loughner says, "Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, which does similar work to that of Hatewatch, points out in a post earlier today that Loughner also makes a reference to a “second American constitution.” As Chip notes, that is commonly understood to refer to the Reconstruction amendments that freed the slaves and gave them citizenship, among other things. Chip says that “raises the question of a possible racist and anti-immigrant tie” in the Arizona shooting.
On top of that, Fox News is reporting on an internal Department of Homeland Security message suggesting some tie between Loughner and American Renaissance, a kind of white-collar racist group." 

Chip Berlet's Political Research Associastes site  in an article entitled Possible Racist and Anti-Immigrant Tie To Alleged Arizona Assassin states, "The concept of a "second American constitution" actually comes from serious writings by Constitutional scholars and has been twisted by White Supremacists and conspiracy theorists. The claim is a core element of White Nationalism, as documented in Leonard Zeskind's. Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream."


If this is true that the "second American Constitution" reference is from far right groups, and if the Fox Newes report was acurate, Loughner's skin head apperance I alluded to earlier is not accident.  

The New York Times  noted that Loughner believed that there was a U.S government conspiracy behind 9-11, a notion found on both the extreme left and right. He accordingly raged at George W. Bush. 

The times further cited both Breanna Castle, a high school friend and Ms. Figueroa, his former girlfriend as describing libertarian ideas of less government in his politics.  The well known Tweet discribing him as very 'liberal' may just have been consuing liberal and libertarian. 
Finally there is the political act of burning the flag. This could be construed as a far left action, but I think it shows how far in an anti government right wing direction Loughner went, that he was coming up on the left in a circular direction. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Retraction Necessary!

I have a good friend who has pleaded with me to consider retracting my article yesterday about the Giffords shooting based on stories on Fox news and an interview by and an interview by Rush Limbaugh of a high school buddy of Jared Loughner suggesting that Loughner was a political. I respect my friends opinions and concerns.  But the Limbaugh interview seems almost to contradict itself and the person was a friend a few years ago. 


Here is some of what I said in response: Regarding the young man having no politics. People who read & studied  his blog suggested otherwise--the talk about monetary systems and the grammar talk that has been traced back to a extreme right wing blogger as the inspiration source. (This included the Sheriff who studied what happened before he made his statement)  And the flag burning indicates someone either on the far right or far left making a statement.  That is not an apolitical act.  His "best friend" from high school may not know much about him now, 4 years later.  He wasn't mentally ill in high school either. Of course he is deranged, but if he didn't have politics he would not have chosen a political target. In fact most mentally ill people I have known have politics almost to the same degree that non-mentally ill people do.  Some are apolitical, some a little political and some very political.  In fact schizophrenic men, which is what he seems to be,   often have highly intelligent and cogent politics, when they are being delusional. They are on average, of higher intelligence that the general populace.  For some reason that often doesn't carry to the woman, who are effected differently by the illness. 

The kind of killer he is is someone who sees himself as a loser and is seeking to do something big, to impress someone, to seem important. Oswald was trying to impress extreme anti-Kennedy people on the right & left. Shiran Shiran was mentally ill but also trying to please radical Palestinians.  John Wilkes Booth was just outright seeking revenge, although he had a non-psychotic  mental illness. Those who tried to kill Reagan were trying to please there puppet master.   Kings killer was trying to impress southern racists. In short there is almost always a certain amount of politics in political killings.  They seldom want to kill just anyone or just any famous figure.  The guys who kill presidents do not kill John Lennons. 

This guy had developed a history with Congresswoman Gifford's and was targeting her --a history that started before her Tea Party rival suggested she should be shot if she wins.  This guy was trying to please the Tea Party.  And judging by Sarah Palin's statement about the connection being a "blood libel" ie a libel you have e right to respond violently to, he did indeed in a certain sense impress her.  She should have responded with an unequivocal call for calm  and a change of political tone, rather than another inflammatory statement.  She is responding the way the early Nazi Party did when they were accused to political polarization --with more polarization.  And because the German body politic did not repudiate what they heard, they got the government they deserved. Except that no one really deserves that kind of government. 

Besides, even if at the trial it turns out that all that I have construed is misconstrued, I still think that the Tea Party has spoken dangerously and anti-democratically.  Not just the violence, but things like calling for the abolition of the direct election of Senators. And calling for states to arrest people for carrying out a federal law they happen to disagree with.  This is the kind of agitation that lead to a civil war 150 years ago.

So in the meantime I intend to use this as a 'teaching moment' to alert people to just how dangerous certain things are.   I don't have a problem with enthusiastic rhetoric, etc.  But when you start calling for violence that is different.  Especially when you start calling for killing specific people.  Revolutionary rhetoric even has a certain place.  But calling for a second amendment solution to your opponent winning is, intentionality or not, calling for an assassination.    And while I doubt at the trial he will burst out and say I did this to please Palin, I believe it will come out that it's not just mental illness at work.  And if it comes out otherwise I am certain it will never come out that violent extremist language is really acceptable after all.  I am absolutely certain the young man will not get up in the courtroom & say I had my doubts about doing this because of Sarah Palin's calls for peace. 

Then I got into the second amendment question: Another matter is that he could not have killed and wounded 18 people if he had not had access to an automatic weapon.  If nothing else, the second amendment running commentary stands in the way to reasonable and moderate gun control.  It's like saying you have a right to drive and should be able to run over a politician you don't agree with, so therefore no need for a drivers licence since that would restrict your right to kill people with you car.   Well I do want to restrict peoples "right" to kill people.  That is a sort of right without any responsibility. 

My friend,  rightfully responded  that I was reasonable but did not  agree with the drivers license analogy.  He suggested I could argue for gun control to be based and limited by the right of self-protection.

That caused me to reshape part of what I had said about gun use and respond:
No, I ,mean that when people carry the second amendment thing so far that it has the effect of letting people who are thinking these sorts of things get high powered weapons --automatic guns or sniper rifles, etc that is analogous.  I guess I got to rhetorical myself on that, and didn't take my time to development my argument. I know that advocating unlimited second amendment rights doesn't presuppose what people will do with the weapons, but it does overlook what some people might be thinking.  Of course it's not a simple as I pledge not to assassinate anyone or commit mass murder in return for my gun licence.  But  the process needs to screen out certain people the same way driving tests screen out certain people. 
 And yes gun carriage should demonstrably be for self protection, with hunting or reasonable gun collecting being harmless augments to that right.  I'm not sure it's always that effective for self protection--the guys who stopped our shooter in this instance were unarmed while sometimes store clerks going for the gun get themselves shot--but at least if you can discern legitimate self protection uses for a gun in order to licence it's use, and train people for that purpose you reduce the rash use of guns.  You weed out people with criminal history, with certain reasonable exceptions.  And the same on psychiatric history.  (it's funny I was living with mentally ill guys at the time of the Columbine massacre --one of them was so upset he called up a gun dealer & yelled at him.  It offended his pacifistic sentiments that they were selling guns at a time like that.)  
And maybe make people take a test for gun use rules  like the drivers written test, that points to restraint in use.    Also the sales of automatic weapons should be somewhat restricted both to keep gangs & crazies from getting them, and because if you are using the weapon for self defense rather than hunting or collecting you are more likely  hit unintended targets with a automatic weapon than with a regular rifle or handgun.  These are just a few ideas to make it safer without taking away a right.  
By the way, I think that the right to self defense is not a second amendment right, because that is the right of the people collectively.  A well regulated militia.  It's the right of the people, for instance, to impose order through a national guards.   But the ninth amendment suggests that all traditional rights are protected by the constitution. So if we have a right to self defense, gun ownership is one way to achieve it.  Now you can create situations were everyone is disarmed.  Wyatt Earp did that in Dodge & Tombstone by getting everyone to hang up the guns. At least he did after he shot it out with the Clantons. The Clantons clearly wanted to do something more than self defense, something for which fisticuffs were in effective.  But you could argue that not every situation is amenable to that degree of law enforcement. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Congresswoman Giffords and the Cross Hairs

I find it amazing that it has become a matter of controversy to suggest that violent images, death threats, gun toting and martial exercises have consequences.  We are being told that it's just normal to use cross hairs as a political image and that Democrats do it also.  It is pointed out that Sen Joe Manchin held up again in an ad that said he opened fire on Obama's climate change legislation.   Of course he didn't threaten to open fire on Obama, but even at that, the point was to found like the Tea Party in order to pull votes from the right. 


We are told that the most plausible explanation  for our young shooters actions is his mental illness, and that we have no proof he heard any of the Tea Party ads, propaganda, news.  Therefore it must be implausible that he was influenced by them.


First of all this is a direct insult to millions of Americans who suffer from mental health problems --maybe not as severe as this young mans, but real none the less. I have worked with the mentally ill, and have mentally ill family members, and none of them ever tried to kill anyone.  Even most mentally ill people who are unstable enough to kill someone will only do so if circumstances agitate them severely. 


It is also implausible that the young man could have missed the hot and heavy political atmosphere.  It would especially have been nearly impossible for this highly political young man not to have been aware of the  automatic weapon target practice Gifford opponent held as a fundraiser complete with bellicose commentary on the pending election.  The young mans monetary theories are the same deranged monetary theories that abound on the gun toting right. His theory that the government has someone corrupted grammar comes from a far right blogger.   His reading list, except for the Communist Manifesto is the reading list of the right.  For that matter, actually Karl Marx is usually read by rightists so they can level attacks at it. 


I had an uncle who was in the John Birch Society in the early 1960's.  At that time some dissent started in John Birch/patriot movement circles that the anti-communist group really didn't do much.  An extreme form of this dissent came in a book called "Communist Skies Over America" which claimed that the Birch Society itself was a communist front. According to the book many Birch Society leaders who Masons, a secret revolutionary cabal, and therefore  the organization must be a communist front.  My uncle read the book and went to his John Birch meeting to break it up.  Soon he was out drilling with guns and practicing martial arts.  


That was the drift of a lot of the right in those days.  First well known paramilitary group was the Minute Men, headed by Robert Bolivar DePugh.  The minute men would mail out death threats in little envelopes with cross hairs and a crudely printed message. I was a 17 year old volunteer in the Santa Cruz Peace Center the day we received our cross hairs death threat, mailed from Boise, Idaho.
  
The threat read, " Traitors Beware. See the old man at the corner where you buy your paper? He may have a silencer equipped pistol under his coat. That extra fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you might be a cyanide-gas gun. What about your milkman? Arsenic works slow but sure. Your auto mechanic may stay up nights studying booby traps. These patriots are not going to let you take their freedom away from them. They have learned the silent knife, the strangler's cord, the target rifle that hits sparrows at 200 yards. Only their leaders restrain them. Traitors beware! Even now the cross hairs are on the back of your necks!"
The Minutemen fell apart and many right wing armed groups have come and gone since, including the Posse Comitas, the Freemen, and a multitude of militias.  Sarah Palin is quite familiar with these militias, her husband having been a member of the Alaska Independence Party, an organization tied into the Patriot/Constitutionalist movement that these militias are the armed wing of.  When she used the cross hairs, she was explicitly referring to the  Minute Men death threats.  


It may be that the connections to this young man are quite indirect, but they explain a lot more of his actions than simply the fact that he is mentally ill.   Did Oswald shoot Kennedy because he had a personality disorder, or did his associations with far right and left groups led to his action.  When John Wilkes Booth shoot Lincoln everyone knew it was his ties to the rebel movement, not his social instability and depression that caused it.  In almost every political assassination in the United States we have a mix of causes, but generally the political is the deciding factor.  We also know that assassinations are more common in periods of high political stress.  That is why we had so many of them in the 1960's.  Yes, King's killer was a wacko.  But the racism of the south motivated him.  


So we must stop making excuses for inflammatory language, actions and deeds.  The deaths in Arizona were most certain a consequnce and if we do not chsnge, there will be other consequences. 

Farmworkers at Ruby Ridge Farms.


Here is a little bit I have cut and pasted in from material UFW sent me. If you want to sign the petition it may help the workers at Ruby Ridge Farms. 

This Boss Brings a Rifle to Work

Workers will hand petition in TOMORROW


We've written to you before about the unbearable situation workers face at WA's Ruby Ridge dairy face on a daily basis. Help workers fight back.
The workers are demanding that Ruby Ridge's lender, Northwest Farm Credit Services, take a stance on this issue. TOMORROW, January 11, Ruby Ridge workers and their supporters are going to the the lender's headquarters to deliver thousands ofpetition signatures. So far, there are 20,105 signatures on the workers petition.
This is the situarion at Ruby Ridge dairy. Ruby Ridge is being sued for violation of Washington wage and hour laws, unlawful discharge by firing 1/3 of the workforce and even assault. The workers who haven't yet been fired are afraid they're next.
Owner Dick Bengen often carries a rifle with him on his large dairy farm. To Dick Bengen, that rifle is his anti-union rifle that he uses to scare the workers into line. Mr. Bengen made a point of explaining the special purpose of this rifle to Miguel Cuevas, when he told him, "This rifle is for those people with the union."

Workers, members of the faith community and most recently, thousands of UFW supporters, contacted Northwest Farm Credit Services, the bank that loaned $13 million to Ruby Ridge. They demand the bank use its influence to resolve the issues at the dairy. The bank's mortgage language specifically prohibits illegal behavior such as the workers say is happening at Ruby Ridge. 

The bank continues to ignore our calls. According to Margarito Martinez, who was fired from Ruby Ridge for supporting the union and fighting for his rights, "When workers and supporters tried to reach out to the bank to intervene in this matter, they turned us down, saying they did not want to be involved."

Time to Get Back to the Job of Being Unemployed

Sorry dear readers.  I got so into the trials and tribulations of unemployment that I have not written about it. After my day of temping that I wrote about I did a second strenuous day.  After that the weather, the holidays, a injury to my hand and ribs and all the efforts to actually find a job have kept me from doing all the writing I should. I have a sprained finger  buddy wrapped to another  and this slows down my typing.  Because of it, my sense of spacing with both hands in off  and I am making lots of typos that I have to correct.   But enough of my unofficial troubles.  On to my official one.

Last Wednesday I went to a "Mature Workers Job Club" meeting.  The Work Source Department has an official Mature Workers Job Club, but this is an additional meeting, on weeks that Work Source does not have it's meetings, in the home of one of the "mature workers."


The meeting was in the Prag House, a large house that is on property owned by the Cascadia land trust.  The household manages itself on contract to the land trust. Sally provided coffee and tea and I brought a crumb type cake for the gang to eat. 

A job club is a great opportunity to network,  get peer reviews of you job search, get comments of career goals and resume content.   For older workers it is a support group in the face of age bias and other problems the older unemployed worker faces.  Unfortunately the days when you could expect to retire on your job are long gone. 

There were few in attendance at the club, but the discussion was dynamic.  We each took turns describing our job search and then we gave each other suggestions for places to find work, ways to present our skills, ways to reinvent ourselves. 

The great thing about the club, besides the help I got, I was learning more about the economy through it.  We discussed technological learning, the finance industry, the world of non-profits and the state of the employment market. 

I learned, for instance, that Bank of America has so many job applications for finance positions coming from online that they can't read or process them all and are looking at other ways to find qualified applicants.  I think that the same may be true in other industries.  If that is true. then just applying endlessly on line may not improve your chances of getting a job in certain fields.