CONTROL ISSUES

15 04 2018

There are a number of seemingly disparate issues affecting the country these days. When I examine their roots, and the way our society is attempting to deal with them, I see that they actually have a lot in common, and that the commonly accepted responses to them are failing to have their hoped-for effects, for a common reason. Likewise, the optimum solutions to all these very real concerns, while individualized according to the particular manifestation they treat, all spring from a common root. I am going to describe these problems, the conventional-wisdom solutions to them, look at the unintended consequences that these solutions engender, and, as best I can, suggest a Green,  radical–literally “to the root”– solution to them.

GUNS AND PUBLIC VIOLENCE

Gun violence has been a hot-button heart breaker for far too long. The natural, and obvious, response is to make it more difficult to obtain firearms, or at least, as comedian Chris Rock has suggested, to make the price of ammunition prohibitive. Five-thousand-dollar bullets would certainly rearrange a lot of people’s priorities. Hey, the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms–it doesn’t say anything about ammunition! I have no problem with making  high-tech rock throwers, or the rocks they throw,which have no other purpose than to harm or kill other beings, a lot more difficult to obtain.

But, in spite of the tremendous hue and cry about this devastating fact of American life, legislatures, especially Republican-dominated ones, remain deaf to the appeals of the growing clamor for gun control. Read the rest of this entry »





ISLAMIC TERRORISTS? WHO NEEDS ISLAMIC TERRORISTS? WE’VE GOT TORNADOES (AND FINANCIERS)!

7 05 2011

Suppose I told you that terrorists had launched a series of attacks on the U.S. that killed over 400 people, caused billions of dollars in damage, and leveled large sections of several cities?  Suppose I told you that these same terrorists had also caused the flooding of  hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and numerous small towns?  And suppose i told you that our government seems utterly clueless about the identity of these terrorists and is doing nothing to stop them–that, indeed, a great many legislators, including a majority in one house of Congress, are simultaneously denying that these terrorists exist and passing laws that seem designed to aid and abet them?   And suppose I told you that our government is not only ignoring these terrorists, but dashing madly off in the wrong direction, using its resources to combat imaginary enemies, and even prosecuting  people who attempt in some way to counter the real threat to our national, not to say individual, security?

It’s happening.  The terrorists didn’t use bombs, or airplanes, or anthrax.  Tornadoes and torrential rain did the trick.  Our country is undergoing a massive, sustained terrorist attack from the natural world.

And suppose I told you there was yet another gang of terrorists who are doing everything they can to destroy this country economically–by defunding and demoralizing our educational system, eliminating every middle-class job they can get their hands on, and throwing people out of their homes, even when they’re not behind on their mortgages?  And that this gang of terrorists seems to be proceeding with the overt backing of not only our government, but millions of voters?

I mean, it’s like “mice for fat cats” or “rabbits for hawks.”  Instead, we’re calling it “The Tea Party.”Finally, suppose I pointed out to you that the government, instead of going after these terrorists, who are doing such widespread, real damage, is spending our tax dollars prosecuting environmentalists who attempt to bring attention to the real terrorists, whistle blowers like Bradley Manning,  who draw attention to what a poor job the government “of the people” is doing “for the people,” and luring Muslim youth into government-fabricated “terrorist plots” so it can prosecute and incarcerate them at our expense, as well as threatening to arrest state employees for helping implement state-run medical marijuana programs, and busting Amish farmers for selling raw milk to willing customers.

Can you say, “straining out gnats and swallowing camels,” boys and girls?  Is there a pattern here?  Can you connect the dots?

The dots most people aren’t connecting here are the ones that point to how we, including me,  my wife, our numerous internal combustion engines and our dependence on grid-generated electric power, are feeding both the power of our planet’s weather systems and the power of our insatiable financial elite.

Both equations are simple.  The planet is warming, and we are turning its forests, with their ability to sequester both water and carbon dioxide, into various single-use consumer goods that sequester neither water nor CO2, meanwhile burning all the carbon-based fuels we can, as fast as we can, throwing even more CO2 into the atmosphere, warming the planet.  A warmer atmosphere creates more evaporation, putting more water in the atmosphere.  More moisture in the atmosphere creates the potential for more and stronger storm systems.  And here we are, biting our own ass.

Similarly, it’s almost impossible to function in this country without feeding the corporate demons that seem to be hell-bent on devouring the world.  Automobile?  Insurance? Property?  Internet connection?  Tools of any kind?  Medical care?

Food and clothing?  Maybe you grow most of your own food and buy most of your clothing at yard sales, but unless you’re saving all your own seeds, using only homemade compost, and scratching the ground with a pointed stick, you’re still dependent, and, let’s face it, all that second-hand clothing came from a factory somewhere.  Still dependent.

And, if you try to hole up and devote all your time to being self-sufficient, you’re likely to have your local codes people knocking on your door, and, by the way, how are you going to pay your land taxes?

Truly, we are all caught in a web.  Some people are resigned to being spider food, but some of us are doing everything we can to free ourselves.  The Hopi had a word for our situation–“Koyaanisqatsi,” which means

“crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living”

So, just how are we going to get back in balance, find that other way of living?

In the Tibetan tradition, when you are afflicted with a demon, sometimes the best thing to do is to create a bigger demon who will smash the one who is attacking you; and that, I think, is what we have done.  Financial vampires may seem to have the upper hand right now, but the natural world demons they/we have unleashed will, in the end, prove to be much more powerful than any financial instrument, weapon, or government.

I’ve said it before, stolen it from James Kunstler, actually, but–get yourselves plenty of popcorn and drinking water, and a good umbrella.  It’s gonna be a great show from the cheap seats.  The expensive seats?  You wouldn’t wanna be in those.  That’s where things land when they go off the track.

music:  Jackson Browne, “Before the Deluge





PALESTINE: A PLACE FOR CRUCIFIXIONS

7 03 2009

I was brought up Jewish.  As a child I went to temple regularly, went to Sunday school (It was a Reform temple, so we had Sunday school–and I’m sure some people will say that’s where I started going wrong!), was confirmed at 16–declined Bar Mitzvah because I couldn’t, with a straight face, say “Today I am a man!” at the age of thirteen….

As a teenager, I started having radical leanings early.  I recently found an essay I wrote at the age of fourteen, in 1962, decrying the emptiness of suburban life in America.  lBut still, I saw the kibbutz movement in Israel as a wonderful, living embodiment of utopian democratic socialism, and thrilled to the action in Leon Uris’s Exodus as the brave Jews battled the dastardly British and the ignorant Arabs to establish a homeland where they could create their dreams and live in peace.

But a doubt started eating at my unquestioning support of Israeli policy,  a doubt that sprang from a seed at the heart of Judaism.  One of the most highly regarded Jewish scholars of all time, Moses Maimonides, was asked, somewhat in jest (because we Jews are known for our loquaciousness) if he could tell somebody the essence of Judaism while standing on one foot.  The great Maimonides took his foot off the ground long enough to say “Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you.”

The more I have learned about the Palestinians, the more I have sighed and cried about my fellow Jews.  I cannot reconcile the way the ostensibly Jewish state of Israel has treated the Palestinians–from the getgo, from before Israeli independence.  There has always been arrogance, insensitivity, and a sense of entitlement.  “We’re coming back for our promised  land, so move along, now.”

The situation is full of ironies.  First of all, we have to understand who” the Palestinians”  really are:  they are the descendants of the original Jews of the Bible.   It’s true that many Jews left after the various unsuccessful revolts against the Romans, spreading Jewish practice and communities from England to India.  But many Jews, probably the poorer, peasant ones,  also stayed in Palestine, and were there when Mohammed’s armies swept out of the desert and made Islam the preferred religion.  By a process of what you could call spiritual osmosis, many of those who had been Jews became Muslims, just as the Buddhist populations of Afghanistan Pakistan, and central Asia became Muslim under similar circumstances.

Jews spread out from Palestine after the rebellions of the first and second centuries,. but apparently not very many reproduced.  DNA studies reveal that most European Jews seem to have descended from just four “women of Middle Eastern descent”  who arrived in  southern France around that time.

Then, there is the case of the Russian Jews, most of whom have no genetic tie to Palestine.  They came to their religion when the Khazar kingdom of southern Russia officially converted to Judaism around the year 800 CE.  Of course, this was not accomplished without some input, doubtless genetic as well as spiritual, from originally Palestinian Jews who settled in the ports of the Black Sea as Roman and Byzantine influence had penetrated in that direction and Palestine had become not such a good neighborhood–“too much gangs and violence,” as we might say now.

The irony starts to thicken when we look at one of the central issues that hangs up Israeli-Palestinian negotiations–the “right of return” that the Palestinians insist on, the right to return to the areas their (by now) grandparents were forced out of in the struggles of the late forties and fifties.  This, of course, would produce a state with a non-Jewish majority and so is consistently  and understandably rejected by the Jews, who nevertheless insist upon their “right of return” after an absence of a mere eighteen hundred years (or, in the case of Russian Jewry, no historical presence whatsoever).

Then there’s the inter linked questions of imperialism, racism,  and sustainability.  I had long criticized the goat- and sheep-herding practices practiced by native Palestinians (and everybody else in the Mediterranian basin)as  the major cause of the erosion and desertification of the Mediterranian basin, but after reading my fellow Jew Starhawk’s reporting on Palestinian culture, I began to understand that what we were looking at was a native, land-based, long term culture (the Palestinians) that, by itself, could be tweaked into sustainability–except that it has been overwhelmed by a very westernized, economically-oriented society that has no deep roots and apparently no sense that it is responsible for the long-term welfare of the whole  planet and not just a small circle of friends and relatives.  Yet, at the same time, Jewish culture is very vital and precious and nourishing to those who live in it.  What does anybody, ultimately, really want besides a sustainable, deeply rooted culture?  Even if you are too alienated to know what you really want, which most of us are, to some extent, that’s the only thing that will satisfy you.

But I digress…what we have, historically speaking, in Israel/Palestine, is a trickle of Europeans turning into a flood and overwhelming native resistance, not unlike what happened here in America, or what the Chinese have done to smaller cultures on the fringe of their homeland.  In the case of the Jews’ entry into Palestine, we were encouraged, first by our own history and mythology, and then by the sympathy of a world horrified by the genocide of the Jews of Europe in the thirties and forties.

That awful crime certainly demanded redress and restitution…but why did it have to come at the expensive of the Palestinian people, whose plight increasingly resembles that of the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe?  What difference is there, really, between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto?  What is the point, and what is the result, of allowing more and more Jewish settlements in supposedly Palestinian territories, of checkpoints and travel restrictions, arbitrary arrests and detainments, “targeted” assassinations that take out dozens of bystanders and maybe the object of the murder?  Is it because somehow guaranteeing Lebensraum for the Jewish people is a holier cause than guaranteeing Lebensraum for the German people?

No, the Palestinian response to the oppression inflicted on them by the Jews has not been morally perfect, but neither was the establishment of Israel.   When Menachem Begin became prime minister of Israel, it was conveniently forgotten that his methods of operation had been described by  Albert Einstein and many other leading lights of the late forties as

closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties, (inaugurating) a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community

…as well as the Palestine Arab community, where they committed at least one major massacre of innocent civilians.

So, the Palestinians protest their oppression with suicide bombers and rinky-dink rocket attacks. But who faults the Jews of  Warsaw for the pinpricks they inflicted on their Nazi tormentors?  And let us not forget that part of the “crime” for which Jesus was crucified was his attempt to throw the money changers of out of the temple.  It was a small act of insurrection, but it was enough of an excuse for the Romans to take action.  Like the modern-day Jews, The Romans had superior firepower and an unswerving conviction that they were doing the right thing.  Jesus was a Palestinian; today, instead of one special representative being singled out for torture and slow death, we have the painful prospect of millions of people herded into a small area that then serves as a shooting gallery for another group of people.  If this is still treating others the way we would like to be treated, the Jews of Israel are setting themselves up for a lot of pain.

So, what’s a “Green” solution to this mess, this clash of opposing forces with different, mutually exclusive agendas for the same small piece of turf?

This is not a problem that can be solved merely by agreements among leaders, any more than civil rights in the US was “solved” by the Supreme Court.  The solution to this conflict will start with an agreement between leaders, but it will then need to be solved by millions of people listening to each other and talking with each other in small groups where everyone can be heard.  Reconciliation is not abstract.  It is intensely personal.  We need to put an end to the cycle of vengeance.  We have to initiate  a new cycle of agreement , mutual consideration, and mutual aid, and we need to set an example here in the US first.

This is not an easy task, and the downward momentum of this conflict, which has been going on in one form or another since modern humans spread out of Africa and encountered Neanderthals in the Eastern Mediterranian, may be impossible to overcome.  If that is the case, then the prognosis for this planet and its people is grim.  If the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to be  a black hole, it will drag us all in, and that, along with the the climate change we have been too busy fighting to avert or prepare for,  will be the end of our aspirations for a peaceful, sustainable future.

“Treat other people the way you wish to be treated.”  If we allow the Palestinian crucifixion  to continue, can our own crucifixion be long in coming?

music:  Steve Earle, “Jerusalem





PEOPLE LISTENING TO EACH OTHER FOR A CHANGE

8 03 2008

Most of the news we hear from the Middle East is horrendous. Wars, rumors of wars, airstrikes on civilian targets, cluster bombs, car bombs, suicide bombers. It makes this grown man cry, especially because there seems to be no way out of it through the political process.

We’re all told to be very afraid of Middle Eastern Terrorists and that Israel is the bulwark of Western Democracy and needs to be unconditionally supported, but this is the root contradiction on which the whole mess rests. Most people have forgotten, if they ever knew, that some of Israel’s roots spring from the Jewish terrorist group the Irgun, which attacked and killed Arabs and British army personnel and even went so far as to blow up Britain’s headquarters in what was then called Palestine and the British embassy in Rome. And who was leading the Irgun? Menachem Begin, who later became Israel’s prime minister.

The situation was far from black and white. Beginning in the late twenties, Arabs increasingly resented and resisted the rising wave of European Jews who were trying to make room for more and more of themselves in the fragile, limited ecosystem of the western fertile crescent. Jews were desperate to escape from certain death in Europe, and felt they had a God-given “right of return,” which is just what the Arabs who are now refugees from their long-time homes in Palestine feel. It’s the same irresistible force meets immovable object story that fills the Old Testament, only with more people, better communications, and firepower and other technology that would have seemed absolutely miraculous in the days of Joshua and King David.

And what this has done is create suffering on a truly massive scale. About a million and a half very angry, desperate people are now confined in the Gaza strip, where a fearful Israeli army keeps ratcheting up the oppression because they’re afraid of what will happen if they stop. Conditions in Gaza are strangely parallel to those in the Warsaw Ghetto during WW II, except that Gaza has about four times as many people and has lasted for decades, while the Nazi concentration and persecution of Polish Jews was over and done with in four years. One difference, of course, is that the Nazis had a system of death camps to which they sent their Jewish victims, and the Israelis have no such outlet. Thank goodness.

As an aside, I have to say that I cannot consider Israel a “Jewish” state. Growing up Jewish, I was taught that the basis of Judaism is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and that doesn’t seem to me to be the principle on which the State of Israel is operating with its Muslim neighbors.

So, what can be done to defuse this ticking time bomb? Just as with the US defense budget, it’s another case in which the resources that could be used to make everybody’s lives better are all tied up in weaponry that seems to be necessary because everybody feels so deprived and threatened. The US political establishment is utterly clueless, with McCain chanting “Bomb, bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” and Obama and Hillary singing backup. The good news is, there is some under-the-radar citizen diplomacy going on.

I recently received a forwarded email from Jack Kornfield, the meditation teacher, about his experiences meeting with Muslims and Jews in Palestine and Israel, and it was some of the first good news I’d heard from that troubled land in a long, long time.

While the governments and the militias duke it out, a lot of people on both sides of the conflict are realizing that there can be no victory through violence, that there can only be finding a way to live with each other, which can only be found by Israelis and Palestinians not just talking to each other, but listening to each other.

Listening, really listening, to somebody you’ve been brought up to hate and fear is not easy, but what Jack Kornfield reports is that there are several techniques that have been developed through the years for use in far less charged settings that work very well to create frameworks for dialogue for these polarized people.

One of the techniques is called “Non-Violent Communication.” To quote from the Non-Violent Communication website,

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is sometimes referred to as compassionate communication. Its purpose is to strengthen our ability to inspire compassion from others and to respond compassionately to others and to ourselves. NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves and hear others by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.

We are trained to make careful observations free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others, and to identify and clearly articulate what we are wanting in a given moment. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

I have been aware of Non-Violent Communication for some time and thought of it as one of those New-Agey feelgood thingies for rich white folks with too much time and money, but the news that it works in the fiery crucible of Israeli-Palestinian relationships has definitely upped my opinion of it.

Another technique that has worked very well to get both sides of this conflict together has been Compassionate Listening, which, according to its originators,

requires suspending our judgments and listening from an open heart. Through the skills of reflective listening and non-adversarial questioning the compassionate listener generates healing in the heart of the speaker. Once this healing has begun, the compassionate listener builds a bridge by the humanization of the other. When both sides understand the suffering of the other, reconciliation can begin.

Two of their favorite sayings are

“An enemy is someone, whose story we haven’t heard.” and “ Behind every act of violence is an unhealed wound.”

Gene Hoffman, one of the founders of the movement, has written,

Reconciliation is the most difficult of peace processes because it requires the resumption of relationship between those in conflict. It means the coming together in harmony of those who have been sundered.

My sense is that if we would reconcile, we must make radically new responses to the radically new situation in a world where violence is mindless, hopeless, meaningless and almost every nation has nuclear weapons — if they don’t now, they soon will. We must move beyond initiatives we formerly used, into realms we have not yet considered, not yet discovered, trusting that there are always open to us new divine possibilities.

We peace people have always listened to the oppressed and disenfranchised. That’s very important. One of the new steps I think we should take is to listen to those we consider ‘the enemy’ with the same openness, non-judgment, and compassion we bring to those with whom our sympathies lie.

Everyone has a partial truth, and we must listen, discern, acknowledge this partial truth in everyone – particularly those with whom we disagree.

This kind of approach, I think, is true radicalism, because it goes to the root of the problem. Jack Kornfield, in a talk on meditation that he gave during his visit to Israel and Palestine, said that people needed to

“drop below the levels of identity that we make, such as ‘I am a man,’ ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a Muslim,’ ‘I am a Jew.’ You feel the humanity… that we all share, and to recognize that in a deep way… changes the way you relate to everybody,”

He continued

“Here in Israel, there are so many differences [stemming from] identity. The question for us as human beings is how can we respect identity, but also see that it is not the whole truth, and that there is a deeper truth we all share.

The third technique that Kornfield reported on was Trauma Therapy–and, in a land where violence is pandemic, that makes sense even before you find out the details. Most Americans (except the ones who have been to Iraq) have not had to deal with having their homes bulldozed while they were still in them, or being at the mall when somebody blows herself up and takes fifty people with her. We lead such insulated lives. Our credit is drying up and our homes are losing value? Big deal! Nobody’s firing rockets at us or dropping cluster bombs in our yard or assassinating our family members while they’re driving down the road.

Here’s some of what Trauma Therapy does for those who have lived through, and are stuck in, that kind of hell:

Narrative trauma processing is the first of three basic tasks in trauma therapy …. In our approach the more conventional goal of dealing with the meaning of the trauma comes only after narrative closure is achieved and the traumatic dissociation is repaired. Only then do we expect the person to be able to gain a perspective that makes it possible to change one’s assumptive world and replace the mythology of being hopelessly vulnerable. The goal of narrative processing is for the patient to reconstruct a complete narrative of the traumatic experience. That is, we ask patients to tell the story of their traumas. The creation of a detailed coherent narrative with a beginning, middle, and end brings together the fragmented images of the trauma. Telling the story from start to finish, complete with all the details is crucial to helping patients reverse their dissociation.

The language is rather academic, but I think you get the point.

These are real things that really help real people with their real problems. They have nothing to do with bloviated peace conferences that are little more than photo ops for the pirate captains of the world.

They are far more effective than body armor, attack helicopters, high-tech surveillance, or car bombs. They are limited in that they have, as yet, no power to stop those who prefer the tools of destruction and domination, nor can they, at this point, change the horrific life conditions imposed by such oppressors, whether they be Israeli, Palestinian, Chinese, or American. But they provide a way to rehumanize those who are caught in the web of their own violence.

Accomplishing that task one person at a time seems agonizingly slow, but this movement is growing and gathering energy. It, just as assuredly as solar buildings and workplace democracy, is part of the technology we need to know and spread to create a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world.

And, by the way, I did, after some searching, find who had originated the email that tipped me off to this saintly reconciliation effort. It came from Ralph Metzner, famed for his early association with Tim Leary and Richard Alpert. Thank you Ralph, you done us proud.

music: Steve Earle, “Jerusalem”





CENSORSHIP BY SOAP

8 09 2006

So, about thirty-four percent of Americans think the government at least allowed the World Trade Center attacks to happen, and the other sixty-six percent are still living in la-la land, a world where the important news is whether Jon-Benet’s murderer has finally been found, and a Mormon polygamist somehow rates inclusion on the FBI’s ten most wanted list for schtupping underage girls. Next thing you know, Woody Allen will be in their crosshairs. Soap! That’s what these kind of stories are! They’re not news, they’re soap!

Speaking of soap and strategically placed distractions, the so-called breakup of the so-called plot to create liquid explosives from household items smuggled on airplanes is ludicrous from so many dimensions I hardly know where to begin. First of all, most of the people arrested didn’t have passports, let alone airline tickets, at the time they were arrested. There was no evidence most of them had even applied for passports.

As for making liquid explosives on board an airplane, columnist/cartoonist Ted Ralls quoted Britain’s highly respected technology magazine, The Register, to this effect:

“First,” wrote The Register, “you’ve got to get adequately concentrated hydrogen peroxide. This is hard to come by, so a large quantity of the three per cent solution sold in pharmacies might have to be concentrated by boiling off the water…Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drink bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It’s all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don’t forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked “perishable foods”), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You’re going to need them.

“It’s best to fly first class and order champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate…Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide/acetone mixture into the ice water bath (champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you’ll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you’ll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

“After a few hours–assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven’t overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities–you’ll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.”

The Register’s opinion of those who believe they have thwarted a terror plot?

“Certainly, if we can imagine a group of jihadists smuggling the necessary chemicals and equipment on board, and cooking up TATP in the lavatory, then we’ve passed from the realm of action blockbusters to that of situation comedy.”

THIS is the substance of a terror threat? This is the kind of shibboleth Bush is waving about to keep his junta in power? And most American critics of the Bush junta’s trumpeting of this comedy of errors are merely pointing out that the Brits cracked the story by “old fashioned police work,” and not with the dubiously constitutional tools of the Patriot Act? They’re not pointing to the flimsiness of the “plot,” itself?

In spite of the fact that the majority of the American press is willing to accept having objects like this stuck up their rectums, there are honest, idealistic, crusading journalists who are dedicated to getting the truth to the public. And for you, the fearless few, the Bush junta has plans.

Back in 1917, at the height of war hysteria—this was the last time antiwar activists were actually lynched, in case you didn’t know—Congress passed a law called “The Espionage Act” which cranked up the penalties for disclosing government secrets. There was, to Congress’s credit, a debate on whether journalists should be exempted from the law, and journalists were, in fact, exempted. But now comes Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, he who called the Geneva Conventions “quaint,” and says the government is considering whether to prosecute journalists under this law anyway. Hey, he’s opted out of the “reality-based community,” AND he’s the AG, he can do whatever he wants, right? Fly, walk on water, imprison people for years without bringing charges against them, prosecute people under laws that don’t apply, leap over tall buildings in a single bound,whatever. But, I digress.

Here’s something: this government is making things secret that didn’t used to be secret. Details about the US missile program from the fifties, that have been in the public domain for decades, are now top secret again. If you have that information and publish it, you could be prosecuted. Hey, terrorists might use them to make missiles. And another thing: time and time again the government has stonewalled investigations and prosecutions of their illegal conduct “because they could compromise national security.” Under this doctrine, they could prosecute those bringing the suits for mentioning the matter in the first place. Plus, I just found out that journalist Greg Palast is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for the newly criminal offence of taking pictures of an oil refinery. Watch where you point that camera, folks.

Meanwhile, the news that a judge has found that the National Security Administration is acting in violation of the constitution can still be swamped in the media by a ten-year old murder case. With such voluntary censorship by burial in trivia, do we really need the heavy-handed kind? Mr. Cheney apparently thinks so.

OK, the good news/bad news—only a third, or nearly a third, of Americans are highly suspicious of the official twin towers story. When we started in on all this, not even a third of our population thought the Iraq war was unnecessary, but now a majority understand, at least, that it’s a bad idea. May the educating process continue.

music: Jackson Browne, “Lives In the Balance








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