Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Human Rights Protesters Released


Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly were
released recently from California jails, after serving five month
sentences as federal prisoners.

The two were sentenced last October in Tucson, following their
November, 2006 arrests at Ft. Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona,
during a nonviolent protest of military involvement in U.S. torture
policy. After Magistrate Judge Hector Estrada forbid them to use
international law in their defense, the two pled no contest to
charges of trespass and failure to obey an officer on October 17 and
were taken into custody.

Both men plan to return briefly to Arizona, where supporters are
invited to join them in a peaceful vigil against torture from 2-3
p.m. Sunday, March 16, outside the main gate of Ft. Huachuca, at Fry
Boulevard and Buffalo Soldier Trail, Sierra Vista, Arizona.

For more information, including complete background on the case and
legal briefs about torture and international law, visit

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vets Serve Notice to Bush and Cheney

Vets For Peace to Deliver Citizen Arrest Warrants for Bush and Cheney
by Kathlyn Stone

Backed by family members and supporters all across the nation, U.S. military veterans served citizen arrest warrants for George Bush and Dick Cheney in Washington, D.C.

The warrants are "for multiple violations of the Constitution and international war crimes," according to a statement issued by Veterans for Peace, a national organization of men and women who served in wars and military conflicts beginning with the Spanish Civil War in 1936 through the present war in Iraq.

"It has long been apparent that our Constitution is under attack and has been deliberately and relentlessly undermined by domestic enemies -- indeed, by our highest government officials -- who took the same oath we did and have violated it by waging a war of aggression and committing war crimes in Iraq," according to Veterans for Peace president, Elliott Adams in explaining the warrants.

The warrants will be delivered to the National Archives that houses the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The patriots will also retake their military oath, which includes the words: "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The military veterans will hold a rally at the National Mall and lead a march for peace that includes stops at other sites including the Museum of Native Americans, where they will be joined by musician Buffy St. Marie in a ceremony honoring Native Americans, the Peace Monument on the Capitol grounds, and they will protest inadequate health care funding for returning soldiers and veterans at McPherson Square which faces the Veterans' Administration headquarters.

Veterans for Peace members follow a "responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work with others to increase public awareness of the costs of war...(and) to abolish war as an instrument of national policy," according to the organization's statement of purpose.

"This war has cost too many lives and resources that should have been spent on health, education and other needs," said Army Col. (ret) Ann Wright, a member of Veterans for Peace. "The war must be stopped before more Iraqis and Americans are killed, and the sooner the better. Our military presence in Iraq must end so Iraqis can begin to rebuild their lives."

Chattanooga Hosts Peace Rally

by Wes Rehberg

The peace and anti-occupation rally on Saturday March 22 organized by
Chattanooga's United for Democracy and Justice became strongly
focused on an anti-DU munitions message as well as a rally against
U.S. involvement in the death and destruction in Iraq. Bringing Herb
Reed, Iraq war veteran, to Chatt helped a great deal. More than 100
persons marched and then rallied, a good turnout.

Even more significant, I think, was the concientización on DU
munitions, the raised consciousness and conscience on the issue of
DU's toxic and radioactive contamination. Herb had stayed while in
this part of Tennessee with a Vietnam war veteran and his
theologically sensitive spouse, Terry and Kate Stulce, who witnessed
his needs for meds like morphine, methadone, a muscle relaxant, and
others -- and he dined with the dozen of us or so for breakfast and
dinner who organized the march and rally, so folks here had an
opportunity for close contact.

Plus, we had radio airtime on popular talk shows in town, an hour on
Friday and Saturday each -- Joy Day, a key local organizer, and I
addressed things on Friday on Fred the Show, with Jeff Styles, who's
open to this kind of conversation; and Herb and Terry spoke on
Straight Talk Radio on Saturday, with John Wolfe, a left-wing lawyer
who co-hosts the show with a right-wing commentator. Local print
media covered the rally, but just one connected the DU and war/
occupation issue, even though a reporter for the big paper in town
heard the talks. The other rally speakers - Chris Lugo, Kate, and
Sandy Lusk, picked up on the message as well.

And, amazingly, we seem to have collected enough in donations at the
rally to cover Herb's airfare from South Carolina and shuttle-from-
Atlanta costs, plus expenses for park fees, band (Mesa Rio) and sound-
system rental -- all the out-of-pocket expenses we organizers had
fronted. Herb obviously got his message across.

Hopefully the DU weapons message will remain solidly connected to the
other heinous crimes the U.S. is committing abroad and at home.

Reminder of the web site for the documentary, "Contaminated Forever":

Wes Rehberg

W & E Rehberg
Wild Clearing
skype: wildclearing

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let's Bring the Troops Home Now

In a recent poll, a sobering 47% of Americans said that we should stay the course in Iraq, reasoning that now that our troops are there, we need to stay. Most responded by saying that if we pull out it will be a disaster for the Iraqi people. Americans feel this way in spite of the facts regarding the ongoing occupation of Iraq. The truth is that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis want Americans out of Iraq now. The security that we are providing in Iraq is mostly for our own service members. Most of the tax dollars that we spend on Iraqi security goes to protecting convoy lines, building and supplying military bases and paying for resources that we are expending funds on specifically because we are there.

March 19th marks the fifth anniversary of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. It has been nearly as long since president Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier with the words 'mission accomplished' boldly printed on a banner behind him. Since that time nearly 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq and tens of thousands have been injured. No one knows exactly how many Iraqis have been killed. Some estimates are as low as 100,000 and some estimates are as high as 600,000 people. What we do know is that we have turned Iraq into a living hell where people get blown to bits while trying to go shopping, get shot by private contractors while driving down the street, get tortured by American military personnel after being caught up in security sweeps and watch neighbor kill neighbor over sectarian concerns bubbling from below the surface of extreme poverty, suffering and trauma.

The Iraqi war is a shameful war and one of the worst policy decisions of the contemporary era. As the United States teeters on the brink of depression and watches its currency value plummet we continue to waste our national treasury on a war that was based on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction that never existed. It is time for Americans to come to terms with the reality of what we have done. Those who supported the war and voted for it followed the foolish emotionalism generated by the current administration after the traumatic experience of the Sept. 11th attacks. It is time for us to admit that the war was really an act of vengance, a blind lashing out at some Arab nation as retribution for the lives lost in 2001.

The Bush administration understood the pain and the anger of the American people, and chose to manipulate us for the economic advantage of a few private corporations who have received the lion's share of contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The President has betrayed the trust of the American people, the armed services and the international community. Opposition to the continuation of the war has become a moral issue. Shortly after the American invasion of Iraq, in a rare admission of dissent in the American public, the President said you are either with the 'us' or you are with the terrorists. In hindsight, it is clear that Bush and his cronies are the ones who are at odds with the American people and the democratic traditions of this nation.

The Iraqi war will be remembered as the defining international conflict of the first decade of the 21st century. The verdict is already out on this occupation and we are the losers. We have lost our honor. We unilaterally attacked a nation which had not attacked us and had not declared war on us. We imprisoned their citizens and tortured them. We dropped bombs on their houses and murdered their children. We spent hundreds of billions of dollars and accepted the lies of our President and his administration. We have lost our soul as a nation. It is time to restore our fallen honor and reconcile ourselves to the evil that we have done out of fear and a desire for retribution. Only then can we begin to truly live up to the promise of what our nation can be. It is time to bring the troops home and end the occupation of Iraq.

Chris Lugo for US Senate
9 Music Sq So #164
Nashville, TN 37203

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Open Letter to the US Left

An Open Letter to the US Left on the Relevance of Culture
by David Rovics

Being an activist is a hard, relatively thankless, generally unpaid job. There are some really wonderful people who are going to be offended by this essay, and I apologize in advance if you’re one of them, but what I say here had to be said. We’re all hopefully trying to make the world a better place, and sometimes that means having open disagreements. I welcome any and all feedback, public or private, and of course feel free to post and distribute this essay wherever you see fit.

Last weekend I sang at an antiwar protest in downtown Portland, Oregon, on the fifth anniversary of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq. In both its good and bad aspects, the event downtown was not unusual. Hard-working, unpaid activists from various organizations and networks put in long hours organizing, doing publicity, and sitting through lots of contentious meetings in the weeks and months leading up to the event. On the day of the event, different groups set up tents to network with the public and talk about matters of life and death. There was a stage with talented musicians of various musical genres performing throughout the day, and a rally with speakers in the afternoon, followed by a march. Attendance was pathetically low. In large part I’m sure this was due to the general sense of discouragement most people in the US seem to feel about our ability to effect change under the Bush regime. It was raining especially hard by west coast standards, and that also didn’t help.

The crowd grew to it’s peak size during the rally and march, but was almost nonexistent before the 2 pm rally. There was only a trickle of people visiting the various tents prior to the rally, and the musicians on the stage were playing to a largely nonexistent audience. The musical program, scheduled to happen from 10 am to 6 pm, was being billed as the World War None Festival. The term “festival” was contentious, however, and Pdx Peace, the local peace coalition responsible for the rally, couldn’t come to consensus on using the term “festival.” In their publicity they referred to the festival as an “action camp.” The vast majority of people have no idea what an “action camp” is, including me, and I’ve been actively involved in the progressive movement for my entire adult life. The local media, of course, also had no idea what an “action camp” was, and any publicity that could have been hoped for from them did not happen. Word did not spread about the event to any significant degree, at least in part because people didn’t know what they were supposed to be spreading the word about. Everybody from all political, social, class and ethnic backgrounds knows what a festival is, but certain elements within Pdx Peace didn’t want to use the term to describe what was quite obviously meant to be a festival (as well as a rally and march). Anybody above the age of three can tell you that when you have live music on a stage outdoors all day, that’s called a festival. But not Pdx Peace.

Why? I wasn’t at the meetings -- thankfully, I’m just a professional performer, not an organizer of anything other than my own concert tours, so I only know second-hand about what was said. There’s no need to name the names of individuals or the smaller groups involved with the coalition in this case -- the patterns are so common and so well-established that the names just don’t matter. Some people within the peace coalition were of the opinion that the war in Iraq was too serious a matter to have a festival connected to it. Because, I imagine, of some combination of factors including the nature of consensus decision-making, sectarianism on the part of a few, and muddled thinking on the part of some others, those who thought that a festival should happen -- and should be called a festival -- were overruled. My hat goes off to the World War None Festival organizers (a largely separate entity from Pdx Peace), and to those within Pdx Peace who tried and failed to call the festival what it was, and to organize a well-attended event.

As to those who succeeded in sabotaging the event, I ask, why is so much of the left in the US so attached to being so dreadfully boring? Why do so many people on the left apparently have no appreciation for the power and importance of culture? And when organizers, progressive media and others on the left do acknowledge culture, why is it usually kept on the sidelines? What are we trying to accomplish here?

It wasn’t always this way. Going back a hundred years, before we had a significant middle class in this country, before we had a Social Security system, Worker’s Compensation, Medicare, or anything approximating the actual (not just on paper) right to free speech, when most of the working class majority in this country were living in utter destitution and generally working (when they could find work) in extremely dangerous conditions for extremely long hours, often in jobs that required them to be itinerant, required them to forego the pleasure of having families that they might have a chance to see now and then, out of these conditions the Industrial Workers of the World was born.

The IWW at that time was a huge, militant union that could bring industrial production in the US to a halt, and on various regional levels, quite regularly did. It was a multi-ethnic union led by women and men of a wide variety of backgrounds, from all over the world. It’s most well-known member to this day was a singer-songwriter named Joe Hill, and he was only one of many of the musician-organizers that constituted both the leadership and membership of the IWW. While starving, striking, or being attacked by police on the streets of Seattle, Boston and everywhere in between, the IWW sang. Their publications were filled with poems, lyrics and cartoons. Everybody knew the songs and sung them daily. Some of the songs were instructive, meant to educate workers in effective organizing techniques. Others were battle cries of resistance, and still others celebrated victories or lamented defeats. Their cause was nothing short of the physical survival and spiritual dignity of the working class. They put their bodies on the line and were often killed and maimed for it, but they transformed this society profoundly, and they sang the whole way through. Was their cause serious? As serious as serious can get. And to this day, multitudes around the world remember the songs of Joe Hill, Ralph Chaplin, and T-Bone Slim, long after their speeches and pamphlets have been forgotten. Like many other singer-songwriters throughout the history of the class war, Joe Hill was executed by a firing squad in 1916. Why? Exactly because he was so serious -- a serious threat to the robber barons who ruled this country.

A very different, much more rigidly ideological organization that rose to prominence during the declining years of the IWW was the Communist Party. This is an organization whose early years are within the living memory of close friends of mine, such as my dear friend Bob Steck, who died last year at the age of 95, and spent most of his life fighting for humanity. I spent hundreds of hours over the course of many years interrogating Bob about his life and times (at least ten hours of which are recorded for posterity on cassettes somewhere). The Communist Party was very different from the IWW in many ways, but in it’s heyday it was also a huge, grassroots movement, whose leadership and membership took many cards from the IWW’s deck, including their emphasis on the vital importance of culture.

When Bob talked about the CP’s orientation with regards to organizing the revolution in the USA, he said there were three primary components: the unions, the streets, and the theater. Fighting for the welfare of the working class by organizing for the eight-hour day and decent wages (largely through the communist-led Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO), organizing the starving millions in the streets into the unions of the unemployed, and -- just as importantly -- fighting for the hearts and minds of the people through music, theater, and art. Among the musical vanguard of the communist movement of the 1930’s were people who are still household names today for millions of people in the US and around the world -- Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, to name a few. Traveling theater companies brought the work of Clifford Odetts and Bertoldt Brecht to the people, educating and inspiring militant action throughout the US. I remember Bob describing the audience reaction to one of the early performances of Waiting for Lefty in New York City, the gasps of excitement and possibility in the packed theater when the actors on stage shouted those last lines of the play -- “Strike! Strike! Strike!” Ten curtain calls later, everyone in the theater was ready to take to the streets, and did.

Bob and his comrades organized and sang in New York, just as they sang going into battle in Spain in the first fight against fascism, the one in which the US was on the side of the fascists. Nothing unusual about that -- soldiers on every side in every war sing as they go into battle, whether the cause is just or unjust. They and their leadership, whether fascist or democrat, socialist or anarchist, know that the songs are just as powerful as the guns (regardless of what Tom Lehrer said). You can’t fire if you’re running away, and if you want to stand and fight you have to sing. Talk to anybody involved with the Civil Rights movement and they’ll tell you, if we weren’t singing, we surely would have lost heart and ran in the face of those hate-filled, racist police and their dogs, guns, and water cannon. Talk to anyone who lived through the 60’s -- who remembers any but the most eloquent of the speeches by the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Mario Savio? But millions remember the songs. Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Brown, Aretha Franklin were the soundtrack to the struggle. Open any magazine or newspaper in this country to this day and you will find somewhere in the pages an unaccredited reference to a line in a Bob Dylan song. (Try it, it’s fun.)

Around the world it’s the same. Dedicated leftists may sit through the speeches of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, but transcendent poetry of Pablo Neruda and the enchanting melodies of Silvio Rodriguez cross all political and class lines. You will have to try hard to find a Spanish-speaking person anywhere in the Americas who does not love the work of that Cuban communist, Silvio. You'll have to search hard to find a Latino who does not have a warm place in their heart for that murdered Chilean singer-songwriter, Victor Jara.

Talk to any Arab of any background, no matter how despondent they may be about the state of the Arab world, try to find one whose eyes do not light up when you merely mention the names Mahmoud Darwish, Marcel Khalife, Feyrouz, Um Khultum. Try to find anyone in Ireland but the most die-hard Loyalist who doesn’t tear up when listening to the music of Christy Moore, whatever they think of the IRA. And ask progressives on the streets of the US today how they came to hold their political views that led them to take the actions they are now taking, and as often as not you will hear answers like, “I discovered punk rock, the Clash changed my life,” or “I went to a concert of Public Enemy, and that was it.”

Music -- and art, poetry, theater -- is powerful (if it’s good). The powers that be know this well. Joe Hill and Victor Jara are only a small fraction of the musicians killed by the ruling classes for doing what they do. By the same token, those who run this country (and so many other countries) know the power of music and art to serve their purposes -- virtually every product on the shelf in every store in the US has a jingle to go along with it, and often brilliant artistic imagery to go along with the jingle, shouting at us from every billboard and TV commercial. (The ranks of Madison Avenue are filled with brilliant minds who would rather be doing something more fulfilling with their creative energy.)

Enter 2008. Knowing the essential power of music, the very industry that sells us music mass-produced in Nashville and LA has done their best to kill music. For decades, the few multi-billion-dollar corporations that control the music business and the commercial airwaves have done their best to teach us all that music is something to have in the background to comfort you as you try to get through another mind-numbing day of meaningless labor in some office building or department store. It’s something to help you seduce someone perhaps, or to help you get over a breakup. It is not something to inspire thought, action, or feelings of compassion for humanity (other than for your girlfriend or boyfriend).

There are always exceptions to prove the rule, but by and large, the writers and performers in Nashville and LA know what they’re being paid to do, and what they’re being paid not to do -- if it ever occurred to them to do anything else in the first place. But even more potently, all those millions of musicians aspiring to become stars, or at least to make a living at their craft, know either consciously or implicitly that any hope of success rides on imitating the garbage that comes out of these music factories. Of course, there are the many others who write and sing songs (and create art, plays, screenplays, etc.) out of a need to express themselves or even out of a desire to make a difference in the world, but they are systematically kept off of the airwaves, out of the record deals, relegated largely to the internet, very lucky if they might manage to make a living at their craft. Fundamentally, though, they are made to feel marginal, and are looked at by much of society as marginal, novelties, exotic. Although they are actually the mainstream of the (non-classical) musical tradition in the US and around the world, although the kind of music they create has been and is still loved by billions around the world for centuries, in the current climate, especially in present-day US society, they are a marginal few.

And no matter how enlightened we would like to think we are, the progressive movement is part of this society, for good and for ill. Most of us have swallowed this shallow understanding of what music is. The evidence is overwhelming. There are, of course, exceptions. Folks like the organizers of the annual protests outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia -- School of the Americas Watch -- are well aware of the potency of culture, and use music and art to great effect, inspiring and educating tens of thousands of participants every November.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ideologically-driven people who have turned hatred of culture into a sort of art. I have to smile when I think of the small minority of Islamist wackos who tried to storm the stage at one rally I sang at in DC in 2002, shouting, “No music! No music!” Security for the stage was being provided by the Nation of Islam, who faced off with this group of Islamists, who ultimately decided that throwing down with the Jewels of Islam behind the stage that day wasn’t in their best interests, apparently.

But much more prevalent, and therefore much scarier, are groups like the ANSWER “Coalition.” (I put “coalition” in quotes because I have yet to meet a member of a group that theoretically makes up the “coalition” that has had any say in what goes on at their rallies, although the leadership of ANSWER is of course happy to receive the bus-loads of people that their “coalition” members bring to their rallies, which seems to be the only thing that makes ANSWER a “coalition.”) ANSWER, last I heard, is run by the ultra-left sectarian group known as the Worker’s World Party, which I strongly suspect is working for the FBI. (Although as Ward Churchill says, you don’t need to be a cop to do a cop’s job.)

Millions of people in the US who regularly go to antiwar protests are unaware of who is organizing them. They just want to go to an antiwar protest. ANSWER has become almost synonymous with “antiwar protest,” to the extent that many people on the periphery of the left (such as most people who go to their protests) refer to antiwar protests as “ANSWER protests,” as in “I went to an ANSWER protest,” whether or not the protest was actually organized by ANSWER. (Just as many people say “I was listening to NPR” when they were actually listening to a community radio station that has nothing to do with NPR, broadcasting programs such as Democracy Now!, which the vast majority of NPR stations still will not touch with a ten foot pole.)

I always find it unnerving and intriguing that ANSWER protests always seem to be mentioned on NPR and broadcast on CSPAN, whereas rallies organized by the bigger and actual coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), almost never manage to make it onto CSPAN or get covered by the corporate media. ANSWER always seems to get the permits, whereas UFPJ seems to be systematically denied them. Anyway, I digress (a little). I tend to avoid anything having to do with ANSWER or the little-known, shadowy Worker’s World Party, but a few years ago I was driving across Tennessee listening to CSPAN on my satellite radio, and they broadcast the full four hours of an ANSWER protest in DC. I sat through it because I wanted to hear it from beginning to end, for research purposes, and Tennessee is a long state to drive through from west to east, had to do something during that drive. There was one song in the four-hour rally. Although I’ve been an active member of the left for twenty years, I recognized almost none of the names of the people who spoke at the rally. Every speech was full of boring, tired rhetoric, as if they were out of a screenplay written by a rightwing screenwriter who was trying to make a mockery out of leftwing political rallies. Judging from the names of the organizations involved, very few of which I recognized either, they were mostly tiny little Worker’s World Party front groups. And since the Worker’s World Party apparently doesn’t have any musicians in their pocket, there was no music to speak of. (Or, quite probably I suspect, they don't want music at their rallies because they don't want their rallies to be interesting.)

ANSWER is an extreme example, but a big one that most progressives are unfortunately familiar with, whether they know who ANSWER (or Worker’s World) is or not. Inevitably, most people leave ANSWER protests feeling vaguely used and demoralized -- aside from those who manage to stay far enough away from the towers of speakers so they can avoid hearing all the mindless rhetoric pouring out of them. Contrast the mood with the protests at the gates of Fort Benning, where most people leave feeling hopeful and inspired.

I know I have no more hope of influencing the leadership of Worker’s World with this essay than I have of influencing the behavior of the New York City police department with it. But neither of these organizations are my target audience. Those who I hope to reach are those who are genuinely trying to create rallies and other events in the hopes of influencing and inspiring public opinion, in the hopes of inspiring people to action, in the hopes of winning allies among the apolitical or even among conservatives. The people I hope to reach are those who have been unwittingly influenced by the corporate music industry’s implicit definition of what music and culture is and is not.

And, here we go, I would count among this group most of the hard-working, loving and compassionate people who are organizing rallies, who are organizing actions, who are organizing unions, and who are creating progressive media on the radio, on community television and on the internet in the US today.

I’d like to pause for a moment to make a disclosure. I am a professional politically-oriented musician, what the corporate media (and many progressives) would call a “protest singer,” though I reject the term. I’m not sure what, if anything, I have to gain personally by publishing these thoughts, but I think it behooves me to point out that I am one of the lucky ones who has performed at rallies and in progressive and mainstream media for hundreds of thousands of people on a fairly regular basis throughout the world, and I would like to hope that my words here will not be understood as Rovics whining that he’s not famous enough. I speak here for culture generally, not for myself as an individual singer-songwriter.

My desire is to reach groups like Pdx Peace and their sister organizations throughout the country. These are genuinely democratic groups, real coalitions made up of real people, not sectarian, unaccountable groups like ANSWER. These are groups, in short, made up of my friends and comrades, but these are groups also made up of people who grew up in this society and therefore generally have a lot to learn about the power of culture to educate and inspire people. It is not good enough to have music on the stage as people are gathering to rally and as they are leaving to march. It’s not good enough to have a song or two sandwiched in between another half hour of speeches -- no matter how many organizations want to have speakers representing them on stage, or whatever other very legitimate excuses organizers have for making their events, once again, long and boring (even if they’re not as long or as boring as an ANSWER rally). It is not good enough for wonderful, influential radio/TV shows like Democracy Now! to have snippets of songs in between their interviews, when only two or three of those interviews each year are related to culture. It is a sorry state of affairs that NPR news shows do a better job of covering pop culture than Pacifica shows do in terms of covering leftwing culture.

The vast majority of the contemporary, very talented, dedicated musicians represented by, say, the "links" page on www.davidrovics.com, have rarely or never been invited to sing at a local or national protest rally (even if some few of us have, many times). The vast majority of progressive conferences do not even include a concert, or if they do, it's background music during dinner on Saturday night. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard Democracy Now! or Free Speech Radio News mention that a great leftwing artist is doing a tour of the US. The number of fantastic musicians out there who have even been played during the station breaks on Democracy Now! is a tiny fraction of those that are out there -- of the dozens of musicians featured on my "links" page for example, only a small handful have even been played once. It is shameful that it's easier to get a national, mainstream radio show in the UK or Canada to plug a tour of such a musician than it is to get any national Pacifica program to do this.

Radical culture needs to be fostered and promoted, front and center, not sidelined as people are gathering, or when the radio stations are doing station ID's. Because if the point is to inspire people to action, a song is worth a hundred speeches. If the point is to educate people, a three-minute ballad is easily equal to any book. (They'll read the book after they hear the song, not the other way around.)

It is often said that we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this country. It is us versus CNN, NPR, Bush, Clinton, etc. In this battle, style matters, not just content. In this battle, it is absolutely imperative that we remember that it is not only the minds we need to win, but the hearts. At least in terms of the various forms of human communication, there is nothing on Earth more effective in winning hearts than music and art. We ignore or sideline music and art at our peril. It's time to listen to the music.

(503) 863-1177

Sunday, March 16, 2008

James McCollum to Visit Nahsivlle

Separation of Church and State IS in the Constitution

The Nashville visit of Dr. James T. McCollum March 16 and 17 is in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the monumental decision of the Supreme Court decision which ruled that the public schools may not be used by religious groups to indoctrinate. But the significance is much broader. It applied the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the establishment clause of the First Amendment as it applied to public schools. This "doctrine of incorporation" means that the wording of the First Amendment now means more than it did when ratified. It means that not only Congress but no state or local government may do the things which formerly restricted only Congress..

What we hear frequently from people is that separation of church and state is not in the Constitution. We also hear, as I did recently at Legislative Plaza, that the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law ..." Those who say these things are either ignorant of our constitutional government, or (more likely) are people who are opposed to what the law states - and some of these are working toward some sort of theocratic government.

The words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution. However, the concept certainly does when you consider the religion clauses of the First Amendment and the interpretations of the Constitution, made under the authority of the Constitution. The meaning of the First Amendment was dealt with in a Supreme Court case in 1879, when the Court accepted Jefferson’s definition of it as given in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists. Then in the 1940's the doctrine of incorporation was applied to First Amendment cases..

The Constitution as originally written is no longer the same as it was when adopted. Women and people who are not landowners have the right to vote; slavery has been abolished; the people elect Senators. The 14th Amendment has been in effect since 1868, even though not applied fully to the religion clauses until the 1940's.

Article VI (no religious test for public office) is embodied in the original Constitution, and it gives evidence of the intent of the founders. It is sad that in Tennessee no legislator has the guts to sponsor a bill which would remove from the Tennessee Constitution Article IX, Section 2, which (contrary to the federal Constitution) states that "No person who denies the being of God. or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state." There is also Section 1, which says no priest or minister may be a Tennessee legislator. I have had students think that these are still in effect.

How does one justify this when one considers the words of Thomas Jefferson that religious liberty must encompass "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination" ?

Legislators are willing to sponsor changes to limit a woman’s right to obtain proper reproductive medical treatment when her life or health may depend upon it but not to eliminate antiquated sections.

The McCollum decision and three others of the High Court starting in 1947 came to this conclusion: "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a ‘wall of separation between church and State.’"

So separation of church and state IS firmly entrenched and has been made part of Constitutional law. Decisions now only decide where that wall lies. That is not an easy task.

Hear Dr. McCollum tell of his experiences as an elementary school student when his mother brought a case which helped change modern-day church-state jurisprudence. See our web site, send an e-mail, or check published listings.

CHARLES SUMNER, President-Emeritus, Nashville Chapter
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
President@Nashville-AU.org www.Nashville-AU.org

Saturday, March 8, 2008

FNB National Gathering in Nashville

Food Not Bombs Nat'l Gathering
March 28,29,30
312 South 11th Street

The national Food Not Bombs gathering is happening in Nashville this year. The dates are set at March 28-30th. We are inviting anyone that does FNB or believes in its mission to come party with is in the dirty south. There is an admittedly loose agenda; no big business to discuss, but really getting to know each other and building community with the people that share the same ethics and with whom we could potentially be working with on similarly-focused projects as the election rolls around. It's time to start turning up the heat nationally and make our presence known.

There will be time for us all to swap recipes, screen print shirts and patches, have free school classes on any skills people are willing to share, an unpermitted parade around the mayor's office to raise homeless awareness and scare the bejesus out of the rich folks, have a huge food sharing with the community, and whatever else happens when lots of fun people get together in a strange city with lots of honky tonks and whiskey.

We have plenty of accommodations for anyone who comes out. Lots of sleeping room and camping room. Bringing tents and sleeping bags would be wise, but it should be warm enough for everyone to be comfortable without 5 layers on. Indoor room is widely available, but if we have over a few hundred people, we will have to start camping. There will be plenty of food of course. We have several reliable resources we could tap into for all that. Also i can't recommend enough starting an account on couchsurfing.com where you have access to 1000+ people in Nashville that allow people to crash on their couches when traveling through.

Specifically, the addresses are 918 Ward Street, Nashville, TN 37207 and 312 South 11th street, Nashville, TN 37206

The Case for Conscientious Non-Voting

The Case for Conscientious Non-Voting Part 5
Blissfully Hopeless
by Joey King

It’s “silly season” again. That time when some of the populace of the United States is all a-twitter about voting. One word you will hear repeated by the candidates in this election is “hope.” In fact, Barack Obama even has a book entitled “The Audacity of Hope.” I have taken a lot of flack for advocating conscientious non-voting over the last four or five years, and I expect I’ll get even more for this latest installment subtitled, “Blissfully Hopeless.”

Why am I blissfully hopeless? Shouldn’t I be hopeful? What is hope? In the realm of politics, hope is the a) desire for an improved, future state that is b) based on the actions of others. The American candidates are offering hope; Marx offered it. Religions offer hope too. For this discussion, let’s call religions and politics “hope concepts.” In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Buddhist. I approach Buddhism as a philosophy, instead of a religion. It is not a hope concept; it’s just cause and effect.

All hope concepts propose to deliver a “new and improved” future state, but can they deliver it? No, of course there is no guarantee. Politicians and preachers keep promising a better, future state of affairs, and then invent excuses when hope doesn’t materialize. After all, who can predict the future right? Why does the public still buy it? Does the public want to be lied to or is it a genetic flaw? Shouldn’t we be leery when someone promises an unknowable/undeliverable future happiness? Shouldn’t that be a red flag? Happiness in the here-and-now is the only realistic goal we can achieve. Do politicians promise happiness-in-the-moment? Do the Abrahamic faiths offer relief from immediate suffering?

When anyone says, “I’ll promise to do such-and-such in 2 years to make your life better.” Your first response should be, “what if I die tomorrow?” Other examples include the generals, politicians, and reporters who say we should stay “6 more months” in Iraq. It is worth noting that, General Petraeus is now saying we may not know we have had success in Iraq until 6 months after it has occurred! What a worthless statement.

The vast majority of the population has been conditioned to accept the future happiness argument without question. It is sad, especially when hope seldom materializes. I am not advocating hedonism, just a guaranteed happiness in the here-and-now instead of an unknown future.

The second false proposition of the “hope concepts” is that your happiness depends on the actions of others. That is, of course, absurd. Marx said that the working class should band together throughout the world. Utopia could only be achieved through solidarity he opined. In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh said that liberals must be defeated, not reasoned with. Aren’t Rush and Karl Marx saying the same thing from different ends of the political spectrum?

Politicians say they will change the world if enough of us will come together and vote for them. Doesn’t this thinking necessarily create a class of “others?” What does Rush Limbaugh propose to do with defeated liberals? Kill them? Eat them? Has he never heard the term blowback? Gandhi (and most Eastern religious/philosophical figures) advocated the transformation of your enemies to your position. That way we don’t have to worry about killing them, or eating them, or blowback. Who will go down in history as the greater man Gandhi or Limbaugh?

Think of this simple question, how many people can you control? The answer is one of course, yourself. No matter how much we try, we can’t control our spouses, friends, children, or our political leaders. We are only setting ourselves up for frustration if we try to control others. In truth, your happiness is dependent not on others, but on your response to ever-changing conditions. Nothing stays the same for two consecutive seconds. We must adapt to these changes, or we are doomed to be unhappy.

The “hope concepts” toss this reality aside. In essence, practitioners of hope theorize that only “the tribe” can make you happy. No matter how innocent it starts, this thinking soon degenerates into “us” verses “them” thinking. Democrats vote against Republicans; Proletariats clash with the bourgeois; Christian believers try to convert non-believers; Islamic faithful warn against associating with the infidels. Do we attribute this phenomenon to the fact that we are herd animals, or is it another flaw in the human DNA?

Creating a class of “others.” is extremely dangerous. How many wars are fought against “others?” The simple answer is all of them. Humans have a hard time killing unless the elite can create a class of “others” in the minds of the public. How many elections have turned violent? The Democrats and the Republicans killed each other in this country from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. The Ku Klux Klan acted as the militant wing of the Democratic Party in the southern US for a hundred years. Kenya’s recent electoral violence is another example of tribal/political violence

When the mind creates separateness between any living being and/or the environment, the seeds of war are sewn. In reality, the universe is one enormous life form with many parts. It is inter-related; each action affects everything else. There is nothing permanent except our actions and the results on our actions. However, our guararenteed happiness consists of 2 parts: a) immediate b) individual. Bliss lies in our reaction to ever-changing conditions.

Sometimes hopes come true, but should we base our entire lives on hope? Many anti-war folks voted Democratic in 2006 hoping to end the war in Iraq. It did not end. Their hopes were dashed. Wouldn’t it be better to lead a non-violent personal life? Wars could not exist if enough people were pacifists. The first step is always ours to take; not the group’s. Frankly, society’s problems are far greater than politicians can solve. I am a man of reason. I reject all things unreasonable from monotheistic religions to horoscopes. “Faith” is the opposite of reason. Hope falls into a similar category, and I reject it as well.

If a candidate offers hope to me this election season, I will thank them and explain that I am blissfully hopeless, and I wish all living beings (including the politicians) the same.

Brattleboro Votes to Indict Bush/Cheney

Brattleboro, Vermont Votes to Indict Bush and Cheney
Measure Passes 2012 to 1795 in Heavy Voting

Brattleboro becomes one of the first cities, perhaps the first, in the United States to indict President Bush and Vice President Cheney for "crimes against the constitution." The measure listed below, was voted on today in Brattleboro Vermond. Turnout was heavy, nearing 50% and activists were out in strength to help get people to the polls.

The measure is symbolic since neither Bush nor Cheney have nay plans to visit Vermont soon. However, candidate Dobson from Maine introduced a similar measure in Kennebunkport, Maine (see below) which may come up for a vote in the summer.
This was reported to Michael Collins by Maine U.S. Senate Candidate Laurie Dobson who was supporting the election by taking exit polls today in Brattleboro.

The second American Revolution may begin in Brattleboro, Vermont should it becomes the first city in the United States to formally indict George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for "crimes against the Constitution." The town votes on the following resolution Tuesday, March 4, 2008:

"Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities? And shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them."

Barry Aleshnick is a Brattleboro resident and one of a small group of activists campaigning for passage of the initiative. In an interview on the evening of March 2nd, he said the failure of Congress to act on impeachment inspired the Vermont effort. Aleshnick described how Kurt Daims started the process by developing the resolution. At the outset, "Daims stood alone on streets gathering signatures," according to Aleshnick. Others joined the effort and they’re now working together to gain passage in Tuesday’s vote.

Aleshnick observed that Bush acts "like he’s above the law" when he invades nations for no reason" and engages in torture around the world. The local initiative is one readily available alternative available to citizens to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for "criminal behavior" in the absence of congressional action, he said. Aleshnick is "optimistic about passage of the resolution."

U.S. Senate Candidate Submits Charges against Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine
U.S. Senate candidate Laurie Dobson, (Ind.), charged Bush and Cheney with "crimes against the Constitution" in Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home to the Bush family. Dobson recently attracted national attention by proposing a moratorium on foreclosures, an approach later adopted in a restricted form by Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

In her February 26, 2008 submission, Dobson specified the crimes to the Board of Selectmen:" I, Laurie Dobson, am convinced that these individuals have committed war crimes." The action will be considered for a vote at the next town meeting a few months out.

Other State and Local Efforts to Indict and Impeach Bush

On Feb. 19, 2008, a resolution was presented to New Hampshire’s House of Representatives calling for impeachment. While the committee voted against recommending it to the full house, 11-5, the bill will be voted on in March. Reports from the hearing indicated a large crowd supportive of the amendment to the surprise of legislators.

The Vermont Senate passed a resolution calling for impeachment that passed 16 to 9 in the state senate in April 2007. This was the culmination of 40 Vermont town governments passing pro impeachment proposals starting in April 2006 when Newfane, Vermont Selectboard member Dan DeWalt introduced and helped pass a resolution calling for impeachment based on the war in Iraq and resulting deaths.
In early 2007, a formal resolution of impeachment was introduced in the Illinois State Assembly. This was based on the rules for the House of Representatives written by Thomas Jefferson. These rules allow state legislatures and grand juries to issue a formal referral for impeachment, one the U.S. House ore Representatives must consider. The rules, Section 603 state that:

"Inception of impeachment proceedings in the House: … there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury…" House Rules Manual, Thomas Jefferson

Illinois representative Karen Yarborough offered the resolution which focused on violating civil liberties and torture. It called for the immediate removal of Bush and Cheney. It was referred to committee and killed by the Assembly leadership.
Of the various efforts to start impeachment proceedings, the Illinois resolution had the best chance by invoking the Rules of the House or Representatives. These rules contain an injunction which makes clear that a "proposition to impeach is a question of high privilege in the House and at once supersedes business otherwise in order under the rules governing the order of business." (House Rules Manual, Thomas Jefferson)

Current Action Stems from anti Patriot Act Effort – 400 Cities Say No Tyranny
Grassroots efforts initiated in cities to impeach Bush are an extension of efforts begun by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) against the Patriot Act. More than 400 cities have passed resolutions calling for a refocus on civil liberties and repeal of all or part of the Patriot Act, passed by Congress. In 2002, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Denver, Colorado became the first two cities to pass resolutions objecting to the act. Davis, California and Wichita Falls, Texas were the most recent in 2007.

While these resolutions don’t focus on impeachment or indictment, they accuse the president and Congress of passing legislation counter to the intent and words of the Constitution, a charge specified by Brattleboro resolution.

With the president's disapproval rating at 78% and approval down to 19%, the effort in Brattleboro may be just an affirmative vote away from sparking city and town based efforts throughout the country to do what Congress won't do, end the reign of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Michael Collins
Washington, DC

SOA Founder to Speak in Nashville

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the American Bishop's pastoral, "The Challenge of Peace" and in remembrance of the anniversary of Archbishop Romero's assassination on March 24, 1980, several Catholic lay organizations in Nashville will sponsor Father Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest, who will speak about his experience in the military, in Vietnam, as well as his own conversion. These themes will lead to reflections on war and peace, moral questions concerning the activities of the School of the Americas, and issues of continuing violence and poverty in Latin America. Fr. Bourgeois is founder of the School of the Americas Watch, an office that does research on the School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, at Fort Benning, Georgia, where each year hundreds of soldiers from Latin America are trained in combat skills and torture.

Anawim, the Franciscan Peace Center, Just Faith and Pax Christi, have joined with the Association of Peace and Justice Committees, who will host Fr. Bourgeois during his three days in Nashville. These organizations invite and encourage you to attend any or all of Fr. Bourgeois' speaking events in Nashville during March 10-11.

1) Fleming Center, Cathedral of the Incarnation, 7:00 pm Monday, March 10, 2008
2) University Ministries at Belmont University 4:00 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2008
3) Belmont United Methodist Church 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For more information about these events, members of the public
may contact Anita Sheridan at 615-251-9791.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Commentary from Grant Houston

How can we accurately calculate the cost of eight years of an arrogantly ignorant leadership in Washington? As an international power-broker the U.S. is nearly irrelevant, the almighty dollar is just another falling currency, the current tax-rebate "stimulus" is only another huge high-interest loan from communist China, OPEC ignores our president's plea for moderation allowing fuel costs to soar beyond our capacity to pay, home equity has fallen to below post World War II levels, American's continue to die for an Iraq leadership that conoodles with Iran at an eventual cost of three trillion dollars, the "other war" in Afghanistan is slipping away, Americans are running to Mexico to find medical care, and now our crown jewel space program falls into a five year dependency on Russia as China develops the capacity to shoot down our spy satellites. Even in our own "back yard," ie., South America, nations simply thumb their noses at our interests. It might also be noted that Osama bin Laden is still alive and well, as far as we know. So how are "conservative" values looking now? Are we ready for four more years of McBush policies? Or are we ready to redeem ourselves with a truly new direction for our nation? Have we had enough?

Grant Houston

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Good Science or Bad Science?

New York, March 6, 2008—For Atheists, science is the god that has replaced all mythical gods. Most of us put science on a pedestal, if not an altar, and proudly make our judgments and decisions based on scientific information. But is our complete and absolute trust in science always warranted?

No, says Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, professor of evolutionary biology at Stony Brook University, Long Island, who is writing a book for Chicago University Press on how to distinguish between good science and bad science. (Its working title is “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell the Difference Between Science and Bunk.”)

“The point of the book is to help you distinguish between science, pseudo-science, bad science, well-meaning-but-not-so-good science and plain old bunk,” says Dr. Pigliucci.

Science is a huge enterprise funded by both private industry and government, he points out, and therein things can go awry—particularly when one sector has a vested interest in the results of a scientific study. For example, Dr. Pigliucci points to the eugenics movement at the beginning of the 20th century. “It was based on bad genetic science but had a huge influence—tens of thousands of people in the U.S. were sterilized against their will or without their knowledge.”

“You need to be aware that you can’t trust everything you read, not even if it’s written in a scientific journal,” cautions the professor. You should be paying attention, he says: “Your baloney detector should be on all the time. Science is a wonderful, powerful tool but like all tools, it has some defects, weaknesses and flaws. ”

This Sunday, at a New York City Atheists’ brunch, Dr. Pigliucci, who is, astonishingly, the holder of three Ph.D. degrees (one in genetics, one in philosophy and one in evolutionary biology) will tell us how to distinguish good science from bad and how to keep this very important tool—indeed, the most important tool mankind has for discovering the truth—from being sabotaged by those who would usurp it for their own purposes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Zen Teacher to Give Nashville Lecture

The Center for the Study of Religion and Culture and the Vanderbilt Divinity School will present the 2008 Howard W. Harrod Lecture: Healing Ecology: A "New" Spiritual Perspective on the Challenge of Consumerism by David Loy, Author, teacher of Zen Buddhism, and Besl Family Chair of Ethics, Religion & Society at Xavier University on March 18, 2008 at 7:00 PM at the Benton Chapel at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Fpr more information, please contact the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture 615-322-8910 | csrc@vanderbilt.edu www.vanderbilt.edu/csrc

It helps us to understand the particular kinds of ways that we are stuck today. There is a Zen phrase, ''bound by ropes of our own making,'' which means, trapped by our own ways of thinking. Our dukkha isn't just something individual. Dukkha is also collective, culturally conditioned suffering, which has a lot to do with our cultural institutions. If there's such a thing as collective dukkha, then there's such a thing as collective lack, and collective understanding of that lack. Buddhism emphasizes delusion, and there's also collective delusion--for example, myths about what America is and what it means to be American.

An important point about lack is that it's unavoidable. It's the nature of lack that you're going to have to deal with it one way or the other. Historically, people have usually dealt with lack in religious terms, referring to some other reality. But if you doubt any spiritual reality, if you are a secular person living in what you understand as a secular world, then you're going to have to objectify and cope with your lack right here and now, which is why consumerism is so addictive. The promise of consumerism is that something you buy or consume is going to fill up your sense of lack. But it's also the nature of consumerism that nothing ever can. Consumerism never makes you happy. Yet, it's always promising to make you happy. It's always the next thing that's going to make you happy. That's one example of a collective bind that we've gotten ourselves into.

Lack can also help us understand war and our response to terrorism since September 11th. Psychologically, war, despite all its horrors, is a comforting, familiar way for us to project our collective sense of lack onto somebody else. So, for example, we might come to believe al-Qaida is the cause of our lack, they are our problem, because, hey, they are trying to kill us! This involves a lot of anxiety, obviously, but we also feel a sense of relief that we can now understand what the problem with our lives is and how to deal with it. To keep lack from gnawing at our core, we objectify it: the problem is those terrorists over there, and if we eliminate them, we eliminate our sense of lack, and then we will be okay. Part of the tragedy with that projection, of course, is that it's a false promise, just as with consumerism. If you kill those guys, you don?t solve the basic problem. There's always going to be some other enemy, somebody else who starts to threaten us, because, insofar as we're thinking in that way, we have to keep finding or creating new enemies, just like we have to keep finding new things to consume.