Friday, December 21, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
I received several calls today telling me that when the person called the clever number from the FCC website (1-888-CALL-FCC), they were told that this wasn't a number for comments, or to talk about FCC issues.
The FCC doesn't make it easy for the public to communicate-- ironic that communications is their middle name.
So with a few more clicks on their site I have found the following information from the "finding people at the FCC page":
The phone number of the chair (who is the man pushing the vote to end the ban on cross-ownership, allowing big media even greater hegemony) Martin Kevin (202) 418-1000
The phone number for Robert McDowell is 202.418.2200. Word has it that McDowell is not wild about lifting the ban, and polite calls to him are probably a great idea.
The phone number for Deborah Taylor Tate is 202.418.2500. It's unclear if she supports lifting the ban at this time, she probably needs to hear some opinions.
The phone number for Jonathan Adelstein is 202.418.2300. He has said publicly that rushing this vote through is a big mistake, he doesn't support lifting the ban-- always good to call and say thanks (how often to FCC Commissioners hear that?).
The phone number for Michael Copps is 202.418.2000. Along with Adelstein, Copps has spoken strongly against lifting the ban-- thank him, too.
You can email each commissioner from his / her contact page, just click their name above and scroll to the bottom, where you'll see a link to an online form for comments, marked "email".
Seems to me that the number listed at the bottom of each page of the FCC's website (that is 1-888-CALL-FCC) might be a number that the public could call to try to communicate with the commission, but what do I know? Just seems to me that it shouldn't be this hard; it's almost like the some in the commission don't like being in touch with the people, as it were.
Thanks to everyone that has contacted them, or is going to contact them in the morning. I really want to hear your experience, if you are able to get through to any staffers.
FCC Chair, and Bush loyalist, Kevin Martin, is pushing for a vote of the FCC on December 18, to end a ban on some media cross-ownership. He is proposing that the FCC ease the cross-ownership ban in the top 20 U.S. markets. Currently, this regulation keeps a company from holding a broadcast outlet and print daily in the same market.
It's not exactly like there is a vigorous diversity of ownership at this time-- six mega-corporations filter much of what we see now. Given the problems that we have recently experienced with all major corporate media failing to inform the public when the administration was manufacturing the case to invade and occupy Iraq, how is less competition going to be better?
We need more diversity in media ownership, not less. When the corporation is able to control what you see on television, hear on radio and read in the daily paper (not to mention manage the news website) they are able to reinforce their message in a closed loop. The public looses the ability to check out news stories or even entertainment media from diverse perspectives. This leads us, as a general public, to be easily duped and manipulated by the elite that direct and own the major media.
You can call the FCC today to register your comments against Martin's proposal. Let the FCC commissioners know that you care about media ownership, and are paying attention. You can call the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC (that's 1-888-225-5322) or you can email comments to them through their website www.fcc.gov.
You can find more information at the website Stop Big Media, and while you are there spend a couple of minutes watching the video "Junk News is Making You Sick"--it's worth it.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
We talk a good deal about the horrors of war. As progressives, we have taken to the streets, written letters to representatives and letters to the editors, staged die-ins, created documentaries and poetry, and many other things to try to bring an end to the war and occupation of Iraq. The body counts are tremendous with nearly 4,000 officially acknowledged US dead, and over 1 million Iraqis dead (which is a number 3 times greater than the number reported in most U$ media).
As American's we have a responsibility in this madness being perpetrated by "our" government, in our name, with our money. It is our moral imperative to do what we can to stop this terror, and also to mitigate the suffering that has been done in our name, for the benefits of the ruling elite.
Last Friday, I interviewed Maxine Fookson, a Portland pediatric nurse practitioner who started a local chapter of No More Victims. She got the idea when she was listening to Democracy Now! on KBOO, and heard a man named Cole Miller talk about his work with national group.
No More Victims (http://nomorevictims.org) is an organization that works to alleviate the suffering of Iraqis, especially children, by providing essential medical supplies and services. Remember that this war for "liberation" has demolished most of Iraq's infrastructure, and the situation is hellish. Even without the incredibly vicious war, the situation is dire: according to an OXFAM study, 90% of medical facilities lack the necessary supplies to give adequate care. A UNICEF report states that Iraq's water and sanitation systems are so heavily damaged that 70% of people do not have access to safe water. The World Health Organization reports that diarrhea and acute respiratory infections account for about two thirds of deaths among children under five. 21% of Iraqi children are chronically malnourished.
This is where No More Victims comes in. Through organizing in local chapters across the country, they are fundraising to send much needed medical supplies to Iraq. In doing so, they educate the wider community in the US about the daily misery of Iraq.
They also arrange to bring kids that has been seriously injured in this hideous war to the states for medical care that they couldn't get in Iraq. The local chapters work to find medical professionals and facilities to donate their services, and families to host the child and parent through their medical treatment. The child and parent then go home to Iraq, knowing that some people in the US want to bring healing to our worlds. A bridge of compassion is built, peace is taken out of theory and put into action.
The Portland chapter is called the Iraqi Child Project, and it is very new. Maxine says that they need people to get involved, and they need money. They want to raise enough funds to bring a child to Portland for treatment. That's going to take a whole lot of work, but what is peace worth?
You can get more information about the Iraqi Child at 503-234-3501 or emailing email@example.com
Monday, November 26, 2007
The year that I graduated from High School, the doomsday clock was at 4 minutes til Midnight, the year after it was 3 minutes 'til midnight-- the closest it has ever been set.
Living under the very real threat of nuclear annihilation as a 15 year old shaped my life in profound ways. It was in large part, why I have prioritized working for peace, as well as my philosophy that I life is to be enjoyed now, like there is no tomorrow--- because I have never really been so sure that there was going to be one.....
Recently on Positively Revolting Talk Radio, I had a chance to interview Norman Solomon. Norman has authored dozens of books, including his latest work, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America's Warfare State, as well as many others. He is a nationally syndicated columnist on media and politics. His book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death has been made into a documentary. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. And popular rumor has it, some of his first experience with radio was here at KBOO, when Norman lived in Portland during the 1970's.In Made Love, Got War, Solomon weaves together astute political analysis with wonderfully honest personal memoir, giving context to the political history. It is a book that challenges the reader to take an counting of her/ his own life, making sense of the political world through how it impacted your life, and to take action needed to bring about lasting peace and sustainability.
Our discussion began with a note that the U$ is an "exterminist state" as Daniel Ellsberg called it in his introduction of Solomon's latest book. This distinguishes the U$ from other warfare states, noting that the Dept. of Defense has strategies that include mass exterminations of people, nuclear weapons being used in urban areas (as they were in Japan and as they were targeted during the cold war).
Against the backdrop of the "exterminist state" there is the projection of stability. Solomon offered that it's the mainstream media's job to sell that sense of normalcy. Solomon quickly pointed out the rise in television programs like "Father Knows Best", as the world wrestled with the uncertainties of the new nuclear age.
The calm assurance of business as usual, as promoted in corporate media, contrasted with the reality that our current administration has continuously
kept nuclear military options on the table (and uses scores of tons of depleted uranium in weapons) makes for one hell of a disconnect.
Norman Solomon emphasized the importance of using independent media, and holding media accountable to report accurately.
In Made Love, Got War, Solomon cites author Jeff Nuttall, who wrote of the difference between the generation that were post adolescent when the U$ used the A-Bomb on Japan, vs those who were younger than that. According to Nuttall, people that were already through adolescence when the U$ nuked Japan plan for the future; the folks that were pre-adolescent during that moment (or, like myself, were yet to be born) were unable to realistically picture their future. Tomorrow was uncertain at best.
And now, the generation coming of age is once again doing so under a renewed threat of nuclear war, and certainly a spreading global war of aggression. While once the U$ presidents spoke of sure victory and U$ strength, we now have a who tells the public that we must be prepared for a war on terror that has no end, and that it is our patriotic duty to go shopping. The Doomsday Clock has crept back to 5 minutes to midnight.
For the sake of our future, for the sake of our earth, now is the time to get active; no time like the present to resist the death cult. The madmen in the ruling elite are willing to risk everything if it means that they get to continue to consolidate their power and wealth.
It is up to each and every one of us to demand accountability-- impeachment is a good start; after that the war crimes tribunals would be a great idea.
It's up to each of us to demand peace, and money for human needs.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
According to the associated press, the resolution also charged that Cheney purposely deceived the nation about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida and has "openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran absent any real threat to the United States."
It's like someone broke the silence in a dysfunctional family. And much like a dysfunctional family, instead of looking at the actual content of the case against Cheney, the buzz is all about how democrats will be able to escape potential political fall out by side stepping any real action. After all, the reasoning goes, democrats will be embarrassed by being accused of being partisan, during a time of war. Huh???!!!??? As if the embarrassment here actually belongs to the silence breakers, and not to the treasonous Cheney who pardons some friends, while shooting other friends in the face (and then gets the aforementioned shot friend to apologize for the stress that he must have caused Lord Cheney, by intercepting shot pellets with his face!). This is the same Cheney who has lied repeatedly in service to the neo-cons and to sell the Iraq war. Who should feel shame here?
I am dumbfounded at the reticence of the democrats to impeach Cheney or Bush. For the love of Christ, these rogues have shredded the constitution, normalized the idea of the homeland and all of the hyper state security practices that would have been nearly unthinkable just 10 years ago, and skyrocketed the deficit while gutting the country's infrastructure (and feathering the nests of their cronies). Neither Cheney nor Bush enjoy popular support, indeed, they have some of the strongest disapproval ratings on record, and the democrats have a majority in the legislature. If this isn't the time to move forward with impeachment, when is? When will it be convenient to seek justice? When is it convenient to speak truth to power? Is it any wonder that I gave up on democrats many years ago? Could anyone tell me why they haven't, yet?
According to an article in the LA Times:
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her lieutenants maneuvered to avoid a bruising floor fight. Such a clash would have forced Democrats to choose between their liberal base, which might cheer a Cheney impeachment, and a broader electorate, which might view the resolution as a partisan game in a time of war.
With the vote technically slated to last 15 minutes, she held voting open for more than an hour and finally forced the measure to an uncertain future in the committee.
That referral effectively shelved the issue for now, but not before the resolution's sponsor, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, a far-left Ohio Democrat running for president, had a chance to read into the record three articles of impeachment against the vice president."
Partisan game??? Pointing out that there is ample documentation to find that Cheney has been a big part of manipulating information (some call that lying) in order to justify a war with no end in sight, wherein we have lost nearly 4,000 US troops, and have killed well over 100,000 Iraqis? Partisan gaming, however, seems to be alive and well. Even as the democrats tried to dodge the resolution, several republicans voted to bring it to an immediate floor vote. The apparent reasoning was that this appearance of partisanship behavior would be so damaging to the democrats, that the republicans wanted to push it to the vote quickly. How could they think that's partisan gaming, and not an admirable call to accountability and justice meted out at even the highest level of government?
Again, according to the LA Times:
"If the judiciary committee were to vote on any of the impeachment articles, the issue would then go to the House floor. If the House were to vote to impeach Cheney, the Senate could try him and, with a two-thirds vote, remove him from office. 'This vote sends a message that the administration's conduct in office is no longer unchallenged,' Kucinich said afterward. Predicting that the judiciary committee will be forced by public opinion to hold hearings, he added, 'Hopefully, it will have a restraining effect on this administration to stop this madness.'
Four Democrats joined Kucinich to vote against sending the impeachment resolution to committee.
They included Reps. Bob Filner of Chula Vista and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles."
This is an important time for action. Call your congressional rep and tell them that this is the proper focus for the legislature, that shame is due those who dodged difficult issues in favor of easy politicking, that we need accountability in our administration. Billy Bragg said it well, "No Power Without Accountability" – what's so hard about that concept? It's a part of the bedrock of our governance, but now, if we are to believe Pelosi and her ilk, political expediency is more important to our country—after all, we are in a time of war; a war that Cheney's lies justified and sold. Nice full circle.
On another (?) topic, being raised with a rather heavy English influence, I have always been aware of Guy Fawkes Day. My mother taught me the poem when I was small:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
She would tell me of the celebrations, burning Fawkes in effigy at the bonfires ("Penny for the Guy?"), all to commemorate that his plan to blow up parliament failed.
I don't think that I would have appreciated Guy's personal politics, myself. He and other co-conspirators were undertaking this act as disenfranchised Catholics in a rather newly protestant England. Given the Catholic's view on witches, heretics and women, I doubt that we would have seen eye to eye. And yet, and yet…… in my heart of hearts, when my mother recited the rhymes and told her stories, my loyalties always lied with Fawkes.
Fast-forward about 380 years, or so—to a time of graphic novels in the late 1980's. Drawing from the draconian nature of Thatcher government, Alan Moore and David Lloyd created V for Vendetta, a dystopic tale of concentrated and corrupt power, where dissent is not tolerated and rule is maintained with an iron fist through the mechanism of keeping a populace totally afraid—even if it means the government has to manipulate facts and events to do so (sound familiar? See above). Given that V was written in the Thatcher era, it is uncanny how very transferable the situation is with current issues.
The protagonist of the graphic novel is a man named V—who embarks on a massive counter propaganda campaign to break through that paralyzing blanket of fear that keeps citizen's sheepish. His suggestion to create change? For all people who want to create change, to cast off the fear that binds them in inaction allowing fascism to rule, to come together on Guy Fawkes Night, in a show of force & solidarity while he blows up parliament.
If you haven't read V for Vendetta I suggest it, heavily! The Multnomah County Library carries it—really, it's good. There was a film adaptation released a couple of years ago, which is also good, though I generally prefer books, and the graphic novels have far more detail. That said, I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with a viewing of the DVD, and fell in love with V (the story and character) all over again.
And finally, tonight is the seventh anniversary of my father's death. Joseph was one of the most caring men I have ever met. He loved me unconditionally, and was supportive of every endeavor I undertook, whether he understood me or not. He was a pretty simple guy, raised in the depression in Michigan. He loved country music, honky tonk, old timey and bluegrass. He was kind and he loved animals, feeding raccoons out of his hands nightly; he delighted when "his" raccoons would bring a new generation along to meet him--he gave them names and would talk about them with concern if he hadn't seen a regular for a while.
He died at the age of 81, from a fast acting form of cancer that he acquired from having worked with asbestos as a carpenter.
I miss him.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Right, I've said it before, and unfortunately, I find myself saying it again-- the US is plodding down the road to fascism. Alert the media.... oh, that's right, the corporate owned press is part of the problem. As Bruce Fraser and Elliot D. Cohen write about in their book, The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and a Power Hungry Government are Turning America into a Dictatorship, the interlocking personnel and interests between the mega communications corporations, global PR concerns and the neo-con cabinet of the Bush/Cheney administration is one way that the ruling elite are getting away with the consolidation of power through the never ending war of terror.
Laurence Britt, Naomi Wolf and others have laid out the major characteristics of a fascist nation. Please, check these articles out, it behooves us to not be ahistorical. Examine these characteristics, and think about the fascistic regimes of history.
And while examining that, consider this: last week congress pass a resolution, entitled the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. That resolution passed the house last Friday, October 26th, with 404 yes votes, and 6 no votes. In case you are interested, all 6 of oregon's reps voted for it. Thats right:
Aye OR-1 Wu, David [D]
Aye OR-2 Walden, Greg [R]
Aye OR-3 Blumenauer, Earl [D]
Aye OR-4 DeFazio, Peter [D]
Aye OR-5 Hooley, Darlene [D]
Oh, yes, all of Washington's reps voted for it, too.The resolution's troubling aspects really begin for me with the definitions of terms. I quote from the resolution:
`SEC. 899A. DEFINITIONS.
`For purposes of this subtitle:
`(1) COMMISSION- The term `Commission' means the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism established under section 899C.
`(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION- The term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.
`(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM- The term `homegrown terrorism' means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
`(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term `ideologically based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.
Please note that violence and force are not defined in this section. Further note that force and violence are separated in the definition (4).
I interviewed Alan Graf about this act. He is a lawyer who has been involved with the National Lawyers Guild for many years. When I asked him what the difference was between force, as used in this resolution, and non-violent direct action used by peace and justice seeking activists, he paused for a moment, then said, "well, none".
You can read the text of the legislation on the Thomas.gov site. Search for HR 1955, and then choose the version that was passed by house, received by senate-- it's number 4. Read it for yourselves, please.
How can we continue to "fight the good fight", and not be overwhelmed? What strategies can we develop to maintain opposition in these draconian times--- when folks who are being nominated for attorney general aren't sure if waterboarding is a form of torture....
Okay, again I have to remind us all not to let fear overwhelm us into inaction. ACTION is the anti-dote to despair. The bumpersticker speaks truth when it reads "your silence will not protect you." How can we be a part of the solution, be the change that we want to see in the world?
How do we create and practice solidarity like our lives depend upon it?
How do we continue to seek out and experience joy, in the midst of this madness?
As we go through the unknown, remember to love each other, and dance, and laugh; even as we keep our eyes open, and resist the death cult.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As a quick aside, being a witch at Halloween is a trip. Suddenly, pop culture shines a little spotlight on an otherwise near invisible spiritual path, and local corporate news outlets are likely to run sensationalized stories of [insert cheezy announcer voice here] "a real modern day witch--- more after this break." Chances are good, whatever ends up being portrayed in these bits feels like it has less than nothing to do with me and my spiritual path. It's either these velveeta moments, or, worse-- the ubiquitous unflattering Disney image of witches. You know the one: an old woman with a large crooked nose with wart; probable green skin; black or grey hair with a black pointy hat; and any teeth remaining are likely to be jagged. I mean, enough already. Witches, that is indigenous European earth path following folk, were relentlessly persecuted after the rise of Christianity. Over a 500-year period scores of thousands (at a minimum) of people (primarily women) were accused of witchcraft and executed by the church and state. Like that's not enough? We have to put up with crazy bad media stereotyping, too? I get a bit sick of it.... deny our existence, ridicule us, insult us, force conversions to worship a dead guy on a stick, and if anyone gets too out of line, tell the populace that they are in league with the devil and must be executed. More on the burning times, and their relevancy to current day events in a future post, but for now, I will get back to this blessed Samhain.
This is the time that the veil between the worlds is stretched thinner. This is the time to listen to messages from your ancestors. This is the time to ask those who are on the other side for advice, for guidance.
There are many ways to honor and remember the dead: pour an extra cup of tea / coffee / water in the morning, poor it out while saying the names of those you remember; set an extra place for "unseen friends" at the dinner table tonight; make an altar-- include pictures of those who are disincarnate, flowers, candles, reminders of the elements (water, earth, fire, air), let spirit guide you (literally).
So here's a little confession. I see dead people. Really. Since I was a kid, I have seen and communicated with the dearly departed. During this time of year, I can vouch for the connection coming through much stronger. One thing that I have learned is that anyone who wants to do this, generally can learn how. The most important thing is to be clear in your intention, ground yourself, state that you invite only spirits who wish you well, and be receptive to what you perceive. As with anything, practice helps.
I think that it is crucial to recognize the connections between this world and the next, to honor our connection with the dead and the earth that sustains us. It is important to see ourselves as a part of this very large intergenerational picture, and not this disconnected, disassociative ahistorical entity, with no past, no future and an unsatisfied present.
To that end, considering the challenges we are facing, please consider asking our forebears for advice. As the wheel of the year turns, remember: turning wheels make revolutions. I plan on having some consultation with Emma Goldman, Voltairine De Cleyre, Boudicea, Abbie Hoffman, Judy Bari, and my dad, gran, Uncle Jack, and Jan, too (can't forget about the family).
And in between all that consultation, libation pouring, honoring and connecting, I am going to the BOO BASH! It will be fun, I am working out my costume even now. I heartily encourage everyone to attend-- Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison Ave, $7 with a costume-- and proceeds benefit KBOO. Pretty much a winning situation all around. Check out all information about it here.
Whether you spend this day carving pumpkins (I have carved my best pumpkin *EVER* this year!), eating candy, talking with the dead, constructing the best costume in the world, partying like it's 1999 all over again, or some combination of the above, I wish you the very best as this old year passes. Brightest blessings on us all as we spend the next six weeks incubating the new year to come.
With love and gratitude.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Police brutality is a huge issue. Locally, I have to give much honor and respect to Portland Copwatch. For an overview of the problem of police violence in our own city, check out this information. For the briefest overview, just check out the list of victims that PCW compiled of police shootings and deaths in custody from 1992 until the present. In the interest of full disclosure, if you read the information on the beating death of James Chasse, Jr, know that we were friends, many years ago. This stuff hits home hard.
I have been asked to help produce an hour of the special, focusing on the murder of a young man named Fouad Kaady. Kaady was a young man living in Gresham, OR. On September 8th, 2005, Kaady was in a car accident, and his car caught on fire. There were several emergency calls from witnesses reporting the accident, a car being on fire, and of a man, walking down the street, badly burned and injured. Emergency response crews are dispatched-- Help on the Way!
First to arrive at the scene are Clackamas Dep. David Willard, and Sandy Police Officer William Bergin. Producers at Portland Indymedia have taken audio from their testimony to bring us the description of that night in the cop's own words, and folks, their words are horrifying.
Listen to the program on Monday, October 22nd, at 1 PM Pacific. Hear Willard and Bergin describe finding Kaady seated, cross-legged, looking down, not active in any way. Hear them talk about needing him to lie on the asphalt belly down so that they can restrain him (why? we're not sure why cops feel the need to restrain a critically injured accident victim... we'll try to answer this during the show). And know that 28 seconds after Dep. Willard and Officer Bergin first met Mr. Kaady, they shot him multiple times, and killed him.
What makes a cop treat an accident victim like a criminal? Listening to their testimony, I was reminded of the dialogue in so many b-grade horror flicks, where some small town cop is giving instructions on saving the townsfolk from monsters. Specifically the sheriff in Night of the Living Dead.
Without serious reform, giving someone a badge and a weapon is tantamount to giving them a licence to kill with impunity.
If you want more information stopping police violence, in Portland contact Portland Copwatch or the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center.
Get active! The life you save may be your own (or your friend's...)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The "War on Drugs" has been waged for more than thirty years. And like the U$' other failed war efforts, this war has devastated lives, and left the coffers dry.
Over 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in this country. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars.
One organization that sees the effects this miserable policy, and works to counter the gross misprioritization of resources, is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. According to their website, the U$ has just over 4.5 % of the world's population, but 22.5 % of the world's prisoners. And yet, they note, prohibited drugs today are cheaper, and easier to get than they were thirty-five years ago, at the beginning of the so-called "war on drugs".
Howard Wooldridge is LEAP's Education Specialist, working in Washington, DC. He is visiting Portland to speak at the MAMA conference this weekend. He will be taking time to join us in the studio, Friday morning, 7:30 - 9 AM, for Positively Revolting Talk Radio.
As a young officer, Wooldridge quickly caught on to the fact that alcohol killed and injured more people than all the illicit drugs combined. His efforts to combat drunk drivers earned him recognition from MADD. He was bothered by priorities that didn't work to save lives, and saw that the drug war was not about reducing harm to society. In 2003 and 2005 Wooldridge rode his horse 6,400 miles from coast to coast to deliver an antiprohibition message in 22 states, to some 13,000,000 Americans.
The "War on Drugs" has been around for more than 30 years. The mantra that "drugs are bad, m'kay?" has become so much background noise. Against this hum, it seems anathema to talk unapologetically about being against prohibition, and yet that is exactly what this former police officer does.
I look forward to speaking with him-- I hope you have a chance to listen to the show.
It's time to end all of the wars this country, at home and abroad. It's time to embrace peace, value life and create beauty. Let's make it so.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The show started with each musician in the band playing a couple of solo pieces in support of their individual work. While each were good individually, it all came together nicely in an evening of experimental classical folk punk rock played on percussion, stand up bass, viola, guitar and accordion. What's not to love? The performance was incredibly enthusiastic, and I had a great time dancing and singing along, both with the friends who came with me and the other folks in the audience that I might not know so well yet. Such is the spirit of a Jason Webley show, as he mixes brilliantly executed music into an amazing antidote for alienation. Each time I have seen him, there is a great unifying energy that develops amongst those present. The man works audience participation into fine performance art like no other.
Leaving the club with my beloved, Theresa, we board the bus to get on home. I was happy and giggly in a way that a frantic stomp dancing sing-along can leave a person—we were having a good time. That's when this guy walks towards us on the bus and says to Theresa, "You call yourself a strange- ling, don't you? That's what you call yourself, a strange-ling." Theresa asks him what he is talking about, as the guy sits across from her and starts to get into his pack. Theresa gets very, very tense, and asks if he is getting a weapon. The guy sneers at her, I can't hear his words, and I am wondering how the fuck my evening just took this dive.
I am used to my evenings, afternoons and occasional mornings taking sudden twists—I realize that Theresa and I are (as one friend put it) "walking dharma" to some. We tend to have that "bright lights, big city" kind of effect on the uninitiated. It's unintentional, I assure you. It comes with the territory of living our lives openly, not being ashamed or apologetic of who we are. So, who are we? I am a bearded woman. Theresa is a transwoman. We got hitched a dozen years ago, and live fairly happy lives, raising a kid, and all. We work, we eat, we see live music and enjoy poetry. I really have a hard time understanding the attention that we attract, but, well, there you have it, that's my life.
Now, back to my life on the # 72 bus: I decide I am going to break the tension by being really flip to everyone involved. In Theresa's defense, she's been attacked for being trans before, based on her lived experience, it is not unreasonable to start getting edgy with this guy who is close by and getting into his pack after being quite hostile and mentioning god a few times. Still, in all, this is not the way I want the evening to go down. I want to get back to having fun, damn it! I tell the guy to fuck off, I loudly remind Theresa that I am her date for the night, and since I was a damn sight sexier than the dude that just came in, I suggest she start paying more attention to me and less to him. I look back at the dude, who seems confused at this point. He pulls his book from his pack and reads. I put my arm around Theresa and again, with volume, tell her that she is safe, that this guy isn't going to hurt her, and that we were having a good evening. I asked her to remember the fact that only a few minutes before we were in a room of folks where we were a part of things, welcomed and not reviled. Dude left a few stops later.
As things were getting back to a happy place, I couldn't help but over hear "Freaks!!!" spat out lowly, behind us. It was not the encouraging sort of tone that I tend to associate with the word, as in "God bless the Freaks, keep Portland weird". Nope, this was more the intonation wherein the opening "Motherfucking" was implied, along with the "you should crawl off and die now" unspoken closure. I turned around and the guy behind us (across from the back door which separated us) was in full glower. I wiggled my eyebrows, it was damn near involuntary. I am a freak, goddammit! What could I say? I didn't want to get too heavy, I didn't think he was a threat—but I really don't want to let some fuck pass this kind of judgment on me without my notice.
He said it again, as he was getting off the bus. Before he had a chance to be out of the door, I told him that I had to put up with his sorry straight ass, so he was going to have to put up with me. Off he went, into the night.
Eventually, our stop came up and we walked home. Theresa feeling saddened by the confrontations—I felt more defiant, a bit comedic. I know that in large part, that was because of my mood going into the confrontations (with good music, I am strong). Still, in all, it leaves me feeling raw, exposed. What is the problem out there in the straight world? Why do these people feel so free to express their disapproval, judgment, hatred and contempt for my family and me without even knowing us? I mean, if it were personal, I could better understand it. Just wondering, any ideas are welcome.
All that said, I have listened to the new Webley CD a few times today. I am also very happy with the "Led to Sea" CD, which is the project of Alex Guy, Webley’s violist, Jherek Bischoff his bassist and Saba Angel. Webley, et al, are returning to Portland quite soon, playing at Lewis & Clark on November 1st. I suggest making a good night of it, and bring money for the CDs (at $10 & 11 each, it's the least you can do to support the arts)—the songs get stuck in your head, and you'll need them later.
Oh, and uh, if you go-- can you hook me up with a ride? I think I like my freak bubble, and I want to reinforce it as much as possible, right about now.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
It is very important not to allow yourself to be moved into inaction because a problem seems to big. I don't know if you have noticed what happens to people who try to do that in their personal lives (you know, that denial thing-- If i pretend the problem doesn't exist, it will just go away)--I have tried it a few times, and I can tell you it doesn't work. Now, when talking about national and international problems, with consequences of war, peace and democracy, and the horrors being perpetrated around the world in the name of U$ Americans, the moral obligation to act is too great to allow oneself to be overwhelmed.
One of the most important tools we need to take decisive action is good information. Having good information requires that we have a transparency in governance where the press are able to ask hard questions (and moreover to demand answers to those questions). Another important thing to remember is that action is the anti-dote to despair. The third thing to remember is that your sense of humor is essential to your survival.
Yes, ACTION is the anti-dote to despair. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. How do we get the wheels spinning in a more just direction. How can we be a part of the solution, be the change that we want to see in the world?
This morning, I spoke with Elliot D. Cohen & Bruce Fraser, who have co-authored the book, The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and a Power Hungry Government are Turning America into a Dictatorship. The book succinctly follows the interconnectedness of big corporate media, defense contractors, global mega PR firms and our so-called government. It is a well argued wake up call to the fact that the current interlinking relationships between these groups provide an environment toxic to citizen participation in a free society.
This is hardly a new practice, and yet the degree to which the Bush administration has engaged in it to sell the Iraq invasion and occupation, to strip civil liberties, and to launch the war on terror seems like it has taken things to that next level.
Let's start off with the idea of transparency in governance. We have known for decades that the US Gov't will manipulate information and facts to achieve an accepting public opinion for a particular course of action. This has occurred through various administrations, in the U$ and abroad. Noam Chomsky talks about this process in his epic work, Manufacturing Consent.
This is hardly a new practice, and yet the degree to which the Bush administration has engaged in it to sell the Iraq invasion and occupation, to strip civil liberties, and to launch the war on terror seems like it has taken things to that next level. It seems that as the outrages get larger, I tend to feel number, cynical. That's not healthy, I recognize that. Action is the anti-dote to despair-- chant it like a mantra.
The Last Days of Democracy, starts out with a great look at the so-called Downing Street Memo-- this was an absolutely eye-popping leak to the press that proves the point that the U$ was looking for a justification to go to war with Iraq. Rather a smoking gun for those of us who "knew" that the administration was making up justifications to occupy Iraq out of whole cloth. But knowing that this administration lies is not the same as taking action against those lies-- doing positive things to enact a peaceful and just culture.
Moral obligation says act now-- lives are literally at stake. We must end the occupation of Iraq. We must re-prioritize spending, so that domestic human needs come out on top-- we need $$ for health care, housing, and a restored environment. And while we are at it, we should make art, too.
There are many wonderful things that are happening along these lines-- things that make it easy and enticing to act. One of these is a study group forming around the book The Real Wealth of Nations, by Riane Eisler--whom I was fortunate enough to interview recently for the talk show. The basic premise of this book is that it can be used as a text to explore a newish form of economics, while it can be used as an action guide to build our local economy to reflect humane and nurturing values. As crazy busy as I am, I want to participate in this. I want to help build opportunities for people to value each other, to work in partnership and with respect to one another and the earth that sustains us all. It is unsatisfying to only rail against, I need something to rail for.
Dr. Riane Eisler wrote the Chalice and the Blade, which was the book that introduced me to a lot of concepts about actual historical societies that were not based in violence and rigid hierarchies. Her new book takes those ideas and makes them into a very tangible economic system that can work for us all.
She is speaking at First Unitarian Church, at SW 12th & Main, on Friday, Oct. 26th, 7 -9 pm. There is a sliding scale entrance, with no one turned away for lack of funds. You can find out more about it (and download study guides or hook up with others involved in the local study group) by checking their website:
Allow me to end with these thoughts on fear and action, from one of my favorite books of all time, Das Energi, by Paul Williams:
Relax. That's how you deal with fear.
Fear is the greates enemy of awareness.
It leaves shame and guilt far behind.
Fear is the force that holds us back.
And we need not be held back any longer!
There is a way to deal with fear.
First: accept that fear is not needed, that there is never
A reason to let it live. Carry this knowledge within you always;
It is your first line of defense.
Second: Learn to recognize your fears, in all their forms,
In the earliest stages possible.
Any fear killing mantra will do. Say:
I shall not fear, I need not fear. Write your own mantra.
Learn it. Use it. Killing fear is like stamping out a fire. Reflex.
Stamp it out.
Good night and good luck.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I am reminded that sometimes I have no control over timing.
Earlier this week, I was talking with my beloved Theresa, and I was saying to her, "Ya know? I think that we should seriously think about using alternate forms of transportation. That we should save driving the van for special occasions, getting away and going to the store and taking care of mom and that, but I think that it's time to walk my talk more when it comes to regular commuting."
So of course it came as little surprise, when two days later, while driving around for a few errands in the rain, the van starts from stop light, and within seconds makes this k-chungka sound, when it goes no further.
Three of us push it two blocks and cab it home, defeated. I shook my tiny fists at heaven (literally, I did it -- seemed like as good a time to do so as any, and, well, I always wanted to know how that felt…), and screamed that this was certainly not what I had meant. I needed some more transitional time. Right.
The next day, the mechanic tells me that my transitional time has transitioned. The van, which has a really bad consumer rating, needs a wholly new transmission to the tune of about $3,200. A few other things that we should tend would bring it up another grand, if we wanted to keep it. The mechanic seems honest—he tells me that he wouldn't bother. Later in the day, Theresa read some consumer feedback about this particular beast, and found that we were lucky to have made it this far. It's the slow dismemberment and eventual scrap heap for Ruby, I'm afraid.
So today, while taking the bus to run some errands, I was serendipitously picked up by my friend Phil, who arrived at the corner the precise moment that the bus, too, arrived. He took me to his house and gave me a great CD (thank you, thank you, thank you!), and for added good fortune, I got to say hi to his girlfriend, too! They dropped me off at the station where I met folks for some conversational practice Spanish/English exchange.
The weather was beautiful, the serendipity good, the bus schedules even cooperated—who'd have figured? Still, if anyone is looking to sell a small car, relatively cheap, let me know—I well prefer the gradual approach to transitions.