This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Animal Heroes

From BBC News....maybe we'll return the favors and stop global warming?

Fitting tribute to animal heroes
By Sarah Bell BBC News
The sombre notes of the Last Post, the laying of wreaths and the military flypast are the traditional way of paying respects to fallen heroes.
But in this frost-covered Essex graveyard the veterans were four-legged, speeches were punctuated by barks and the fly-past was performed by pigeons.
The ceremony, conducted with full military honours, marked the sacrifices made by the UK's wartime heroes of the feathered and furred variety.
Buried at the PDSA's recently restored Ilford Animal Cemetery are a dozen recipients of the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
They include a ship's cat which protected sailors' food from rats despite suffering shrapnel wounds and a dog who sniffed out survivors from buildings hit in the Blitz.
And that's before we get to the pigeons. The medal has been awarded to 32 of these feathered friends, more than any other creature.
These include White Vision who flew 25 miles to alert authorities that a warship was in trouble and Mary of Exeter, who served for five years despite being shot at and attacked by hawks.
'Saved lives'
Derek Partridge from the Pigeon Racing Association explained the significance of the ceremony.
"These birds achieved so much and saved so many lives. It is worth remembering what they did for us, because we might not be here without all of these animals," he said.
The event marked the restoration of the 90-year-old cemetery thanks to a lottery grant to make it more visitor-friendly.
Amongst the gravestones which have been carefully restored is one commemorating Simon, the only cat to receive the medal.
He was wounded by shrapnel on board HMS Amethyst in 1949 in shelling which killed 17 crew members during a 101-day siege on the River Yangtse.
Lieutenant Commander Stewart Hett, 81, was on the ship and described how the injured feline kept their spirits up.
"He helped maintain food stocks which was important for morale and would go around the mess sitting on laps and purring, which was also good for the men," he explained.
Central to the ceremony were recent winners of the Dickin Medal, showing that animal heroics are not a thing of the past.
Endless devotion
The dogs patiently posed for photographers, proudly sporting medals fittingly inscribed with "they also served".
They included black Labrador Sadie, an explosives search dog who saved countless lives by sniffing out bombs in Afghanistan.
And Endal, who has shown endless devotion to his owner Allen Parton who was injured in the Gulf War.
Endal's assistance and companionship have transformed Allen's life.
"He gets me up in the morning and puts me to bed at night and I wouldn't be with my wife and children without him," he said.
After wreaths were laid and heads bowed for the Last Post bugler, it was time for the final act of commemoration.
The pigeons released from their wicker basket into the bright winter sky may not have the acrobatic ability of the Red Arrows - but it was a fitting tribute to those birds that served Britain.
Story from BBC NEWS

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heron Dance


There's this great little journal/magazine called Heron Dance. I get it off and on. I do get, every month, an email newsletter they send out, called 'A Pause for Beauty.' This email newsletter is illustrated with watercolors by the founder and editor of Heron Dance, Rod McIver. They also publish (or re-publish, with Mr. McIver's watercolor illustrations) some classic but, in most cases, little-known books that deserve a much wider audience.


It's wonderful to read things and discover new truths therein, or to come across other people who have discovered the same truths as oneself. One thing I've always felt strongly about is the need for beauty that each one of us has, a need that runs soul-deep. I call it the minimum daily requirement of beauty. Others have seen this before me-- nothing new under the sun. But whether new or old, we all are called upon to espouse our individual truths in our own unique way. Rachel Carson knew the same thing. She talked about how an appreciation for the beauty of nature, the natural world, was a bulwark that kept one strong in life, when the storms come a-calling-- I have definitely found this to be true. Hildegard of Bingen was saying about the same when she said, "Salvation lies in this-- in seeing the beauty of creation, and praising our beautiful Creator."


Anyway, here's a snippet from this month's A Pause for Beauty, from Heron Dance:



Dear Heron Dancers,


A few days ago I came across something I had written a while back in my journal: “When you are on your path, your journey, you feel really alive.” Since then, three thoughts have been on my mind: Joseph Campbell’s writings on “the hero’s journey” and on the idea of “follow your bliss”; something Ethan Hubbard said to me fifteen years ago about not talking too much about the magic; and something Balbir Mathur said in his Trees for Life newsletter about sacrifice being the first requirement of the sacred path.


Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on ancient mythology, and in particular on what he called the hero’s journey, or the journey that transforms. His research and writing were based on an extensive study of the mythologies of ancient cultures in Europe and North America. Common to all is a protagonist who encounters deities and demons, trials and tribulations, while on a journey. Ultimately the hero returns with a new understanding of himself and life. Campbell compared this journey with the path of someone who rejects convention in an effort to live his or her bliss. He believed that there was a unique track, a life adventure, waiting for each of us, and that when we embrace our adventure, doors open that were not open before and that would not open for anyone else. All you have to do, he said, was take that first step towards the gods—a step over the edge of your boundaries. Once you did that, the gods would take ten steps towards you, and life would go clicking along. Those who turn their back on their adventure live in what Campbell dubbed the “Wasteland.” Their spirit dies. (Diane Osbon wrote extensively on Campbell’s work in her excellent book, A Joseph Campbell Companion).


Ethan Hubbard (author of Grandfather’s Gift and other books) said to me in our first interview, "I believe in the abundance of this planet. I don't want to speak too much about it because the more you think you know, the less the magic works. But I am a true believer that there is an abundance factor, either through angels or through karma." There is definitely a spiritual element, an element of magic, in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. There is a sense though that while you can glimpse the magic, and often feel it, you cannot understand it. If you think you know what is really going on, you are mistaken. If you talk as if you know what is going on, the magic won’t work. You approach the magic with humility not hubris. You surrender to the sacred path; the sacred path does not surrender to you. You must serve it before it will serve you.


Treva Mathur wrote in Lifelines, the Trees for Life newsletter, that nothing important comes without sacrifice. The more important the task, the greater the sacrifice. When I asked Balbir Mathur about that, he said that everything that is sacred requires sacrifice. Balbir and Treva founded and continue to run Trees for Life, an organization that has facilitated the planting of millions of fruit trees in rural communities in India and other countries.


Balbir’s sacrifice can be compared to Joseph Campbell’s first step—the step toward the gods, the step out of and over your boundaries. The sacred journey is the journey on which magic happens. The sacred journey is the journey on which you feel really alive.

In celebration of the Great Mystery of Life,
Rod MacIver

Missing Kurt Vonnegut

I really miss Kurt Vonnegut, especially his frank and wonderfully honest truth-telling about politics and society. Here's an interview that ran five years ago this Sunday, shortly before the Iraq War began.

Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@
By Joel Bleifuss 1.27.03


Kurt Vonnegut vonnegut.com

In November, Kurt Vonnegut turned 80. He published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952 at the age of 29. Since then he has written 13 others, including Slaughterhouse Five, which stands as one of the pre-eminent anti-war novels of the 20th century.As war against Iraq looms, I asked Vonnegut, a reader and supporter of this magazine, to weigh in. Vonnegut is an American socialist in the tradition of Eugene Victor Debs, a fellow Hoosier whom he likes to quote: “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

—Joel Bleifuss: You have lived through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Reagan wars, Desert Storm, the Balkan wars and now this coming war in Iraq. What has changed, and what has remained the same?

KV: One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place, and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here. There were already all these games going on when I got here. … An apt motto for any polity anywhere, to put on its state seal or currency or whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball manager Casey Stengel, who was addressing a team of losing professional athletes: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”My daughter Lily, for an example close to home, who has just turned 20, finds herself—as does George W. Bush, himself a kid—an heir to a shockingly recent history of human slavery, to an AIDS epidemic and to nuclear submarines slumbering on the floors of fjords in Iceland and elsewhere, crews prepared at a moment’s notice to turn industrial quantities of men, women and children into radioactive soot and bone meal by means of rockets and H-bomb warheads. And to the choice between liberalism or conservatism and on and on.What is radically new in 2003 is that my daughter, along with our president and Saddam Hussein and on and on, has inherited technologies whose byproducts, whether in war or peace, are rapidly destroying the whole planet as a breathable, drinkable system for supporting life of any kind. Human beings, past and present, have trashed the joint.

J: Based on what you’ve read and seen in the media, what is not being said in the mainstream press about President Bush’s policies and the impending war in Iraq?

KV: That they are nonsense.

J:My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are beginning to despair. Do you think that we’ve lost reason to hope?

I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

J: How have you gotten involved in the anti-war movement? And how would you compare the movement against a war in Iraq with the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era?

KV: When it became obvious what a dumb and cruel and spiritually and financially and militarily ruinous mistake our war in Vietnam was, every artist worth a damn in this country, every serious writer, painter, stand-up comedian, musician, actor and actress, you name it, came out against the thing. We formed what might be described as a laser beam of protest, with everybody aimed in the same direction, focused and intense. This weapon proved to have the power of a banana-cream pie three feet in diameter when dropped from a stepladder five-feet high.And so it is with anti-war protests in the present day. Then as now, TV did not like anti-war protesters, nor any other sort of protesters, unless they rioted. Now, as then, on account of TV, the right of citizens to peaceably assemble, and petition their government for a redress of grievances, “ain’t worth a pitcher of warm spit,” as the saying goes.

J: As a writer and artist, have you noticed any difference between how the cultural leaders of the past and the cultural leaders of today view their responsibility to society?

KV: Responsibility to which society? To Nazi Germany? To the Stalinist Soviet Union? What about responsibility to humanity in general? And leaders in what particular cultural activity? I guess you mean the fine arts. I hope you mean the fine arts. ... Anybody practicing the fine art of composing music, no matter how cynical or greedy or scared, still can’t help serving all humanity. Music makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist, always cheer me up.But that is the power of ear candy. The creation of such a universal confection for the eye, by means of printed poetry or fiction or history or essays or memoirs and so on, isn’t possible. Literature is by definition opinionated. It is bound to provoke the arguments in many quarters, not excluding the hometown or even the family of the author. Any ink-on-paper author can only hope at best to seem responsible to small groups or like-minded people somewhere. He or she might as well have given an interview to the editor of a small-circulation publication.Maybe we can talk about the responsibilities to their societies of architects and sculptors and painters another time. And I will say this: TV drama, although not yet classified as fine art, has on occasion performed marvelous services for Americans who want us to be less paranoid, to be fairer and more merciful. M.A.S.H. and Law and Order, to name only two shows, have been stunning masterpieces in that regard.

J: That said, do you have any ideas for a really scary reality TV show?

KV: “C students from Yale.” It would stand your hair on end.

J: What targets would you consider fair game for a satirist today?

KV: Assholes.

Joel Bleifuss is the editor of In These Times, where he has worked as an investigative reporter, columnist and editor since 1986. Bleifuss has had more stories on Project Censored's annual list of the “10 Most Censored Stories” than any other journalist.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sopme of Us Knew This Before the War...

Okay, NOW can we impeach?


Study: False statements preceded war

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes ago
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.
"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.
The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.
"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."
Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.
The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.
"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.
"Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.
___
On the Net:
Center For Public Integrity: http://www.publicintegrity.org/default.aspx
Fund For Independence in Journalism: http://www.tfij.org/
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Remembering MLK


I was thinking about MLK today on me and Fionn's mad-long walk (during which we had a wonderful encounter with a red-tailed hawk UP CLOSE). I think what their greatest gift was-- and by they I mean Bobby Kennedy and he, and people like them, i.e., Gandhi-- is that they bring out the best in us, and, therefore, the best in our world.
I can't even imagine anymore what it's like to have a leader, especially a political leader, one looks up to, and admires, and is inspired by. Anyway-- this is from today's AlterNet: following this, there's the speech Bobby made at the death of MLK, including an audio link.

Reclaiming King: Beyond "I Have a Dream"

By Adam Howard, AlterNet


"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." -- Dr. Martin Luther King jr, "Letter from Birmingham Jail", April 1963

The "I Have a Dream" speech has become a cliché. It's played every Martin Luther King Day and perhaps again during our so-called "Black History Month." With each passing year it feels more distant to me, more quaint. Its power has always been its simplicity and clarity, but its unassailable message has turned the man who delivered it into more of a myth than a human being made of flesh and blood.

I have vivid memories from my childhood of watching the famous speech in class and hearing an obnoxious white classmate of mine mock King's dramatic tones and rhetoric while other white students chuckled uncomfortably. Aside from wanting to strangle this kid, in part because I was so fascinated with King, I also felt far removed from the black and white images on the screen and from the dire times during which he and his supporters lived. Even his name -- the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., intimidated me. It felt more literary than literal.

My father is a Black Baptist preacher in the King tradition, he even attended King's alma mater, Morehouse College. As a child, I was encouraged to essentially worship King. His striking face adorns several walls of our home. The sound of his voice moved me to tears before I could even comprehend what he was saying. It was the sound of truth. Truth so deep it both hurt and inspired. As I grew older I was indoctrinated with the King story and was encouraged by my father to explore beyond King's 1963 plea for racial equality.

After his life was tragically cut short, as was a similarly honest and righteous Robert Kennedy a few months later, we, not just in the black community, but a nation as a whole, have spent the past forty years trying to grapple with his legacy. The mainstream media would like us to look at "I Have a Dream" and virtually nothing else. They can package that speech as a nice two-minute nostalgia clip. But I believe every good progressive American should look more to the King of '68 for inspiration.

By that time King's house had already been firebombed. He'd been wiretapped, stabbed, and assaulted with a brick. He was never uncontroversial and although he never officially claimed to be a member of any political party his positions and message were unapologetically progressive. These were in some ways darker times than his earlier more celebrated days during the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the peace he helped achieve in Birmingham.

During the final two years of his life, King took on the far more complex de facto racism of northern cities like Chicago, addressed labor inequality, and took a very bold and highly criticized stance against the Vietnam War:


"As I have walked," King told the crowd assembled in Riverside Church a year before his assassination, "among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.


But they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

By 1968, King's opposition to Vietnam and his unwavering commitment to nonviolence made him largely an outcast. The far right still despised him and everything he represented. But even more telling was the rejection he received from the left. He endured editorials from the Democratic establishment calling for a moratorium on civil rights and a break from marches. He was called a "disservice to his cause" and his people. New, younger voices in the Civil Rights Movement began ridiculing his non-violent stance, calling him out-of-touch and out-of-date.

Only the anti-war movement was prescient enough to see the wisdom of King's views at that time. In fact, there were efforts to recruit King to run for president on a ticket with activist and baby book guru Dr. Benjamin Spock, but King wasn't interested.

Now, forty years after his death, it seems like almost everyone wants to claim King. Mitt Romney got himself embroiled in controversy when he claimed to have seen his father march with King as a child, only to have to later admit that he didn't actually see anything of the sort and the "with" was most likely only in spirit as opposed to actuality.

On the Democratic side, Senators Obama and Clinton sparred when Obama tried to draw parallels between himself and King and Clinton tried to, in a characteristically self-serving way, suggest that King would not have been able to see his dream fulfilled (with the '64 Civil Rights Act, and '65 Voting Rights Act) if it hadn't been for legislators like LBJ (i.e. her).

The King they all hope to be identified with is the beatific, gloriously positive King of 1963, but I am fairly certain that none of them would be as comfortable linking themselves to the irascible, fiercely antiwar and increasingly radical King of 1968.

That King would most likely have just as vociferously opposed the Iraq War today as he did the Vietnam War then. This is the King who launched a "Poor People's Campaign," a thoroughly progressive campaign that was considered ambitious for its time and whose job has yet to be completed in part because King was killed, but also because its goal, of organizing America’s poor to fight for economic justice with regards to both compensation and treatment, was so large that no single leader could accomplish it on their own. The "Poor People's Campaign" extended beyond the African-American community. The goal was a "multiracial army of the poor" including whites, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans.

King traveled to severely impoverished communities with camera crews to shed light on poverty in America, knowing that there would be no symbolic victories or positive press coverage. King called for a "radical redistribution of economic power" in 1968, words that no establishment politician would be happy to associate themselves with expressing today.

During this period King was growing more certain of the inevitability of his own death. Only 39-years old, with young children and his wife at home, he put his life on the line every single day for nearly a decade. None of our current crop of candidates on either side can hold a candle to what he experienced in terms of burden and sacrifice.

Most of us know the vague details of Dr. King's murder in April of 1968, but few point out that he was in Memphis at the time in support of a racially polarizing labor dispute involving black sanitation workers. "All labor has dignity," Dr. King told the striking workers, "but you're doing another thing. You are reminding not only Memphis, but the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages."

Right before his death he had been delayed getting on a flight because of a bomb threat and his mortality was very much on his mind when he delivered his final -- and some argue greatest -- speech, in which he said:


Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Even if the spiritual content and motivation of his words don't ring true for you, the essence of his bearing certainly should. King was a fighter and he would not relent in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Forty years after his death, our nation is in a state of crisis economically, socially, racially, internationally and environmentally. We may be looking at yet another election for the presidency where we may have little choice but to pick between the lesser of two evils.

And yet King's passion is still with us, only if we choose to access it. Just because he was motivated by love and peace, that doesn't mean that his message needed to be soft spoken and genteel. It can be and should be about reclaiming power. King himself said:


"There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly. You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love."

So this year, when the cable network repeat the "I Have a Dream" speech over and over again and intersperse it with the talking heads that bicker about whether or not King's hope for racial equality has been achieved, think of the King of '68 who fought for labor, fought against war, and launched a powerful movement that is very much still alive today and whose work is still not finished.

Adam Howard is the editor of AlterNet's PEEK.
Bobby's Speech:
"I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justic for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence their evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization -- black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rathe difficult times.My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.Let us dedicate to ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Land News


The story belowed appeared in the Boston Globe on December 27. It's an article on the Bird Meadow Restoration Project now going on in a far-off corner of Happy Land (aka the Middlesex Fells). As it turns out, this is the sacred place where I see the male American Woodcock perform his amazing spring mating dance.

The photo of the dear is taken from the website of the Friends of the Middlesex Fells, and was taken on Christmas Day, somewhere inside the Fells. I too have seen deer in the Fells, on three occasions, the most recent last spring (at the American Woodcock place) with my friend Chris. They are beautiful creatures.


A clear-cut solution
To restore wildlife habitat, environmentalists are felling trees
Kytja Weir; Globe Correspondent / December 27, 2007
MEDFORD - With a single snip of a pair of long-handled clippers, Peter Luongo ended
the life of a spindly sapling poking up through the snow at the Middlesex Fells
Reservation.
Killing trees isn't among the obvious duties of a park ranger. But Luongo and a group of
volunteers are clearing saplings and brush once a month this winter in a small section of
this more than 2,000-acre nature preserve that straddles the borders of Medford,
Winchester, Stoneham, Melrose, and Malden.
"What we're trying to do artificially here is turn back the clock," Luongo said. "With
global warming, you hate to cut down trees. But I don't really feel bad here because this
historically was a meadow."
Their efforts are a solution to a somewhat counterintuitive problem in many parts of New
England: Woods have replaced open pastures and farmland to such an extent that some
wildlife dependent on such areas no longer have a habitat to call home.
Bobolinks are songbirds that require open pastures for their ground-level nests. Sharpshinned
hawks and foxes eat voles that burrow under meadow grasses. Even deer prefer
forest edges, savoring the tender green shoots of young trees and the open horizon for
spotting predators.
"Since New England went from forest to farmland, we lost a lot of forest wildlife," said
Michael Arnott, who helps coordinate the meadow clearing workdays for the nonprofit
Friends of the Middlesex Fells. "And now we've almost gone too far in the opposite
direction."
In the mid-19th century, two-thirds of southern New England land was clear, opened for
the pastures and crops needed in the agricultural-based society, said John O'Keefe,
coordinator of the Fisher Museum at Harvard Forest in Petersham, where the museum's
dioramas depict more than 300 years of the area's changing landscape.
Then, the industrial age shifted jobs away from farms. Woods returned. By the 1970s,
forests covered two-thirds of the land again. "It had completely flipped," O'Keefe said.
Now environmentalists, birders, and hunters are looking for more mixed habitats in the
areas that haven't already been developed. For at least 10 years, governmental and
nonprofit groups have been trying to encourage the preservation - or, in some cases,
restoration – of grasslands around New England to recreate some of the habitat needed
for birds, butterflies, and native plants.
This summer a 10-year program began in Belmont, where a federal grant is helping to
restore about 30 acres at Rock Meadow conservation area.
And at the Fells, volunteer crews are clearing the brush from a less than 20-acre
overgrown field that was an antiaircraft military site in the 1950s near the
Winchester/Medford line. Some locals call the area the Nike missile site because it was
short-listed as a potential site for the Cold War weapons, after the 90mm antiaircraft
battery that was housed there became obsolete. Even after the Nike ended up at another
locale and the battery was abandoned, the area remained an open field.
For years, the former Metropolitan District Commission mowed it, keeping sprouts from
growing into saplings, then into trees. It became an area rich in butterflies, with 67
species recorded there between the late 1960s and early 1980s, including the rare oak
hairstreak, also known as the northern hairstreak.
But the mowing stopped. Since then, trees and vines – especially invasive species such as
Asiatic bittersweet - have taken hold.
The clearing project began last year on winter weekends. The cold and snow means no
ticks, Arnott said. Poison ivy lies leafless and tamed under the snow.
With the help of some Boy Scouts, they managed to clear about three acres of the field.
This year they hope to clear more so the open space will encourage rare warblers and
butterflies to return to the Fells this spring.
Eventually, they hope to make it clear enough so a mower could trim the area each year
after all the nesting birds have migrated.
On a recent Saturday, Wade Sapp, 68, a physicist who lives in Melrose, joined the effort.
Luongo explained which trees to keep (native cherries should stay) and which could go
(most everything else). Sapp grabbed a pair of loppers, the long-handled clippers, and got
to work.
The sounds of the men's loppers and handsaws melded with the distant sounds of traffic
and a wailing siren from the towns nearby.
Despite the cold, Arnott quickly doffed his windbreaker, hanging it on a nearby branch
because all the work had warmed his blood. He clipped, he sawed, and he stacked the
branches near a roadway.
About 15 feet away, a small black and white downy woodpecker started tapping at a
tree's trunk. It's an abundant bird, not one of the endangered birds especially drawn to
meadows.
But Arnott stopped to take a picture to document the close-up sighting. He's hoping his
work will someday lead other birds such as the endangered golden-winged warbler to
come to the field to pose for a picture, too.
Kytja Weir can be reached at kytja.weir@gmail.com.
The next Friends of the Middlesex Fells meadow restoration workday will be 10 a.m. to 2
p.m., Jan. 26. Volunteers must preregister by calling or e-mailing the Friends office at
781-662-2340 or friends@fells.org.
(c) Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Bald Eagle Count in Massachusetts Yesterday


This is from today's Cape Cod Times. The ohoto shows a bald eagle soaring above Merrymeeting Bay yesterday, above the Kennebec River in Maine. We were lucky enough to see a bald eagle two years ago at Spot Pond, right here in Stoneham.

State conducts annual census of bald eagles
By Associated Press
January 16, 2008 4:53 PM
BOSTON — Wildlife officials and volunteers have spotted 68 bald eagles along Massachusetts waterways during the annual count of the once-endangered birds.

That’s up from 48 birds observers counted a year ago in the state during the nationwide Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey.

Tom French of the state Fisheries and Wildlife Division says the preliminary number of birds spotted today could rise as volunteers in isolated areas file their reports.

The biggest number of eagles, 36, were seen during a helicopter survey of the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown -- the source of drinking water for Boston.

Other sites that were surveyed include the Merrimack River in Newburyport and two ponds in Lakeville.

French says the state’s all-time high came in 2004, when 78 were counted.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Checking in with the Zapatistas

The Internet is so wonderful in that it liberates us from the carefully controlled strictures on the information we receive from the mainstream media. Before we can learn anything, we frequently have to unlearn that which we have been taught. For example, we all grew up hearing, and believing, that the USA was 'the greatest country on earth,' the 'cradle of liberty,' 'freedom's fortress,' 'the best standard of living' etc, and what we saw in movies and on television or read in books reinforced that.

The truth of the matter, as one might expect, is much more complicated than can be summed up in mere platitudes. Certainly for millions of people in Vietnam, Iraq, and South and Central America, we have been bringers of death, misery, and explotation over the past fifty years. The British Red Cross estimates that over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the war began there five years ago this March. While clearly and pretty much indisputably that war was based on lies, that seems to be lost today, in the conversation about the surge working, which the media seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker. If it was wrong from the get-go, it is still wrong, no matter what is happening now. And the dirty little secret as to why deaths are down in Iraq is because most of the heads of the various militia groups have been bought off with our tax money. That being said, 2007 was the deadliest year thus far in Iraq for U.S. service personnel.

The idea that governments exist at the whim of the people, and to serve the people, an American idea if not an American reality, seems very far from where matters stand today. In Ireland, for example, health care and education are free-- including college. If you can pass the entrance examination to any college in Ireland, then there is no tuition. Businesses have flocked there over the past twenty years, making the Irish economy one of the fastest growing in the world, as businesses do not have the expense of carrying the cost of their employees' health care, and because the country has such a great pool of highly educated people to draw from. In other words, the government there is truly serving the people, and taking care of their needs. Here in America, we are going bankrupt, morally as well as financially, discussing the usefulness and appropriateness of torture, refusing to insure 60,000,000 of our citizens, making education less and less accessible to all, and asking our young servicemen and women to die for-- and kill for-- corporate profit. The point being, the old chestnuts just aren't true anymore, and more's the pity. Once we get beyond them, we can look more accurately at peoples' resistance movements, like the Zapatistas in Mexico, whom our media, when they speak of them at all, paint them with a dismissive brush of 'revolutionaries' or 'communists,' when nothing could be further from the truth. The brash, sound-bitten media of today are all too often are like junior high school bullies, calling someone 'fag' on the playground, thus ensuring that said invidiual will become an unknown pariah to his or her collegues--

Anyway, the following is an interesting article on the Zapatistas, which appears in today's Tom's Dispatch. Open minds required. In other news, someone smashed my windshield in four places the other night while I was at the gym. Unfortunately Fionn was in the car at the time. He was traumatized by the experience, cowering in the corner and shaking, a puddle of shattered glass at his feet. In a way I'm glad I didn't catch those responsible, as I was truly ready to kill, and that's always ugly and poisonous. The important thing is, Fionn's okay. The unfortunate upshot is that I am witout a car (again) for the foreseeable future, as a new windshield is not in the budget at this time, and my insurance company told me yesterday morning I am not covered-- what I pay $1200 a year for, I'm not really sure.

But enough of that, and on with the Zapatistas. Oh, sorry for any typos, but supper's onjt eh stove, and I can smell it burning from here. Oi...


Tom's Dispatch
posted 2008-01-15 16:16:27

Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Journey into the Heart of an Insurgency


The Zapatistas, the Mexican rebels who emerged from the jungles of the impoverished state of Chiapas, Mexico, on New Year's Day in 1994, have been on the mind of -- and in the writings of -- Rebecca Solnit since almost the moment she arrived at Tomdispatch. In 2004, she spoke of their uprising as "a revolt against the official version of history"; in 2006, she suggested that they had "staged a revolution, not only in what the status of Indians would be in that country but in the nature of revolution too"; and, at the end of 2007, she called them collectively "the most powerful voice coming from the Spanish-speaking majority of the Americas." Now, 14 years after they burst dramatically into world consciousness, she's traveled to Chiapas to visit Zapatista-held territory and spend a New Year's Day with them. The author of the inspired Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities returns with this report. Tom


Revolution of the Snails
Encounters with the Zapatistas
By Rebecca Solnit

I grew up listening to vinyl records, dense spirals of information that we played at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute. The original use of the word revolution was in this sense -- of something coming round or turning round, the revolution of the heavenly bodies, for example. It's interesting to think that just as the word radical comes from the Latin word for "roots" and meant going to the root of a problem, so revolution originally means to rotate, to return, or to cycle, something those who live according to the agricultural cycles of the year know well.

Only in 1450, says my old Oxford Etymological Dictionary, does it come to mean "an instance of a great change in affairs or in some particular thing." 1450: 42 years before Columbus sailed on his first voyage to the not-so-new world, not long after Gutenberg invented moveable type in Europe, where time itself was coming to seem less cyclical and more linear -- as in the second definition of this new sense of revolution in my dictionary, "a complete overthrow of the established government in any country or state by those who were previously subject to it."

We live in revolutionary times, but the revolution we are living through is a slow turning around from one set of beliefs and practices toward another, a turn so slow that most people fail to observe our society revolving -- or rebelling. The true revolutionary needs to be as patient as a snail.

The revolution is not some sudden change that has yet to come, but the very transformative and questioning atmosphere in which all of us have lived for the past half century, since perhaps the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, or the publication of Rachel Carson's attack on the corporate-industrial-chemical complex, Silent Spring, in 1962; certainly, since the amazing events of 1989, when the peoples of Eastern Europe nonviolently liberated themselves from their Soviet-totalitarian governments; the people of South Africa undermined the white apartheid regime of that country and cleared the way for Nelson Mandela to get out of jail; or, since 1992, when the Native peoples of the Americas upended the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in this hemisphere with a radical rewriting of history and an assertion that they are still here; or even 1994, when this radical rewriting wrote a new chapter in southern Mexico called Zapatismo.

Five years ago, the Zapatista revolution took as one of its principal symbols the snail and its spiral shell. Their revolution spirals outward and backward, away from some of the colossal mistakes of capitalism's savage alienation, industrialism's regimentation, and toward old ways and small things; it also spirals inward via new words and new thoughts. The astonishing force of the Zapatistas has come from their being deeply rooted in the ancient past -- "we teach our children our language to keep alive our grandmothers" said one Zapatista woman -- and prophetic of the half-born other world in which, as they say, many worlds are possible. They travel both ways on their spiral.








Revolutionary Landscapes

At the end of 2007, I arrived on their territory for a remarkable meeting between the Zapatista women and the world, the third of their encuentros since the 1994 launch of their revolution. Somehow, among the miracles of Zapatista words and ideas I read at a distance, I lost sight of what a revolution might look like, must look like, on the ground -- until late last year when I arrived on that pale, dusty ground after a long ride in a van on winding, deeply rutted dirt roads through the forested highlands and agricultural clearings of Chiapas, Mexico. The five hours of travel from the big town of San Cristobal de las Casas through that intricate landscape took us past countless small cornfields on slopes, wooden houses, thatched pigsties and henhouses, gaunt horses, a town or two, more forest, and then more forest, even a waterfall.

Everything was green except the dry cornstalks, a lush green in which December flowers grew. There were tree-sized versions of what looked like the common, roadside, yellow black-eyed susans of the American west and a palm-sized, lavender-pink flower on equally tall, airily branching stalks whose breathtaking beauty seemed to come from equal parts vitality, vulnerability, and bravura -- a little like the women I listened to for the next few days.

The van stopped at the junction that led to the center of the community of La Garrucha. There, we checked in with men with bandannas covering the lower halves of their faces, who sent us on to a field of tents further uphill. The big sign behind them read, "You are in Territory of Zapatistas in Rebellion. Here the People Govern and the Government Obeys." Next to it, another sign addressed the political prisoners from last year's remarkable uprising in Oaxaca in which, for four months, the inhabitants held the city and airwaves and kept the government out. It concluded, "You are not alone. You are with us. EZLN."








As many of you may know, EZLN stands for Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army for National Liberation), a name akin to those from many earlier Latin American uprisings. The Zapatistas -- mostly Mayan indigenous rebels from remote, rural communities of Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost and poorest state -- had made careful preparations for a decade before their January 1, 1994 uprising.

They began like conventional rebels, arming themselves and seizing six towns. They chose that first day of January because it was the date that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, which meant utter devastation for small farmers in Mexico; but they had also been inspired by the 500th anniversary, 14 months before, of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and the way native groups had reframed that half-millenium as one of endurance and injustice for the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere.

Their rebellion was also meant to take the world at least a step beyond the false dichotomy between capitalism and the official state socialism of the Soviet Union which had collapsed in 1991. It was to be the first realization of what needed to come next: a rebellion, above all, against capitalism and neoliberalism. Fourteen years later, it is a qualified success: many landless campesino families in Zapatista-controlled Chiapas now have land; many who were subjugated now govern themselves; many who were crushed now have a sense of agency and power. Five areas in Chiapas have existed outside the reach of the Mexican government, under their own radically different rules, since that revolution.

Beyond that, the Zapatistas have given the world a model -- and, perhaps even more important, a language -- with which to re-imagine revolution, community, hope, and possibility. Even if, in the near future, they were to be definitively defeated on their own territory, their dreams, powerful as they have been, are not likely to die. And there are clouds on the horizon: the government of President Felipe Calderón may turn what has, for the last 14 years, been a low-intensity conflict in Chiapas into a full-fledged war of extermination. A war on dreams, on hope, on rights, and on the old goals of the hero of the Mexican Revolution a century before, Emiliano Zapata: tierra y libertad, land and liberty.

The Zapatistas emerged from the jungle in 1994, armed with words as well as guns. Their initial proclamation, the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, rang with familiar, outmoded-sounding revolutionary rhetoric, but shortly after the uprising took the world by storm, the Zapatistas' tone shifted. They have been largely nonviolent ever since, except in self-defense, though they are ringed by the Mexican army and local paramilitaries (and maintain their own disciplined army, a long line of whose masked troops patrolled La Garrucha at night, armed with sticks). What shifted most was their language, which metamorphosed into something unprecedented -- a revolutionary poetry full of brilliant analysis as well as of metaphor, imagery, and humor, the fruit of extraordinary imaginations.

Some of their current stickers and t-shirts -- the Zapatistas generate more cool paraphernalia than any rock band -- speak of "el fuego y la palabra," the fire and the word. Many of those words came from the inspired pen of their military commander, the nonindigenous Subcomandante Marcos, but that pen reflected the language of a people whose memory is long and environment is rich -- if not in money and ease, then in animals, images, traditions, and ideas.

Take, for example, the word caracol, which literally means snail or spiral shell. In August 2003, the Zapatistas renamed their five autonomous communities caracoles. The snail then became an important image. I noticed everywhere embroideries, t-shirts, and murals showing that land snail with the spiraling shell. Often the snail wore a black ski mask. The term caracol has the vivid vitality, the groundedness, that often escapes metaphors as they become part of our disembodied language.

When they reorganized as caracoles, the Zapatistas reached back to Mayan myth to explain what the symbol meant to them. Or Subcomandante Marcos did, attributing the story as he does with many stories to "Old Antonio," who may be a fiction, a composite, or a real source of the indigenous lore of the region:


"The wise ones of olden times say that the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol, and that those who have good in their hearts and thoughts walk from one place to the other, awakening gods and men for them to check that the world remains right. They say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge. They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world…. The caracoles will be like doors to enter into the communities and for the communities to come out; like windows to see us inside and also for us to see outside; like loudspeakers in order to send far and wide our word and also to hear the words from the one who is far away."

The caracoles are clusters of villages, but described as spirals they reach out to encompass the whole world and begin from within the heart. And so I arrived in the center of one caracol, a little further up the road from those defiant signs, in the broad, unpaved plaza around which the public buildings of the village of La Garrucha are clustered, including a substantial two-story, half-built clinic. Walking across that clearing were Zapatista women in embroidered blouses or broad collars and aprons stitched of rows of ribbon that looked like inverted rainbows -- and those ever-present ski masks in which all Zapatistas have appeared publicly since their first moment out of the jungles in 1994. (Or almost all, a few wear bandannas instead.)

That first glimpse was breathtaking. Seeing and hearing those women for the three days that followed, living briefly on rebel territory, watching people brave enough to defy an army and the world's reigning ideology, imaginative enough to invent (or reclaim) a viable alternative was one of the great passages of my life. The Zapatistas had been to me a beautiful idea, an inspiration, a new language, a new kind of revolution. When they spoke at this Third Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the People of the World, they became a specific group of people grappling with practical problems. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said he had been to the mountaintop. I have been to the forest.








The Words of the Third Encounter

The encuentro was held in a big shed-like auditorium with a corrugated tin roof and crossbeams so long they could only have been hewn from local trees -- they would never have made it around the bends in the local roads. The wooden walls were hung with banners and painted with murals. (One, of an armed Zapatista woman, said, "cellulite sí, anorexia, no.") An unfinished mural showed a monumental ear of corn whose top half merged into the Zapatista ski mask, the eyes peering out of the corn. Among the embroideries local artisans offered were depictions of cornstalks with Zapatista faces where the ears would be. All of this -- snails and corn-become-Zapatistas alike -- portrayed the rebels as natural, pervasive, and fruitful.

Three or four times a day, a man on a high, roofed-over stage outside the hall would play a jaunty snippet of a tune on an organ and perhaps 250 of the colorfully dressed Zapatista women in balaclavas or bandannas would walk single file into the auditorium and seat themselves onstage on rows of backless benches. The women who had come from around the world to listen would gather on the remaining benches, and men would cluster around the back of the hall. Then, one caracol at a time, they would deliver short statements and take written questions. Over the course of four days, all five caracoles delivered reflections on practical and ideological aspects of their situation. Pithy and direct, they dealt with difficult (sometimes obnoxious) questions with deftness. They spoke of the challenge of living a revolution that meant autonomy from the Mexican government, but also of learning how to govern themselves and determine for themselves what liberty and justice mean.

The Zapatista rebellion has been feminist from its inception: Many of the comandantes are women -- this encuentro was dedicated to the memory of deceased Comandante Ramona, whose image was everywhere -- and the liberation of the women of the Zapatista regions has been a core part of the struggle. The testimonies addressed what this meant -- liberation from forced marriages, illiteracy, domestic violence, and other forms of subjugation. The women read aloud, some of them nervous, their voices strained -- and this reading and writing was itself testimony to the spread both of literacy and of Spanish as part of the revolution. The first language of many Zapatistas is an indigenous one, and so they spoke their Spanish with formal, declarative clarity. They often began with a formal address to the audience that spiraled outward: "hermanos y hermanas, compañeras y compañeros de la selva, pueblos del Mexico, pueblos del mundo, sociedad civile" -- "brothers and sisters, companions of the rainforest, people of Mexico, people of the world, civil society." And then they would speak of what revolution had meant for them.

"We had no rights," one of them said about the era before the rebellion. Another added, "The saddest part is that we couldn't understand our own difficulties, why we were being abused. No one had told us about our rights."

"The struggle is not just for ourselves, it's for everyone," said a third. Another spoke to us directly: "We invite you to organize as women of the world in order to get rid of neoliberalism, which has hurt all of us."

They spoke of how their lives had improved since 1994. On New Year's Eve, one of the masked women declared:


"Who we think is responsible [for the oppressions] is the capitalist system, but now we no longer fear. They humiliated us for too long, but as Zapatistas no one will mistreat us. Even if our husbands still mistreat us, we know we are human beings. Now, women aren't as mistreated by husbands and fathers. Now, some husbands support and help us and don't make all the decisions -- not in all households, but poco a poco. We invite all women to defend our rights and combat machismo."

They spoke of the practical work of remaking the world and setting the future free, of implementing new possibilities for education, healthcare, and community organization, of the everyday workings of a new society. Some of them carried their babies -- and their lives -- onstage and, in one poignant moment, a little girl dashed across that stage to kiss and hug her masked mother. Sometimes the young daughters wore masks too.

A Zapatista named Maribel spoke of how the rebellion started, of the secrecy in which they met and organized before the uprising:


"We learned to advance while still hiding until January 1. This is when the seed grew, when we brought ourselves into the light. On January 1, 1994, we brought our dreams and hopes throughout Mexico and the world -- and we will continue to care for this seed. This seed of ours we are giving for our children. We hope you all will struggle even though it is in a different form. The struggle [is] for everybody…"

The Zapatistas have not won an easy or secure future, but what they have achieved is dignity, a word that cropped up constantly during the encuentro, as in all their earlier statements. And they have created hope. Hope (esperanza) was another inescapable word in Zapatista territory. There was la tienda de esperanza, the unpainted wooden store of hope, that sold tangerines and avacados. A few mornings, I had café con leche and sweet rice cooked with milk and cinnamon at a comedor whose handlettered sign read: "Canteen of autonomous communities in rebellion…dreams of hope." The Zapatista minibus was crowned with the slogan "the collective [which also means bus in Spanish] makes hope."

After midnight, at the very dawn of the New Year, when men were invited to speak again, one mounted the platform from which the New Year's dance music was blasting to say that he and the other men had listened and learned a lot.

This revolution is neither perfect nor complete -- mutterings about its various shortcomings weren't hard to hear from elsewhere in Mexico or the internationals at the encuentro (who asked many testing questions about these campesinas' positions on, say, transgendered identity and abortion) -- but it is an astonishing and fruitful beginning.








The Speed of Snails and Dreams

Many of their hopes have been realized. The testimony of the women dealt with this in specific terms: gains in land, rights, dignity, liberty, autonomy, literacy, a good local government that obeys the people rather than a bad one that tramples them. Under siege, they have created community with each other and reached out to the world.

Emerging from the jungles and from impoverishment, they were one of the first clear voices against corporate globalization -- the neoliberal agenda that looked, in the 1990s, as though it might succeed in taking over the world. That was, of course, before the surprise shutdown of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 and other innovative, successful global acts of resistance against that agenda and its impact. The Zapatistas articulated just how audacious indigenous rebellion against invisibility, powerlessness, and marginalization could be -- and this was before other indigenous movements from Bolivia to northern Canada took a share of real power in the Americas. Their image of "a world in which many worlds are possible" came to describe the emergence of broad coalitions spanning great differences, of alliances between hunter-gatherers, small-scale farmers, factory workers, human rights activists, and environmentalists in France, India, Korea, Mexico, Bolivia, Kenya, and elsewhere.

Their vision represented the antithesis of the homogenous world envisioned both by the proponents of "globalism" and by the modernist revolutions of the twentieth century. They have gone a long way toward reinventing the language of politics. They have been a beacon for everyone who wants to make a world that is more inventive, more democratic, more decentralized, more grassroots, more playful. Now, they face a threat from the Mexican government that could savage the caracoles of resistance, crush the rights and dignity that the women of the encuentro embodied even as they spoke of them -- and shed much blood.

During the 1980s, when our government was sponsoring the dirty wars in Central America, two U.S. groups in particular countered those politics of repression, torture, and death. One was the Pledge of Resistance, which gathered the signatures of hundreds of thousands who promised to respond with civil disobedience if the U.S. invaded Sandinista-run Nicaragua or otherwise deepened its involvement with the dictatorships and death squads of Central America. Another was Witness for Peace, which placed gringos as observers and unarmed protectors in communities throughout Central America.

While killing or disappearing campesinos could be carried out with ease in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, doing the same to U.S. citizens, or in front of them, was a riskier proposition. The Yankee witnesses used the privilege of their color and citizenship as a shield for others and then testified to what they saw. We have come to a moment when we need to strengthen the solidarity so many activists around the world have felt for the Zapatistas, strengthen it into something that can protect the sources of "the fire and the word" -- the fire that has warmed so many who have a rebel heart, the word that has taught us to imagine the world anew.

The United States and Mexico both have eagles as their emblems, predators which attack from above. The Zapatistas have chosen a snail in a spiral shell, a small creature, easy to overlook. It speaks of modesty, humility, closeness to the earth, and of the recognition that a revolution may start like lightning but is realized slowly, patiently, steadily. The old idea of revolution was that we would trade one government for another and somehow this new government would set us free and change everything. More and more of us now understand that change is a discipline lived every day, as those women standing before us testified; that revolution only secures the territory in which life can change. Launching a revolution is not easy, as the decade of planning before the 1994 Zapatista uprising demonstrated, and living one is hard too, a faith and discipline that must not falter until the threats and old habits are gone -- if then. True revolution is slow.

There's a wonderful passage in Robert Richardson's biography of Thoreau in which he speaks of the Europe-wide revolution of 1848 and says of the New England milieu and its proliferating cooperative communities at that time, "Most of the founders were more interested in building models, which would be emulated because they succeeded, than in the destruction of the existing order. Still American utopian socialism had much in common with the spirit of 1848."

This says very directly that you can reach out and change the state and its institutions, which we recognize as revolution, or you can make your own institutions beyond the reach of the state, which is also revolutionary. This creating -- rather than simply rebelling -- has been much of the nature of revolution in our time, as people reinvent family, gender, food systems, work, housing, education, economics, medicine and doctor-patient relations, the imagination of the environment, and the language to talk about it, not to speak of more and more of everyday life. The fantasy of a revolution is that it will make everything different, and regime revolutions generally make a difference, sometimes a significantly positive one, but the making of radical differences in everyday life is a more protracted, incremental process. It's where leaders are irrelevant and every life matters.

Give the Zapatistas time -- the slow, unfolding time of the spiral and the journey of the snail -- to keep making their world, the one that illuminates what else our lives and societies could be. Our revolution must be as different as our temperate-zone, post-industrial society is to their subtropical agrarianism, but also guided by the slow forces of dignity, imagination, and hope, as well as the playfulness they display in their imagery and language. The testimony in the auditorium ended late on December 31. At midnight, amid dancing, the revolution turned 14. May it long continue to spiral inward and outward.

The last time Rebecca Solnit camped out on rebel territory, she was an organizer for the Western Shoshone Defense Project that insists -- with good legal grounds -- that the Shoshone in Nevada had never ceded their land to the U.S. government. That story is told in her 1994 book Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, but the subsequent inspiration of the Zapatistas is most evident in the book Tom Engelhardt helped her to bring into being, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. She is 11 chapters into her next book.


Copyright 2008 Rebecca Solnit

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Good News and the Bad News Regarding Florida Panthers


This is a paper in Florida, via the Cougar Netwrok. It takes money to protect the cougar (panther) from becoming roadkill-- how's about we end the war, stop killing people, stop pouring bad money after good, and investing instead in our people, our environment, and in our wildlife, who depend upon us for their survival? Just a thought....




Panthers face hazards before adulthood
Record number of animals killed on roads

By Andrea Stetson
Special to news-press.com
Originally posted on January 12, 2008




It was a great year in 2007 for the Florida panther, despite a record breaking number of road-kill deaths.

State biologists said 43 panther kits were born, more than any other year during the past decade. Experts say there are probably more than 43, since those are the ones born to radio collared adult females, and others were probably born to uncollared, unknown cats.

Twenty-three panthers died including 15 that were killed by cars. Although the 15 road kills are higher than any other year recorded, Darrell Land, panther team leader for Florida Fish and Wildlife, says that's not bad news.

"I think the road kills are just a bad way to further conclude that we have a lot more panthers," he said. "When we have a lot more panthers you will see a lot more out there getting killed. In the 1980s, we thought there were only 20-30 panthers. Now there are over 100."

Biologists try to give each baby panther a good start in life. The kits are weighed, sexed, marked with a transponder chip and given some medicine to prevent worms. Still, they face many hardships on the road to adulthood.

"A newborn kitten probably has a 50-50 shot of making it to when it becomes independent of its mom," Land said. "A female once it becomes independent has an 80-90 percent chance of making it to produce its own kittens. For a male it's about 40 percent. There's a lot of competition with males."

Males need 200 miles of territory and adult males will kill younger males who step into their areas. Males are also more likely to be killed by vehicles as they wander looking for territory of their own.

"I wish there was a practical solution," Land said about reducing road kills. "There's a very expensive solution with wildlife crossings. The structures help animals get safely across highways those work, but they are very expensive."

Larry Richardson, wildlife biologist with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, is saddened by the panthers killed on roadways.

"We had the record road kill, and that's a little bit disheartening," Richardson said. "It makes you wonder how many young adults were out there looking for territory. They need a lot of territory. They've been telling us that for years. We just need to be better stewards."

It was also the year of some interesting panther stories. On Oct. 27 a 2-year-old female panther got trapped between two fences on Corkscrew Road near Alico Road. The DOT had been building the fences to protect wildlife and had finished one fence and partially completed the second fence.

But the panther had gotten inside the partially done fence and couldn't figure out how to get out. She later went into a culvert by the fence further trapping herself. Experts with Florida Fish and Wildlife herded her toward a fence opening. The panther responded and got out through a hole cut in the fence.

Wildlife experts also rescued a baby panther in Big Cypress. The 2-month old kit had been abandoned by its mother, weighed two pounds and was starving. She was brought to the Lowry Park Zoo. There, zoo workers named her Calusa. Calusa was one of four kittens born in the Big Cypress Swamp.

When wildlife officers checked on the litter, they found the mother had moved three of the cubs and left Calusa behind. She was lethargic and thin and had a cut on her head when she was discovered. Now ,she lives at the zoo eating meat with kitten formula poured on top. Since the panther won't have a mother to teach her to hunt, she will remain at the zoo permanently.


PANTHER FACTS
• Scientific name: Puma concolor coryi
• Adult weight: 115-140 pounds
• Weight at birth: 4-8 ounces
• Adult shoulder height: 2-3 feet
• Adult body length: 5-8 feet
• Diet: local wildlife, squirrels, deer
• Life span: 8-15 years in the wild, 10-20 years in captivity
• Habitat: Southwestern Florida, average 100 square miles
• Population: About 100 in the wild

Source: Friends of the Florida Panther

Panther births
2007 – 43 kittens
2006 – 21 kittens
2005 – 25 kittens
2004 – 26 kittens
2003 – 13 kittens
2002 – 35 kittens
2001 – 23 kittens
2000 – 7 kittens
1999 – 24 kittens
1998 – 10 kittens
1997 - 8 kittens
1996 – 13 kittens
These are only the ones documented. Others might have been born to uncollared cats or on private property not accessible to biologists. For more information on the panthers and their kittens log onto panther.state.fl.us

Friday, January 11, 2008

"March in My Name"

I LOVE STORIES LIKE THIS-- when quiet, 'normal' Americans become so outraged by the torture and lies of the Bush Administration that they finally feel compelled to do something about it. John Nirenberg is his name, and he is so outraged byt he antics of the torturing Bush Adminsitration that he decided to walk from Boston to Washington to express that outrage. John arrives in Washington, DC tomorrow (Saturday) after starting his 'March in My Name' project for impeachment from Faneuil Hall in Boston on December 1. You go John!

A quick search on the internet showed that (surprise!) NO main stream media has picked up John's wonderful story-- apparently it's more important that we hear about the real estate market, the Patriots, and the 'horserace' of the primaries ("diamonds or pearls?") I've just written to the Globe, asking why they haven't covered this truly American and truly wonderful story-- I don't expect an answer, and funny how it is that we no longer expect answers from not only our congresspeople, but our media...

Anyway, here is John's story, and you can read more, and check out his progress, on www.marchinmyname.org

About Me

What makes this 60 year old, slightly overweight believer in the system take to the street? What makes this life-long servant of the establishment more at home in comfort than in conflict spend an inadequate retirement savings to seek the President and Vice President’s impeachment? What exactly shook me awake from my trance of complacency?

My name is John Nirenberg. I was born in the midst of the Nuremberg Trials. I grew up conscious of that place as both the beginning of the hate and violence that destroyed all of Europe, and the trials that confirmed a powerful moral sense of what is acceptable and unacceptable even in the depths of war.

As a child I watched all the war movies and believed we Americans really were different and that we fought for a noble cause. I believed in the supremacy of freedom over fascism, I surely thought our glory was based on doing the right thing and our victory showed the power of real democracy.

But even as a child I was puzzled about how the world could sink so low. How could a civilized country like Germany turn into a nightmare of fear, violence and wanton destruction? Watching the movies and seeing a nation turn on one scapegoat after another I asked myself, “when do you see the evil for what it is and resist it?” For me, I know the time is now. I am appalled that Americans are actually debating the usefulness of torture techniques and that the Government of the United States is systematically torturing people in the name of freedom and security. As I write this, knowing that President Bush and Vice President Cheney actively support these methods, my skin shudders with anger and fear. Anger because we have stooped so low. Fear because all of what we have cherished as a nation - indeed, all of the great things about the United States that we have shown the world - are being destroyed by the current administration. It isn’t just that this administration authorizes torture, that is reason enough for me to take this action, but Bush and Cheney have placed themselves above the law. And that is the first step of all dictators and tyrants.

I am not an activist. The defense of the Constitution isn’t ideological. I march because it is essential to stand up to this shame. I march also because I am fortunate enough to do so. I march for everyone uncomfortable with movements, organizers and radicals, but who understand the dire straights we’re in. This is about saving our Constitution. This is about restoring the promise of America. This is about doing what I can as a citizen. This is about shaking the Congressional leadership out of their complacency so that they, too, see the urgency and the importance of their action to right a host of perilous wrongs perpetrated by Bush and Cheney.

Finally, I need to walk because as a citizen it is all I can think to do that demonstrates how important this is to me. I can’t sit back any longer satisfied with my outrage. It isn’t enough. So I am doing this for me and, I hope, for you.

A Little Bit More About the Project

With a little help from my friends…

This project developed rather spontaneously after one Bush/Cheney outrage too many finally moved me to literally walk my talk. My first job when I was discharged from the Air Force was teaching high school social studies including American History. It was during the Nixon era a year before he resigned. When he resigned I was overjoyed that it proved to the whole world our system of checks and balances and the very ideals I taught were alive and well.

I moved on to study organizational systems and taught management at the collegiate level on three continents. I was fortunate enough to see the world and to confirm my suspicions that our democracy, as imperfect as it is, still works. I never dreamed that it would be hijacked and that my return to active citizenship would be in a time of another Constitutional crisis. I certainly didn’t think my return to active citizenship would be because the institutions I assumed would look after the Constitution would abandon it.

I have decided to undertake this walk from historic Faneuil Hall in Boston to Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. because I’ve written the letters, spoken with my Congressman, and been patient while the Democrats settled into their leadership role. I hoped they would do the right thing. But they haven’t. Impeachment is “off the table.”

This effort is to put it back on the table. Maybe I can walk for you, too. I happen to have the time now to do this. Maybe you don’t but would like me to do it for you. Click on the store link and look at the options. Perhaps, together, we can help Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to the right thing.

At least, let’s get out and talk to one another and then, together, tell Speaker Pelosi just how important this is, so that she and the Democrats will reconsider their stand and truly hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their many high crimes and misdemeanors. In fact, why not call her now at (202) 225-0100. Impeachment is the Constitutional process designed to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. If we don’t take this action now, we won’t be able to do so later.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You're Such a Tase

Consider the ultimate gift in 'homeland security country:' the iTaser, a weapon with its own MP3 player and earphones that can deliver a 50,000 volt electrical charge while you catch your favorite tunes. This new Taser, on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will be available, reports Richard Wray of the British Guardian, in "red, pink and even leopard print designs." Anyone carrying the iTaser will be able to make what may be the first homeland-security fashion statement in any one of the 43 states where Tasers are legal. The company that makes the weapon, Taser International, has already sold 160,000 less-stylish versions to private individuals. According to founder and company CEO Rick Smith, "Personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable." Not so say, of course, functional...

In November 2006, the Taser infamously broke into the news on campus when a student at the University of Florida, questioning Senator John Kerry harshly, was dragged off, Tased, and subdued by campus police. His plea, "Don't Tase me, Bro!," is now the stuff of bumper stickers, T-shirts, and cell phone ring tones. Thanks largely to him and the publicity the incident got, the New Oxford Dictionary made "Tase" one of its 2007 words of the year, the Yale Book of Quotations put it at the top of its yearly list of most memorable quotes, and the rest of us got a hint that something new might be happening in America's "ivory towers."

As Michael Gould-Wartofsky indicates below, that incident was just the tip of an enormous homeland-security presence on campus. Gould-Wartofsky's remarkable report -- a piece that the Nation Magazine and Tomdispatch.com are sharing -- offers real news about just how deeply the new homeland security state is settling into every aspect of our world. Tom


Repress U
How to Build a Homeland Security Campus in Seven Steps
By Michael Gould-Wartofsky

Free speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors… Welcome to the new homeland security campus

From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism" -- as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name -- have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.

Building a homeland-security campus and bringing the university to heel is a seven-step mission:

1. Target dissidents: As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the campus has increasingly become a target gallery -- with student protesters in the crosshairs. The government's number one target? Peace and justice organizations.

From 2003 to 2007, an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon's "Threat and Local Observation Notice" system (TALON), a secretive domestic spying program ostensibly designed to track direct "potential terrorist threats" to the Department of Defense itself. Last year, via Freedom of Information Act requests, the ACLU uncovered at least 186 specific TALON reports on "anti-military protests" in the U.S. -- some listed as "credible threats" --- from student groups at the University of California-Santa Cruz, State University of New York, Georgia State University, and New Mexico State University, among other campuses.

At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double as full-time FBI agents and, according to the Campus Law Enforcement Journal, serve on many of the nation's 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces. These dual-purpose officer-agents have knocked on student activists' doors from North Carolina State to the University of Colorado and, in one case, interrogated an Iraqi-born professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst about his antiwar views.

FBI agents, or their campus stand-ins, don't have to do all the work themselves. Administrators often do it for them, setting up "free speech zones," which actually constrain speech, and punishing those who step outside them. Last year, protests were typically forced into "free assembly areas" at the University of Central Florida and Clemson University; while students at Hampton and Pace Universities faced expulsion for handing out antiwar flyers, aka "unauthorized materials."

2. Lock and load: Many campus police departments are morphing into heavily armed garrisons, equipped with a wide array of weaponry from Taser stun guns and pepper guns to shotguns and semiautomatic rifles. Lock-and-load policies that began in the 1990s under the rubric of "the war on crime" only escalated with the President's Global War on Terror. Each school shooting -- most recently the massacre at Virginia Tech -- just adds fuel to the armament flames.

Two-thirds of universities now arm their police, according to the Justice Department. Many of the guns being purchased were previously in the province of military units and SWAT teams. For instance, AR-15 rifles (similar to M-16s) are now in the arsenal of the University of Texas campus police. Last April, City University of New York bought dozens of semiautomatic handguns. Now, states like Nevada are even considering plans to allow university staff to pack heat in a "special reserve officer corps."

Most of the force used on campus these days, though, comes in "less lethal" form, such as the rubber bullets and pepper pellets increasingly used to contain student demonstrations. Then there is the ubiquitous Taser, the electroshock weapon recently ruled a "form of torture" by the UN. A Taser was used by UCLA police in November 2006 to deliver shock after shock to an Iranian-American student for failing to produce his ID at the Powell Library. Last September, a University of Florida student was Tased after asking pointed questions of Senator John Kerry at a public forum, his plea of "Don't Tase me, bro" becoming the stuff of pop folklore.

3. Keep an eye (or hundreds of them) focused on campus: Surveillance has become a boom industry nationally -- one that now reaches deep into the heart of the American campus. In fact, universities have witnessed explosive growth in the electronic surveillance of students, faculty, and campus workers. On ever more campuses, closed-circuit security cameras can track people's every move, often from hidden or undisclosed locations, sometimes even into classrooms.

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators reports that surveillance cameras have now found their way onto at least half of all colleges, their numbers on any given campus doubling, tripling, and in a few cases, rising tenfold since September 11, 2001. Such cameras have proliferated by the hundreds on private campuses, in particular. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has more than 400 watching over it, while Harvard and Brown have about 200 each.

Elsewhere, it can be tricky just to find out where the cameras are and what they're meant to be viewing. The University of Texas, for example, battled student journalists over disclosure and ultimately kept its cameras hidden. Sometimes, though, a camera's purpose seems obvious. Take the case of Hussein Hussein, a professor in the Department of Animal Biotechnology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In January 2005, the widely respected professor found a hidden camera redirected to monitor his office.

4. Mine student records: Student records have, in recent years, been opened up to all manner of data mining for purposes of investigation, recruitment, or just all-purpose tracking. From 2001 to 2006, in an operation code-named "Project Strike Back," the Department of Education teamed up with the FBI to scour the records of the 14 million students who applied for federal financial aid each year. The objective? "To identify potential people of interest," explained an FBI spokesperson cryptically, especially those linked to "potential terrorist activity."

Strike Back was quietly discontinued in June 2006, days after students at Northwestern University blew its cover. But just one month later, the Education Department's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, in a much-criticized preliminary report, recommended the creation of a federal "unit record" database that would track the activities and studies of college students nationwide. The Department's Institute of Education Sciences has developed a prototype for such a national database.

It's not a secret that the Pentagon, for its part, hopes to turn campuses into recruitment centers for its overstretched, overstressed forces. In fact, the Department of Defense (DoD) has built its own database for just this purpose. Known as Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, this program now tracks 30 million young people, ages 16 to 25. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the DoD has partnered with private marketing and data mining firms, which, in turn, sell the government reams of information on students and other potential recruits.

5. Track foreign-born students, keep the undocumented out: Under the auspices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been keeping close tabs on foreign students and their dependents through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). As of October 2007, ICE reported that it was actively following 713,000 internationals on campuses, while keeping more than 4.7 million names in its database.

The database aims to amass and record information on foreign students throughout their stay inside the United States. SEVIS requires thick files on the students from the sponsoring schools, constantly updated with all academic, biographical, and employment records -- all of which will be shared with other government agencies. If students fall out of "status" at school -- or if the database thinks they have -- the Compliance Enforcement Unit of ICE goes into action.

ICE has also done its part to keep the homeland security campus purified of those not born in the homeland. The American Immigration Law Foundation estimates that only one in 20 undocumented immigrants who graduate high school goes on to enroll in a college. Many don't go because they cannot afford the tuition, but also because they have good reason to be afraid: ICE has deported a number of those who did make it to college, some before they could graduate.

6. Take over the curriculum, the classroom, and the laboratory: Needless to say, not every student is considered a homeland security threat. Quite the opposite. Many students and faculty members are seen as potential assets. To exploit these assets, the Department of Homeland Security has launched its own curriculum under its Office of University Programs (OUP), intended, it says, to "foster a homeland security culture within the academic community."

The record so far is impressive: DHS has doled out 439 federal fellowships and scholarships since 2003, providing full tuition to students who fit "within the homeland security research enterprise." Two hundred twenty-seven schools now offer degree or certificate programs in "homeland security," a curriculum that encompasses over 1,800 courses. Along with OUP, some of the key players in creating the homeland security classroom are the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) and the Aerospace Defense Command, co-founders of the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium.

OUP has also partnered with researchers and laboratories to "align scientific results with homeland security priorities." In Fiscal Year 2008 alone, $4.9 billion in federal funding will go to homeland security-related research. Grants correspond with 16 research topics selected by DHS, based on presidential directives, legislation, and a smattering of scientific advice.

But wait, there's more: DHS has founded and funded six of its very own "Centers of Excellence," research facilities that span dozens of universities from coast to coast. The latest is a Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, the funding for which cleared the House in October. The Center is mandated to assist a National Commission in combating those "adopting or promoting an extremist belief system… to advance political, religious or social change."

7. Privatize, privatize, privatize: Of course, homeland security is not just a department, nor is it simply a new network of surveillance and data mining -- it's big business. (According to USA Today, global homeland-security-style spending had already reached $59 billion a year in 2006, a six-fold increase over 2000.)

Not surprisingly, then, universities have, in recent years, established unprecedented private-sector partnerships with the corporations that have the most to gain from their research. The Department of Homeland Security's on-campus National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), for instance, features Lockheed Martin on its advisory board. The Center for Food Protection and Defense relies on an industry working group that includes Wal-Mart and McDonald's offering "guidance and direction," according to its chair.

While vast sums of money are flowing in from these corporate sponsors, huge payments are also flowing out into "strategic supplier contracts" with private contractors, as universities permanently outsource security operations to big corporations like Securitas and AlliedBarton. Little of this money actually goes to those guarding the properties, who are often among the most underpaid workers at universities. Instead, it fills the corporate coffers of those with little accountability for conditions on campus.

Meanwhile, some universities have developed intimate relationships with private-security outfits like the notorious Blackwater. Last May, for example, the University of Illinois and its police training institute cut a deal with the firm to share their facilities and training programs with Blackwater operatives. Local journalists later revealed that the director of the campus program at the time was on the Blackwater payroll. In the age of hired education, such collaboration is apparently par for the course.

Following these seven steps over the past six years, the homeland security state and its constituents have come a long way in their drive to remake the American campus in the image of a compound on lockdown. Somewhere, inside the growing homeland security state that is our country, the next seven steps in the process are undoubtedly already being planned out.

Still, the rise of Repress U is not inevitable. The new homeland security campus has proven itself unable to shut out public scrutiny or stamp out resistance to its latest Orwellian advances. Sometimes, such opposition even yields a free-speech zone dismantled, or the Pentagon's TALON de-clawed, or a Project Strike Back struck down. A rising tide of student protest, led by groups like the new Students for a Democratic Society, has won free-speech victories and reined in repression from Pace and Hampton, where the University dropped its threats of expulsion, to UCLA, where Tasers will no longer be wielded against passive resisters.

Yet, if the tightening grip of the homeland security complex isn't loosened, the latest towers of higher education will be built not of ivory, but of Kevlar for the over-armored, over-armed campuses of America.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a writer from New York City and a recent graduate of the new homeland security campus. He has written for the Nation Online, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, and the Harvard Crimson, where he was a columnist and editor, and his work has also appeared in Poets Against the War (Nation Books). He was a recipient of the New York Times James B. Reston Award for young journalists and Harvard's James Gordon Bennett Prize for his writing on collective memory. This piece is also appearing in the latest issue of the Nation Magazine.


Copyright 2007 Michael Gould-Wartofsky