Sunday, March 02, 2014
Yooks Versus Zooks
There's another butter battle brewing:
“Have no fears,” said the Chief. “Everything is all right.
My Bright Back Room Boys have been brighter than bright.
They've thought up a gadget that's Newer than New.
It's filled with mysterious Moo-Lacka-Moo
And can blow all those Zooks clear to Sala-ma-goo.
“You just run this to the wall like a nice little man.
Drop this bomb on the Zooks just as fast as you can.
I have ordered all Yooks to stay safe underground
While the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo is around.”
As I raced for that Wall, with the bomb in my hand,
I noticed that every last Yook in our land
Was obeying our chief Yookeroo's grim command.
They were all bravely marching,
With banners aflutter,
For their country!
And Right-Side-Up Butter!
That's when Grandfather found me!
He grabbed me. He said,
“You should be down that hole!
And you're up here instead!
But perhaps this is all for the better, somehow.
You will see me make history!
RIGHT HERE! AND RIGHT NOW!
Grandpa leapt up that Wall with a lopulous leap
And he cleared his hoarse throat
With a bopulous beep.
He screamed. “Here's the end of that terrible town
Full of Zooks who eat bread with the butter-side-down!”
At that very instant we heard a klupp-klupp
Of the feet on the Wall and old Van Itch klupped up!
The Boys in HIS Back Room had made him one too!
In his fist was another Big-Boy Boomeroo!
“I'll blow you”, he yelled, “into pork and wee beans!
I'll butter-side-up you to small smithereens!”
“Grandpa!” I shouted. “Be careful! Oh gee!
Who's going to drop it?
Will you…? Or will he…?
“Be patient,” said Grandpa. “We'll see.
We will see…”
Happy 110th fricking birthday, Dr Seuss.
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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Speaking Of Dead Poets
An excerpt from The Arsenal at Springfield:
Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,Given to redeem the human mind from error,There were no need of arsenals or forts:The warrior's name would be a name abhorred!And every nation, that should lift againIts hand against a brother, on its foreheadWould wear forevermore the curse of Cain!Down the dark future, through long generations,The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,I hear once more the voice of Christ say, "Peace!"Peace! and no longer from its brazen portalsThe blast of War's great organ shakes the skies!But beautiful as songs of the immortals,The holy melodies of love arise.
Interesting background on Longfellow's poem from NPS:
“The Arsenal at Springfield” was originally published in Graham's Magazine in May 1845; it was reprinted at the end of 1845 in The Belfry of Bruges and other Poems, a volume that technically has a copyright date of 1846. As for the poem itself, it is widely known that the poem was not Longfellow's idea. As Cecil B. Williams notes in his 1964 book, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet's second wife, Fanny, was "at least partly responsible" for the writing of the poem. As Williams explains, on the Longfellows' "wedding journey in 1843, they visited, among other places, the arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, with the result, Fanny said, that 'I urged H. to write a peace poem.'" Likewise, as Thomas Wentworth Higginson notes in his 1902 book, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fanny sometimes "suggested subjects for poems."
Fanny was not the only inspiration for the poem, however. As Higginson notes, on the trip to the arsenal, Longfellow and his wife were also joined by "Charles Sumner, just then the especial prophet of international peace." Sumner was a noted crusader for peace, and, as George Lowell Austin notes of the poem in his 1888 book, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: His Life, His Works, His Friendships, a large influence on the poem. Austin, who had known Longfellow, recounts a conversation in which the poet told him that "The Arsenal at Springfield" "was suggested by reading Mr. Sumner's eloquent address on 'The True Grandeur of Nations.'"
As for the poem itself, critics have given it mixed reviews. Some, like Edward Wagenknecht, liked the poem. In his 1986 book, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: His Poetry and Prose, Wagenknecht calls it an "admirably constructed poem" and says that it "is perhaps Longfellow's most effective plea for peace." However, others, like Newton Arvin, in his 1855 book, Longfellow: His Life and Work, have faulted the poem somewhat. Says Arvin, the poem "is only half successful if only because the anti-war theme is developed so fully in direct rhetorical terms." Still, in the end, Arvin approves of the poem, since it "takes off from a fine image — the burnished gun-barrels at the Arsenal rising to the ceiling like the pipes of a huge and ominous organ." Many other critics have been struck by the vivid imagery of the war organ.
In 1916, during World War I, George Hamlin Fitch notes in his essay, "Longfellow: The Poet of the Household," that the poem is "an eloquent plea for peace." In addition, citing the current state of affairs in the world, Fitch says that Longfellow's verses "have special force at this time when more than half the civilized world is engaged in the most destructive war ever known." However, not all critics praised the poem. The most scathing review comes from George Saintsbury, whose 1933 essay, "Longfellow's Poems," notes that while he likes many of Longfellow's verses, he did not like "The Arsenal at Springfield." Says Saintsbury, the poem "is a piece of mere claptrap, out of harmony with some of his own most spirited work, and merely an instance of a cant common at the time."
There's just no pleasing some people.
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Monday, February 24, 2014
Making Nixon Do It
Loomis has a good piece about the frame that Nixon was liberal. I understand the attraction, but it's pretty silly. And really, the way he governed is a decent example of how millions of people create space for elected officials.
I think this applies to Obama, too, who "evolved" on marriage equality because of reality on the ground, fostered by people doing the right thing collectively. So his administration stopped defending DOMA, extended Federal benefits to all marriages, etc.
He ain't no liberal, either. But liberal/progressive policy is generally popular, not to mention correct from where I sit, so what else can we do to help a center-right kinda guy govern more liberally?
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
It's been very interesting watching the press report this mistaken bombing on American soldiers in a remote outpost today. First they started censoring the bad language and then started downplaying the whole thing as no big deal.
But I was struck by this comment:The soldier says the impact was so powerful that it knocked people to the ground.'After the initial realization that it had hit behind us, we were so scatter brained trying to figure out what happened. It hit so close to the guys in the tower it actually knocked the fill out of radios,' he said.
'Once the smoke had cleared and we realized that no one was seriously injured, we were just sitting there in awe as the anger started to build,' he continued.
I can imagine. I can also imagine how much it angers innocent villagers who find themselves on the receiving end of such "mistakes."
Yeah, yathink? I can't imagine why they hate us...
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Saturday, February 15, 2014
Speaking Of Torches And Pitchforks
We need not wait to see what others do.
- MK Gandhi, Indian Opinion (September 8, 1913)
An estimated 4,000 people sleep on the streets of Portland, Ore., on any given night and, since last summer, life has become increasingly difficult for them.
So, a group of protesters descended upon Portland City Hall on Tuesday night carrying pitchforks and torches to "shame the mayor into action," organizer Jessie Sponberg told The Oregonian.
Portland appears to be gearing up to revive a bill that would allow police to rouse homeless people sitting on sidewalks, The Oregonian reported at the end of last year. In July, Mayor Charlie Hales launched an effort to clear out homeless campsites, according to the Portland Mercury.
Sweeping campsites often exacerbates the situation for people living on the streets because the police discard homeless people’s few possessions, which may include their only warm clothing and blankets, advocates noted in a Change.org petition.
But Hales told The Oregonian in August that he plans on balancing the crackdown on homeless camps with increasing funding for overnight shelters. But he didn’t commit to a spending figure.
"This is not about homelessness," the mayor told the paper about the anti-camping law. "It's about lawlessness."
Hoards of advocates have continued to voice their concerns about the extensive measures, but Film the Police Portland -- a grassroots advocacy group -- took their protest beyond just handing out petitions.
The group of about 50 protesters set up shop at City Hall on Tuesday, waving pitchforks and torches. They turned the surrounding gardens into a cemetery scene to signify the number of homeless people who have frozen to death...
I see people online all the time complain about something and threaten rebellion, but they never actually get out of their chairs. For some reason they get mad when I ask, "what are you waiting for?"
Be the torches and pitchforks you wish to see in the world...
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On February 27, 1943, SS soldiers and local Gestapo agents began seizing the Jews of Berlin in an operation called "the Final Roundup." They were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Jewish community's administration building at Rosenstrasse 2-4, in the heart of the city. The goal was finally to make the city judenfrei (free of Jews), necessitating the forcible collection of Jews with German spouses and their Mischling (mixed ancestry) children. For two years these Jews had escaped the jaws of the Holocaust because they or their German spouses were essential for the war effort, and the regime wanted no unpleasantness on the home front. But the stunning military defeat at Stalingrad earlier that month shattered German morale and led Hitler to call for "Total War," against Jews inside Germany as well as Allied armies.1
Word spread quickly about the abductions in Berlin, and before long a group of non-Jewish German women had gathered on the Rosenstrasse with food and other personal items for their Jewish husbands and children, whom they believed were being held inside. One of the women, Charlotte Israel, arrived and found 150 women already huddled outside. She asked one of the guards for her husband's potato ration cards, which he went to get. On the back of a card, her husband Julius wrote, "I'm fine." Other women began asking for personal effects to confirm that their husbands were inside and, soon after, began demanding their release. One woman's brother, a soldier on leave, approached an SS guard and said, "If my brother-in-law is not released, I will not return to the front." The crowds grew considerably despite the winter chill, and soon women waited outside day and night, holding hands, singing songs, and chanting "Let our husbands go!" By the second day of the protest, over 600 women were keeping a vigil on the Rosenstrasse.
This was not the first time many of these women had voiced dissent. For over a decade they and their families had challenged Nazi racial policies through letters and small demonstrations, insisting that the regime would be hurting fellow Germans by persecuting their Jewish spouses. Hitler and his circle had always tried to minimize unrest and avoid the kind of domestic opposition that German rightists saw as the "stab in the back" that had crippled the German effort during World War I. Until this point the regime had largely managed to keep the genocide against the Jews a secret. But when it affected a group who were unafraid to speak out against Nazi policies, that secrecy was jeopardized.
Some thirty-five Jewish male prisoners, who had already been sent to Auschwitz, were ordered to gather their belongings and board a passenger train back to Berlin.
Without fully realizing what they had done, the Rosenstrasse women had forced the Nazis to make a choice: They could accede to a limited demand and pay a finite cost - 1,700 prisoners set free, if all the intermarried Jewish men were released. Or they could open a Pandora's box of heightened protest in the center of the capital and brutalize German women in the bargain. For the Nazis, maintaining social control was more important than making sure every last Jew made it to the gas chambers. The regime that terrorized the rest of Europe found itself unable to use violence against a challenge on its very doorstep. The Nazis were savage but they were not stupid.
As it happened, many more than thirty-five Jewish men were eventually set free. The protest confronted Nazis officials with an unresolved question: what to do with other intermarried Jews. Goebbels wanted them deported from Berlin so he could tell Hitler the city was judenfrei. Himmler prevented the deportations, but Goebbels lied and told Hitler that it had happened - and then tried to get Jews still in Berlin to stop wearing the Star of David. A month later Adolf Eichmann's deputy in Paris wanted to know what he should do about French intermarried Jews. On May 21 Himmler's deputy released them all, everywhere, from the camps. Five years earlier Gandhi had been asked about the Nazis. "Unarmed men, women and children offering nonviolent resistance," he predicted, "will be a novel experience for them."
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Thursday, February 13, 2014
This Is What Real Anti-discrimination Work Looks Like
The genius and fearlessness of Rev. James Lawson and the young men and women who followed him are the touchstones of this pivotal chapter of the American civil rights struggle. Inspired by his studies in India of Gandhi's work, as well as the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lawson begins in 1960 to train black and white college students in nonviolent methods to desegregate downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The students stage a sit-in at segregated city lunch counters in February 1960.
First they are ignored, but when they return again and again, they are beaten and jailed. The resulting outrage in the African American community leads to a boycott of downtown stores; many whites stay away as well, disturbed by the brutality and disruption. Business leaders apply pressure for a political solution, and bombing of a prominent black lawyer's house prompts the students to march on city hall and confront the mayor. After he is forced to admit that segregation is wrong, Nashville begins to desegregate.
Following on the heels of Greensboro, this series of actions provides yet another example of how people can collectively resist evil. We might consider trying that again sometime.
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A Neighborly Day For A Beauty
[W]e don’t have a good way of talking about people who choose to live their lives the way Fred Rogers chose to live his. But there has long been a narrative about such people, a narrative cruelly debased by grifters who chose to steal the forms of Fred Rogers’ faith as a way to amass more attention and wealth and power. (That’s a pretty old narrative, too.) People like Fred Rogers, or Francis of Assisi, or Siddhartha Gautama — all of whom came from prosperous families who loved them, who might’ve expected them to do more with all their opportunities.
Much as with the example of Gandhi, I don't think everybody has to don sweaters their mom made and walk around singing about beautiful neighbors and such. But damn, we could use more Mr Rogerses, and more Mr Rogers in all of us.
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Monday, February 03, 2014
All Fighting Hurts
One point SodaStream and its defenders always make about this is that the Palestinians who work at the factory would obviously not be helped if the factory were to close.
Relocating production to inside Israel proper (or to Indonesia or wherever one goes in search of cheap factory labor these days) would only make living conditions in the West Bank worse than they already are. This is totally true. But it's also utterly besides the point.
Think about South Africa under apartheid. Living conditions for black South Africans were bad. At the same time, black South Africans were still impacted by the larger South African economy. The various sanctions and boycotts to which South Africa was being subjected didn't microtarget white South Africans. Black South Africans shared the pain too. And so black people in South Africa in 1987 had slightly worse lives than they would have had absent boycotts and sanctions. But the point of the boycotts and sanctions wasn't to maximize the welfare of black South Africans under conditions of apartheid, it was to end apartheid. And it worked!
When you're exploiting an occupied people, you don't get to claim you're concerned for their welfare. Here's what SodaStream could do to help foster peace: relocate to Israel, condemn illegal settlements, back politicians who will end Palestinian second-class citizenship, then hire Palestinians from Israel, Gaza and the West Bank to come work in their new facilities.
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Saturday, February 01, 2014
The Work Of Generations
After Congress passed the proposed 13th Amendment in 1865:
The President signed the joint resolution on the first of February. Somewhat curiously the signing has only one precedent, and that was in spirit and purpose the complete antithesis of the present act. President Buchanan had signed the proposed amendment of 1861, which would make slavery national and perpetual.
But many held that the President's signature was not essential to an act of this kind, and, on the fourth of February, Senator Trumbull offered a resolution, which was agreed to three days later, that the approval was not required by the Constitution ; that it was contrary to the early decision of the Senate and of the Supreme Court; and that the negative of the President applying only to the ordinary cases of legislation, he had nothing to do with propositions to amend the Constitution.
Though thus decided, that the signature of the President to an act of this kind is not required, there was a peculiar fitness in sending the joint resolution to Mr. Lincoln. It may well be believed that he never set his name to a public document with deeper satisfaction.
Seldom in the history of a nation have two men, whose character and capacities are in so marked contrast, been elevated to such vast power as James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. They typify two irreconcilable ideas in human government; ideas fully comprehended in the amendments, to the Constitution, which they signed.
According to the AP:
There are at least 14 duplicate copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln. Congress passed it two years after his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and it represented the culmination of his efforts to end slavery. But he apparently stopped signing the duplicates after lawmakers complained he was overstepping his executive powers because constitutional amendments are passed by Congress and ratified by the states.
Some of the documents were signed by just Lincoln, the vice president and the House speaker; some were signed just by members of the House and some have both senators and representatives.
A nice step forward. Yet even after ratification, there obviously was a lot of work left to be done. Including the efforts of four North Carolina A&T University students on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, which launched a major activist movement. One of those brave young men was Franklin E. McCain, Sr:
There was a little old white lady who was finishing up her coffee at the counter. She strode toward me and I said to myself, “Oh my, someone to spit in my face or slap my face.” I was prepared for it.
But she stands behind Joseph McNeil and me and puts her hands on our shoulders. She said, “Boys, I'm so proud of you. I only regret that you didn't do this 10 years ago.”
That was the biggest boost, morally, that I got that whole day, and probably the biggest boost for me during the entire movement.
And the work continues...
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Friday, January 31, 2014
We Applaud The People We Broke
But while that moment reflected limitless credit on Sgt. Remsburg, his family, and others similarly situated; and while I believe it was genuinely respectful on the president’s part, I don’t think the sustained ovation reflected well on the America of 2014. It was a good and honorable moment for him and his family. But I think the spectacle should make most Americans uneasy.
The vast majority of us play no part whatsoever in these prolonged overseas campaigns; people like Sgt. Remsburg go out on 10 deployments; we rousingly cheer their courage and will; and then we move on. Last month I mentioned that the most memorable book I read in 2013 was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. It’s about a group of U.S. soldiers who barely survive a terrible encounter in Iraq, and then are paraded around in a halftime tribute at a big Dallas Cowboys game. The crowd at Cowboys Stadium cheers in very much the way the Capitol audience did last night—then they get back to watching the game.
We collectively absolve ourselves of guilt by "celebrating" the "heroes" so the debate about going to war doesn't have any real gravity, That's even more true now that we have smart weapons and drones wherein we put fewer lives at risk and make violence seem antiseptic, but those we do send into harm's way still come home dead or broken, and cost our society a great deal in the long run. Not to mention, of course, the innocent people we kill thousands of miles away generally without a second thought.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Hey Ram, Hey Ram!
So way back in 1908, Gandhi was released from the first of his many imprisonments in South Africa. He'd been arrested essentially for refusing to register per the Asiatic Registration Act (only about 500 of 13,000 Indians complied). His trial on January 10 was quite the circus:
The eastern side of Government Square presented an extraordinary scene of excitement this afternoon. All through the lunch hour there was a big gathering of Indians, and at two o’clock precisely a continuous stream of Indians indicated the approach of the leaders. Mr. Gandhi was the first to appear. It was drizzling, and his ardent admirers sheltered him with umbrellas as he walked along slowly reading the first edition of The Star. The Indians kept pouring on to the Square, and the public entrance to the Court was blocked.
The Magistrate, Mr. Jordan, was seen walking through the crowd, and of course he attracted considerable attention. At ten minutes past two the lock was heard in the door, and the press outside became greater. The doors were flung open and the crowd was met by Captain Potter, Superintendent Vernon, and two police. The officer ordered the entrance to be cleared and considerable confusion followed. The dense mass swayed backward, and when it was possible for egress to be obtained by a few people at a time, people were allowed to pass in.
Mr. M. K. Gandhi was first called, and he pleaded guilty to the charge, which was one of disobeying the order of the Court to leave the Colony within 48 hours.
Mr. Fred Klette, clerk in B Court, went into the witness-box and produced the records in the case Rex v. Gandhi heard in that Court on the 28th of December. Defendant was on that occasion ordered to leave the Colony within 48 hours. Witness served a written order personally on the accused.
On being asked by the Magistrate if he had any questions to ask, Mr. Gandhi replied:
Superintendent Vernon, B Division, said that at 2 p.m. that afternoon he arrested the accused for failing to comply with the order. He had seen the accused repeatedly from the date the order was made until today.
Mr. Gandhi had again no questions to ask.
Mr. Schuurman intimated that this was the case.
Mr. Gandhi asked leave to make a short statement, and, having obtained it, he said he thought there should be a distinction made between his case and those who [sic] were to follow. He had just received a message from Pretoria stating that his compatriots had been tried there and had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour; and they had been fined a heavy amount, in lieu of payment of which they would receive a further period of three months’ hard labour. If these men had committed an offence, he had committed a greater offence, and he asked the Magistrate to impose upon him the heaviest penalty.
MR. JORDAN: You asked for the heaviest penalty which the law authorizes?
MR. GANDHI: Yes, Sir.
MR. JORDAN: I must say I do not feel inclined to accede to your request of passing the heaviest sentence, which is six months’ hard labour with a fine of £500. That appears to me to be totally out of proportion to the offence which you have committed. The offence practically is contempt of Court in having disobeyed the order of December 28. This is more or less a political offence, and if it had not been for the defiance set to the law I should have thought it my duty to pass the lowest sentence which I am authorized by the Act. Under the circumstances, I think a fair sentence to meet the case would be two months’ imprisonment without hard labour. Mr. Gandhi was then removed in custody
It was around this time that Gandhi's fundamental concept of nonviolent struggle was formed:
The principle called Satyagraha came into being before that name was invented. Indeed when it was born, I myself could not say what it was. In Gujarati also we used the English phrase 'passive resistance' to describe it. When in a meeting of Europeans I found that the term 'passive resistance' was too narrowly construed, that it was supposed to be a weapon of the weak, that it could be characterized by hatred, and that it could finally manifest itself as violence, I had to demur to all these statements and explain the real nature of the Indian movement. It was clear that a new word must be coined by the Indians to designate their struggle.
But I could not for the life of me find out a new name, and therefore offered a nominal prize through Indian Opinion to the reader who made the best suggestion on the subject. As a result Maganlal Gandhi coined the word Sadagraha (Sat=truth, Agraha=firmness) and won the prize. But in order to make it clearer I changed the word to Satyagraha, which has since become current in Gujarati as a designation for the struggle.
General Smuts let Gandhi out of jail after they'd reached a tentative compromise about the legislation, but the struggle continued for many years. Even throughout their disagreements, Gandhi viewed Smuts through the lens of common humanity (as Howard Thurman always advised decades later):
[F]or much of the rest of the time Gandhi spent in South Africa, Smuts tended to prevaricate on the "Indian Question", continually disappointing Gandhi. It was only in 1914 that Gandhi was able to negotiate a lasting compromise, the Smuts-Gandhi agreement. While not resolving all the issues plaguing South African Indians, it lead to an amelioration of previous laws, passed under the name of The Indian Relief Bill of 1914.
Nevertheless, they never lost respect for one another. As can be seen in the passage below, Gandhi tried, at all times, to look for the positive in Smuts, even according him a "high place among the politicians of British Empire and even of the world". At other times, however, Gandhi could not shake his concerns about Smuts’s duplicity.By 1914, however, the relationship between Smuts and Gandhi came to something of an end. In an act of supreme generosity, Gandhi presented Smuts with a pair of sandals (which he had learnt to make at Tolstoy Farm), which Smuts was to use late into his life.
Sadly, not everybody got the message, which is why he was killed exactly 40 years after his first release from satyagrahic confinement. His last words?
A few days after Mahatma Gandhi died, his secretary, Pyarelal, wrote a detailed account of the assassination, including the following: "At the first shot, the foot that was in motion, when he was hit, came down. He still stood on his legs when the second shot rang out, and then collapsed. The last words he uttered were 'Rama Rama'."
A different exclamation, "Hey, Ram!", is normally attributed to him. (An American scholar has suggested that this version is due to Gurbadu Singh.) In the 1960s his niece, Manu, who was near him, recalled his last words as "Hey Ram, Hey Ram." According to one of the conspirators who was in the crowd, he produced only an inarticulate guttural rasp.
At least some of the witnesses seem to have heard what they expected or wanted to hear. The "guttural rasp" version, for example, might well be dismissed as hostile. However, the fact that two of the other three accounts imply that he said more than just "Hey Ram" once - which a devout Hindu might be assumed in principle to say - suggests that this "normal" version is probably also incorrect.
"Rama, Rama" would beautifully express surrender to Rama's will, whereas "Hey Ram, Hey Ram" would more likely express an un-Gandhian sense of helplessness. However, the mere existence of so many contradictions makes it seem likely that he was heard indistinctly. And indeed, he was frail and old and two bullets had just entered his chest.
In this light it may be of interest that nine months earlier, Gandhi in one of his talks after a prayer meeting suggested unequivocally that his very last words, if he were assassinated, would be "Rama, Rahim": "Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully."
Thus he was finally released from service to India and nonviolence.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
No Taxpayer Funding For Killing!
Echidne looks at HR7 (The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act):
Why is it worth a closer look? Because the Republicans, when elected, seldom run on the promise to spend most of their time on abortion but that's what happens once they are in office. Because there is no real movement to have an act called No Taxpayer Funding For Killing Innocent People Abroad With Drones, say, and we don't even really question why that is the case.
When Quakers get exemptions for war taxes, perhaps I'll take anti-choicers more seriously. Then again, if that happened I suspect we'd be mourning our Republic...
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Sunday, January 26, 2014
As we reach the centennial of World War I’s commencement, it’s hard for me to see it as anything but one of the stupidest events in modern history. And I use the word “stupid” with great intention, as the lead-up to the war after Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the alliance system, the militarism, the egos, the ramped up belief in the relationship between masculinity and war (which is not addressed in the linked essay but which was a huge factor at least in Britain and Germany, and later in the U.S.), all of it contributed to a mere 16 million deaths in 4 years for no good reason at all.
Can't disagree at all. Sadly, some people still think there are wars that aren't stupid, and they're still in charge...
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Saturday, January 11, 2014
On 13 March 1920 in Berlin, there was a putsch (military takeover) led by General von Lüttwitz. The extreme right-wing Dr Wolfgang Kapp became Chancellor. Commanders of the German army refused to support the elected government and took no action against the putsch. It was left to the people to take action.
When the Kappists took over two pro-government newspapers, all Berlin printers went on strike. The Ebert government called for a general strike throughout Germany. Support for the strike was overwhelming, especially in Berlin, and included groups from most political and religious orientations.
Opposition by civil servants was also crucial in opposing the coup. Workers in government bureaucracies refused to head government departments under Kapp.
Noncooperation ran deep. Bank officials refused to honour cheques presented by Kappists unless they were signed by appropriate government officials. But not one such official would sign. Typists were not available to type proclamations for the Kappists.
Kapp foolishly alternated between making concessions and attempting crackdowns, neither of which produced support. As his weakness became more obvious, opposition increased. Some military units and the security police declared their support for the legal government. After only four days, Kapp resigned and fled. With the collapse of the putsch, the Ebert government could once again rely on the loyalty of the army.
Comment The Kapp putsch is an excellent example because of the many types of nonviolent action used. Especially important is the crucial role of legitimacy for any government. People usually think of a military regime as inevitably getting its way, but in practice it only does so when people routinely obey. For bank officials to refuse to cash cheques is a wonderful example of the ordinariness of noncooperation. The example of the putsch also has the advantage that the nonviolent resistance was successful.
Another element in the story of the putsch is the role of armed workers' groups in several parts of Germany. This left-wing armed struggle was an attempt at social revolution rather than just opposition to the coup. After the defeat of the putschists, the Ebert government used the army to smash the workers' opposition -- including the general strike in Berlin, which was still continuing. General von Seeckt, who declined to oppose the coup, had no hesitation in using force against the workers.
And from there to that benevolent regime (because everybody knows nonviolence can only work against those) called Jim Crow:
Franklin McCain, who helped fuel the civil rights movement in 1960 when he and three friends from their all-black college requested, and were refused, coffee and doughnuts at a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., died on Thursday in Greensboro. He was 73.
The cause was respiratory complications, his son Franklin Jr. said.
Mr. McCain was one of the so-called Greensboro Four, who sat down at lunch counter stools at an F. W. Woolworth store on Feb. 1, 1960, fully expecting that they would not be served. When they were not, they came back the next day, and the next, and the next.
As word of the protest spread, others, in ever-growing numbers, joined them. By the end of the fifth day, more than a thousand had arrived. And on July 25, the store relented and made the lunch counter available to all.
It was not the first such sit-in...But the Greensboro episode, by most estimations, had the widest impact, inviting national publicity and inspiring a heightened level of activism among college students and other youths. Later that year, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most effective civil rights groups, was born in Southern black colleges.
Others soon imitated the Greensboro campaign in more than 55 cities and towns in 13 states. Only some were successful, but their cumulative effect was to contribute to the momentum that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned segregated restaurants with interstate operations, as Woolworth had.
Whenever I see calls for revolution, I always have to wonder, "what have you actually tried to effect change?" Nothing generally is the answer.
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Friday, January 10, 2014
From Gene Sharp's paper on civilian-based defense:
Probably the first case in history of nonviolent resistance as official government policy against a foreign invasion was the German struggle in the Ruhr against the French and Belgian occupation in 1923. The Ruhr struggle is especially complex and covers the period from January 11 to September 26,1923...The French and Belgian invasion was launched to secure scheduled payments of reparations (following the First World War) despite Germany's extreme financial difficulties and to gain other political objectives (such as separation of the Rhineland from Germany).
The occupation was met by the Germans with a policy of noncooperation, which had been decided upon only days before the actual invasion. There had been no preparation, but the resistance was to be fi- nanced by the German government...
Actual noncooperation against the invasion forces developed gradually. The means included the refusal to obey orders of the occupation forces; nonviolent acts of defiance; the refusal of mine owners to serve the invaders; massive demonstrations at courts during trials of resist- ers; the refusal of German policemen to salute foreign officials; the refusal of German workers to run the railroads for the French; the dismantling of railroad equipment; the refusal of shopkeepers to sell to foreign soldiers; the refusal of ordinary people, even when hungry, to use occupation-organized soup kitchens; defiant publication of news- papers in spite of many bans; posting of resistance proclamations and posters; and refusal to mine coal.
Repression was severe...Resistance was complicated by various types of sabotage, including demolitions, which sometimes killed occupation personnel...Widespread unemployment and hunger were severe problems along with continuing extraordinary inflation. The unity of resistance, and to a large extent even the will to resist, was finally broken.
On September 26, the German government called off the noncooperation campaign, but the sufferings of the population increased. Complex negotiations occurred...
Belgians widely protested against their govemment's actions. Some French people became advocates for the Germans, called advocats des boches. Toward the end of 1923, Poincare admitted to the French National Assembly that his policies had failed. Germany could not claim victory, but the invaders finally withdrew, and the Rhineland was not detached from Germany. The invaders had achieved neither their economic nor their political objectives.
Britain and the United States intervened and secured a restructuring of reparations payments. The Dawes Plan was developed to deal with reparations, occupation costs, and German financial solvency, and provided a loan to Germany--all on the assumption that Germany would remain united.
Occupation forces were all withdrawn by June 1925
Would that we had a Department of Peace to study such things. Maybe I should start a petition and other actions to push for one since many in our government still think only in terms of hammers.
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Monday, December 30, 2013
The Forgotten War Is Also Unpopular
What's strange to me about pollling on the war in Afghanistan is that it's been the least costly in American blood and treasure, and arguably the most justified conflict since WWII, certainly as compared to Iraq. But whatever, I'm glad people realize it was a mistake. Too bad they likely won't extrapolate--I suspect most still believe in a difference between smart wars and dumb wars, like our C-in-C.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A Reminder About Nonviolence Resources
From time to time I just like to remind people of places you can learn more about NV action:
- A Force More Powerful - historical examples of NV campaigns, including in Nazi Germany
- Philosophy of Nonviolence - a great piece by David McReynolds (formerly) over at Nonviolence.org
Why Civil Resistance Works - paper examining the strategic logic of nonviolence
- 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action - Dr Gene Sharp's list of sanctions at the Albert Einstein Institute
- War Tax Resistance - ways to stop funding the industrial military complex
Just remember, nonviolence is not pacifism. It is active engagement in conflict to mitigate evil, and it's more prevalent and successful than you've ever been taught in school.
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Friday, November 08, 2013
Occupy What Now?
Occupy, however short-lasting, was purely beneficial. However, whatever Occupy may have done to focus attention on unemployment, income inequality, the welfare state, debt, and other issues of great economic unfairness in this nation has passed and the plutocrats reign as powerful as ever. It is going to take a much more sustained effort to draw attention to these problems. Because we have short attention spans and a political class and media not responsive to the poor, truly changing the conversation to get to a place where food stamps don’t get cut to make political points on the backs of the poor is a multi-year if not multi-decade effort of very hard work.
You've heard me say it before: we need a consistent, persistent, strategically escalating movement to effect change. That ain't happening, sadly. Probably because, as I've been told, that shit will never work.
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Saturday, November 02, 2013
Would It Help If We Wrung Our Hands Some More?
Seriously, people, posting links to articles from April about how Obama was gonna sell out Medicare and Social Security doesn't really do much today. Especially when you don't note how old they are, acknowledge that Republicans control the House, and we just had a battle over the shutdown, CR and debt limit, etc.
And every once in a while maybe the folks with bigger platforms than I do might consider recommending greater action to prevent calamity if they're so concerned. Or perhaps studying successful movements of the past so they can suggest more than signing a petition or calling their Congresscritter for the billionth time?