Sunday, April 06, 2014
With This, I Am Shaking The Foundations Of The British Empire
Just following up from last month.
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I Could Not See Because Of The Tears In My Own Eyes
[Congresswoman Rankin is] a dagger in the hands of the German propagandists, a dupe of the Kaiser, a member of the Hun army in the United States, and a crying schoolgirl.
- The Helena Montana Independent Record
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of WWI's beginning, but that was all about Europe so who cares because we're Americans and it's all about us, right? But today's significant because in 1917, we jumped in for a bit of the fun:
WHEREAS, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America; therefore, be it
Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government, which has thus been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared; and
That the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
Just a few days before, President Wilson had requested Congress recognize the reality:
With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.
And they obliged after a relatively good amount of debate, voting overwhelmingly to send Johnnie and his gun over there. But support was not universal. One who voted against was Jeannette Rankin:
[Rankin's brother] Wellington had told her she should vote a “man’s vote” in order not to jeopardize a bright career. Harriet Laidlaw had made a trip from New York to urge her to support the declaration. Suffragists had pointed out that if she voted against the declaration, she would hurt the cause.
[S]he did not answer the ﬁrst [roll call]. “Unclejoe” Cannon, the Republican leader, thought she did not understand the situation. “Little woman,” he said, “you cannot afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country in the American Congress. l shall not advise you how to vote, but you should vote one way or another—as your conscience dictates.” When the second roll was called and Jeannette heard “Miss Rankin,” she rose and with a shaking voice said, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote No.”
The clerk could not hear for the hubbub on the ﬂoor and in the galleries. It was contrary to the unwritten rules of the House to make a speech during a vote. There was a scattering of applause. Some members shouted, “Vote. Vote. Vote.” The chief clerk asked if she intended to vote “No.” She nodded, pressed her hands to her eyes, and sat down. On went the vote: 373 for, 50 against, 9 not voting. The House adjourned at 3:14 a.m. Wellington, walking Jeannette home in the dark dawn of Good Friday, told her she had cruciﬁed herself. “You know you're not going to be reelected. You know there will be a lot of feeling.” She replied: “I’m not interested in that. All I’m interested in [is] what they'll say ﬁfty years from now.”
The papers made much of Jeannette's vote. Although ﬁfty men had also opposed the resolution, hers was the vote that attracted attention. She had wept, they said, just like a woman. Others said she did not. lt became a public issue: did or did not Miss Rankin weep? Fiorello LaGuardia, whose desk was near hers, said he did not know. “I could not see because of the tears in my own eyes.” He had voted for the declaration and four months later signed up in the Signal Corps. He had promised his constituents that if he sent them to ﬁght he would go himself. The April 7, 1918, Atlanta Constitution said if there were tears, it was on an issue dear to a mother's heart. Tears did not prove her weak, it said, but womanly, and some day “tears will move all the women of the world to be consulted before the War Lords tear their sons from their bosoms.”
Jeannette said she did not cry. She had cried for a week and had no more tears left. The Congressional Record says she did not cry. Only a few months later, at a House hearing on woman‘s suffrage, a witness, explaining why women should not be allowed to vote and deploring their weakness, said, “Never was there a more eloquent confession of woman's inability to support the strains of a war council than that so pathetically made by Miss Rankin in that moment of national crisis...”
Fortunately, we've come so far since then that there is no longer such a sexist double standard. And no more war, too.
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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Dogs Are Subject To Laws, So They Can Believe In Dog
During an interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Gohmert said that he was “shocked” to hear the Obama administration say that corporations could not form religious beliefs during Tuesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
“This is a Justice Department that has indicted corporations for forming intent to commit a crime,” the former Texas judge said. “Well, Tony, if you can as a corporation through your directors and officers, form the intent to commit a crime, then you can certainly, through your officers and directors form an intent to have religious beliefs.”
“And if every one of your directors and officers has the same exact religious beliefs, whether your Amish and have formed a corporation or any other religious group — Quakers or whatever the group is — certainly a corporation can, if they can have intent as the Justice Department repeatedly proves in court, then they can certainly have religious beliefs.”
So I no longer have to do my WTR through what was the only legal way (not earning enough money to have a tax liability). I just have to form a corporation--one hopes it will be profitable--and refuse to pay corporate taxes based on my strenuous religious objection to funding the Military Industrial Complex!
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Ah, good times in 1981:
At eight o'clock on Friday 27 March the factory sirens sounded from Gdansk to Jastrezebie and Poland stopped work. For the next four hours Polish society demonstrated its unity and self-discipline in the largest strike in the history of the Soviet bloc.
After that, the Polish government made enough concessions that Solidarity postponed a general strike. By the end of the year martial law was imposed, but in less than a decade there was a sea change:
Poland became the first eastern European country to move decisively towards noncommunist government when, on June 4, 1989, Solidarity candidates decisively beat communist candidates in elections for the Sejm (parliament); on August 24, 1989, the National Assembly elected as prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Solidarity; and on September 12 it endorsed his proposals for a new coalition Council of Ministers dominated by Solidarity.
This change in Poland was in part the result of pressure from below in the form of popular resistance. Over a period of more than twenty years, the civil resistance of Poles, and especially of Polish workers, had contributed significantly to the evolution in the thinking of the party leadership. In this process, the strike weapon had been paramo~nt.~~ The strikes in the Baltic ports in the winter of 1970-71 had shown the capacity of such action even in the face of brutal repression; and many subsequent strikes and demonstrations in the next two decades had added to the party's malaise, while also provid- ing the pretext for the desperate move in December 1981 of the imposition of martial law.
In the course of the evolution of events in Poland in the 1980s, civil resistance had to be used with considerable care. Solidarity showed its power as much by its ability to restrain its followers as by its ability to unleash them. In December 1988, at a time of crucial deliberations on the future of Poland, one senior party figure, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, said publicly that Lech Walesa was "a different man from 1981" (the period of Solidarity's confrontation with the authorities leading to the imposition of martial law): Walesa was now said to favor gradual change and compromise with the ruling Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP).
The change in Poland was also the result of evolutionary changes within party and govemment organs. It occurred because the communist system of government was morally and had slowly come to recognize that fact.
But that can't happen here...
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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Clicktivism Dilutes Action
Protests...fueled by social media and erupting into spectacular mass events, look like powerful statements of opposition against a regime. And whether these take place in Turkey, Egypt or Ukraine, pundits often speculate that the days of a ruling party or government, or at least its unpopular policies, must be numbered. Yet often these huge mobilizations of citizens inexplicably wither away without the impact on policy you might expect from their scale.
This muted effect is not because social media isn’t good at what it does, but, in a way, because it’s very good at what it does. Digital tools make it much easier to build up movements quickly, and they greatly lower coordination costs. This seems like a good thing at first, but it often results in an unanticipated weakness: Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.
I'd rather just sign a petition than escalate action...
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Sunday, March 16, 2014
The Blood-sweetened Beverage
[S]o necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa), we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human flesh.
- William Fox, An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum (1791)
Over at dKos:
When I thought of boycotts in relation to people's movements, the first thing that popped into my head was the Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950s and Rosa Parks—that history is still being revisited to reflect the role of women in those battles. Though we learned a smidgin about slavery and the Civil War when I was in grade school, no one ever taught me about a boycott of "slave-grown" sugar, nor did I learn much about women who were abolitionists, other than a mention perhaps of Harriet Tubman leading enslaved people to freedom, and Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Well, imagine if we were taught about such things...we might actually understand collective nonviolent action can be powerful. Can't have that because then everybody would turn into Quakers and the world would go to shite.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
March To The Salty Sea
What hope shall we gather, what dreams shall we sow?
Where the wind calls our wandering footsteps we go.
On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi gave some parting remarks at Chandola lake to those who came to see his party off as they began the Salt March:
There were rumours of my arrest last night. God is great, mysterious indeed are His ways. I am here to say good-bye to you. But even if I were in prison, with your strength I could come back...
[B]e prepared to offer yourselves as civil resisters. Let there be no flinching. Your way at present, however, lies homeward; mine straight on to the sea-coast. You cannot accompany me at present, but you will have an opportunity to accompany me in a different sense later. . . .
The purpose of the March and this satyagraha was, in part, to break the British monopoly on salt manufacture through a form of economic non-cooperation (Method 90: Revenue Refusal). By making their own salt, Indians would deny a small, symbolic amount of tax monies to the Raj in defiance of an unjust law that was part of the larger injustice of occupation.
By itself, that action wouldn't amount to much, so Gandhi had to generate what we'd call buzz today, hence the March. It generated popular interest in every locality his party passed through, and the media propagated the message far and wide.
Before embarking on this first stage of the satyagraha, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin on March 2:
I know that in embarking on non-violence I shall be running what might fairly be termed a mad risk. But the victories of truth have never been won without risks, often of the gravest character. Conversion of a nation that has consciously or unconsciously preyed I know that in embarking on non-violence I shall be running what might fairly be termed a mad risk. But the victories of truth have never been won without risks, often of the gravest character. Conversion of a nation that has consciously or unconsciously preyed.
[I]f you cannot see your way to deal with these evils and my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the 11th day of this month,1 I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the salt laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning will be made with this evil. The wonder is that we have submitted to the cruel monopoly for so long.
It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me, and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act to lay themselves open to the penalties of a law that should never have disfigured the Statute-book.
It might seem odd at first blush to alert the authorities that you plan on breaking the law, but civil resistance is all about letting the people in power know what you're doing and why. That way they can either amend their ways or be provoked into counterproductive actions that undermine their authority and give power to the resisters.
A few days before the March ended in Dandi, spoke at a prayer meeting:
Another piece of information that I have received is that the Government intends to use fire-engines to stop us. We have prepared ourselves for death from cannons and guns, compared to which this is nothing. Of course, even with jets of water, the Government can kill us through torture. It is certainly painful. However, you must bear in mind that not one of us will retreat. I do not think the Government will be so cruel, but we must be prepared.
The March arrived at Dandi on April 5:
That I have reached here is in no small measure due to the power of peace and non-violence: that power is universally felt. The Government may, if it wishes, congratulate itself on acting as it has done, for it could have arrested every one of us. In saying that it did not have the courage to arrest this army of peace, we praise it. It felt ashamed to arrest such an army. He is a civilized man who feels ashamed to do anything which his neighbours would disapprove. The Government deserves to be congratulated on not arresting us, even if it desisted only from fear of world opinion.
Tomorrow we shall break the salt tax law. Whether the Government will tolerate that is a different question. It may not tolerate it, but it deserves congratulations on the patience and forbearance it has displayed in regard to this party.
If the civil disobedience movement becomes widespread in the country and the Government tolerates it, the salt law may be taken as abolished. I have no doubt in my mind that the salt tax stood abolished the very moment that the decision to break the salt laws was reached and a few men took the pledge to carry on the movement even at the risk of their lives till swaraj was won.
If the Government tolerates the impending civil disobedience you may take it for certain that the Government, too, has resolved to abolish this tax sooner or later. If they arrest me or my companions tomorrow, I shall not be surprised, I shall certainly not be pained. It would be absurd to be pained if we get something that we have invited on ourselves.
Then on April 6 (as reported by The Bombay Chronicle):
When they made a beginning in the morning he had himself picked up more mud than salt, but after washing and cleaning he could get two tolas of pure quality which was sufficient for his day’s requirements. That was only a beginning but that signified great things.
In an interview, Gandhi suggest everybody ough to engage in this civil disobedience:
Now that a technical or ceremonial breach of the salt law has been committed, it is now open to anyone who would take the risk of prosecution under the salt law to manufacture salt wherever he wishes and wherever it is convenient.
My advice is that a worker should everywhere manufacture salt and where he knows how to prepare clean salt should make use of it and instruct villagers to do likewise, telling the villagers at the same time that he runs the risk of being prosecuted. In other words the villagers should be fully instructed as to the incidence of salt tax and the manner of breaking laws and regulations in connection with it, so as to have the salt tax repealed and it should be made absolutely clear to the villagers that this breach is to be open and in no way stealthy.
This condition being known they may manufacture salt or help themselves to salt manufactured by nature in creeks and pits near the seashore, to use it for themselves and for their cattle and to sell it to those who will buy it, it being well und- erstood that all such people are committing a breach of the salt law and therefore running the risk of prosecution or even without prosecution to be subjected by the so-called salt officers to harassment. Thus the war against salt tax should be continue...
Gandhi was not arrested at this point. That would happen a bit later when the satyagrahis escalated, announcing their nonviolent raid on the Dharasana saltworks. But this was a real turning point in the struggle, massively mobilizing the Indian people while not alienating more moderate members of the Indian National Congress.
Sometimes big things start with a mere handful of mud...
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Monday, March 10, 2014
We pretend to believe that retaliation is the law of our being, whereas in every scripture we find that retaliation is nowhere obligatory but only permissible. It is restraint that is obligatory. Retaliation is indulgence requiring elaborate regulating. Restraint is the law of our being.
- MK Gandhi, Young India, March 9, 1922
One way to refuse cooperation with a regime is to engage in Method 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance:
In many situations, the making of speeches and the publication and distribution of literature which call on people to undertake some form of nonviolent noncooperation or nonviolent intervention themselves become acts of defiance and resistance. This is especially so in those countries where any call for resistance, especially for illegals acts of resistance, is itself illegal or seditious.
Now sedition is a rather subjective thing, and often used too loosely to describe a variety of acts. I think colloquially it is taken to mean "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo." Sometimes it's criminal.
We in the US have had a long history, from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in during John Adams' tenure in 1798 to the Sedition Act of 1918 under Woodrow Wilson to the Smith Act that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt (and remains on the books to this day). Sadly, there are plenty of examples of trying to suppress dissent in the recent past, too.
You most likely know where I'm headed with this. On the same date that Gandhi wrote in Young India about non-violence, he also instructed people what to do in case he was arrested:
The rumour has been revived that my arrest is imminent. It is said to be regarded as a mistake by some officials that I was not arrested when I was to be...It is said, too, that it is now no longer possible for the Government to withstand the ever-rising agitation in London for my arrest and deportation. I myself cannot see how the Government can avoid arresting me if they want a permanent abandonment of civil disobedience, whether individual or mass.
I advised the Working Committee to suspend mass civil disobedience...becauae that disobedience would not have been civil, and if I am now advising all provincial workers to suspend even individual civil disobedience, it is because I know that any disobedience at the present stage will be not civil but criminal. A tranquil atmosphere is an indispensable condition of civil disobedience. It is humiliating for me to discover that there is a spirit of violence abroad and that the Government of the United Provinces has been obliged to enlist additional police...
He also admonished his followers to not engage in any demonstrations or hartal upon his arrest, nor should they revive mass civil disobedience, and they should strictly adhere to the principles of non-violence.
Gandhi was, in fact, arrested at Ahmedabad late at night on March 10, under Section 124, Indian Penal Code. His parting words were that "all who bore patriotism and love for India should strain every nerve to propagate peace and goodwill all over India, among all communities."
The authorities charged Gandhi with sedition for writing three articles in Young India:
- Tampering with Loyalty (September 27, 1921)
- A Puzzle and its Solution (December 15, 1921)
- Shaking the Manes (February 22, 1922)
I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I were set free I would still do the same. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also last article of my creed. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am sorry for it. Their crime consisted in the love of their country.
I am here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest Penalty. In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be the inflected upon me for what in law is a deliberated crime and what appears to me be the highest duty of a citizen.
The only cause open to, judge, is either to resign post and thus dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is evil and that I am innocent or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal.
He was sentenced to six years in prison, though he was released early because of illness (he was 53 at that point and had an appendectomy two years into his prison term). Wonder if the CEO of Hobby Lobby would be willing to demand the harshest penalty of law to defend his principles and effect change...
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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.