Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?


This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.


Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.


Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.


Allow me to leave you with this:


The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

WE Have a Dream: revisiting Dr. King’s speech, 50 years later

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered fifty years ago today, August 28, 1963.

Text:  “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the colored America is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the colored American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of its colored citizens. This sweltering summer of the colored people’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the colored Americans needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the colored citizen is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the colored person’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for white only.”

We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi cannot vote and a colored person in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interpostion and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.””

Our thoughts:
From hlward:

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

This past Saturday I went to a celebration of the anniversary of the March on Washington at my local City Hall. It was organized by all the groups you would expect, and it was a lovely event. A variety of speakers read portions of Dr. King’s “Dream” speech, including the chairs of both the local Democratic and Republican parties. The crowd of fifty or so onlookers was about half white, half black, and all quite friendly.

If you didn’t know better, you might think we had achieved the Dream.

If you didn’t know African-Americans are about 12 percent of the US population but African-American men make up 40 percent of the US prison population, you might think we had achieved the Dream.

If you didn’t know African-American average household income is fully one-third less than that of all American households of all races you might think we had achieved the Dream.

If you didn’t know that “driving while black” is not a joke, you might think we had achieved the Dream.

But we do know those things, you and I. To pretend that we do not is nothing less than succumbing to the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

There are those among us who never subscribed to the Dream. Who, to this day, in their private moments, will tell you that Martin Luther King, Jr. was nothing but a “nigger troublemaker.” And they are active. They are working hard to roll back every inch of brotherhood and decency gained by the blood, sweat and tears of two generations.

Gradualism will not defeat them.

The Dream is still waiting at the end of a long, hard road. There are people who want to block that road. I don’t know about you, but I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round. That’s an easy thing for a white boy like me to say, but white, black, brown or any color of the rainbow, we have to march together if we’re going to reach freedom land.

From tamsworld:

Dear Dr. King,

First, I would like to thank you. As a young black girl, your words touched me. Your compassion motivated me. Your dream gave me hope. Your dream made me dream, so to speak.

Who doesn’t love dreams? Pleasant interludes that allow us to escape reality. Dr. King, you had a dream. This dream was articulated in such an inspirational fashion that we forget the core of it. Equality. You dreamed many decades ago of a time when all people would be judged solely on their character and not the color of their skin. You dreamed of a time when poor people could escape their “island of poverty”. You dreamed of a time when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would apply to all Americans. Even me, whom you fought for before I was a thought in my mother’s mind.

I will admit, and beg your pardon, that it took me a few years to understand. Having been born in 1975, I figured it was done. It was an unfortunate part of history. Your marches, protests, speeches, and abuse had put paid to that debt. I didn’t have to do anything but be a good person and, well, ..dream.

But, then, I grew up.

I think I understand, now. As a mother, I remember setting the bar really low when my sons first attempted something. But, as years passed, obstacles changed. To be an effective parent, I had to change with them. When the days of slaying under-the-bed monsters were over, I learned to handle playground bullies and peer pressure. And when new barriers pop up, I must be able to confront those, too. Because slaying an imaginary monster won’t get my sons into college or help them find gainful employment.

I don’t believe America has learned that lesson yet. We are still slaying the slavery monster. But slavery and lynchings are no longer our primary obstacles. Blatant racism and bigotry are no longer the enemy of justice. Voter discrimination, gerrymandering, school to prison pipelines, the bogus “War on Drugs”…those are our new monsters. Blacks are still unemployed at a sickeningly higher rate than other Americans. Still tried and jailed at disgustingly higher rates than other Americans. Black schools are still massively neglected. Still on the outside, looking in.

So, we continue to dream. On this anniversary of your iconic speech, I am unashamed to say that your dream is my dream. Unashamed? Yes. You see, I have learned that the fight for true equality is not a sprint, but a marathon. Sure, progress has been made. As a black woman who had the opportunity to live out many of her dreams, I am eternally grateful. The struggle that you, and others, endured allowed that to be possible. I pray that before I leave this life, I have helped equality along, in some small way. I pray that your dream will always be someone’s dream. Until that day when equality for all – no matter race, creed, or gender – is a reality. On that day, Dr. King, we can wake up from the dream. We will all join hands and be free at last.

From timrockwell:

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech I took a few moments to reflect on the purpose of his words and whether or not King’s dream and been realized. Upon reading the speech again (admittedly for the first time in many years) I was struck by its non-combative tone. This was not a general rallying his troops for battle nor was it an incitement to riot. In fact King admonishes the crowd with the words, “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Instead of setting the stage for a war, his message is of peace and unity. He devotes some time to talking about equal rights and how black Americans should have more options than moving from “a smaller ghetto to a larger one.” He talks about how black Americans should be allowed to vote in all the states and how the ones who can vote should have someone representing them. He never blames anyone for these inequalities, he simply says that these are basic rights any human and citizen should expect and continue to demand if they are not being given. And that was the problem. We had a 14th Amendment that was going largely unrecognized in many parts of the country. The situation is better today but could still use improvement.

The heart of his speech comes at the end though. King’s message is not a black message or an anti-white message, it’s an American message, that all people are equal. Then rather than focus on negative illustrations of how people aren’t treated equally, he presents us with a series of beautiful possibilities for the future.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”

His overwhelming message, his desire, and his hope was that Americans of any color would live together in peace because before any of the other changes can truly take place, this first change must happen.

Has King’s “Dream” come true? I guess it depends on your individual attitudes and where you live. Martin Luther King’s dream has nothing to do with being poor or rich or being born with advantages or disadvantages. It has to do with looking at the person across the road from you and calling them your neighbor, friend and fellow American, regardless of their skin color or yours.

We could all learn a lot from Dr. King. Not just about civil rights, but how to live as decent human beings.

From seyyaledibe:

I grew up in the Smalltown South of the ‘60s. To say that my grandmother and her peers were not particularly actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement would be somewhat of an understatement. I don’t know if it was a relative lack of education or if they’d just been beaten down so badly living in that place that they dared not hope for very much. We actually had it pretty good , relatively speaking. The lines of demarcation between Whites and Blacks were well-defined, and everybody pretty much stayed on their side. We even had a White Downtown and a Black Downtown.

When I was in third grade, the county instituted “Freedom of Choice,” which meant we could go to the “white” schools if we wanted, but the schools were not integrated. My fourth grade year, the schools were fully integrated. We were told that was a good thing, but I wasn’t convinced then or now that it was. You see, in our town (and probably in many others) “integration” meant absorption. The two schools had the same colors, but when they merged, everything that had been Jackson (the black schools) disappeared. In cases where there were duplications (principals, band directors, music teachers, etc.) the Camden staff took precedence. We had sold our souls to the devil, in a sense: in exchange for the promise of a better education, we had sacrificed our identity. It went as well as could be expected: many of the white students remained; the ones whose parents just couldn’t bear the thought of their children sharing a classroom with more than a few blacks moved to the unaccredited, all-white private school. Even then, I thought they had to be pretty desperate to go to an unaccredited school.
Fast forward some thirty years later, and I returned to that small town with my children. What did I find? The school that had been Jackson Elementary, then Camden Elementary was Jackson Elementary once again, had a black principal, and a majority black student population. The school that had been Camden Elementary, then Camden Primary, was Camden Elementary once again, and was pre-dominated by the children of the town’s white professionals and business people. Today, almost 15 years later, the old Jackson Elementary is the Alternative School and the old Camden Elementary is a magnet school. Coincidence? Maybe…
The fact is, this story tends to illustrate that we really have not come all that far in the past 50 years. We have made some forward progress, ‘tis true, but relatively little. Civil Rights in the country is a treadmill, when it should be a cross-country path.
The part of Dr. King’s speech that has always resonated with me is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” When I was younger, it was because I was about the same age as his children, and I felt that what he dreamed for them, he dreamed for me, also. Later, as I raised my own two little brown-skinned babies, it became my hope for them.

I still remember the day in 2007 when I heard that Dr. King’s oldest daughter, Yolanda, had died. It actually hurt my heart. I thought, “That child died without ever realizing her father’s dream. I wonder if any of the others will live to see it?” And in the back of my mind, I wondered if my children would ever live to see it.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of this iconic speech, I have to wonder when or if they will ever be more than just words, just dreams. It seems that the fire in the bellies of the previous generations has been extinguished – or at least assuaged – by fancy mac-mansions, flashy cars, and designer togs. We seem to have decided that it is, truly, better to look good than to feel good. I will admit to you – my brothers and sisters – that I have failed to carry the torch in a public way. I have taught my children the quiet ways in which I was taught, but I regularly see that, even as young adults, they have little more than an inkling of what that period meant to this country in general, and to black Americans in particular.
On this anniversary, I have resolved to ponder that, and ponder ways in which to rectify that. Because I do have a dream: that one day my children will be judged solely by the content of their character. But dreams are for the sleeping. Doing is for the living.

From samanthaimperiatrix:

My initial reaction [when approached for this post]? “I’m a white girl from the suburbs. This dream wasn’t for me. What right do I have to be part of his dream? I’ve never really known discrimination… Have I?”
The truth is, when I read the text again, his dream was for me. And his family. And the people of all colors and races. We are all entitled to that dream. The dream of equality, happiness, love, and peace. Dr. King did not subset his dream for any one race or group. He may have spoke of his dream in the context of Blacks and Whites, but the word equality does not leave a group out in the cold. The Dream that he imparted on us, includes equality for all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, all creeds, and all religions. And no, we have not seen his dream realized. But I hope that my children will see it.

From contrawhit:

I had the unique privilege of attending Dr. King’s old church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, when I was a junior in college. Some very kind deacons and deaconnesses with the most amazing hats let me stay until after the service and stand behind the pulpit.

I don’t think they let most people do that. Being in the historic church was humbling enough, but standing behind the pulpit made my eyes water and I still don’t have words.

My college was in Atlanta, where I’ll (jokingly) guess that 1/3 of the streets are named after Civil Rights Leaders, 1/3 are named “Peachtree”-something, and the last third are either confederate leaders or people behind the invention and development of Coca-Cola. Living in Atlanta for those brief years shaped and improved my understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, of Dr. King, of Bayard Rustin, of Malcom X–and so many others who gave their blood, sweat, tears….and their lives. And don’t you dare forget the Sisters of the Civil Rights Movement or the fact that Dr. King’s now 50-year old speech was encouraged, inspired, and even occurred because of Mahalia Jackson.

His dream is not dead, nor has it been fully realized. His dream is a work in progress. His dream is a challenge for everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability. .

It’s clear that we (adults) are all responsible to continually challenge ourselves and others.  I don’t mean in a confrontational way either; I have no room or time for hate. For example, I just encountered someone on a forum advocating for a form of segregation. I quoted Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” as a response. If this person continues, I’m going to quote Letter from a Birmingham Jail (which I used to teach in comparison to Plato’s Phaedo.)

When I taught “Race, Class, and Gender” to incoming education majors in the early 2000’s, there was a terrible hate crime. The details aren’t important except that two of my students were targeted because of their race and gender. I was horrified. The director of the program called me in and advised that I not talk about the situation, but instead carry on like everything was fine.

Ethically, I could NOT follow his instruction to pretend nothing happened.

So, I talked privately with the two targeted students. With their permission, I ditched the curriculum that day and we, as a class, talked about how this hate crime affected everyone and hurt their community. We developed ways for everyone to feel safer and regain that sense of community.

To this day, that may have been the most successful class I taught because the students–who are now teachers–left with an incredible understanding and commitment that followed them throughout their schooling.

Now that I have children, teaching them about race is not just important, it is a moral imperative, it is my ethical duty if they are to grow up and be allies and advocates for basic human rights, civil rights, and the (dying) idea of justice.

Last year, my parenting skills were put to the test. In October, my then 5 year old asked her kindergarten teacher about race. One of the children in the class had relayed (on the playground) that his father had a friend who wouldn’t vote for Obama because he’s black. My child asked the teacher, “Why would someone not vote for Obama because he’s black?”
Well, for that damn innocent question which would have made a great lesson, we were called in to discuss my child’s “racism.” All that was offered as proof of her racism was that she asked that question.

So Dr. King…and all those who worked with you, for you…we are still pushing for your dream to be a full-on reality.

We won’t let you down.

Italy, here I come! But before I go…

Tomorrow I depart for Italy. It is the last of my summer vacations and one that is much-needed. This time away will be used to decompress, relax, immerse myself in a foreign land and its people, culture, art, architecture, and wine country. Afterwards I will return to the States refreshed and ready to tackle some big issues, focusing more on solutions as opposed to just stating and/or grousing about the problems. Until then, here are some articles and books about issues I’m watching and will be writing about in the coming months.

Voting Rights

DoJ to Texas: Voter Suppression Will Not Stand

Supreme Error

How Voter Suppression Endangers our Democratic Process

And as far as I’m concerned, Alexandar Keyssar’s book is the Bible of voting rights history and legislation. Voting rights in America have always been hard fought; never have they been granted freely except to white, male property owners, and even some of them were not deemed worthy of casting a ballot.

The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in The United States

Healthcare Reform – ACA enrollment begins October 1, so know how to enroll. Many obstacles are being put in the way of enrollees and misinformation abounds. Get educated about the process and the benefits if you need health insurance. It could save your life or someone’s you love.

Enroll America: Outreach and Consumer Assistance

Judging Obamacare: A How-To Guide

Boehner warns against shutting U.S. government over ‘Obamacare’

The GOP in Fantasyland

Financial Reform

I highly recommend Sheila Bair’s book Bull by the Horns. It is an excellent assessment of what went wrong leading up to the economic crash of 2008, detailing the steps taken to stanch the bleeding and the battles fought over those steps. Bair suggests actions to be taken that would lessen the chance of Main Street falling victim again to Wall Street’s recklessness and greed in the future. Buy it, read it, study it.

Bull by the Horns

Two other books I recommend about or related to financial reform: 13 Bankers and Retirement Heist.

Military Industrial Complex

It appears inevitable that America will soon be involved in another armed conflict. This time with Syria. Funny, with all the deficit hysteria and sequestration zeal, somehow this country always finds money for military endeavors. In his article No War with Syria Bob Dreyfuss pleads for other options to be used. On that depressing note, I’m signing off.

Happy reading! Vi auguro buona salute, buona fortuna, e la pace. (Wishing you good health, good fortune, and peace.)

Deborah Ludwig’s weekly column will resume on September 24.

Grist for the Military Justice Mill

I’m a veteran. I don’t discuss it much, because – at least in this sector – I take my grandmother’s sage advice of saying nothing if I can’t say anything nice.  Let’s just leave that lie for now.

As a veteran, and a current Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employee, I continue to watch the goings on of the uniformed contingent with great interest. And of late, this flurry of very public Military Justice proceedings has captured my attention.

First, we have SPC Bradley Manning. Accused of – and admitted to – leaking thousands of pages of classified documents to WikiLeaks. As a defense, he has wrapped himself in the flag and said he was driven to do what he did because he is a “true patriot.”  Sounds good, but  – as someone who has had a security clearance and access for years – I can assure you the official military position on this type of behavior is “Damn Patriotism. Do not divulge. And if you are considering it, let us share with you how painful it may be for you.” So Manning’s characterization of himself as a being driven by a “Higher Power” and “Patriotic Altruism” just don’t wash with me. You see, one thing that has become abundantly clear to me over the past 25+ years is that the military is black and white. They don’t do well with gray. You either did it or you didn’t, and if you admit (or they decide) you did it, no one is really interested in  the “but…” of the matter.  So Manning is looking at 35 years on quasi-active duty (minus pay and benefits) with  the possibility of reprieve sometime around the 7 to 10 year mark, depending on which source you believe.

Then we have SSG  Robert Bales. After a bit of prodding, he  admitted to massacring 16 Afghanis for no apparent reason. In the name of expediency, we’ll overlook the part about him disobeying a lawful order by leaving the base and going into the village in the middle of the night to commit the dastardly deed. In exchange for an admission of guilt, he was awarded a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.  Needless to say, the Afghanis are not pleased. But, hey: it’s not like he killed Americans or anything, right?

Which brings us to – in my mind – the most puzzling case: Major Nidal Hasan.  On Friday, MAJ Hasan – after four years of senseless reindeer games – was found guilty of the murder of 13 American soldiers and the injuring of more than 30 in his shooting rampage at Fort Hood, TX in 2009.  The guilty verdict came as no surprise, as Hasan admitted  he committed the acts  (like he had to with all the witnesses and video footage), followed by the rather weak “but…” of it was his intention to prevent American soldiers from killing the designated enemy du jour.  Very soon we will know whether he, too, will receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or the ultimate penalty: death.  I am anxious to see how this one plays out: essentially, MAJ Hasan, too, freely admitted guilt. Will his killing of 13 Americans warrant a tougher sentence than Bales’ killing of 13 Afghanis? If so, how will this be received in the international arena?

As disturbing as all of this is, I find something much more disturbing. I was on active duty from 1986  through 1999, and the one thing that has puzzled me above all else is how much the military has changed. When I enlisted, if a Chief Petty Officer said it, it was law. End of discussion. By the time I made Chief — a mere 10 years later – I had E3’s asking me “Why?”

As a civilian, I’ve sat in General Officer Staff Calls where the GO asked the same question week after week and never got an answer. There was no colorful language, nothing was thrown. Somewhere along the way, our military had evolved into an all volunteer force, all the time. Good order and discipline have become outdated concepts.

The Post 9/11 military is sadder still. In an effort to feed the ever-hungry faux war machine, quality control in recruiting and retention went the way of the dodo. I saw people promoted and assigned to positions of leadership they wouldn’t have come within a country mile of during peace-time. I have witnessed recalcitrant, undisciplined, and unruly enlisted troops given chance after chance: folks who – under other circumstances – would never had made it through MEPS, much less into the active force.  So when I look at the likes of Manning, Bales, and Hasan, I can only lay so much blame at their feet: I hold much more responsible a system that was so intent on feeding the Faux Wars with an virtual endless supply of bullet-catchers, and Do-People it lost sight of the bigger picture.

Clearly, Bradley/Chelsea Manning should have been screened out prior to ever raising his/her right hand to take the enlistment oath.

Robert Bales had a rather unstable history prior to his enlistment, including involvement in some dubious real estate dealings and accusations of parting unassuming senior citizens from their hard-earned  nest eggs.  He continued to have troubles after he enlisted.  And as for Hasan:  regardless of a number of adverse evaluations and personnel record entries, he was retained on active duty – and even promoted – because “at least he could help with some of the patient load.” Here we have a deeply troubled man, surrounded every day by mental health professionals and not one of them connected any of the dots. Why? Because they were all too busy feeding the Faux War Machine.

Luckily, President Obama finally put his foot down and called a halt to this on-going exercise in futility. Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and I’m not sure how long it will take the military to dig itself out of this very deep hole.

But as these cases  play themselves out, I will be watching. Watching to see how much of the responsibility the military establishment so drills into its members it will be willing to take onto itself. Will the cases of Manning, Bales, and Hasan be adjudicated fairly and logically? Will the DoD stand up, take responsibility for it’s role in this and take positive steps to rectify the situation? Will these be viewed as individual, isolated incidents so that we free ourselves to delve into the quagmire that Syria is destined to become?

We shall see.

Welcome To Earth Overshoot Day

National Deficit? How About the Global Deficit?

A lot of people have been complaining about the deficit lately. But while they are expending so much energy worrying about hypothetical numbers representing possible outcomes in a budget that never comes to fruition, another, far more serious deficit has been accumulating.

Welcome to Earth Overshoot Day.

This year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 20th and on that day the human race began using more resources than the planet can replenish in a year; including CO2 mitigation. You read that right, in eight months we used up a year’s worth of what the Earth can provide in self-sustaining natural resources; and then we kept on using.

This data comes from The Global Footprint Network and is an estimate based on time and recourse trends. Still, anyone but the most far right leaning conservatives must recognize that we are on an unsustainable path and anyone but the most fanatical religious zealots awaiting the rapture should care that we are leaving a really messed up place for our grandchildren to live.

While we squabble over “rights” and “entitlements” and a whole bunch of other garbage that really doesn’t matter, we are turning this planet into a husk. Future generations will have to wage wars over clean water while wearing masks with air scrubbers because we were too busy fighting about gun control and the President’s birth certificate to notice that we squandered everything this world had to offer us.

You may shrug this off as a paranoid delusion. You may look around and see plenty of land for new homes and rolling hills overflowing with a cornucopia of fresh crops and think to yourself, “Where’s the problem?” Well, this is America and it’s very different from the rest of the world. Some of the biggest offenders are Japan, Italy and China, which would need two and a half Chinas in order to keep up with their resource demands.  And I hate to tell you this, but their problems are becoming our problems. When looked at on the global scale, it would take 1.5 Earths to support our current levels of consumption and waste production. We can no longer afford a policy of isolationism. We can no longer afford to pretend that this isn’t a very real catastrophe bearing down upon us.

Maybe the next few generations will realize that we are all going to have to work together if we want to fix this. In order for that to happen, all the other stuff that we all think is so important, the stuff that causes us to all hate each other, that stuff is going to have to take a back seat.

Additional Reading

Assange and Abortion

My high school geometry teacher once told me (paraphrase) “it’s okay to appreciate someone as an artist but not like their personal and political beliefs, etc.”

This kickass advice has helped me while navigating college, grad school, work, and most every aspect of life.  I like some things Obama has done; I disapprove of many other things he’s done while president. Hell, I vaguely remember approving of something G.W. Bush did while in office.  No one very few people are that simple and consistent. I’m the first to admit I’m not.

But enough about vague nuances. Let’s now apply this to a very, oh, divisive person.

Julian Assange.

I have encountered people who believe he’s a hero, with no flaws. In the eyes of some, Assange can do no wrong.
I have also encountered people who think he’s a traitor, he’s terrible, etc.

My own view is that Wikileaks was good. I applaud that.

And . . .  that may be all I applaud or approve of regarding Assange’s life and work.

He currently lives in an embassy, avoiding arrest for more than one rape allegation. I understand why someone would hide from facing trial, even if they aren’t guilty, but at the same time, I do find this quite cowardly.

I find it infuriating that Bradley Manning is serving time and Assange isn’t (okay, living in an embassy for days-months-years can’t be fun); I admit to wondering if Assange took advantage of Pfc. Manning’s low self esteem/mental state. Yes, I realize that it’s not that simple, but at the end of the day . . . Assange isn’t in prison, suffering inhumane solitary confinement.  Whistleblower Pfc B. Manning has been sentencedis in prison, serving up to 35 years. Laila Lalami observes: “That’s 35 years more than the people who started the Iraq War.” Tim Ireland observes it’s “more than 3 times the maximum sentence faced by anyone involved in Abu Ghraib torture.”

I hadn’t thought of any of Assange for a while, and then I stumbled upon this article: “Julian Assange calls Rand Paul the ‘only hope’ for US politics.”  Please do take the time to read it.

Assange also praised Paul and former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul for their principled positions on the libertarianism, non-violence, drone warfare, extrajudicial killings and abortion.

What? I reread the line several times.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul are against abortion.  I can disagree with the Paul’s (and the majority of the GOP) on this (and other) issue(s)…but I fail to see how this anti-abortion stance could ever be construed as libertarian. Libertarians believe that government should be kept at a minimum and that government shouldn’t interfere with personal life (and liberty, and freedom.)

Restricting or outlawing abortion does just that, however; it interferes with personal life, liberty, and freedom in a cruel and yes, inhumane, torturous way. The criminalization of abortion is the government telling a set of the population what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s the government stepping into a doctor’s office and interfering with what may be the best decision for the individual. The criminalization of abortion takes freedom away from a professional (so much for the free market, Doc) and from the person pregnant.

“We trust you to educate children without any assistance. But we don’t trust you to decide whether you want to have a child.”

That, my friends, is not true libertarianism. I call it “GOP-libertarianism.”

So thanks for Wikileaks.

That’s really the only positive thing I can say about you, Mr. Assange.

Talking about the uncomfortable

A few weekends ago, my partner and I were rearranging some things in our house. This included–to my delight–bringing two bookcases filled with my books out of the study and into a main room.

My partner joked with me as he surveyed the all three bookcases (the third must remain in the study).

(This is a paraphrase.)

“I can just imagine someone coming to our house, browsing your books, and saying ‘You have a lot of books about the Holocaust and Shoah.'”He paused for effect.

“‘Um, especially for someone with blonde hair and blue eyes. Nope, no Nazis here.'”

I laughed a little. I do have blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. It was a joke in my “Philosophy in the Wake of the Holocaust” course that I was the only “Aryan” in the room. I’m used to others joking uncomfortably about this topic. Genocide is a heavy topic (quite the understatement) and makes people uncomfortable.

When people are uncomfortable, they joke. They also will avoid that which causes the discomfort.

But I have always been fascinated not just with the Holocaust and Shoah, but with all genocides. My books on the Armenian genocide (sorry, Turkey, but that WAS a genocide), the Japanese genocide during WWII, Rwanda in 1994, and early 90’s Yugoslavia don’t attract attention. My guess to explain this phenomenon is that many people aren’t aware of the above mentioned genocides, aren’t aware that as I write this and you read this, there are genocides being carried at this very moment.

Let me be clear: I don’t “like” genocide. It is a sick act of sheer cruelty with no possible explanation that would make it somehow permissible. But as someone who prides herself in human rights advocacy, knowledge of the depravity humans are capable of is important to me.

The philosophical implications are important to me. And honoring those who were victims of genocide by not forgetting and trying to learn their stories–that’s of the utmost importance to me.

Not reading about rapes, murders, not talking about these atrocities, and any other act that fits this definition–that doesn’t make them go away.

There is no eraser or magic wand.

If anything, it’s terribly harmful to not discuss these terrible acts throughout history (including now).

Please do me a favor. Read a memoir of a survivor of genocide. Remember the millions of people who have and still are suffering. Talk about it.

With genocide, silence and avoiding the topic because it’s “uncomfortable” is deadly.