Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spreading Light in Dark Times: Gifts that Give

(Photo uploaded by Citril and originally posted at Scotland in the Gloaming)

It's that time of year again, when celebrations of light will soon be shining out through the long, dark nights and we warm ourselves and others by giving gifts. For those of you looking for creative ways to give to others (and get the most out of the dollars you have to spend), here are a few places to consider, either to find gifts or to give a donation in honor of someone you love. If you have other ideas, I hope you'll add them in the comments.

Spare the air, avoid the crush and find unique gifts that give and give again by shopping on line through the Greater Good store. The Greater partners with many different charities, both national and international. Enter through a listed charity's site and find your way into an online store that supports them all; your purchases benefit the site through which you entered. (From what I can tell, not all items are sold through all sites--you might want to wander around through the different charities.) In addition to benefitting good causes, many of the products for sale are organic, or green, or fair trade--and quite a few are made by organizations that are themselves charities. Your dollars spread out like bread on the water here. Greater Good also has a program called Gifts That Give More: 100% of your tax-deductible contribution passes through to the charity of your choice. Downloadable certificates are available to give to your loved ones that support charities or causes they're interested in. Sleep nets for Burma, Africa or Haiti; chemotherapy for one week for an American with breast cancer; child nutrition kits; needlework lessons and materials for an Afghan widow: all that and more are available through this store. (Be sure to check out the sales items!)

Fair Trade Resource Network is just that. Want info about the concept? Events in your area? Stores and eshops? Employment or business ops? They'll link to helpful sites.

The Link Center Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Colorado which provides emergency heating and utility assistance to the Elders, disabled and ill who live on the Lakota reservations of South Dakota. Winters there are long and very cold (they had their first blizzard already in November); unemployment is 85% on the res, and the average monthly income is reported as $350. LCF notes that nearly 60% of Elder households are caring for grandchildren or great grandchildren.

Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) has been providing food and enriching lives in the U.S. for thirty years. If you don't know how to get in touch with your local foodbank, click on their name; their food bank locator will zip you to the one nearest you.

Heifer International has a lovely catalog that allows you to 'buy' a flock of chicks, a hive of bees, or even an ark of beasties to benefit people round the world. Oxfam has a similar, albeit smaller program of animal donations. Or how about botanicals? Pom354 is a UK-based nonprofit that is helping Afghani farmers switch from poppy to pomegranate production. Global ReLeaf is a US project that has planted trees all over the US and in 21 other countries. They've recently started some new projects which you can find at their website, Global ReLeaf International and Wildfire ReLeaf.

Kiva and the Grameen Foundation are two wonderful microfinance organizations that enable you to lend a hand up to someone living in poverty. Your dollars will teach someone to fish (so to speak) and send ripples out into a community.

I can't finish this post without linking to my personal favorites: the International Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union can always use a hand.

Finally, find charities or vet ones you're interested in at the Charity Navigator

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Child Soldiers Transforming to Peace Makers

These former child soldiers of Liberia are working to become peace makers. As part of the process, some are making films of their transformation, with the help of Everyday Gandhis:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stand By Me

This aired on Bill Moyers' Journal last month. The organinzation, Playing for Change, is dedicated to promoting peace around the world through music and art. A little healing for us all....

Ben King's lyrics:
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh now now stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me, oh now now stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Darlin', darlin', stand by me-e, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Pause

To think of the people of Mumbai, of all of India, and especially for those in pain and mourning.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gaza Blockade Endangers Lives; Puts 500,00 Without Power

Per BBC, the only power plant in Gaza has shut down, due both to fuel shortages and the lack of parts needed to make repairs. Israel's blockade continues to prevent the flow of food, medicines and fuel from reaching the 1.5 million residents of Gaza. In addition, banks are running out of cash, leading them to limit withdrawals. From AP
[M]ost banks have sharply curtailed withdrawals over the past two weeks and some have posted signs telling customers they cannot take out any more money. The U.N. stopped distributing cash handouts to Gaza's poorest last week.Economists and bank officials are warning that tens of thousands of civil servants will not be able to cash paychecks next month."No society can operate without money, but that's the situation we are reaching in Gaza," said economist Omar Shaban.

While Israel ostensibly is blocking currency from reaching Gaza to limit Hamas' ability to fund attacks, the article further notes that Hamas does not use the banking system, but smuggles funds through tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

Oh, and collective punishment is still a violation of the fourth Geneva Convention.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Open Letter to President-elect Obama

UPDATE 11/25/08 Mr. Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for any post in the Obama administration today.

EVEN UPDATIER : LA Times credits letter below as effecting Brennan withdrawal decision!
AND the International Herald Tribune!

Stephen Soldz

November 22, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,
We are writing to urge you not to select John Brennan as Director of the CIA. We are psychologists and allies who have long opposed the abuses of detainees under the Bush administration. We are just concluding a successful several-year struggle to remove psychologists from their roles in aiding or abetting these abuses. It has been a distressing fact that, while the Bush administration resorted to abuse and torture of those in our custody, often psychologists have been put in positions to use their psychological expertise to guide these unconscionable practices.

We look forward to your administration as an opportunity for genuine change – in this case for our country to take a new direction in its treatment of prisoners. We applaud your commitment to closing Guantanamo and are encouraged by your clear statement from your 60 Minutes interview last Sunday, “America doesn’t torture, and I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture.” This fuels our hope for a decisive repudiation of the "dark side" — the willingness to use or abet illegal and unethical coercive interrogation tactics that sometimes amount to torture and often constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
We are concerned, however, by reports that you may appoint John Brennan as Director of the CIA. Mr. Brennan served as a high official in George Tenet's CIA and supported Tenet's policies, including "enhanced interrogations" as well as “renditions” to torturing countries. According to his own statements, Mr. Brennan was a supporter of the "dark side" policies, wishing only to have some legal justification supplied in order to protect CIA operatives. In describing Director Tenet's views he stated during a March 8, 2006 Frontline interview:
I think George [Tenet] had two concerns. One is to make sure that there was that legal justification, as well as protection for CIA officers who are going to be engaged in some of these things, so that they would not be then prosecuted or held liable for actions that were being directed by the administration. So we want to make sure the findings and other things were done probably with the appropriate Department of Justice review.

We know, of course, that "the appropriate Department of Justice review" means that torture was authorized and conducted by our government.

The use of these tactics goes against the moral fiber of our country and is never justified. This is true whether these "enhanced interrogation" techniques are used directly by U.S. forces, as in the CIA's "black sites," or by other countries acting as our surrogates, as in the "renditions" program where individuals are taken to countries practicing torture, resulting in suffering inflicted by that country's forces.
We are well aware that these techniques are ineffective as well as immoral. There is extensive evidence that abused detainees are likely to say anything, true or false, to make the pain stop, leading to faulty intelligence. Furthermore, use of torture and other coercive techniques alienates our allies, strengthens the commitment of our enemies, and puts our own captured soldiers at risk.

Earlier this year Mr. Brennan argued in a National Journal interview that a new administration will have great continuity with the Bush-Cheney administration in its intelligence policies:

Even though people may criticize what has happened during the two Bush administrations, there has been a fair amount of continuity. A new administration, be it Republican or Democrat -- you're going to have a fairly significant change of people involved at the senior-most levels. And I would argue for continuity in those early stages. You don't want to whipsaw the [intelligence] community. You don't want to presume knowledge about how things fit together and why things are being done the way they are being done. And you have to understand the implication, then, of making any major changes or redirecting things. I'm hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted.
In order to restore American credibility and the rule of law, our country needs a clear and decisive repudiation of the "dark side" at this crucial turning point in our history. We need officials to clearly and without ambivalence assert the rule of law. Mr. Brennan is not an appropriate choice to lead us in this direction. The country cannot afford to have him as director of our most important intelligence agencies.
As psychologists and other concerned Americans, we ask you to reject Mr. Brennan as Director of the CIA. His appointment would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush administration. We ask you to appoint a Director who will truly represent "the change we need."
We eagerly await your administration and the new spirit it represents.

Best wishes for a successful administration,


* Affiliations for identification purposes only *

Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis & Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Lorri Greene, Ph.D., Psychologist, San Diego, CA

Frank Summers, Ph.D., ABPP, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Medical School

Ruth Fallenbaum, Ph.D., Berkeley, CA

Neil Altman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York University
Dan Aalbers, Nevada

Martha Davis, Ph.D., John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC

Robert Parker, Ph.D., Member American Psychological Association since 1985

Member Washington State Psychological Association since 1991

Jancis Long, Ph.D., President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Member, APA Division 39 Section 9 Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility, Berkeley, CA

Jean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D., Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony

Steven Reisner, Ph.D., NYU Medical School & Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Brad Olson, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Ellen G. Levine, Ph.D., M.P.H., San Francisco State University, Hayward, CA

David Sloan-Rossiter, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis & Boston Institute of Psychotherapy

David Ramirez, Ph.D., Swarthmore College

John M. Stewart, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Northland College, Washburn, WI

Susan Herman, Ph.D., ABPP, New York University Postdoctoral Program, Little Falls, NJ
Susan Phipps-Yonas, Ph.D., L.P., Minneapolis, MN

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Muriel Dimen, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Joe Gorin, Ph.D., Washington, DC

Leigh Messinides, Ph.D., Long Beach, CA

Alice Lowe Shaw, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA

Laura L. Doty, Ph.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Susan Rosbrow-Rieich, Ph.D., Psychoanalyst and Psychologist, Faculty Psychoanalytic Institute of New England East, Mass Institute for Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Institute of New England, and Member, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Judie Alpert, Ph.D., Faculty and Supervisor, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and Professor of Applied Psychology

Department of Applied Psychology, New York University

Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute

Johanna Tiemann, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program

Julie Gerhardt, Ph.D., Palo Alto, CA

Ronna Friend, M.A., Eugene, OR

Susan Reese, Ph.D., Arizona Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Tucson, AZ

Larry Welkowitz, Ph.D., Prof. of Psychology, Keene State College, Keene, NH

James Hopper, Ph.D., Arlington, MA

Philip V. Hull, Ph.D., Psychologist (HI, CA, New Zealand), Faleola Pacific Island Mental Health Services, Otahuhu, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Nancy Hollander, Ph.D., Psychologist & Professor Emeritus of Latin American history at California State University
John P. Neafsey, Psy.D., Chicago, IL

Ronnie C. Lesser, Ph.D., Dartmouth Medical College, Hanover, NH

Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D.
Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Ed.D., Boston University, Boston, MA

Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph.D., Lecturer in Psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, IL

David G. Byrom, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Co-Director, Family Therapy Institute of Suffolk, Smithtown, NY

Claudia Luiz, M.Ed., Cert. Psya.

Milton Strauss, Research Psychologist, Corrales, NM

David DeBatto, Author/Speaker, U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent (ret.), Tampa, FL
Katie Gentile, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling and Gender Studies, Women's Center Director, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY
Laurel Bass Wagner, Ph.D., Dallas, TX

Abram Trosky, B.A., MALA., Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, Presidential Teaching Fellow, Political Science Department, Boston, MA

Cynthia Colvin, Ph.D., Oakland, CA

Kathy French, Ed.D., Professor, Behavior Science Department; Coordinator, UVU Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration; Utah Valley University

Stefan R. Zicht, Psy.D., Co-Director, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis and President, NY State Psychological Assn Division of Psychoanalysis

Thomas Rosbrow, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., San Francisco, CA

Norbert A. Wetzel, Th.D., Licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Director, Princeton Family Institute, and Director of Training, Center for Family, Community, and Social Justice, Inc., Princeton, NJ

Rachael Peltz Ph.D., Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, Berkeley, CA

Lawrence O. Brown, Ph.D., Fellow, Teaching Faculty and Supervisor of Psychotherapy, William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology, New York, NY
Drew Tillotson, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, San Francisco, CA

Lynn Perlman, Ph.D., Newton, MA

Luisa M. Saffiotti, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Chevy Chase, MD

Barbara Eisold, Ph.D., New York, NY

Sharon Gadberry, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA

Anne M. Downes, Ph.D., Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Arthur J. Eccleston, Psy.D., Chapel Hill, NC

Mark S. Kane, Ph.D., Big Rapids, MI

Cornelia St. John, M.A., MFT, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, Oakland, CA
Kristi Schermerhorn, Ph.D., Redmond, WA

Amal Sedky Winter, Ph.D., American University in Cairo

Sarah R. Kamens, M.A., European Graduate School, New York, NY

Sonia Orenstein, Ph.D., New York, NY

Samantha Hoyt, Boston, MA
Melanie Suchet, Ph.D., Executive Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues

Dr. Trudy Bond, Private Practice, Toledo, OH

Mary Pelton-Cooper, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, Associate Professor, Northern Michigan University
Peter Gumpert, Ph.D., Brookline, MA

Michael O'Loughlin, Ph.D., Adelphi University, NY

Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D., LP, LMFT, Minneapolis, MN

Rivkah Lapidus, Ph.D., Somerville, MA

Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Brookline, MA

Patricia Sherman, Ph.D., LCSW, Long Valley, NJ

Elizabeth Hegeman, Ph.D., John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and William Alanson White Institute, New York, NY

Kathleen H. Dockett, Ed.D., Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Herb Gingold, Ph.D., Psychologist, New York, NY

Wes Alwan, Somerville, MA
Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., Past President (2007-2008), Psychologists for Social Responsibility (Washington, DC), Alpharetta, GA

Leila F. Dane, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute for Victims of Trauma, McLean, VA
Elaine Gould, Ph.D., Member, APA

Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California and Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, Berkeley, CA

Dori Smith, Producer, Talk Nation Radio in CT

Ann D’Ercole, Ph.D., ABPP, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Andrea Cousins, Ph.D., Psy.D., Pioneer Valley Coalition Against Secrecy & Torture, Western Massachusetts & Albany Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology (Local Chapter, Division 39, APA)

Carolyn Hicks, Ed.D.

Frank Marotta, Ph.D.

Thomas Greening, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Saybrook Graduate School and Clinical Professor, UCLA, Private Practice

Barbara Pearson, Ph.D., Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

Barbara C. Greenspon, M.A., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Minneapolis, MN
Virginia S. Elliott, Cert. PsyA, Brighton MA

Milton Schwebel, Ph.D., Rutgers University

David Lotto, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Pittsfield, MA

Colleen Cordes, Executive Director, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Martha A. Nathan, M.D., Baystate Brightwood Medical Center, Springfield, MA

Nina K. Thomas, Ph.D., ABPP, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
Stuart A. Pizer, Ph.D., ABPP, Cambridge, MA

M. Brinton Lykes, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Associate Director, Center for Human Rights & International Justice, Boston College

Gemma Marangoni Ainslie, Ph.D., ABPP, Austin, TX

Elaine Gifford, LICSW, Sudbury MA

Virginia Goldner, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Professor, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, New York University, New York, NY

Lisa Sutton, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Training, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy, Brookline, MA

Polly Scarvalone, Ph.D., New York, NY

Jay Frankel, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, New York University
Sue A Shapiro, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis, New York, NY
Caryn Gorden, Psy.D., New York, NY

Nancy Atlas, Ph.D., New York, NY

Helaine Gold, Ph.D.
Bruce Berman, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrea Remez, Ph.D., New York, NY

Steven Botticelli, Ph.D., New York, NY

Adrienne E Harris, Ph.D., New York, NY

Lisa Lyons, Ph.D., Teaneck, NJ

Susan Parlow, Ph.D., New York, NY

Jill Salberg, Ph.D., New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Mary Pike, B.A. Art Institute, ESL Resource Room Supervisor for Highland Park High School, Highland Park, IL

Zeese Papanikolas, M.A., Retired Professor of Humanities

Stephanie Noland, Ph.D., New York, NY

Helaine Gold, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
New York, NY

Steven Cooper, Ph.D., Joint Chief Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Cambridge, MA
Laurel E. Phoenix, Ph.D., Public and Environmental Affairs, UWGB, Green Bay, WI

Elizabeth Kandall, Ph.D., New York, NY

Anita R. Herron, Ph.D., New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Lynne Kwalwasser, Ph.D., Supervisor, NYU Postdoctoral Program, New York, NY

Lynn Leibowitz, Ph.D., New York, NY

Latika Mangrulkar, MSW, ACSW, Steering Committee, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Santa Rosa, CA

Mary Libbey, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrew Tatarsky, Ph.D., Founding Executive board member, Division on Addiction and Co-directer, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates

Roanne Barnett, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Margaret White, Ph.D., Upper Montclair, NJ

Candy Siegel, Ph.D., Tucson, AZ

Zeborah Schachtel, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, New York, NY

Elizabeth Wolfe, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, Westport, CT

Judith Merbaum, Ph.D., Great Neck, NY

Amy Schwartz, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, New York, NY
Cathy S Nelson, MSW, LISW, Ames, IA

Martin Devine, Psy.D., New York University

Amy Schaffer, Ph.D., New York, NY

Nancy Caro Hollander, Ph.D., Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies

Michèle Bartnett
Kate Dunn, Psy. D., Brooklyn, NY

Nancy Freeman-Carroll, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist-Psychoanalyst, William Alanson White Institute, NYSPA, APA, New York, NY

A. Raja Hornstein, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, San Rafael, CA

Catherine M. Rossiter, LMT, Sayre, PA

Meg Sandow, Psy.D., CA
David Lichtenstein, Ph.D., New York, NY

Richard Reichbart, Ph.D., Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR)

Ann Marie Truppi, Ph.D.
Evelyn Pye, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association
Carol Wachs, Psy.D., New York, NY

Katharine G. Baker, Ph.D., Northampton, MA

Judith G. Pott, Ph.D., New York, NY

Glenys Lobban, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Lisa Fliegel, ATR-BC, LMHC, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy School-based program
Helen Brackett, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York, NY

Dara Lyn Petersen, Psychology Student, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Christine Girard, Ph.D., New York, NY

Andrew Phelps, Ph.D. (mathematics), San Jose City College

Jane Brodwyn, Psy.D., Northampton, MA

Jeanne Wolff Bernstein, Ph.D., PINC

Stephen Benson, Ph.D., Blue Hill, ME

Kirsten Lentz, Ph.D., Candidate, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York, NY

Francia White, Doctoral Candidate, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, and Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies

Neville D. Frankel, Newton, MA

Arthur J. Lebow, Ph.D., St. Paul, MN

Luise Eichenbaum, LCSW, The Women's Therapy Centre Institute

William Auerbach, Ph.D., Psychologist
Ken Corbett, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology, The New York University Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Carol Smaldino, LCSW, Port Washington, NY

Angelo Smaldino, LCSW, Senior Member of National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, Port Washington, NY

Susan Gutwill, MS, LCSW
Brigitte Ladisch, Ph.D.
Connie Evert, Ph.D., Philadelphia, PA

Quotation Sources:
60 Minutes (November 16, 2003). Obama On Economic Crisis, Transition. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from

Frontline. (March 8, 2006). The Dark Side. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from

National Journal (March 7, 2008). Q&A with John Brennan: The Counterterror Campaign. Downloaded November 23, 2008 from

A Poet and the Words She Lives By

Palestinian-American Suheir Hammad speaks of her poetry, of prejudice, peace and Palestine.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sloth, Pride and Palestine: What Is In Us That Keeps Us From Seeing Reality?

"'I did this', says my Memory. 'I cannot have done this', says my Pride and remains inexorable. In the end, Memory yields."

Last week, President-elect Obama stated again that "the United States does not torture." We know that is not a factually true statement, but it is one we would like to believe and certainly expresses the hope many of us have that we will BECOME a country that does not torture. While the Bush administration has without doubt trampled on our illusions (and disillusioned many the world over) with its ruthless abuse of others and self-righteous rationalizations of this abuse, the truth is we have a long history of harming civilians, of torturing and training others to torture. And while the mainstream media has had a hand in stifling the truth, the hands we use to cover our own eyes have participated as well. Nietzshe's quote above applies to most of us: it is very hard to stay mindful of things we don't like about ourselves. When Obama says we don't torture and we know that isn't true, we look beneath the statement to what we hope for: that we will soon NOT BE a country that tortures. But in looking underneath, we ignore reality. We HAVE tortured, we DO torture and saying we don't is a lie. Pride wins over Memory, again.

So what's that got to do with the title of this thing? Why am I invoking two deadly sins and Palestine in the same breath?

I've been thinking a great deal about what is happening in Gaza right now, and about the strange silence around the blockade. 1.5 million people are being denied food, electricity, water, a working sewage system and medical supplies. Access to medical treatment in Israel (most cancer treatments and other medical specialties are not available in Gaza) is also being blocked. Foreign journalists are being prevented access to Gaza, as are European diplomats. Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency said Friday that the situation "will be a catastrophe if it persists." Ban Ki-moon has called for the blockade's end. But where are we? Why aren't we standing up, as a nation, and as individuals?

I suspect our lack of response, our failure of compassion has to do with our pride and, under that, our shame. As a nation, we have not yet confronted our bigotry sufficiently that we can be mindful in the present moment. We don't acknowledge what we do to abet prejudice, as we wish to be seen as unprejudiced. We do not intervene when allies are abusive, because we don't wish to admit that we abuse and that we associate with those who do. Our history of anti-Semitism clouds the issue as does our fear of Islam and our prejudice against Arabs. Our pride defeats our memory; our intellectual laziness completes the job. We don't inform ourselves, or share what we know, or demand that our press do a better job.

Tomorrow, 11/24, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel are holding a solidarity gathering for the people of Gaza. I suggest we join their gathering, at least in spirit, by speaking out. Talk to someone about the Gaza blockade. Write a letter to the editor, send a fax to your rep. You can send an email to the Israeli DC embassy here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Activist Sentenced to 65 Years in Prison

Al Jazeera is reporting that Ko Thura, the comedian known as Zaganar, has been sentenced to 65 years in prison for his activism in organizing private aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis, which hit the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma last May. He has been held since June. Family members report that he was sentenced on only three charges; sentencing on four others is set for this Monday.

Trials of aid activists, monks and dissidents have been in secret court; Al Jazeera notes that many are held in closed sessions, and that defendants may not have access to attorneys. In addition, "the most prominent activists have been sent to the furthest corners of the country, making it almost impossible for relatives to deliver food and medicine to them, raising the possibility of the prisoners dying behind bars." Radio Free Asia noted that, in some cases, defendants were not allowed to call witnesses. Information on the excessive sentences meted out to other dissidents can be found here.

These organizations are among those standing up for justice in Burma: Aavaz; Amnesty International; Burma Campaign UK.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hate is Not a Family Value


My better half and I joined at least 2500 other Sonoma County citizens standing against bigotry and hate today, at the Santa Rosa Join the Impact event. A peaceful crowd filled at least seven blocks, and threaded its way to City Hall, where drummers beat out a tattoo, a brass band played and passing cars honked out support. The just-married and the long-married, families of all sizes, kinds and ages, a small herd of Australian shepherds and a basset announcing his opposition to h8 joined together on this beautiful day to re-affirm our commitment to social equality. A good day.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Confronting Racism In and With Our Hearts

Let's talk about racism, shall we? And, to make it easy, I'll tell you what. I'll go first. And you, dear reader, you do not even need to leave a comment. What ever you think, well, it can be just between you and you--no hidden catches.

I grew up in the ranchland of California, outside a little town of 1500 people. There were two grocery stores, one liquor store, two restaurants and a ton of churches, each a kingdom of its own. The Catholic church had two masses on Sundays; the morning mass, attended by mainly fair-skinned people, and one in the afternoon, when those who worked on the fair skinneds' property went. As a kid, I was unable to hear the word "Mexican" without perceiving the adjective "dirty" in front of it, for, whether spoken aloud or no, there was something in the speaker's voice tone, a special slur over the "x" in Mexican that clued me to the contempt embedded in the word. To this day--yes, today, as a woman in her fifties, I cannot say "Mexican," but must instead say "person from Mexico," for that phrase, to me, doesn't bear the hatred I always sense in the former word.

To be an Anglo person in the community I grew up in, to be a sensitive human being in my decades, meant always to be monitoring one's own thoughts and feelings, looking for inadvertent or unexamined prejudices for, inevitably, I would discover--or have revealed to me--my assumptions and biases, always to my personal disappointment and, often, to my shame. It's been a lifelong struggle for me, parsing out my assumptions, examining my heart, to weed out hateful misapprehensions before my infantile thoughts harm someone else. It isn't conscious, it's isn't intentional, but it's there all the same, and I've hated that part of me, all my life.

Please understand: I am not a flaming racist. I am not a person who consciously looks down on anyone. But I am, by heredity, class, fate, what have you, someone who has received automatically privileges that some others have not had access to--and I have developed a set of assumptions, out of those experiences, a feeling of entitlement to which I truly have neither right nor claim.

This is one of the reasons why I so celebrate Barack Obama's win. I see his victory as an invitation for us tear down our biases and rip them out. Let us destroy our misassumptions and entitlements, each and every one, shall we? And let's, please, start having conversations about our prejudices, so that we can, together, help one another past the private barriers that keep us from seeing each of us as fully human.

Palestinian-American Jackie Reem Salloum's art is one way of doing just that. Her nine minute film below, Planet of the Arabs, reveals the poisonous assumptions and bias regarding Arabs and Islam rampant in American film. Her most recent effort, Slingshot Hip Hop (trailer is second clip below), shows us life in occupied Palestine, giving us a chance to weigh our assumptions against a wider, less biased view. Please take a look at these films, and see, too what they spark in your heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Help Close Guantanamo

From Anthony D. Romero of the ACLU:

We’re hosting an open Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, November 13, when concerned citizens from all across the nation will gather via teleconference to brainstorm how we help Barack Obama take the steps we all want towards freedom on Day One. We can help him do the right thing, we can give him cover and we can respond to his advisors that it not as hard to close Gitmo and shut down Bush’s military commissions as we’re being told. We can’t wait. The world can’t wait. Our America can’t wait. We want it back and need him to get us back on track.

Go here to sign up for the telephone Town Hall Meeting, Thurs, 11/13, 8 pm, EST.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Time to Put Our Shoulders to the Plough

As friend Al says: "The reward of a job well done is another, harder job." Time to roll up the sleeves; our real work begins now!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


"...there has never been anything false about hope." Time to breathe out and then, back to work!

Time For Change

Out poll watching today. Here's to hope and change.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Looking Over--Instead of Overlooking--This Week's News Of Gaza

It would be convenient to blame the compelling and imminent US presidential election for the lack of attention to news of Gaza. But how, then, to rationalize the other 51 weeks of the year?

The "Dignity" docked at Gaza on Wednesday, bearing medical supplies, Israeli lawmakers, and human rights activists (including 1976 Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire). The International Red Cross reported last week that no medications have been reaching Gaza, due to the blockade on food, fuel and medicine imposed by Israel since June, 2007. Organizers report they hope to make monthly supply trips to help Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Israel barred 100 international health workers and academics from entering Gaza to attend a medical conference organized by the Gaza Community Mental Health program, focusing on the effect of the blockade on mental health needs of residents. They coped by holding a virtual conference: video linking between Gaza City and Ramallah.

Finally, Toronto has just concluded its first Palestine Film Festival yesterday. It featured the first film written and directed by a Palistinian woman, Annemarie Jacir. The interview below is of Suheir Hammad, star of the film (and herself a poet), who speaks of her thoughts of Palestine and Israel, and the many worlds contained in that locale:

"I am an Orphan and No One Cares For Me"

says the sign she holds.

Please, can you give? International Red Cross Red Crescent Society (please specify Iraq humanitarian response).