Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vietnam; the (last) war the U.S. lost

vietnam 2 - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I just finished reading this excellent re-telling of the Vietnam War and the movement against it by Joe Allen. I met Joe at the Cleveland anti-war conference in June and he signed a copy of his book for me.

I'll write a full review in a bit, but here's some existing rules to get you started.

He got a very favorable review at Z magazine from Ron Jacobs.

An older and much shorter version of the book is available on-line from International Socialist:

Part One: from the French conquest to the overthrow of Diem

From the overthrow of Diem to the Tet Offensive

From Quagmire to Defeat

And an excerpt from the current book is available here:

1968: The Democrats and the antiwar movement

About those '70s feminists

An article on Alternet by Heidi Schnakenberg got a whole lot of comments. 268 of them when last I checked. Schnakenberg followed up with three more comments at her own blog before taking a break from blogging.

I happened upon the story by reading WOC PhD post entitled I care about WOC, I really do... that kind of blew me away as I said in the comments.

Other interesting responses to the issue:

Dear Feminisphere, PUT ON SOME DAMN PANTS

My anger is valid, your running away isn't

An imported rant: My sexuality, gender identity and ethnicity are NOT accessories that come with the Ami doll! >:|

Intersectionality, racism, and divisiveness in feminism

Yeah No by BlackAmazon

What I would like to do, when I get some time, is come up with an argument that cuts through the assumptions that white people make when we ask other people to concentrate on only one aspect of themselves: the fact they are female, and to put aside other aspects of themselves: all the other characteristics that differentiate ourselves from those in power.

But before I get to that, I want to tell Ms. Schnakenberg a little something about movement building. I'm a long time activist. I've seen a lot of political issues that have started out as one or two voices speaking out. Over time, with effort, those political ideas have grown and spread and sparked real change in the world. One way that is happened is by asking each other to unify around a single issue.

And I have never seen unification come about when my starting point has been to tell everyone else how they are doing it wrong. It's not a very effective way of working with other people.

And you know, Heidi does not seem to be a complete idiot. I find it really hard to believe that she doesn't understand that basic point.

funny pictures fighting cats constructive feedback - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Presenting activist Isabel Garcia

Isabel Garcia - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

It's amazing how someone can spend years being an on-the-ground activist, making a real difference in the lives of real human beings and go unnoticed and unappreciated. Before yesterday, I had never heard of Isabel Garcia. She is a lawyer who works in the public defenders' office and an activist working with a coalition to defend the rights of immirants in Tuscon, Arizona.

isabel - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

In 2006, she was recognized by the Mexican government with the 2006 Premio Nacional de Derechos Humanos for promoting human rights, the first time a US citizen has received the award.

However, Isabel has pissed some people off and they will stop at nothing to try to discredit her.

I'm not gonna give any air time here to the sexist and racist crap that is being directed at Garcia. I'll post links below for you to acquaint yourself with the situation. Instead, I'd encourage you to go to the website of The Coalition de Derechos Humanos and support their work. There are sample letters you can send to support Garcia personally and there is a Donate! section on the left hand side that allows you to contribute to the cause.

I plunked $25 in the bucket. I challenge my readers to do the same!

And now for a round up of what some humorless right wing twits are in a snit about.

A good start is at Latino Politico.
The Unapologetic Mexican
American Humanity
The Sanctuary
Citizen Orange
Vivir Latino
The Mahatma X FIles
Galling Galla
La Chola
Off Our Pedestals
Questioning Transphobia
The Strangest Alchemy
Para Justicia y Libertad
Rum, Romanism and Rebellion
Chicks Dig Me
Mexico Trucker Online

See Feathered Bastard from the Phoenix New Times for coverage.

edited to add

This quote from American Humanity has really stuck with me. Today I followed the links and got a really good breakdown on this kind of propaganda. Awesome writing!

When it comes to Latino activism many whites have made up their mind that these repressed and marginalized people are somehow advocating for a take over. This propaganda is simply meant to tear apart the idea of community and create an “us against them” mentality that helps those in power stay in power. Imagine if all of us worked together to make this country better from the ground up. That is a powerful thought. Sadly though, there is such misdirected anger from “true Americans” and “patriots” that it will take a lot of work to get there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The first protest by Americans against the U.S. war against Vietnam

I'm currently reading Joe Allen's, "Vietnam: the (last) war the U.S. lost". He reminds me of an amazing incident that isn't taught often.

So before I provide some links, when do you think the first protest by U.S. citizens against the U.S. war in Vietnam may have occurred?

Did you guess 1968, the year the movement burst into the mainstream media?

Did you guess 1965, when Julian Bond and SNCC came out against the war?

Perhaps you recall 1960, when the anti-nuclear group SANE and Quakers spoke out against American forays into the country?

That would be pretty early, wouldn't it?

The truth: 1945.

And who were these suspicious antiwar activists?

The Merchant Marines.

Vietnam declared its independence in September of 1945 after the defeat of the Japanese colonizers. The U.S. and the nationalist movement of Vietnam, the Viet Minh, had fought together against Japan and the French Vichy occupiers. But only a few months later, the U.S. government switched positions and began supplying arms to the French colonizers.

Here's a bit from the BBC:

Within two months, at least eight US troopships were diverted from their mission of bringing American troops home from World War II. These ships were used to transport French troops and Foreign Legionnaires from France into Vietnam, to begin a recolonization process. ... The entire crews of four of these ships, all members of the US Merchant Marine, prepared a resolution condemning the US government for its use of US ships to transport troops 'to subjugate the native population' of Vietnam.

Here's more from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

At least 8 and possibly 12 U.S. troopships were diverted from their task of bringing American troops home from World War II and instead began transporting U.S.-armed French troops and Foreign Legionnaires from France to recolonize Vietnam. The enlisted crewmen of these ships, all members of the U.S. Merchant Marine, immediately began organized protests. On arriving in Vietnam, for example, the entire crews of four troopships met together in Saigon and drew up a resolution condemning the U.S. government for using American ships to transport troops "to subjugate the native population" of Vietnam.

You are beautiful

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wanna read Capital?

A hearty welcome to commenter Jack Stephens who carries on the tradition of bashing Kyle Payne.

He is among a group of people who are reading Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" together.

I must admit, I am a bit inspired. Could this be my chance to make it through the entire volume?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Great Tattoo by Val McDermid

I've been reading Val McDermid for years and almost always enjoy her work. This is no exception.

The book has a fascinating construct, based around the fact that Fletcher Christian, the lead mutineer on the Bounty, was acquainted with William Wordsworth, famous English poet. McDermid takes this fact and posits a hidden manuscript that Wordsworth wrote telling Christian's side of the tale. The lead character, Jane Gresham, is a Wordsworth scholar who picks up hints of this manuscript while digging through Wordsworth family correspondence and sets out to investigate. Meanwhile a "bog body" is discovered in the area, preserved by peat and bearing tattoos from the South Seas. Could "Pirate Peat" by the man himself?

None of which adds up to a murder mystery until ruthless collectors get involved in the process and the locals connected with Gresham's investigation start ending up dead.

Along the way we get to know Jane, a low-level academic struggling to make ends meet by working a side job at the local pub and living in a squalid housing complex with its local variety of gangster. Jane's brother, a pompous, jealous headmaster at the local school. Janes' friends fellow academic Dan and his partner Howard who runs the bar where Jane works. We meet Jane's friend, Tenille, a young black woman with a love of poetry and a knack for avoiding school. Jane's parents, sheepherders in the Lakes District, a fascinating forensic scientist who is turning her investigation into Pirate Peat into a TV documentary and the local lawman.

Between chapters, we are granted short passages from the story of Fletcher Christian.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to others. I was kept guessing right until the killer was revealed, which is a real treat. I like being surprised.

The idea of the bad girl

A Review of two new books that look interesting:

Emily Maguire, Princesses and Pornstars: Sex, Power, Identity, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2008 (256 pp). ISBN 9-78192135-131-0 (paperback) .

Meda Chesney-Lind and Katherine Irwin, Beyond Bad Girls: Gender, Violence and Hype, Routledge, New York, 2007 (235 pp). ISBN 0-41594-828-2 (paperback).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Be Kind

The easiest thing in the world is to be sarcastic. You can point out other people's flaws. You can show all the inconsistencies in your fellow human beings.

But take a moment and ask yourself why you would want to take that path rather than the path of love.

Anger is easy. Compassion is hard. Make your choices and live with them.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

So how's your Lakota?

I finally got to use that line this week when a co-worker was blithering on about how people should assimilate. It worked like a charm. He actually got it. Amazing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Linking is awesome

I wish I were a creative genius and could come up with the blog icon that is so richly deserved by Renegade Evolution, who has given up the side bar of her blog to list all the posts, from many different viewpoints that explain what a complete asshole Kyle Payne is.

Linking isn't difficult, but it is a political issue in the blogsophere. Because I cannot spend loads of time reading internet posts, I appreciate beyond measure when somebody collects blog posts on important. So three and more cheers for Renegade Evolution.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kyle Payne is an ass

Kyle Payne, a blogger and advocate against sexism and pornography, has been convicted of sexual assult. Renegade Evolution explains and follows up with a list of links to other bloggers who are following the story. Way to go, Ren!

Go. Read. Learn. When you're done, let me disgust you some more.

Belledame's post on the matter beings with an interesting post about the weenie character in politics and blogland (that last link stolen from belle's post-thanks).

The Self-Righteously Indignant!

I've spent a lot of years as an activist and these types tend to come around regularly. They totally creep me out. Their sarcasm is passive-aggressive in the extreme. They reek of self-righteous indignation. They are a parody of the true activist, imnsho.

pause for unimportant anecdote

I had a good friend who used to watch old Dr. Welby episodes that began at 10 o'clock at night. She used to wait for the doc's self righteous indignation speech to get ready for bed. She claimed it happened at 40 minutes after the hour like clock work on every single episode.

back to rambling post

So here is a sample of this creepiness, taken from another great post by belledame about this creep.

Dennis Leary did a fun take-down of the type:

I much prefer sarcasm with a bite. Just found this lovely bit about the TV show My Sweet Sixteen. Now that's sarcasm! Special props for the typeface snob comment midway through!

Edited to add:


Purtek at A Secret Chord has this Awesome Post. The following is brilliant:

... discussions of the horrific experiences of others (be they sex workers, or rape victims, or women of colour, or women as a whole, or people with disabilities) that re-centre the conversation on how you feel, what you’ve done, the deep emotional impact and the journey of self-discovery that you are on…they’re on the same continuum, and they’re not alliance. They’re appropriation, and they violate boundaries, and they come from a mental place that doesn’t quite recognize the full humanity of whomever you’re talking about, as distinct from you’re own. They’re narcissistic.


Emily at A Partial Muse has this Awesome Post.

In other words, Kyle's feminism is not about feminism, so far as I can tell from his writing. It's about his show of self-flagellation, about his public displays of emotion, about his desire to get in front of crowds and speak (or blog). Although annoying, all of this would be fine, I suppose, except that it means that Kyle's feminism is not about women, but it's about men, specifically a man -- himself. I honestly and truly welcome male input into the feminist movement, I really do, but a feminist movement that centers on male concerns -- well, it kind of defeats the purpose of feminism.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

I just finished reading this mystery novel set in the Shetland islands. Frankly, I'm ambivalent.

There are things about this book that piss me off. Two girls are murdered and the immediate suspect is a man with mental illness. When he is arrested, the community heaves a huge sigh of relief. There! We don't have to worry. Only *damaged* people need be feared.

Of course, we readers know this solution is too easy. Of course the old man is not the culprit.

And yet, the resolution, while shocking, is fundamentally disappointing. The writer has tricked us by letting us into the head of the murderer without letting us know the whole story. This is the same technique Agatha Christie used in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Christie was much better at this.

The skills of workers

A couple of nights ago, I couldn't sleep. For some reason, I thought back to my days of working in the corn canning factory for Green Giant in Le Sueur, Minnesota.

The work was all-consuming. We worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. We had the option of taking one day off, but the prospect of overtime pay made that choice unlikely.

For about one month, my entire life was consumed by factory work. All of which is lost, over and dead. I spent a few moments looking for images of husking machines, kernel stripping machines, etc. The knowledge is gone. The reality that consumed me for a brief period of time is lost in the ether.

This happens all the time. The everyday life of workers: the machines with which we interact, the quotas which guide our actions from moment to moment. They are all gone. Lost in the wind. Overpassed by progress. New machines. New technology.

Skills that marked us as valuable workers have died again and again, as technology makes us obsolete.

I wish I could do what Gene Gable accomplished in his article Waxing nostalgic over paste-up. He talks about the skills that I mastered nearly 20 years ago that made it possible for me to live a productive life and earn a decent, union wage. These skills have all become obsolete now. The lives of printers and typesetters have metamorphosed into unrecognizable cockroaches of progress.

What do we, as workers, do when our skills become obsolete? What choices do we have? How do we honor our learning and skills once they are no longer needed?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Anti-RNC flyer update #3

This is close to the last version, I believe. Endorsers were added, the phone number and website went up in size, added Monday to the date, moved stuff around quite a bit. Print!

09 01 08 RNC v3 - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

09 01 08 RNC 2up - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

RNClarge - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

How to be Productive

Food not Bombs has an organizing manual that can be very useful for activists. Here is their section on behavior.

How to be Constructive, Productive and
Generally Nice at a Meeting

We are often aware of these behaviors in others, but not often enough are we conscious of how we ourselves are acting. Confronting the behavior of others before it gets out of control is key, as is checking ourselves and listening to honest critiques of our own behavior.

Creating an atmosphere of trust and comfort is essential for overcoming disruptive behaviors. If someone consistently dominates conversation and it’s disruptive to the group, try talking one-on-one with him/her to see what’s up. Don’t accuse; just observe.

Dominant behaviors

  • Hogging the show: talking, too much, too long, or too loud.
  • Problem solver: continually giving answers before others have had much chance to contribute.
  • Speaking in Capital Letters: give one’s own solution or opinion as the final word on a subject, often aggravated by tone of voice or body posture.
  • Defensiveness: Responding to every contrary opinion as if it were a personal attack, “People obviously didn’t understand what I was saying. What I meant was…”
  • Nitpicking: Pointing out minor flaws in others’ statements and stating the exception to every generality.
  • Restating: Stating in another way what someone else has just said perfectly clearly. In other words, repeating someone else’s point as if it were your own, as if you weren’t listening or as if it didn’t have meaning when said by someone else, especially someone you don’t feel is as important as yourself. Or, like saying the same thing over again unnecessarily, etc.
  • Attention-seeking: using all sorts of dramatics to get the spotlight (as above).
  • Put-downs and One-upmanship: “I used to believe that, but now” or “How can you possibly think that?!”
  • Negativism: Finding something wrong or problematic in everything.
  • Focus Transfer: Transferring the focus of the discussion to one’s own pet subject to give one’s own pet rap.
  • Self-Listening: Formulating a response after the first few sentences, not listening to anything from that point on, and leaping in at the first pause.
  • Inflexibility: Taking a last stand for one’s position even on minor items.
  • Avoiding Feelings: Intellectualizing, withdrawing into passivity, or making jokes when it is time to share personal feelings.
  • Condescension and paternalism: “Now, do any students or younger people have anything to add?”
  • Being On the Make: Using sexuality to manipulate others; not to be mistaken with just flirting, being on the make is about power.
  • Running the Show: Continually taking charge of tasks before others have a chance to volunteer.
  • Graduate Studentitis: Protectively storing key group information for one’s own use and benefit.
  • Speaking for others: “A lot of us think we should...” or “What so and so really meant was...”

Submissive Behaviors

  • Ending a statement with a question mark: “I really disagree with that?”
  • Self-Sabotage: “This is really stupid, but...” or “I think that maybe I kind of feel strongly about this issue.”
  • Stargazing: Idolizing more experienced or charismatic activists and downgrading oneself in comparison.
  • Walking on eggshells: Tailoring one’s comments to calm down or soothe a volatile member of the group, holding back words for fear that they will upset someone.
  • Deferring to others: “Go ahead...” or “You were first...” or “l think he is more qualified...”
  • Pushover: Abandoning an idea or opinion at the first sign of disagreement.
  • Feeling Expendable: Assuming your opinions are irrelevant or naive; imagining oneself as a faceless observer.

Allied Media Conference

I met Steven Mansour the first night I arrived in Detroit as we were wandering about looking for the dorms. Steve has a wonderful slide show that does a great job of providing a snapshot of the atmosphere in Detroit that weekend. Way to go, Steve!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski is getting a lot of good press. I think I first read about it in this USA Today review. This part:

Wroblewski, whose parents ran a kennel in Wisconsin, lets the dogs in his novel share in the narration, to a small degree. Sounds hokey, but it works remarkably well.

grabbed my attention. A dog as narrator? Cool! The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is indeed a great read.

I saw a copy in the Barnes & Noble store at Wayne State University when I visited Detroit. Decided against spending money at a chain store. So I jumped at the chance to buy the only copy available at Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative in Madison, WI on our way back from Cleveland. I spent this weekend reading it much too quickly. I needed to now what would happen. The language and location are fascinating, but the plot drove me to read as fast as possible. Which means not savoring and enjoying it as much as I like.

There are allusions to Hamlet in this story of a young man whose father dies and whose mother takes up with his uncle. So I guess we have to hate Trudy (Gertude) for her stupidity/vulnerability. Which is a shame because the mother was a fascinating character until she got forced into the plotline (at least in my opinion) of Hamlet. I don't buy her being so stupid. The uncle, Claude (Claudius), is a smooth-talking manipulator who is very, very good at getting other people to believe the lies he tells. So I'll give the author a pass, I guess, although grudgingly!

To read this book, you need to be willing to engage in fantasy. Ghosts provide some of the most important information. Dogs are conveyors of wisdom and provide training. Storms arise to answer questions. A crazy old witch predicts the future.

What comes through in this telling of the Hamlet story, is how much burden is placed on the young boy, who is, in this re-telling, barely a teenager. He is burdened with too much knowledge and too little practice in using it. In fact, he is overburdened in every way. He can hear but cannot speak and his disability is the cause of some of the most wrenching events told in the story.

In the world today, we do not expect children to be able to solve the problems of adults as well as all the flora and fauna of their environment. Edgar does not have the luxury and I'm not sure the author cuts him enough slack for his failures.

And still, it's an awesome read. And I will read it again. I think you should too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back from the National Assembly

Last weekend, Detroit. This weekend, Cleveland. I sure can pick the vacation spots!

We just got back from the National Assembly, an anti-war conference held in Cleveland. Around 400 people participated. This in a time when Iraq is barely in the news, the country is distracted by electoral politics and impending economic crises. It's pretty damn impressive, if you ask me.

I cannot begin to describe the difference between the two conferences I attended in the last two weeks. Cleveland was a majority of old timers with a strong base in the unions. Robert's Rules of Order applied. Very, very different.

We decided to drive a take our own sweet time about it. Stopped in Michigan City, Indiana to see trains. Stopped in Kenosha, WI to ride a cable car and look at the lake. Stopped outside of Milwaukee to rest and relax. Stopped in Madison, WI, to visit awesome independent bookstores.

Really good time and fun to share with Ravenhub.