Monday, January 26, 2015


Tell the Government: "This is not what we want!"

Depending on who you listen to, the East Coast is about to be bleached with anywhere from a few inches to 30,000 feet of snow.

The weather people never know, despite their high-tech magic shows. But regardless of the final depth of the dump, it's another reminder that winter in particular is a terrible for the poor and the homeless.

I don't take much for granted, personally. I know what it is to be very very cold for a number of weeks at a time. And I'm glad I know what that's like. When you get that cold, you can't even think because all that keeps pounding into your consciousness is "I'M FREEZING!" And you never forget that kind of cold. Those experiences rammed home to me how harsh life is for millions of people here and abroad. There was meaning in the relatively small suffering I endured and I think we should all look for that in our own lives.*

I wouldn't dare claim I know what real suffering is. It must be torture on the streets, or even in unheated homes or shelters, when the cold bites down. Why is this even permitted in the richest country on the planet? We have gotten things very very wrong. And if you spend more time thinking about the upcoming Super Bowl than you do about these issues, then take a look at that.

And why do we do so little for the Third World? (The great majority of what the U.S. lists as "foreign aid" is in the form of military assistance.) 

Today I've done a couple of small things to help others before the blizzard hits. And every bit does count. But it's a drop in the ocean and I am determined to do more. About homelessness and poverty, about the redistribution of wealth on an institutional level, about societal attitudes, about violence and bigotry, about international unrest, about climate change, about the nuclear threat.............  It's a blizzard of things. And it's our blizzard of shame.

It's the blizzard that we, with the heat on and the fridge stocked, must think about and turn our efforts to. If we don't, it is the blizzard that will bury us all.

Be safe and help others,

* I recommend the book Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Monday, January 19, 2015


I had the honor of interviewing Professor Noam Chomsky again this past week, for a magazine launching this month called Black Impact.

The interview focused on black activism and covered a lot of the terrain of racism. Some of Chomsky's points are particularly relevant on this Martin Luther King Day.

Here's what he said:
"You listen to the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Day, it ends with his speech at the Washington March – the 'I Have a Dream' speech. Of course, King went on from there. He went on, first of all, to protest the Vietnam War. He went on to try to organize a poor people’s movement. He was assassinated when he was supporting a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, on his way to lead a march to Washington to try to establish a general poor people’s movement – the march actually took place after his death. They did set up a tent city in Washington but were kicked out – police were sent in in the middle of the night to drive them out of the city. King was moving towards class issues. And those are intolerable [for the Establishment]. It’s okay to get those racist Alabama sheriffs, but it’s a different story when you start to approach class issues. And class and race issues are intertwined – not precisely – but with a good deal of overlap."

King was a vitally important American figure. But his memory has been coopted for propaganda purposes by the Establishment.

And if he were alive today, he'd be calling them on it.

Take care,

Friday, January 2, 2015


Thanks to my friends from CODEPINK for sending this great piece by Medea Benjamin that shows action works.

Progress in the Minimum Wage shows what activism can do

10 Good Things About the Year 2014
Medea Benjamin

It’s been a year of fervent activism on police accountability, living wages, climate change, personal freedoms, immigrant rights, an open internet and diplomacy over war. The electoral beating the Democrats received has prompted both the Administration and some spineless congresspeople to realize that support for progressive issues could reinvigorate their base —a realization that has already led to Obama’s executive action on immigration and the opening to Cuba.
So here are some of the 2014 highlights.

1. Uprising for police accountability. The movement for police accountability has swept the nation, spawning brilliant new leaders from communities most affected, giving a voice to the families who have lost loved ones and opening people’s eyes to the militarization of our police forces. It is an organic, grassroots movement destined to have a transformative impact on the struggle for racial equality. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s campaign to demilitarize the police, Communities Organize to Demilitarize Enforcement.

2. Historic opening with Cuba. President Obama’s announcement that the US would work to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in over 50 years was historic. It including a prisoner swap that led to the release of the final three members of the “Cuban 5”—a group unjustly imprisoned for trying to stop terrorist acts against Cuba. And it marks the end of Cuba policy being dominated by a small cabal of right-wing Cuban Americans. (CODEPINK is taking a delegation to Cuba for Valentines Day, learn more about it at

3. Progress in talks with Iran. Iran and the six world powers announced they would extend an interim nuclear deal seven more months, and gave themselves four more months to reach a political agreement for a comprehensive nuclear accord. Despite intense opposition from the Israel lobby group AIPAC, as well as Republican and Democratic hawks, the U.S. and Iran are closer than ever to securing a historic agreement. It is a rare and commendable example of the Obama administration engaging in Middle East diplomacy instead of militarism.

4. Triumph of the fractivists. Out of a year of environmental progress ranging from the People’s Climate March to the US-China bilateral agreement on climate change, one of the most monumental victories has been in the anti-fracking movement. The New York State ban on fracking imposed by Governor Cuomo followed a long campaign waged by tireless grassroots activists. But that wasn’t the only victory. Voters in eight locales from Mendocino County, California to Athens, Ohio to Denton, Texas, won fracking bans on the ballot in the 2014 election. So did Canadian citizens in Quebec and New Brunswick. These victories have spawned a national conversation on fracking, with public support for the practice plummeting.

5. New gains for legalizing marijuana. With the majority of the country now supporting legalization, and Colorado and Washington proving that it actually works, new gains were achieved at the ballot box in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. World leaders like former UN head Kofi Annan and presidents from Latin America called for an end to the drug war and for legally regulating drugs. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder continued to speak out against racist mandatory minimum drug laws and mass incarceration, while President Obama made national news declaring that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol.

6. Massive wins for gay marriage. In decision after decision, courts in 18 states struck down gay marriage bans. It is now legal for gay couples to marry in 35 of the 50 states. A year ago, only about a third of Americans lived in states that permitted same-sex marriage. Today, nearly 65 percent of Americans do, making 2014 perhaps the biggest turning point in the history of same-sex marriage in the United States.

7.  Raises for minimum wage workers. From ballot initiatives and grassroots organizing to major legislative efforts, campaigns to raise the minimum wage gained momentum across the country. Voters, cities and statehouses passed minimum wage increases. The states included Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Jersey and South Dakota; cities included San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Louisville and Portland,OR. And the calls for raises came from workers themselves: Black Friday saw the largest strikes ever against Walmart, with pickets and strikes at 1,600 stores in 49 states. And on December 5, fast-food workers went on strike in 190 cities. Congress might not be able to push through national legislation, but workers and local communities are not waiting!

8. Reform of immigration policy. In November, President Obama signed an executive order stopping five million people from being deported and allowing many to work legally. While it does not offer a pathway to citizenship, it does provide relief for millions of immigrants. And it was only possible because of the sophisticated organizing and sacrifices made by so many activists in the immigrant community.

9. Release of the torture report. For years, human rights advocates have been pushing for the release of the 6,000-page torture report compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee--against vehement opposition from the CIA. The full report remains classified, and the 600-page executive summary was redacted by the CIA itself. The public deserves to see the entire report, but the fact that any of it was released is also a tribute to Senator Dianne Feinstein and her colleagues. It marks the beginning of our nation coming to grips with this sordid page of our history. The next chapter should include accountability--bringing to justice all those who authorized and participated in these shameful acts.

10. Palestine solidarity becomes mainstream. 2014 was horrific for Palestinians, with the Israeli war against the Gaza killing nearly 2,200, mostly civilians. But the invasion spawned unprecedented international solidarity with Palestine and huge steps forward for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS won the support of Christian congregations including the Presbyterian Church USA and academic groups like the American Studies Association. Activists shut down ports in California to stop the unloading of Israeli ships; they forced SodaStream to close its settlement-based factory, and the online shopping site GILT dropped AHAVA cosmetics, made in an illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine. In Europe, the movement has been hugely successful with country after country voting to recognize Palestine as a state and the European court ruling to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s new campaign, No Open House on Stolen Land, targeting RE/MAX real estate company for selling illegal Israeli settlement homes.
The 2014 low electoral turnout and the Democratic defeat revealed how unenthused the public is about national politics. But it also revealed the popularity of progressive ballot measures. And the campaign pushing Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to run for President is putting populist economic issues into the national limelight and already influencing the positions of likely presidential contender Hillary Clinton. With this framework and the new energy infused into social justice and environmental activism, the progressive movement is poised to make significant gains in 2015.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organizations Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Friday, December 5, 2014


George Carlin, comic and social commentator (1937-2008)

With American racism in the news, here's the late, great comedian George Carlin condensing the history of the whole thing into 39 seconds. The legendary comics have a knack for belting the nail on the head when it comes to social issues.


Take care, 

Thursday, December 4, 2014


These people, rightfully, say "no" to moving on

If you or I do this, it's called murder

 Have you ever heard a politician say it's time to "move on" or "move forward" after some tragedy?

They usually throw the word "heal" in there somewhere as well. So you get something like this: "As a society, I think we recognize that this has been a tragic time; that there is a profound problem that we need to address. I can assure you, that's being done. But now, as a nation, we need to move on. To heal. Because this is the greatest country in the world and we are known for our resolve and our resilience. God bless you all and God bless America."

Kind of made me sick writing that. Anyway, my point is this: Whenever a politician or someone else in power talks about "moving on" and "healing," what they're really saying is: "It's time to forget about this shit and pretend it's not an issue because it's a pain in my ass and the natives are getting restless. I don't like it when the natives get restless. When they get together and protest, they start to see their own power. I simply cannot have that shit."

With the Trayvon Martin shooting, the Michael Brown shooting (by a cop), and now the clearing of a New York City cop who strangled a black man named Eric Garner in broad daylight -- and so many race-related and potentially race-related deaths caused by people with "authority" -- we are at one of those "move on" moments.

The people are stirred up, asking questions, debating each other, and challenging authority. They're looking right through the BS and seeing how control and prejudice really operate in our society. And the power players are starting to make noises about moving on.

I say fuck that! This is precisely the time to NOT move on. This is the time to stop and stare the problem of racism in America square in the face and not blink until it has been properly, transparently, and substantively addressed.

So don't move a fucking muscle. Talk to each other, badger your politicians, write letters to the editor, get out in the streets, organize organize organize. If we want a caring society, the caring is obviously going to have to start with us.

[This post is dedicated to every last person who has ever suffered the vicious bite of racism.]


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Jeralynn Blueford and her son Alan -- another victim of a police shooting

This moving article was sent to me by my friends at CODEPINK
Stop Police Officers from Killing Our Children
By Jeralynn Blueford

    After the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, I couldn’t watch the news. I couldn’t bear to see Lesley McSpadden’s—Michael Brown’s mother’s—face. Her eyes were my eyes. I remember when I looked like that; when I felt like that.
    My son, Alan Blueford, was shot by an Oakland police officer on May 6, 2012. He had just turned 18. Officer Miguel Masso and his partner had stopped Alan and two friends as they were walking down 90th St. The boys were racially profiled; the officers never arrested them, but they tossed one of Alan’s friends against a fence, twisting his arm behind his back; they threw the other friend onto the curb. Alan saw this abuse and knew he was not under arrest, so he ran. Officer Masso had on a lapel camera, but he turned it off and chased my Alan for about five city blocks, then took out his gun. Accounts diverge here: either Alan was shot once, stumbled into a driveway, and was shot twice more while lying on his back, or he stumbled into a gate, fell into the driveway and was then shot three times. Either way, the officer stood over him and shot him, center mass. According to multiple witnesses, Alan screamed “I didn’t do anything!” One of the bullets went through his armpit, proving his hands were up at the time. His last words were “Why did you shoot me?”  
After Alan died, people said I was strong; they didn’t see how broken I really was. They didn’t see how I couldn’t eat, how I could barely stand. People had to hold me up because my knees would buckle. The only time I could even speak was when I spoke about my son. And I realized how important it was to speak, and to keep speaking.
    Members of the community formed the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition to help us obtain the truth. We shut down the Oakland City Council to demand answers; we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland to seek justice for my boy. We later founded the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland, a place where people can come together to raise awareness about police brutality and heal as a community. It’s a lively, healthy environment where we share music, art, food and stories, and talk about how to take action. On December 20th, Alan’s birthday, we have a canned food and toy drive to serve our community. We have also started the Alan Blueford Foundation where we will eventually offer scholarships, healthcare outreach, and support groups. Oakland is suffering, and we want to make a difference. We want to give our children hope. Everyone deserves hope.
    That’s why we must use this moment, when the nation’s attention is focused on police violence, to make real changes. That’s why I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC December 9 and 10 with a group of mothers to share our stories—our sons’ stories—with legislators and the Department of Justice. Together, we will be loud and forceful. Together, we will tell our lawmakers that the system has to change, that we have to stop protecting these officers who are killing our children without cause.   
    I’ll never get my son back, but if I raise my voice along with the voices of other mothers who have experienced unbearable loss, perhaps we’ll be able to help save the lives of other mothers’ children, and bring our children’s murderers to justice.

JERALYNN BLUFORD from Oakland, California started the Justice4AlanBlueford Coalition on May 6,2012 after her 18 year-old son Alan Blueford was shot and killed by a police officer in East Oakland. From there The Alan Blueford Center 4 Justice was established in Oakland, California, as a place to help heal the community. They offer our resources to help restore the community as they struggle against police brutality. She also organized Helping Heart 2 Heal, a conference to inspire, empower, and restore healing for mothers that are suffering with the pain of losing their children and loved ones.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Take a chance, while you've still got the choice.
               -- AC/DC "Rock and Roll Damnation"

It seems to me, to live any other way is pure death.


AC/DC aren't everybody's shot of rocket fuel, but they started out as a bunch of working-class Aussie boys from Sydney with a dream and no pretensions. And they're the same blokes today they were way back then. That's pretty impressive seeing they've become one of the biggest bands in the history of rock. And there's a lesson in that for the many "successful" people who get a bit too wrapped up in themselves.

Best wishes to the band's original rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young who is battling dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd who clearly has some drug issues he needs to deal with. 

Take care and rock on!
PS: AC/DC's new album, "Rock or Bust" is out tomorrow (Dec. 2)!