Saturday, March 21, 2009

I applaud President Obama for extending a hand to the Iranians.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gloria Steinem Interviewing Barbra!

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all." -- Helen Keller

An Urban Garden At The White House

Does anyone else find it just absolutely magnificent that Michelle Obama is planting an urban garden at the White House? I think it is a bold and beautiful move...truly bringing the White House and the seat of power back to the people. And what a powerful message she is sending to the American public about their food choices!

From Portside

El Salvador's Left Wins Historic Election

By Mark Weisbrot

Center for Economic and Policy Research The
Guardian (UK) March 18, 2009

Last Sunday's election in El Salvador, in which the leftist
FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation) won the
presidency, didn't get a lot of attention in the
international press. It's a relatively small country (7
million people on land the size of Massachusetts) and fairly
poor (per capita income about half the regional average). And
left governments have become the norm in Latin America:
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and
Venezuela have all elected left governments over the last
decade. South America is now more independent of the United
States than Europe is.

But the FMLN's victory in El Salvador has a special
significance for this hemisphere.

Central America and the Caribbean have long been the United
States' "back yard" more than anywhere else. The people of
the region have paid a terrible price - in blood, poverty,
and underdevelopment - for their geographical and political
proximity to the United States. The list of U.S.
interventions in the area would take the rest of this column,
stretching from the 19th century (Cuba, in 1898) to the 21st,
with the overthrow of Haiti's democratically elected
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (for the second time) in

Those of us who can remember the 1980s can see President
Ronald Reagan on television warning that "El Salvador is
closer to Texas than Texas is to Massachusetts" as he sent
guns and money to the Salvadoran military and its affiliated
death squads. Their tens of thousands of targets - for
torture, terror, and murder - were overwhelmingly civilians,
including Catholic priests, nuns, and the heroic Archbishop
Oscar Romero. It seems ridiculous now that Reagan could have
convinced the U.S. Congress that the people who won Sunday's
election were not only a threat to our national security, but
one that justified horrific atrocities. But he did. At the
same time millions of Americans - including many church-based
activists - joined a movement to stop U.S. support for the
terror, as well as what the United Nations later called
genocide in Guatemala, and the U.S.-backed insurgency in
Nicaragua (which was also a war against civilians).

Now we have come full circle. In 2007, Guatemalans elected a
social democratic president for the first time since 1954,
when the CIA intervened to overthrow the government. Last
September, President Zelaya of Honduras - which served as a
U.S. base for U.S. military and paramilitary operations in
the 1980s -- joined with Bolivia's Evo Morales and
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez when they expelled their U.S.
ambassadors: Zelaya defended their actions and postponed the
accreditation of the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, saying that
"the world powers must treat us fairly and with respect." In
2006 Nicaraguans elected Daniel Ortega of the Sandinistas,
the same president that Washington had spent hundreds of
millions of dollars trying to topple in the 1980s.

El Salvador's election was not only another step toward
regional independence but a triumph of hope against fear,
much as in the U.S. presidential election of 2008. The ruling
ARENA party, which was founded by right-wing death squad
leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, made fear their brand: fear of
another civil war; fear of bad relations with the United
States; fear of a "communist dictatorship." Almost comically,
they tried to make the election into a referendum on Hugo
Chávez. (Venezuela kept its distance from the election, with
no endorsements or statements other than its desire to have
good relations with whomever won).

ARENA was joined by Republican Members of Congress from the
United States, who tried to promote the idea that Salvadorans
- about a quarter of whom live in the U.S. - would face
extra-ordinary problems with immigration and sending
remittances home if the FMLN won. Although these threats were
completely without merit, the right's control over the media
made them real for many Salvadorans. In the 2004 election the
Bush administration joined this effort to intimidate
Salvadoran voters, and it helped the right win.

The right's control over the media, its abuse of government
in the elections, and its vast funding advantage (there are
no restrictions on foreign funding) led José Antonio de
Gabriel, the deputy chief of the European Union's observer
mission to comment on "the absence of a level playing field."
It's amazing that the FMLN was still able to win, and
testimony to the high level of discipline, organization, and
self- sacrifice that comes from having a leadership that has
survived war and hell on earth.

This time around, the Obama administration, after receiving
thousands of phone calls - thanks to the solidarity movement
that stems from the 1980s -- issued a statement of neutrality
on the Friday before the election. The administration appears
divided on El Salvador as with the rest of Latin America's
left; at least one of Obama's highest-level advisors on Latin
America favored the right-wing ruling party. But the
statement of neutrality was a clear break from the Bush

El Salvador's new president Mauricio Funes, a popular former
TV journalist, will face many challenges, especially on the
economic front. The country exports 10 percent of its GDP to
the United States, and receives another 18 percent in
remittances from Salvadorans living there. Along with
sizeable private investment flows, this makes El Salvador
very vulnerable to the deep U.S. recession. El Salvador has
also adopted the U.S. dollar as its national currency. This
means that it cannot use exchange rate policy and is severely
limited in monetary policy to counteract the recession. On
top of this, it has recently signed an agreement with the IMF
that commits the government to not pursuing a fiscal stimulus
for this year. And the FMLN will not have a majority in the

But the majority of Salvadorans, who are poor or near- poor,
decided that the left would be more likely than the right to
look out for them in hard times. That's a reasonable
conclusion, and one that is shared by most of the hemisphere.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and
Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. (


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The 'Picnic' Controversy

I almost hesitate to mention this issue on my blog, but I have on several occassions run into Black people who have told me that they don't use the word picnic because they believe it has racist connotations. I have not tried to dissuade them of this idea, because they are partially true--there is a shared legacy between the history of "picnics" and the blotted history of this country in terms of its treatment of Blacks.Here is a link to a very profound discussion on the topic.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thanks to Jane Fonda and Joan Didion For This Essay

This is a chapter from Joan Dideon’s 1961 book “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” The chapter is called “On Self Respect.”

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

I had not been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. This failure could scarcely have been more predictable or less ambiguous (I simply did not have the grades), but I was unnerved by it; I had somehow thought myself a kind of academic Raskolnikov, curiously exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others. Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked real tragic stature, the day that I did manage to make Phi Beta Kappa nonetheless marked the end of something, and innocence may well be the word for it. I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man; lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and proved competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the nonplussed apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand.

Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect. Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through ones’ marked cards–¬the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others – who we are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that details one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

To protest that some fairly improbably people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one’s underwear. There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. Although the careless, suicidal Julian English in Appointment in Samara and the careless, incurably dishonest Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby seem equally improbable candidates for self-respect, Jordan Baker had it, Julian English did not. With that genius for accommodation more often seen in women than in men, Jordan took her own measure, made her own peace, avoided threats to that peace: “I hate careless people,” she told Nick Carraway. “It takes two to make an accident.”

Like Jordan Baker, people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an access of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named co-respondent. In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for reelection. Nonetheless, character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. It seemed to the nineteenth century admirable, but not remarkable, that Chinese Gordon put on a clean white suit and held Khartoum against the Mahdi; it did not seem unjust that the way to free land in California involved death and difficulty and dirt. In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-year-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: “Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke out about it.” Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, “fortunately for us,” hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnée.

In one guise or another, Indians always are. Again, it is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with ones head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

But those small disciplines are valuable only insofar as they represent larger ones. To say that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton is not to say that Napoleon might have been saved by a crash program in cricket; to give formal dinners in the rain forest would be pointless did not the candlelight flickering on the liana call forth deeper, stronger disciplines, values instilled long before. It is a kind of ritual, helping us to remember who and what we are. In order to remember it, one must have known it.

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notions of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan: no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

It is the phenomenon sometimes called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The End of the Death Penalty in New Mexico!

Cheers to Bill Richardson for ending the death penalty!

Sad Tidings-the Death of Natasha Richardson

What a horrific, tragic loss. Natasha Richardson was a great actress. My heart goes out to Vanessa Redgrave, Liam Neeson and the entire Redgrave clan.

From the Campaign for Peace and Democracy

For immediate release

Contact: Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy,




NEW YORK, March 18, 2009 – In a major setback for Pentagon plans to install a U.S. military radar base in the Czech Republic, the Czech government yesterday withdrew, at least for now (and possibly for good), its proposal to ratify an agreement on the base. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek halted the ratification process when it appeared that the Chamber of Deputies was likely to vote to reject the agreement. According to Jana Glivicka, a leader of the grassroots “No Bases Initiative” that has been active in opposing the radar for more than two years, this was a very significant retreat, since the radar has been promoted as one of the key accomplishments of the current government.

Two thirds of Czechs have consistently opposed the radar ever since it was first proposed in 2006. Anti-radar activists have repeatedly called for a referendum on the issue, but have been rebuffed. Meanwhile, in 2008 the Czech government signed the agreement with the United States to proceed with the installation of the radar, and the Czech Senate approved the accord. However the agreement could not be implemented until the Czech Chamber of Deputies ratified it. Thanks to the tireless activities of anti radar groups in the country, the No Bases Initiative and the Nonviolence Movement, popular opinion remained strongly mobilized against the radar. This public opposition culminated in a likely “no” vote in the Chamber.

The anti-radar movement has drawn support from around the world from people alarmed by the dangerous military escalation of the proposed European “missile defense” program of the Czech radar and its companion Interceptor missiles in Poland. In the United States, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy has since November 2007 supported the movement with public statements, letters published in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, visits to the Czech Mission to the United Nations, demonstrations, a hunger strike, and, over the past weekend, an open letter to members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies signed by more than 550 people in less than 48 hours.

The CPD open letter was sent on Monday March 16 to all 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies. A member of the Chamber planned to read the letter aloud from the floor of the Chamber if the ratification had come up for a vote, Signers included public figures such as Noam Chomsky and Ariel Dorfman, and leaders of many major U.S. peace organizations. Most signatories were from the U.S., but there were some international signers including the Polish intellectual Adam Chmielewski, Iranian human rights activists, and a number of individuals from the United Kingdom, Japan and other countries. The text of the letter and list of signers are available at the CPD website,

Czech Prime Minister Topolanek said that the government has not abandoned its plan for the radar. "This does not mean we would give up on the ratification process," Topolanek said in a live television address. "We will return to this issue after talks with the U.S. administration and after the NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl." (This information is from a Reuters story. Up until now there has been no significant U.S. media coverage of the withdrawal of the Czech government proposal.) It is by no means clear that the government will in fact reintroduce the radar for a vote after the NATO summit in early April. In any event, anti-radar activists in the Czech Republic and their international supporters are committed to continuing their campaign until such time as the proposal to install the radar is decisively and permanently withdrawn.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY (CPD) advocates a new, progressive and non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy -- one that encourages democracy, justice and social change. Founded in 1982, the Campaign opposed the Cold War by promoting "detente from below." It engaged Western peace activists in the defense of the rights of democratic dissidents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and enlisted East-bloc human rights activists against anti-democratic U.S. policies in countries like Nicaragua and Chile. The Campaign sees movements for peace, social justice and democratic rights, taken together, as the embryo of an alternative to great power politics and to the domination of society by privileged elites.

Other current CPD campaigns are an open letter to Iranian officials in defense of human rights leader Shirin Ebadi, published by the New York Review of Books at, and a statement on Gaza entitled “No More Blank Check for Israel!,” available at the CPD website.

Campaign for Peace and Democracy, 2790 Broadway, #12, NY, NY 10025. Email: Web:

Fantasia Barrino and her Mother

Dear God,

If it be in accordance with your will,
I pray that this new age in human history
be a time of spiritual renaissance,
a "second Enlightenment" that will heighten values
and help everyone to realize their true purpose in life.
I pray for peace and justice,
and love and light.
I pray for an abundance of beauty, truth and goodness
in the lives of all the inhabitants of this troubled world.
May there be harmony, sustainability, and evolutionary progress.
Thank you for this gift of consciousness, dear God.
Amen - Steve McIntosh

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Mornings' News

Edward he related to G. Gordon Liddy....? Can't people who own AIG policies just stop paying?....Oh, capitalism

Sunday, March 15, 2009

April's O, Oprah and Michelle

I am SO inlove with my April O magazine. Oprah's interview with our First Lady, Michelle Obama is very inspiring. I love the collage of pictures from the White House and the campaign. These two women, Oprah and Michelle, are role models for anyone out there searching for them....Pick up an O....

Allessandro, First Duke of Florence

Read about the first Medici Duke of Florence, Allesandro de Medici, known as 'il moro'- The Moor, who was the son of an African slavewoman and Pope Clement VII.