Posts Tagged ‘radicalism’

Making the world a better place, part 2

April 27, 2011

I can’t believe how many hits  my first blog on this subject got!  I guess it is an actively searched subject. So…. let’s explore this further….

It’s important to read about how the rest of the world view us, the ‘do-gooders’— to know what they think makes their communities strong and livable. Too bad they don’t teach this stuff in elementary school social studies. Maybe the facts are too scary.

What follows, in no particular order, are some aspects of  life to consider:

Restorative Justice.  I recently  became interested in this subject after reading an article in a magazine.  Most of us in America—probably due to the media, have a sort of melodramatic view of prisons, prisoners, and the  criminal justice system.  Lock ’em away, make them rot. They are all psychopaths.  Well, ah, no.  Not true. That is naive. I worked with  ex-offenders  at a non-profit.  Most are  just regular guys who  got involved with the wrong people. Truly.  I hate to put it this way—but the  people in your church:  the flock—going with the crowd, not taking individual initiative, respecting  and following the wrong guy.  Many did not mean to harm anyone, but they did.  Now, they want to turn their lives around.  It takes more than forgiveness.  Heck, I am not the most forgiving person.  But most of these guys will get out of jail, and they do not  want to reoffend.  If we don’t create a space in our communities to mentor these guys, they will re-offend, because they know that way of life more than they know how to  fit into a community.

Yet,  in very few  jails or prisons do  they  get any  services analyzing whether they have learning disabilities, psychological issues  that they can over come, or learn any viable skills. They don’t even grow their own food!   This is not the 1960s!  We’ve learned what best practice is, but we allow our  politicians to  maintain a medieval system!  The only people who care at all are families of offenders or victims…and the emotions involved cloud how to redevelop the system.

The United States has more people in prison than any other country.  We pay more  to keep people incarcerated than we do to get people college educations or vocational skills. Why? We  interpret the ‘Bible’ to mean that vengeance is more important than any other value.  I am not sure the opposite is understanding or tolerance.  But—with jails so over crowded, who  do we want separated from the rest of us?  Drug dealers or psychopaths?  People who drove the getaway car where  someone was murdered in a crime, or actual rapists? Think!  We can’t lock them all up. We can’t afford to anymore. How about making sure those who will get out of jail learn skills they can use to support themselves.

Hey—I  know it’s tough.  I can barely support myself with the skills I have…but the reason is….I can’t afford to get my car fixed, or other work around my home.  However, if there was a co-op I could join to get my car fixed more  cheaply, or get  my house repairs done more cheaply, we’d all benefit.  Also, I have been told that the average service dog costs $40,000 to train.  Some prisons have programs where inmates train dogs. There is no logical reason why all prisons should not be partnered with their local  pounds and humane societies to make  dogs more adoptable by having them obedience trained, and identifying possible service dogs.  Yet, the politicians make this almost impossible.  We can not afford to have so many  people —particularly physically strong men—in prison who don’t  know how to function in the greater community.

Recycling.  It’s the easiest thing to do that  makes an impact quickly.  It’s no secret that the throw away concept was marketed to Americans after World War 2.  Disposable everything. Well, there is no  away.  Don’t believe what you hear about stuff not really being recycled & ending up in landfills.Yes, loads do get contaminated… but most does go for remanufacturing—especially  paper & metals.  So, quit using paper plates & cups, plastic dinner ware, & start bringing your own bag for when you go shopping.

Advocating for or mentoring kids in the foster care system.  This is a huge issue to me.  Most of us don’t think about kids in foster care.  Well, start thinking. They don’t get mentored, & they don’t have  advocates.  Most of them end up being homeless or in jail, because they don’t feel part of a community.  They have no resources. Once they age out, that’s it.  I know  they make it difficult to volunteer…but you can provide the agencies with books, art supplies, clothing, tickets to  shows & events, etc.

There is a wonderful nonprofit called SOS Childrens villages and they sponsor housing and foster mothers all over the world. So, if kids luck into their housing, they have ‘families’.  Most state foster care systems pay barely enough to keep a kid going.  It’s not a profit making venture…& with so many people having kids because they just didn’t think about birth control or even tomorrow, this is a problem for all of us.

Family planning & health services  Support this. The fact of the matter is, most women  want to have large families if they can afford them. What has happened, however, is that, as the world has urbanized, and women (particularly better educated women) come to understand that you can’t rely on a man to support your kids, they are choosing to have smaller families and space their births so their kids can thrive.  Very few women in the  developing world want abortions, unless they are raped.  One of the reasons many women want more kids  is because so many kids die, and there is also no governmental pension or social security for old age:  you expect your children to look out for you.  Yet,  now, there is also the challenge of coping with diminishing resources–especially fresh water.  Zero population growth is 2 children per couple.  I have no sympathy for people having more than 2 kids & complaining about how expensive things are—especially in the USA.  It’s short sighted & disingenuous.

Fresh Water, access to real information/communications infrastructure.  We are creating  more ways to access more information more quickly  due to the  cell phone revolution, but we have all the fresh water that has eve been created. There is a net energy loss with desalinization (meaning, it takes more energy to make water fresh than it provides back to us).  This is shocking, until you remember that matter is neither created or destroyed.

Literacy (particularly  science literacy)  Literacy is still a huge issue in many remote places in the world—particularly Africa. If you can read and write, you can save information and don’t have to remember everything.  If you can read and write, you can learn about stuff you don’t  deal with every day.

Sustainability & renewable resources  We can’t worry about the Chinese taking all the resources, when we are doing nothing in the USA to curtail our own greediness.

Democracy.  Gosh, what a messy system of government…but it is the only way to get rid of corrupt politicians.

Vegetarianism.  I have to admit, I am a carnivore, but since I know how  food animals are treated, transported, & slaughtered…& how  many resources they  use…the  compassionate thing to do is eat lower on the food chain…if only for personal health reasons.  You’d be amazed at the ways you can make beans, lentils, & soy products taste like meat. Worth looking into.

Humane treatment of animals.  It’s not   can they feel, or can they think…but can they suffer.  It shouldn’t be an either/or choice.

Animals—particularly pet animals, are big business in the USA.  If you have a choice…and you do…choose ‘cruelty free’.  Stay out of pet shops that sell animals.  Don’t buy meat if you don’t know how it was slaughtered. There is no reason to test  cosmetics or  home cleaning products on animals. Don’t wear fur.  Don’t go to rodeos or circuses for entertainment…and if you see animals neglected in zoos, report this to the  General manager & local news media. Its’ important.

What does the economy have to do with military service?

January 3, 2011

I f you  went to school in America in the 1960’s, you learned The Pledge of Allegiance and you were taught by your teachers to be a patriot,  that America is the best country in the world. You were taught that many evil people want to take over & destroy our freedoms  The  USA is a free country.

You don’t even think about what that means. All you know is that it is a free country.   Worth dying for.  Really?

It wasn’t until I started traveling to less developed countries that I really had a concept of what ‘America’  (that would be the United States) is.  Because, when I started traveling, I started meeting people who had different perspectives of  freedom, and government, and the United States.

We Americans started really looking like ignorant doofuses with the Viet Nam War.  We citizens really believed in the domino effect when it was fed to us, and  were convinced that if we did not prevent communism from taking over in southeast Asia, soon we’d all be wearing  khaki colored Mao suits.

WE fought that ‘war’ (never declared) from the lat 1950’s—with advisors—to  1972, when Nixon was elected to END THE WAR.

By then, we had realized we were involved in someone else’s  civil war and were tired of so many friends and relatives dying, and it not improving our economy.

Those we weren’t alive don’t remember that the civil rights movement also occured during  our overseas war, and as more  minorities with better education were admitted (rightfully so) to jobs in corporate America, the  formerly entitled white males could not get those jobs.  There was the draft, and they were drafted—as were the  uneducated minority men.  I mean, hell, the job market in the USA could not absorb them. We had to do something with them.  So, off to war they went.

During the time they were away, they were not competing for jobs, the real estate market had not yet become an economic engine, and our natural birthrate (we  did not  have so many refugees coming from less developed countries) was slowed for a while.  We prevented conceptions by  sending men overseas.  Too bad the ones who were left—many of them  imbeciles with no skills but active gonads, still managed to get poor girls pregnant. That’s how it goes.

Flash forward 2 decades, and we get the 2nd President Bush who inherits an economic surplus and stable economy,  He actually gets to be president due to a  Supreme Court ruling based on a political mistake, & ans we  start our rapid economic slide.  Even though  Bush’s friend Ken Lay (ENRON) was caught in a horrible ponzi scheme, absolutely none of our federal elected officials in Washington, DC  (save for Bernie Sanders, the socialist from Vermont),called Bush on the smoke-and-mirrors ‘weapons of mass destruction’ bs because  they were all freaked out about terrorists & the 9/11 bombings. WE HAD TO DO SOMETHING—no matter how ineffective it might be.

So, once again, under the guise of patriotism, we got people with no knowledge of history to sign up to be killed. They think they are dying for our freedom. lets take a closer look….

The Coalition for New Priorities will tell us that for all we’ve spent on these wars, we could have a  sustainable energy infrastructure &  viable public transit system.  That’s a fact.  Go to Seattle to learn about public transport. Then, go ride the BART on San Francisco).  Anyone remember Achmed Chalabi?  He was paid  $235,000 a week, for months, to  ‘advise’ us on  who were the bad guys in Iraq.  Except he turned out to be one. Where did that $$$ go?

Freedom?  For us?  Howzat?  We are defending/fighting people who —historically, were not countries until after World War I, & then—only became countries because the British designated then as countries (I will write about T.E. Lawrence & how that came about). The British put people in charge without listening to any of the people living in these places. That’s a fact.  People who murder their daughters, sisters, indeed—any female relative who has been raped—rather than murder the rapist.  That’s a fact.  Guys who don’t believe in educating their women or allowing their women  any sort of civil freedom. That is a fact.  How does that make us free?

Yet—at the ‘mid term elections’  at the end of 2010—because Obama had not fixed the economy—my fellow citizens voted back in the idiot Republicans who got us into this mess!  Shocking!  Oh. well, I guess that’s what freedom means!

How I got my FBI FIle

November 20, 2009

It was because of David Gassman.  David, whose parents were bona fide Communist Party members ( he was known as a ‘red diaper’ baby—but in actual fact—as he has informed me—there is  speculation about whether both his folks were ‘card carriers’), knew a couple of people who I knew.  At the time, I was really not ‘active’ in any radical political organizations. David knew my roommate, Gloria Smith, through SANE/FREEZE, the nuclear  weapons free area campaign.  David also knew Judy Freeman, who got me to be a board member for Uptown Recycling Station, on of the first community based recycling stations in the country.  This was started by Ken Dunn of Resource Center (RPCV Brazil).

It was 1987, but we had known each other several years, via both Gloria & Judy.  I don’t remember how it came up in conversation, but David told us he had requested his FBI file, to make the FBI do something for all the money they  got.  He suggested that both Gloria and I send for our files.

I didn’t think I had a file.  If there was anything, it would have been  because my  former husband, D.Craig Ledford, was General Secretary-Treasurer for the Industrial Workers of the World, and I owe my  membership  in the IWW to journalist Abe Peck, whom I met at The SEED underground newspaper.  He also taught me how to use an IBM SELECTRIC, one of the first ‘computer/word processors. Anyways, that is just background. I was in arrears after I bought my first dog grooming business, and stayed in arrears after we got divorced.  I couldn’t imagine what the FBI would want with me.  David admitted that there might not be anything,but he helped me file the Freedom of Information Act request, and we had to file several requests.

I didn’t really think much would come of it, but after several months, I did get a packet from the FBI.  It turns out I DID have an FBI file!  It had nothing to do with my ex-husband, and it appeared they had been spying on me quite recently!

Apparently, they were  actually interested in Gloria, who lived with me at the time. Gloria had been to Nicaragua with the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, providing technical assistance to the Sandinistas.  Back in the 1980s, during the  Reagan Administration, we weren’t  at ‘war’ in Nicaragua, but Reagan used  his ‘descretionary funding’ to provide support for the CONTRAS, who were fighting  socialism.  He called them ‘freedom fighters’.  Never mind that there probably over a dozen political parties in Nicaragua at the time, & Daniel Ortega had won a ‘free & fair’ election.  Our ‘American’ attitude was tha the Nicaraguans had voted int he wrong guy and the wrong party!

The spying on American radical activists was a carryover from Nixon (apparently, there were so few criminals for the FBI to spy on, they had to spy on people doing nothing illegal). It was quite controversial.

So, anyways, Gloria had gone to Nicaragua, and was now living with me, and  according to the nonblacked out parts of the file, a couple of guys were watching the house.  How would we not know this?  We lived in west Lakeview at the time, before it became Yuppieville, and wouldn’t have noticed a strange car on the street due to all the activity What is  particularly funny about this is that they didn’t have photos of us, and they  followed my tenant. We’ll call her ‘Susan’.

Susan was a figure model (that’s how I knew her), art student, and delivered singing telegrams for extra income.  According to the FBI notes, they followed her from the house, dressed as a clown,  carrying helium filled balloons, down a circuitous route to  where she was going–thinking SHE was ME.

WE had a good laugh over it, & I believe I wrote to the FBI & told them they followed the wrong person, but I never heard back from them.  I still have the papers in my file cabinet.  Gloria never did file  the FOIA request for her file.

Even though I had to be fingerprinted to get into Peace Corps, and told them straight out that I had an FBI file, it didn’t matter at all.  One branch of the government rarely speaks to another branch.