Monthly Archives: October, 2011

Occupy Providence Day 8

Just a walk-through today. The fountain was turned off and the debris I saw yesterday in the basin has been cleaned up. Burnside Park is even cleaner, it’s about 10am and quiet. I have a bag of first-aid supplies, but the medical tables are unstaffed. Perhaps the first-aiders are meeting in one of the tents.

Today’s Providence Journal says that Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare is talking about eviction. I want them to keep talking. Not only as a sympathizer to the occupiers, but as a Providence taxpayer. The Occupation is keeping Burnside Park cleaner and more friendly than it’s ever been. I don’t want my cops working overtime on a non-threatening exercise of free speech.

Occupy Providence Day 7– Health and Education

It’s about 9:30 and at the bottom of the bus tunnel is a parade of about 30 occupiers starting up Waterman Street. Sign says, ‘bail out students, not the banks’. They are on their way to occupy Brown.

In Burnside Park the tents are still up but no crowds. The media tent is unstaffed, a banner on the awning says, ‘PFD Supports Occupy PVD’ with a picture of the Fire Department seal. The food and medical booths are busy, people sitting out on benches. Some live here all year.

Note to Public Safety– I’ve never seen the park this clean.

Some of the chalk graffiti is gone, maybe washed away by the rain. Someone has put up a sign objecting to Ron Paul signs being taken down. His supporters are the only ones trying to claim this movement for a politician, and not getting many recruits as far as I can see. On a tree is posted an ‘Occupy World Map’.

Meetings and Events are posted thru the weekend. ‘Occu-Stock’ is planned for India Point Park on Oct. 27-29 4-11pm.

At the medical tent I talk to the organizer, but am interrupted twice by people dropping off donations. She has her feet up, blister and swelling. I give her some first aid and advice. Foot problems come with constant walking and staying outdoors. I plan to return with more gauze– the little first aid kit doesn’t have much.

I’m on my way to check on my Dad and can’t stay longer. Karen Lee Ziner has a great article in today’s Providence Journal. I can’t find it on the site– it’s front page on the print edition.

I took a lot of pix, will post them later.

Ending the War in Iraq?

Dear Readers,
Kmareka welcomes our new Mideast expert, Kevin De Jesus,PhD, who sends us this post on the consequences of war and the long road for survivors, both in the US and Iraq. Thank you, Kevin, for looking beyond our war-weariness to confront the reality our veterans and their families face…

Ending the War in Iraq?

Not so simple, as war’s legacies endure through the family.

Media outlets across the globe have reported that President Obama has declared that “America’s war in Iraq will be over by the end of the year”. This is not the first time the Iraq war has been declared “over”. Recall President Bush announced on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that the war in Iraq had ended, in fact some nine years before this war will foreclose by virtue of a full troop withdrawal.

I believe we must rebuff the notion that the Iraq War will in fact be so neatly over – it is indeed this type of mythic conception of war that leads us to be deluded into thinking war, partly due to our ability to fight at such a high-tech capacity from great distances, is so precisely so simple. I argue, rather, that many battles will continue between here and the Euphrates, battles which will be waged through the legacies of war’s reverberations through families, across their everyday social, emotional and relational lives. Can we argue therefore that an ethically-committed politics, particularly among those of us who opposed the war in Iraq here in the US and across the globe, ought to drive a sense of urgency to remain focused on easing and supporting the lives of those whose life will be continually encroached by the long-reach of the hauntings of political violence that share a different sense of time than President Obama, or for that matter of Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.

Let us consider some of the evidence for this argument I make. MIT’s Dr. John Tirman’s informative blog, “Iraq: the Human Cost” reveals an array of threats to human well-being across the duration of the war, and in particular, as in the case of many of the displaced, the long-term impoverishment, dislocation and erosion of rights and protections, that are long-standing in effect. Tirman notes that other threats, lethal and devastating in terms of human impact includes the exposure of children to landmines and cluster bombs used in Iraq by both US and non-US military and para-military actors. Fortunately, Iraq has joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2009 , however, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor (2011), Iraq remains “massively contaminated” with explosive remnants of war, due to the succession of violent conflicts which have embroiled Iraq for decades, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion. {For the full report, link here. }

What role will the US and other coalition partners play in clearing these munitions, particularly that according to UNICEF and UNDP decades are likely needed to clean up the terrain of Iraq .

How will families of cluster munition injuries secure the resources needed to rebuild their family life, meet the cost of disability, and heal social-psychological wounds, as a part of the Obama-Maliki plan to end the Iraq war? Is, in fact, such a matter of the human legacy of war also legitimate part of ending war?

Central to the family is the matter of the disappeared. According to a recent NPR report (July 20, 2011), Iraqi family members of disappeared persons gather each Friday to alert the world to their plight. It is claimed by NPR that since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “tens of thousands” of new missing/disappeared persons have been reported, with a particular increase in 2006 and 2007. How will Obama and Maliki deal with the matter of secret prisons, enforced disappearances, and the families of the disappeared who live the war in a particular way, day after day?

For American families who have endured the Iraq War vicariously, through their deployed loved one, the risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be higher than in veterans themselves, one clinician has found. The military family advocacy organization “The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families” details an array of threats to the well-being of veterans from Iraq and their families, including homelessness, supports for women veterans, resources for the children of veterans and the development of community-based psychological supports for veterans and their families. Top on the agenda of The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families is legislative advocacy.

Perhaps an ethically-committed politics can begin with taking the lead from The Sanctuary. Recognizing that for so many the war will not be over by the close of the new year, can those of us who were so ardently opposed to the Iraq War, continue to actively engage to ensure that the resources vitally needed to continue to ameliorate the effects of the war on families from both the Iraq and the US, be delivered?

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The following is from Kmareka’s West Coast correspondent, Elaine Hirsch.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. Currently, she writes for onlinephd.org.

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Ten days after the solemn ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a momentous piece of legislation was enacted in the United States. Any student of history should remember September 20th, 2011 as the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and as the beginning of a new era for gay rights in America, but instead the moment was eclipsed in the national news.

The history of DADT and its eventual repeal is an important chapter for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights community. In the all-male American military service of yore, sodomy was considered a grave violation which merited discharge, but homosexual preferences or tendencies were not specifically addressed until around World War II. Military psychiatrists deemed homosexuality a deviant behavior, and thus not suitable among servicemen. This rather extreme and disparaging view was soon eschewed and replaced by a more tacit “no sex between servicemen” regulation, although gay members of the military continued to be unfairly discharged. The issue of homosexuality in the military was mostly an afterthought during the Vietnam War era, when simply maintaining troop levels was the main concern.

The notorious cases against Fannie Mae Clackum and Leonard Matlovich of the United States Air Force led to the adoption of a policy by the Department of Defense which essentially outlawed homosexuality in the military. By the 1990s, the LGBT rights community raised awareness of this unfair policy and public opinion began to sway against the narrow-minded stance it represented.

It took the brutal murder of a gay sailor serving in Japan to bring the issue to a level of national interest. Radioman Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr. was only 22 years old when he was stomped to death by a shipmate because of his sexual orientation in 1992. The young sailor’s murder prompted presidential candidate Bill Clinton to announce his intention to repeal anti-gay military policy, but Congress quickly moved to make it federal law instead. This was a shrewd political move that forced the Clinton White House to attempt a repeal. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is the compromise reached in lieu of overturning the gay ban in the military.

Originally the policy was called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” This was the phrase chosen by sociologist Charles Moskos, who was instrumental in drafting a policy that didn’t explicitly permit homosexuals to serve in the military, but neither allowed them to be discharged as long as they “served in silence.” The original name of the policy was shortened almost as soon as the policy was adopted, but it was also known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass.”

As an official policy, DADT was challenged numerous times. The inadequacy of the policy was depicted in at least two films: Serving in Silence (1997) and Soldier’s Girl (2003). Serving in Silence is based on the life of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, an Army nurse who served in the Washington National Guard. Colonel Cammermeyer was honorably discharged in 1992 against her will when she came out as a lesbian. She appealed the discharge in federal district court and was reinstated and allowed to retire.

Soldier’s Girl portrays the tragic murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division who was brutally murdered by a fellow soldier who believed PFC Winchell was involved in a relationship with transgendered showgirl Calpernia Addams. PFC Winchell’s murder infuriated President Clinton, who immediately ordered a review of the DADT policy. Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, a top Army officer who sympathized with the LGBT military community, personally met with PFC Winchell’s grieving parents.

The White House under President George W. Bush didn’t do much to advance the repeal of DADT, but presidential candidate Barack Obama made it a campaign promise. In 2010, efforts to repeal DADT and grant homosexuals the right to serve in the US military began in earnest. The efforts were silent but swift, and ultimately successful. The lack of news media attention shouldn’t detract from the sheer significance of the change represented by the repeal. The end of DADT marks a major achievement in the progress of civil rights in America. It may’ve passed in relative silence, but it should be remembered with fanfare.

High Stakes Gambling, Anyone?

I would be okay with state retirees making over a certain amount being forced to give up their COLA’s, at least until the economy picks up, but when you look at these numbers for people at the lower end, you can see why state workers are scared. The state is about the roll the dice and, if the numbers at the state house come up right, retired workers will begin to see their incomes erode at an alarming rate over the next two decades. From Ted Nesi, God Bless his young heart for doing some actual reporting.

The average Rhode Island state worker’s retirement income would drop from $52,000 to roughly $39,000 over the course of a 19-year freeze on cost-of-living adjustments, estimates by the state’s actuary show.

While the dollar amount of a retiree’s pension check would not change over the course of the 19 years, the continuing rise in the cost of living would slowly erode how much the benefit can buy. That reduces its value in practice, though not in nominal dollars.

The Occupy movement is giving us a hint about what needs to happen with this situation: the wealthy need to do their part. They are not sharing adequately in the “shared sacrifice” and until they do, nothing should happen with regard to reducing benefits or COLAs.

Occupy Providence Day 6– Not Going Away

Sacred Space

Green Drinks is a monthly gathering that meets at local businesses and organizations that host an open house. It’s a chance to see some cool places from the inside. Since the AIDS benefit, ArtBeat, organized studio tours as a fundraising event I’ve appreciated a chance to see Providence this way.

We stop at Burnside Park on the way to the American Institute of Architects which is this month’s host. On the way, Mr. Green and I check in on the occupation. Last night there was a torrential rainstorm, today there are more tents. The park is filling up. An older man in business casual is talking to one of the occupiers, dropping off supplies for the medical booth. A sign says, ‘The Left is Awake, Let Wall Street Quake’. I talk to one of the first-aiders at the medical, and she says they got through the rain okay. A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday. There are some occupation dogs participating, I see two on leashes outside the tents. People are raking the space between. I overheard a conversation about safe placement and spacing. The population is growing fast and safety is an active concern.

We get to AIA early, nice old renovated storefront on Washington Street. This is Gallery Night but it’s a little early yet. We look at posters on the wall featuring new buildings and old ones fitted out with 21st Century tech. RISD, Meeting Street School, School for the Deaf, Brown, URI– fine architecture rated for livability and energy conservation.

I remember when I was in high school, in 1972. Some of the cool kids told me about a new concept– a recycling center. This was a volunteer effort, sorting piles of paper into dumpsters. No one respectable took this new concept, ‘ecology’ seriously.

Occupy might have a less rocky path. The way to economic justice was paved by the WPA. Not all the roads are torn up, and those roads were built to last.

In October, in the park, the occupation is growing. I saw a woman on the fringe who looked like the park is her refuge all year round. If the man in business casual and the woman sleeping on her shopping bag find common cause then Wall Street will quake.

THANKS: To Donna Schmader for the photo.

Occupy Providence Day 5– Rain, Religion and the Clam

The unusually clement weather is beginning to break, a mild rain soaks the ground, the tents, the signs. One says, ‘As I am, so you can be Homeless’. This is a fear now gnawing at the edges of the middle class, but high rents and low wages have swelled the population of this park long before the occupation.

I see a Gadsen Flag– Don’t Tread on Me. No black flags of anarchy, the 2 Ron Paul posters still up have the words ‘Jim Crow’ scrawled on his forehead. A notice on the media tent reads–’In cooperation with the Providence police please make tents 10′ from fence- form rows of tents.’

Most are inside those tents, the temperature dropping last night and the rain are the beginning of an endurance test.

In the center of the park, two women set up a Sukkot booth, and the metal frame is strung with branches, lights and handmade cards with messages of peace and hope.

I see a man stretching a tarp over some tents. He says his name is Phil. I mention the Sukkot and he says he is a born-again Christian through a conversion experience at a low point in his life. He is a contractor by trade and constructing a pretty good shelter out of a tarp and 2 pallets with some help from another occupier.

We get talking and discover that we both were in the occupation of the Seabrook Nuclear Plant in 1977. Phil was with the Maine group. We discuss the pros, the cons and the pitfalls of consensus decision-making. I tell him that I now suspect that some of the people who held up consensus and dragged out meetings were there to disrupt.

The occupation has so far been civil and cooperative with the City of Providence. Phil said that 2 women walked through yesterday, tourists from Moscow. They were also visited by the public safety commissioner. The occupiers are keeping it clean and orderly. It’s a public park, the usual people who hang out there are still there and anyone can walk through. No leaders but a kind of mutual cooperation.

Phil said that if the weather is good this weekend the park will fill up with people. Seems likely. The tents are still there and this diverse group is still holding together.

I’m late for work–got to go–more to follow.

A New WPA

As expected, Republicans voted down President Obama’s Jobs Bill. What next? New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg is calling for a new WPA.

“The President’s plan — and, by the way, we wouldn’t have minded if it passed, I voted for it — has a lot of good things… but it doesn’t have the immediacy factor [of mine],” he said.

Lautenberg’s legislation, called the 21st Century WPA Act, wouldn’t be exactly like the WPA that gave Lautenberg’s own father a job during the Great Depression. Rather, it would award funding to projects that would give jobs to people unemployed for more than 60 days; have a continued economic benefit after their completion; and would devote a “high” portion of each dollar spent to employee pay. The legislation suggests — but does not limit departments to — a variety of projects, including the construction of water treatment plants, schools and firehouses, highway repairs and maintenance, building weatherization and trail maintenance.

I’m always a little amused by how people across the board, conservatives included, like the idea of a WPA. I think it’s because there’s living memory of how it saved people from poverty and desperation and put the country back to work. Not busy work, either. We still see WPA plaques, cite WPA research– the infrastructure built by the WPA is still sound. There’s WPA sidewalks in Lippit Park.

Lautenberg proposes a tax on millionaires. I always wonder why some call this kind of tax a ‘punishment’. Jeeze, I should be punished with a million or two a year and I won’t gripe about taxes since I don’t gripe about the taxes I pay now.

But consider– do not millionaires drive on streets? Do they not call the fire department when they have a fire? Do they not hire workers who went to public schools? I think they will get their money’s worth.

Doing Well by Doing Good

This bit of good news points the way to saving money and lives…

The risk-adjusted rate of heart failure hospitalization fell from 2,845 to 2,007 per 100,000 person-years from 1998 to 2008 in a fee-for-service Medicare claims analysis by Dr. Jersey Chen of Yale University and colleagues.

That decline — the first ever documented in the U.S. — likely saved $4.1 billion in Medicare costs since 1998, they reported in the Oct. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Saving money on health care is not done effectively by cutting benefits and shutting people out of access. The answer is to keep people healthier, by good preventive care and evidence-based practice. If you care about your future, you will support universal health care with strong government oversight and research into best practice. The life you save may be your own.

Statement From Occupy Wall Street

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

See more from Occupy Wall Street here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 975 other followers