The Conversation: Making Sense of These Times

A Mighty Companions Project


Noteworthy News

Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to Representatives of the Member States, on the Declared Intention of the United States to Commit Aggression Against Iraq, Edward S. Herman, Anthony Arnove, Rahul Mahajan and David Peterson

"Capitol Hill and the media sit there with a straight face as it happens, merely nodding their heads," says a perturbed Wade Frazier, a listmember, about a news report he sent of Bush declaring he can wage war without authority from Congress.

As depressing as this now familiar story is, Wade's P.S. counters it with what can raise our hopes. Wade says, "There are shreds of sanity left in America, and below is something from Uncle Ed and friends," to introduce this strong statement by distinguished people saying what needs to be said about Iraq.

Israel set on tragic path, says chief rabbi, Jonathon Freedland

Wow. It's courageous people like this who are visible enough to make news that perhaps can turn tides. The way change sometimes comes about is that a groundswell develops and heats up and feels its helplessness until something all of a sudden focuses the energy and lets something birth. I keep referencing that Howard Zinn piece, about the trial of the Camden 28 in the Viet Nam era, for that kind of turning point. Knowing this historical information helps us take heart when in seemingly lost causes, which all of a sudden can get found when a single potent move is made. This piece is a good counterpoint to the frustrating exchange I had with a rabbi of the opposite persuasion, CONVERSATION ON THE MIDDLE EAST. "Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, today delivers an unprecedented strong warning to Israel, arguing that the country is adopting a stance 'incompatible' with the deepest ideals of Judaism, and that the current conflict with the Palestinians is 'corrupting' Israeli culture."

Transcript of Paula Zahn Interview with Noam Chomsky and Bill Bennett

Noam Chomsky's anti-war international bestseller, 9-11, is a subject of debate in mainstream media. Following controversial feature articles in the New York Times and Washington Post earlier this month, arch-conservative William Bennett proposed on Paula Zahn's CNN morning show that he and Chomsky debate. The debate was live on May 30, 2002. How transparently Bennett argues, without being responsive to what Chomsky says. There is something incredibly satisfying in Chomsky not letting Bennett get away with anything.

Surprise Best Seller Blames U.S., Michael Massing

Thanks to Noam Chomsky for bottom-lining the horror of our day, and, for giving us an echo of what Michael Moore made clear to us about the size of our ranks – Chomsky's post 9/11 tome also is a runaway bestseller. [Note: quotes are as they appear in the news report.] "People said it would have no success whatsoever," said Daniel Simon, the publisher of Seven Stories, "because most Americans ere lock-step behind the war." As soon as the volume hit bookstores, however, it began selling briskly, and it hasn't stopped. "People are coming in every day, asking, `What can I read that can give me some understanding of what's happening?' " said Virginia Harabin, the floor manager at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington. "This is the one I recommend."

A New Horizon for the Democratic Party, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich to the Democratic National Committee

Passed to us by Rick Ingrasci, with this subject line: "Dennis Kucinich: A New Horizon (Presidential stump speech?)" We should be so lucky. The speech ends this way: "Senator Robert Kennedy, addressing students in South Africa who suffered under the yoke of apartheid, understood the potency of the human heart as surmounting all obstacles. He said: 'Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples can create a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.' This is my commitment. I am sure it is yours, too."

We won't deny our consciences:
Prominent Americans have issued this statement on the war on terror

This is the best declaration along these lines that I have seen. Although others have written similar pieces with the same good intention, it is tricky to write something that doesn't include verbiage other people wouldn't use. Not so here. (Only one line bothered me: "We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.") What I think is lacking in the world is a way for progressives to go from being gadflies into becoming a force. That would come from an alignment that heretofore we haven't been able to make – there has been no auspice for it. I hope this document will become that rallying point.

OUTSIDE THE BOX   Firm Boosts Profits by Asking Staff to Cuddle

Now, here's a change of pace. You just know this is the world we could be having, and look how little it takes. May this piece circulate widely – perhaps all our readers would pass it on. "A West Midlands firm says profits are soaring since staff were encouraged to hug each other every day."

Physicians for Social Responsibility, Letter to President Bush

The progressive bandwagon continues to pick up speed. PSR, Which, since 9/11, has been one of the great activist anti-war organizations, spells it all out in this document, now in wide Net circulation. "[The authority to destroy Al Qaeda and eradicate its base of support from the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan] was not intended as an unending license to permit unilateral, unauthorized attacks anywhere on the globe or to drastically escalate US military spending and overseas military bases, to promote massive arms transfers, and to conduct diplomacy by threat...these and other actions of your Administration are fueling anti-American sentiment worldwide. Coupled with inattention to economic development, medical and public health demands, environmental degradation, human rights, education and other needs both abroad and at home, such policies threaten, in the long term, to bring on the instability, conflict, and terrorism we all seek to prevent."

Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad, James Dao and Eric Schmitt

This is a particularly chilling report that I would have expected from the "National Enquirer," since it sounds so ugly and so preposterous. But no, it's the New York Times, objectively and dispassionately letting us know that our government has stooped to lying as public policy. "The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers."

Hunger and Death in Afghan Villages, David Loyn

In case you thought starvation in Afghanistan was averted by the fall of the Taliban, think again. The cost of our military might is not even an afterthought by this administration, let alone by our mainstream press. ZNet, a first rate Net resource committed to social change, circulated this piece in the email update it sends around about what's posted on its site, saying, "Beyond the collateral deaths by bombing, the far larger calamity, which is not accidental at all but was entirely predictable and predicted, involves food, shelter, and lonely, ignominious death. The U.S. chose policies that all concerned agreed could kill millions. Only the unforeseen early collapse of the Taliban prevented holocaust, but even with that unforeseen luck, the outcome is far worse than most contemplate. It takes, in this case, a report on the BBC to tell the horrible tale."

Seven Keys to a Safer Nation, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence

Eisha Mason, who spoke on an outstanding panel in early December at the Agape Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, knocked me out with her eloquence and intelligence about what makes sense for the U.S. to do in these challenging times. What she was talking about I found all written up in this document from the Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence, an outstanding L.A. based organization where she is the Executive Director. This is a must read that will help everyone focus on vital actions for this country to take.


Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...

-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

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