August 21, 2005

The "little woman who stopped the war"

Sheehan has become the lone voice that kick-started a chorus. Whether Bush agrees to her demand for a meeting (and it is unlikely he will) is now largely irrelevant. The political legacy left by her summer of protest will last far longer than the ramshackle tents of Camp Casey lining the roads outside Bush's ranch. 'This is now about far more than Cindy Sheehan. She has given people the confidence to speak out about the war that they didn't have before. Finally, its OK in America to be anti-war,' Zunes said.
It's the Democrats' turn to join the choir. Conyers is leading the way, as usual, along with Kucinich. Do the rest of them really want to get shown up by the father of freedom fries?

August 15, 2005


Though it's been almost a year since it happened, I still think back on a conversation about "liberal education" that I had with the Fund for American Studies organizers over lunch in the cafeteria that gave rise to "freedom fries." They were justifying the crazily ideological curriculum of the program's courses as being a way to counterbalance bias in university classrooms everywhere else. At the time, I didn't know what to say beyond my feeling that professors at UCSB were liberal, but still gave the other side, while we didn't even know another side existed at CATO or in our rented classroom at Georgetown. In fact, charges of bias and principles of academic freedom were so on my professor's minds when I returned to SB that they almost gave preference to students with conservative viewpoints because they were running scared from the David Horowitzes of the right.

It's frustrating to hear even left-leaning students accept this notion of liberal bias in all of academia. But it's always good to see concrete evidence to the contrary:

The campus Left, which is still organized for the most part by students and community activists, increasingly finds itself facing off against seasoned conservative strategists. And while progressive student groups are mostly self-funded, by the mid-1990s roughly $20 million dollars were being pumped into the campus Right annually, according to People for the American Way.

That money and expertise are directed at four distinct goals: training conservative campus activists; supporting right-wing student publications; indoctrinating the next generation of culture warriors; and demonstrating the liberal academic "bias" that justifies many conservatives' reflexive anti-intellectualism.

Their argument is false, but they've got a forumlaic, well-funded strategy--and that's why they can round up kids and perpetuate such lies.


For someone who admittedly has a pretty shameful history of consumer whoredom, I'm turning into an almost hyper-conscious consumer, trying to spend money selectively and shop on principle. I'm pretty successful when it comes to food--it's what I spend the most on, and I try to go fair trade and organic all the way, partly because of the Global Exchange influence, and it also doesn't hurt that I'm living at home for now and I've got the resources to do it. Buying with a conscience can be difficult since it's often pretty expensive, and the majority of shoppers get priced out right off the bat. If you can afford it, you've still got to know where to look--and even then it's all about where you live--I doubt you'd have much success finding worker friendly and environmentally friendly foods in places like Alabama where strip malls and chain restaurants dominate.

I know where my food comes from, so you'd think I'd be just as careful about where I get my clothes. I'm more than happy to spend an extra buck at places like American Apparel (though Dov Charney is a total douchebag and the store is totally sizist--you call THAT a large?!) if it means I can wear something with the confidence that it wasn't sewn in a maquiladora. I also know the value of thrifting (since you're not directly funding exploitation when you buy second hand), but I lack the patience and skill it takes to do it often. In retrospect, I probably have spent more time researching corporate practices than I have on picking through racks of clothes at stores you can be certain donate to good causes. It's just a matter of finding those places. A lot of people, myself included, just opt for what's easy though:

While some girls really did get that embroidered blouse in the former Soviet bloc, most of them have patched together their summer wardrobes at the Gap, Urban Outfitters, or United Colors of Benneton. And most of them have done so in blissful -- or willful -- ignorance of where their clothing actually came from. Most people are at least vaguely aware that much of our clothing is produced in conditions antithetical to the values of "one world" bohemianism. Aside from the "Made In ___" tag that identifies its country of origin, it's impossible to tell just by looking at a piece of clothing whether it was manufactured by sweatshop workers. But odds are that it was.

It's pretty self-destructive--I get totally discouraged reading about abhorrent labor practices at every store that's convenient, and then I just end up feeling guilty giving in and buying the easiest (and often most expensive) thing when my jeans split down the middle (which they did last week at summer camp when I tried to do a cartwheel). There's no excuse really, I do know where this stuff is coming from, and I'm just violating my own principles by continuing to shop out of habit.

ANYWAY, now that this has turned into more of a self-flagellating live journal-esque post than anything else, I'm off to find a thrift store directory.

August 14, 2005

The noise machine and its soldering engine

I was talking politics (surprise surprise) over a bottle of wine last night with some friends in the city, when a girl I’d just met said something that gave some real insight into the despair plaguing the left. She told us she was too overwhelmed and too disgusted by conservative tactics to even join the conversation. “You can’t win,” she said.

It was just so indicative of what’s been going on with the broader movement—we’ve been attacked on all fronts by a pervasive messaging machine, and all we’ve resorted to is (at least what comes off as) reactionary bitching. I think everyone knows what the right is all about--though having lived at their policy nerve center, it could just be that I’ve been conditioned to pick up on their arguments. Still, it's never ceased to amaze me how consistent and easily recognizable right-wing, particularly free market messaging is. And the fact that I unwittingly ended up at Heritage alone proves how effective they are at drawing people in—even though their hosting me had the unintended effect of pushing me further in the opposite direction.

Ironically, the people with the most regressive politics have maintained this facade that they've got the most coherent and visionary ideas--proof that the left’s lagging on positive messaging (hopelessly abstract as that is) that all we've done is either rail against them or throw up our hands in disgust after seeing how far we've gone in the wrong direction. The fringe has had absolute control, and solid Frankian backlash rhetoric to convince everyone they’re the ones who are marginalized. With strategies that rival the Chewbacca defense, and it’s enough to make any lefty's head explode.

But all this is changing—in spite of themselves, in spite of democrat’s shortcomings as an opposition party, and even with all the republican’s catch phrases and law-bending strategery and corporate funding, they’re losing it:

The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968...

Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush...

Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.
And polls show some serious disapproval across party lines. Now isn’t the time for silence or infighting. There needs to be focus on helping their self-destruction along.

August 07, 2005

Go Cindy, go!

"I'll camp on his lawn in D.C. until he has the courtesy and the integrity and the compassion to talk to somebody whose life he has ruined." -Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, killed in combat April 4, 2004
At last, some well deserved, long overdue national attention. Cindy is a firey, loving, amazing woman, and she's completely invincible. That's what makes her vigil genius--not even Fox would dare debase or attempt to discredit her. She gave her eldest son to the supposed cause of defending this country, only to have her grief be amplified when she learned his sacrifice was unfounded and in vain.

To thank her for her patience and generosity in voicing a radio spot for CODEPINK, we did some press calls at the office Friday to help get local coverage of her trip to Crawford. I wasn't really getting my hopes up--we'd had one defeat after another in our media campaign to get Cindy's call to end the occupation on conservative airwaves, and though it seemed like it had a lot of potential at first, organizing around Downing Street had become a lost cause.

I was pretty suprised to see that her message had made headlines on Yahoo! news. Then there was a piece on CNN, and now even has a story, under the stark, even disrespectful headline "Dead Marine's Mom Protests at Bush Ranch" (although they naturally had to juxtapose her story with that of a military father who supports the occupation).

At least if Rush won't hear her out, the saner members of this country will have the chance to lend her an ear.

Her letter to President Bush remains one of the most powerful statements against the Iraq war to date.

Hard work is seeing your oldest son, your brave and honorable man-child go off to a war that had, and still has, no basis in reality.

Hard work is worrying yourself gray and not being able to sleep for 2 weeks because you don’t know if your child is safe.

Hard work is seeing your son’s murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you’re enjoying the last supper you’ll ever truly enjoy again.Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son…your first born…your kind and gentle sweet baby.

Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday.

Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big “baba” into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both.

I'd join her in Texas if I could. CODEPINK has ways you can be there with her and show your solidarity. Get updates from the Camp Casey blog.

"The beginning of the end of the occupation of Iraq was on August 6, 2005, and in of all places, Crawford, Tx." -Cindy Sheehan

"Don't fill the frontlines of their war, those assholes aren't worth dying for" --Ani