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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

This is a video recording of the May Day speech I gave at the lovely and historic Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington State, to a rally organized by Occupy Tacoma and others. This park is a beautiful patch of green in the middle of an urban area, quite close to downtown.

For those of you in other parts of the world, Tacoma is west-coast port city and is quite close to the northwest corner of the United States. At the time of our May Day rally, we experienced what was typical weather for this time of the year here in Washington State (For those of you not familiar with American geography, Washington State is not the same place as Washington DC, the USA capital, thousands of kilometers away).

We had periods of sun and warmth, then rain, and even a bit of ice, followed by warmer sun. The sky looked spectacularly dramatic, a mosaic pattern of clear sparkling blue patches intermixed with other patches of dark clouds, sometimes with bright fringes. The scents of spring floated in the air, wafting up from the many trees, plants, flowers and the moist good earth under our feet. Eddies of chill wind whipped around us, stirring up nature’s perfumes, and then the air would be still and warm. One minute, the sun shown brightly, and then just seconds later, a big black cloud would obscure the sun. As I gave my speech, we went through spots with sun and still air, followed by spots of icy rain, followed by brisk cool breezes, and then more warming sun embracing our faces.

At the time of our May Day rally, the hospital workers had had an informational picket line at several nearby hospitals, and many of those picketers had taken some time off to come to our rally. And before our rally, many of us Occupy Tacoma supporters and friends had joined the hospital workers in their picket line to show our solidarity. After our rally, many of us attended their union rally at a nearby church, and it was quite inspiring to hear these workers talk about their situation and their plans.

I support those workers. My wife spent her last days in one of those hospitals now being picketed, and the workers were super, making every effort to make the last days of her life as comfortable and pleasant as possible. She was very grateful to them.

Representatives from other unions attended our rally and walked with the hospital workers on the picket lines as well, and supporters and members of Food Not Bombs and Jobs With Justice also came by. We had food cooking, and some homeless people came by and shared a meal with us.

The speech I gave at the rally was a bit different than many of of my other speeches in that I delivered this speech in verse, mostly blank verse. When you see the video, you’ll probably notice that.

The sound recording was a bit problematical at times because sudden gusts of wind whipped by the microphone, muddying the sound, and sometimes the microphone picked up too much ambient noise.

Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with the way this video turned out, despite a few technical difficulties in producing it, and I hope you enjoy seeing my speech as much as I did in delivering it.

I’ve lived a good long time now, and the sudden rise of the Occupy movement, the related European movements, and the movements of young people in Africa, Asia, and our sister countries of the American continents has, in the autumn of my life, warmed my heart, more than I can say in mere words. These wonderful young people have given my soul reason to soar high on the wings of hope and sing a song of the new spring.

To the activists all over the world and here in the USA, thank you for all you are doing to make this a more decent world and to challenge the rule of the 1%. This can be a difficult and tedious process, even irksome at times. But I believe in the end, we will win, and the world will rise on new foundations.

Karl Marx said these interesting words:

When people speak of ideas that revolutionize society, they do but express the fact that within the old society, the seeds of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.

At this historic moment of history, we are creating the seeds of a new society, and they are sprouting and taking root in the very fabric of the old.

We shall overcome! ¡Venceremos!

Regards,

Alan OldStudent

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Mark Twain wrote a scathing antiwar poem/story called “The War Prayer,” which he feared to have published during his lifetime. Decades after his death, this work was published.

I first ran into “The War Prayer” when a young woman sold me a copy at an antiwar demonstration during the Vietnam war. I was struck by the power of its language, as well as by the sentiments.

Several years ago, I found a a very effective YouTube animated version. This version is a bit long, which is why it is split into 2 videos. But it is well worth watching.

Then, just a few days ago while searching for this 2-part video presentation, I discovered a 1981 PBS adaptation of “The War Prayer“ which was part of a larger program on another of Mark Twain’s antiwar stories.

The actor who delivers the actual prayer of God’s emissary puts an experienced hell-fire preacher’s delivery into a decidedly antiwar statement.

The two-video version, which follows Twain’s text pretty much as he wrote it, appears below:

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According to The National Priorities Project, The United States passed a landmark on May 30, 2010. On that day, the United States will have spent 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq and Afghan wars, and on June 7, 2010, the Afghan war will become the longest war the United States has waged.

Moreover, the cost of the war in Afghanistan is currently 1 million dollars per soldier per year, according to this November 14, 2009 New York Times article.

One million dollars is a large number, but one trillion dollars is an unimaginably larger number. It’s easy to gloss over when the politicians and pundits toss around these numbers.

The thickness of a dollar bill is 0.0043 inches. So a stack of a million dollar bills would be about 109.22 meters or 358 feet tall. That’s as high as an office building 30 stories tall, counting a story as being approximately 11.9 feet tall (about 3.6 meters).

But a stack of a trillion dollars would be 63,516.5633 miles (109220 km) tall. That’s 2.5 times the circumference of the earth. That’s what American taxpayers pay for the Iraq/Afghan war. And the champions of small government say nothing about this.

Did you know that the United States just by itself has a military budget greater than the rest of the world’s countries combined? Or did you know the US military budget is more than 10 times  greater than that of either Russia or China’s? (Click here for the documentation of those figures).

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On the Religious Tolerance website, I found the following:

Concerning the Ten Commandments in courthouses and legislatures: You cannot post ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal,’ ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,’ and ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians…It creates a hostile work environment.

The above witty quote illustrates a peculiarly American conundrum.

We US citizens have an officially nonreligious government enshrined in our founding document, the Constitution of the United States, yet one of the most religious populations for an advanced industrial nation. That dynamic opposition, historically speaking, has created an interesting political tension.

God As A Secular and Patriotic American

In the western part of United States, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the second highest court, ruling over 9 states and 2 territories. It sets legal precedents for all courts in the western United States, and lower courts are bound by its rulings. Only the United States Supreme Court can overrule it.

This court recently made the preposterous ruling that the phrase “under God” in the American Pledge of Allegiance is not inherently religious. Two of the 3 justices actually said that the phrase “under God” was merely a patriotic and ceremonial phrase, not a religious one.

Now American judges are supposed to be scholars of the law. Thus, for these judges to make such an obviously moronic assertion with a straight face is an insult to the intelligence of thinking Americans.

Surely those august scholars of the law can’t believe that to be true unless they have deliberately stupefied themselves.

I clearly remember when that phrase was added to our Pledge of Allegiance in the middle 1950s. Before then, it had not been a part of the American Pledge of Allegiance.

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The article that appeared in this blog called Pat Robertson’s Blasphemy, Accuses God of Terrorism has got me a fair amount of private email, and several readers of this blog left comments. Because of these private emails comments posted here, there are a few more things I wish to say about Robertson and this tragedy.

In the past few days, it has become quite obvious to me that many, and probably most, Christians completely disavow Pat Robertson’s pronouncements, which seemingly blame the Haitians themselves for this tragedy. It’s not just us atheists who are offended. Many decent Christian folks have also taken exception.

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For those blog readers outside the United States, the State Of The Union Address is a speech the American president customarily gives at the beginning of each year, usually in January but sometimes in February, to a joint session of congress and, via broadcast, to the USA population. It lays out what the president hopes to accomplish in the coming year, what the past year has meant in his or her estimation, what the state of the country (the Union) is. If I were the president’s speech writer, this is the speech I’d write for him.

Good evening Madam Speaker, Vice President Joseph Biden, Elected Members of Congress, privileged guests, and my not-so-privileged and long-suffering fellow citizens and residents of these United States of America:

Customarily, during a State of the Union Speech, the congressional attendees and privileged guests in these chambers interrupt this speech with many applause lines, cheers, and even a few ovations. I fear that tonight, my fellow Americans, those elected legislators and privileged guests will do precious little applauding and even less cheering.

At the beginning of my address tonight, I will give them credit, the credit they deserve. I will recognize that these legislators have worked very hard, represented quite effectively their constituents, the stakeholders present at the negotiating table that is Washington DC. They have supped at the table of American affluence. They spent many hours dealing with conflicting agendas of those who sought their ear, those who sought to influence them, those who brought them their views, their concerns.

However, they will not cheer the various points I make in this address. Their silence will be forthcoming because tonight I speak not in the service of those constituents for whom the legislators have labored so diligently, so conscientiously.

No! Instead, tonight’s speech is in service of people with a separate set of interests, the ordinary working people, the common people, those whom we understand by the term “American middle class.” That’s quite a different constituency, if you will, than those whom the mass media and the pundits have traditionally considered to be the stakeholders who matter.

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In 1940, shortly before the United States went to war against Hitler’s Germany, the famed and highly-acclaimed comic actor and director Charlie Chaplin made a wonderful movie called “The Great Dictator.” You can get The Great Dictator for home viewing, and it is a worthwhile purchase.

This movie plays up the classic doppelganger gag. The story is of a little Jewish tailor who is drafted into the army of the country of “Tomania,” (a satirical reference to Germany) during the First World War. The Jewish tailor helps save a comrade in battle and is wounded, ending up with amnesia in the hospital. After 20 years, just before the beginning of World War II, he somehow leaves the hospital to go back to his barbershop, thinking he has only been gone a couple of weeks. Of course, the anti-Jewish pogroms were in full swing by then.

As an odd wrinkle, our little Jewish tailor bears an uncanny physical likeness to the insane dictator of Tomania , Adenoid Hynkel, (another satirical reference, this time to Adolf Hitler) who is rising to power on anti-Semitism and anticommunism. In fact, at the beginning of the movie, there is an advisory that the resemblance between Adenoid Hynkel and the tailor is purely coincidental! Our Jewish tailor is completely unaware of the anti-Jewish fever sweeping the country or the redoubtable Adenoid Hynkel’s rise to power.

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