Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Speaking Peace - An Adventure in Nonviolence

If any of you are in the Portland Oregon area, I'll be giving a workshop tomorrow night, the 30th, in the SE corner of the city. This should be fun. I've just started doing monthly adventures in nonviolence and the interest level is increasing as they continue. I don't have one for November, but on December 18th I'll be looking at Jesus as a nonviolent actor - should be fun.

Thursday October 30th we’ll explore a new language, a language that takes back that power, the language of Nonviolence.

This workshop is based on the work and experience of Marshall Rosenberg and Portland’s own “seriously pissed off granny” Bonnie Tinker.

This workshop is FREE - but donations are greatly appreciated

When: October 30th 7-9pm
Where: Spirit Feathers
7704 SE 13th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97202

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Golden Rule Rules

I have made a vow to myself to deepen my understanding of Islam so as to gain more respect for its followers and also to help me better understand its extremists much in the same way as I've been doing with Christianity for the past four months. To begin this journey I started with the animated movie, Mohammad, The Last Prophet. My daughter and I watched it together several times. Today I began reading the book Mohammad by Karen Armstrong. I was reminded again of the fact that much of this religion came from what was seen as the evil of the open market system (there I go using the word evil again - it's getting to be a habit). The Bedhouin's were nomadic tribes out of necessity and as such depended on community - the tribe was the first priority. As Mecca became a market place, indidual needs took over and community values were forgotten. Profit and materialism became more important than people. Those who suffered most were orphans (like Mohammad) and widows and others that were unable to participate in the highly competitive marketplace. The power was becoming concentate in only a few families while poverty increased its numbers. Beginning to sound familiar?

I became more curious about the author and found this TED talk on religion (if you're not familiar with TED please visit - you'll be glad you did). I'm quickly becoming a fan of Karen. The wisdom shared in this short talk needs to be shared across the globe. Although I've never been in a convent, like her I became very anti-religion, seeing it as the source of so much suffering and destruction to human life. But my own journey into nonviolence has helped me unravel a fallacy in my understanding of religion that she mentions in this talk, a confusion between belief and religion. In the world of NV the Golden Rule Rules! Religion is about going beyond our evolution - to refuse to be controlled by the selfish gene or the fight/flight mechanisms built into us. Once we take our ego out of the equation and place ourselves in service to all others - something changes and the pre-wired responses seem to lose their control over us. The positive side effects of this change of focus include joy in one's work no matter how mundane, joy in caring for our families, joy in participating in civil disobediance to affect positive change for others even at the risk of our own freedom and safety. I used to wonder why Gandhi always seemed so joyful, even when being hauled off to live in Her Majesty's prison system or cleaning latrines, but now I'm beginning to understand. May we all be so lucky as to quit living for ouselves and begin living for one another.

The End of America

This short film is Naomi Wolf speaking on the 10 step program used by dictators throughout history to close a previously open and democratic society. It's long and even has commercials - sorry - but I felt the content was worth the time.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My ballot is in the mail!!

Last night, after work, I sat down with my ballot, my laptop and some awesome reggae music in the background for inspiration (and I just love reggae music), and I filled in the ovals, the first one for Obama of course. Then I visited Basic Rights Oregon for guidance on the rest of the candidates and measures. I sealed it in the secrecy envelope, signed the outer one, attached postage and sent it on its way. I've done what I can do. I've sported my Obama/Biden bumper sticker, watched the yard signs sway in the breeze and now all I can do is sit back and see how my fellow citizens weigh in. Being a Gen Xer this is the hard part.

Will our country remain in the gutter of hate that I see espoused at the McCain/Palin rallies or will we finally move forward after 8 years of being stuck in reverse? One of the most disturbing issues is the constant referral to Obama as a Muslim and a terrorist. First off, I know some amazing and loving Muslims. In fact my daughter's last teacher was a Muslim from Iran and I trust her implicitly. She has shown so much respect and love to both me and my daughter. My daughter is no longer in that school since we moved, but Mrs. Sue still calls us to wish us well. None of the white Chirstian teachers do that. She's such a great testimony to her profession and her religion. Would I vote for a Muslim - you bet I would if they stand for justice and freedom.

Where terrorism is concerned, McCain should know better, since he is the one that dropped bombs on innocent villages in Vietnam from a safe distance. Let's be realistic, if a plane dropped bombs on your neighbors and then plummeted into a nearby lake - would you save the pilot? Not only did a man swim out and rescue him, he protected him from his own friends and neighbors whose children and lives had just been destroyed by this white demon from above. If there's a terrorist running for President of the US, that terrorist is J. McCain.

Don't get me wrong, I don't see our troops as terrorists. Most of them really believe the propaganda that they've been fed. They are as much the victims of the great evil of empire as are the Iraqi's, the Afghani's, the Venezuelan's, the Nicaraguan's, the Gueatemalan's, etc, etc... you get the picture. The US military is evil, but not the men that make it up. It's up to each and every soldier to ask themselves the hard questions - are they going to just follow any order like Eichman did for the Nazi's, no matter how immorral - or are they going to stand up for their own soul and sanity. Nonviolence isn't easy, it's not for cowards. But if you're someone who is willing to face death for your ideals by serving in the military, you're no coward, and you are strong enough to stand up for truth. If J. McCain had been a man of integrity he would have refused to kill innocents, he would have become a conscientious objector.

May this be the last election filled with bigotry, ignorance and hatred.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eyes and Heart Wide Open

Last Saturday IVAW, PDX Peace and many many more groups dedicated to ending the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, hosted Winter Soldier Northwest (Portland). I went in early to help with set up with the AFSCs real cost of war display "Eyes Wide Open". We placed boots belonging to many dead Oregon soldiers in the social hall of the downtown Unitarian church. As I placed the boots in alphabetical order on the floor my eyes wandered over the names, ages, pictures and sometimes even a personal letter that accompanied the boots. At one point I had to excuse myself from the work to regain my focus and composure. It's hard to fathom the complexity of emotion. Most of these young people joined the military for the benefits, seeing it as an option to move them forward in life, not realizing the full impact that killing another human being would have on their souls. I even wondered if these weren't the lucky ones in comparison to the tortured men whose testimony I was about to witness upstairs. I thought of the years of nightmares, failed marriages, drug dependency and bouts of violence that plagued my Uncle after returning from his Marine duty in Vietnam. He went AWOL - and I'm proud of him for it. He and his first wife hid on a house boat in the Gulf of Mexico. But our government tapped the phones of family members and ultimately caught him. He has survived his experiences and is now a loving husband, father and grandfather of a multi-cultural family. It's hard to know what the owners of these boots might have done if war and violence had not played into their lives.

It didn't end with the empty boots of GIs, but went on to include shoes of dead Iraqi civilians - children included. A young girl of "almost 10" helped me put the Iraqi shoes out around signs on the sidewalks. I saw shoes that would fit my four year old daughter. If it were my child... I can't help but insert myself into the heartache that a mother feels and then I have to multiply it for all those lost in these mindless battles between men. When I read stories from Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Mindanao, Sri Lanka and on and on, I don't shut it out, but I grieve with them, a witness to their hell. When I watch my daughter play, laugh, smile I feel such joy and I wish that for all parents. No one should have to live in a battlefield - and it's up to the citizens of this world to stand up and protect each other. I guess that's why I continue to educate people on nonviolence and the work of unarmed civilian peackeeping. It's only one small piece of what will make this world a better place for us all.

When I listened to the testimony of our vets, I realized how important the storytelling is. It reminded me of my own journey through ptsd. I was sexually abused and it took years to get over the nightmares, the manic depression, self-loathing and all that great stuff that accompanies trauma. But what helped me more than any one thing was being able to tell my story. The first time nearly killed me, but now I can talk about it easily. It no longer controls me but has rather become my tool for helping others. Our vets need to tell their stories - over and over again, until they also become tools for healing and helping us all to change our views on violence and war. I think every town in America should welcome their vets home by giving them a venue to speak in. For some it may need to be an anonymous space out in the cyber world - for others a loud speaker will only begin to do justice to the inner voice.

Humans have an enormous capacity for compassion and love. We do not tolerate discomfort easily and most of us try to shut out these painful stories, but to shut them out is to make them stronger. Some people worry that they will be overwhelmed with the sadness - it is overwhelming if you think you can fix it. We can't fix it as individuals, but each of us can bear witness and cry with each other. We can also share our joys. Let's open our eyes and hearts and help each other heal from all this pain.

Don't Let them Steal Your Vote

I lived in Florida in 2000 - and I'm still not laughing. There were actually immigration officials and police officers at certain polling areas simply to intimidate Hispanic and black voters from coming to the polls. So many have suffered and died for women and black Americans to get the right to vote - we would dishonor them to allow our votes to be stolen from us now. Learn what's happening and educate others.

Block the Vote

Will the GOP's campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. & GREG PALASTPosted Oct 30, 2008 11:10 AM

There's a reason Iglesias couldn't find any evidence of fraud: Individual voters almost never try to cast illegal ballots. The Bush administration's main point person on "ballot protection" has been Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who has advised states on how to use HAVA to erect more barriers to voting. Appointed to the Federal Election Commission by Bush, von Spakovsky has suggested that voter rolls may be stuffed with 5 million illegal aliens. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a recent analysis by Lorraine Minnite, an expert on voting crime at Barnard College, federal courts found only 24 voters guilty of fraud from 2002 to 2005, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. "The claim of widespread voter fraud," Minnite says, "is itself a fraud."

Allegations of voter fraud are only the latest rationale the GOP has used to disenfranchise voters — especially blacks, Hispanics and others who traditionally support Democrats. "The Republicans have a long history of erecting barriers to discourage Americans from voting," says Donna Brazile, chair of the Voting Rights Institute for the Democratic National Committee. "Now they're trying to spook Americans with the ghost of voter fraud. It's very effective — but it's ironic that the only way they maintain power is by using fear to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote." The recently enacted barriers thrown up to deter voters include:

1. Obstructing Voter-Registration Drives

Since 2004, the Bush administration and more than a dozen states have taken steps to impede voter registration. Among the worst offenders is Florida, where the Republican-dominated legislature created hefty fines — up to $5,000 per violation — for groups that fail to meet deadlines for turning in voter-application forms. Facing potentially huge penalties for trivial administrative errors, the League of Women Voters abandoned its voter-registration drives in Florida. A court order eventually forced the legislature to reduce the maximum penalty to $1,000. But even so, said former League president Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, the reduced fines "create an unfair tax on democracy." The state has also failed to uphold a federal law requiring that low-income voters be offered an opportunity to register when they apply for food stamps or other public assistance. As a result, the annual number of such registrations has plummeted from more than 120,000 in the Clinton years to barely 10,000 today.

2. Demanding "Perfect Matches"

Under the Help America Vote Act, some states now reject first-time registrants whose data does not correspond to information in other government databases. Spurred by HAVA, almost every state must now attempt to make some kind of match — and four states, including the swing states of Iowa and Florida, require what is known as a "perfect match." Under this rigid framework, new registrants can lose the right to vote if the information on their voter-registration forms — Social Security number, street address and precisely spelled name, right down to a hyphen — fails to exactly match data listed in other government records.

There are many legitimate reasons, of course, why a voter's information might vary. Indeed, a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 20 percent of discrepancies between voter records and driver's licenses in New York City are simply typing mistakes made by government clerks when they transcribe data. But under the new rules, those mistakes are costing citizens the right to vote. In California, a Republican secretary of state blocked 43 percent of all new voters in Los Angeles from registering in early 2006 — many because of the state's failure to produce a tight match. In Florida, GOP officials created "match" rules that rejected more than 15,000 new registrants in 2006 and 2007 — nearly three-fourths of them Hispanic and black voters. Given the big registration drives this year, the number could be five times higher by November.

3. Purging Legitimate Voters From the Rolls

The Help America Vote Act doesn't just disenfranchise new registrants; it also targets veteran voters. In the past, bipartisan county election boards maintained voter records. But HAVA requires that records be centralized, computerized and maintained by secretaries of state — partisan officials — who are empowered to purge the rolls of any voter they deem ineligible. Ironically, the new rules imitate the centralized system in Florida — the same corrupt operation that inspired passage of HAVA in the first place. Prior to the 2000 election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and her predecessor, both Republicans, tried to purge 57,000 voters, most of them African-Americans, because their names resembled those of persons convicted of a crime. The state eventually acknowledged that the purges were improper — two years after the election.

Rather than end Florida-style purges, however, HAVA has nationalized them. Maez, the elections supervisor in New Mexico, says he was the victim of faulty list management by a private contractor hired by the state. Hector Balderas, the state auditor, was also purged from the voter list. The nation's youngest elected Hispanic official, Balderas hails from Mora County, one of the poorest in the state, which had the highest rate of voters forced to cast provisional ballots. "As a strategic consideration," he notes, "there are those that benefit from chaos" at the ballot box.

All told, states reported scrubbing at least 10 million voters from their rolls on questionable grounds between 2004 and 2006. Colorado holds the record: Donetta Davidson, the Republican secretary of state, and her GOP successor oversaw the elimination of nearly one of every six of their state's voters. Bush has since appointed Davidson to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency created by HAVA, which provides guidance to the states on "list maintenance" methods.

4. Requiring Unnecessary Voter ID's

Even if voters run the gauntlet of the new registration laws, they can still be blocked at the polling station. In an incident last May, an election official in Indiana denied ballots to 10 nuns seeking to vote in the Democratic primary because their driver's licenses or passports had expired. Even though Indiana has never recorded a single case of voter-ID fraud, it is one of two dozen states that have enacted stringent new voter-ID statutes.

On its face, the requirement to show a government-issued ID doesn't seem unreasonable. "I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID," Karl Rove told the Republican National Lawyers Association in 2006. But many Americans lack easy access to official identification. According to a recent study for the Election Law Journal, young people, senior citizens and minorities — groups that traditionally vote Democratic — often have no driver's licenses or state ID cards. According to the study, one in 10 likely white voters do not possess the necessary identification. For African-Americans, the number lacking such ID is twice as high.

5. Rejecting "Spoiled" Ballots

Even intrepid voters who manage to cast a ballot may still find their vote discounted. In 2004, election officials discarded at least 1 million votes nationwide after classifying them as "spoiled" because blank spaces, stray marks or tears made them indecipherable to voting machines. The losses hit hardest among minorities in low-income precincts, who are often forced to vote on antiquated machines. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in its investigation of the 2000 returns from Florida, found that African-Americans were nearly 10 times more likely than whites to have their ballots rejected, a ratio that holds nationwide.

Proponents of HAVA claimed the law would correct the spoilage problem by promoting computerized balloting. Yet touch-screen systems have proved highly unreliable — especially in minority and low-income precincts. A statistical analysis of New Mexico ballots by a voting-rights group called VotersUnite found that Hispanics who voted by computer in 2004 were nearly five times more likely to have their votes unrecorded than those who used paper ballots. In a close election, such small discrepancies can make a big difference: In 2004, the number of spoiled ballots in New Mexico — 19,000 — was three times George Bush's margin of victory.

6. Challenging "Provisional" Ballots

In 2004, an estimated 3 million voters who showed up at the polls were refused regular ballots because their registration was challenged on a technicality. Instead, these voters were handed "provisional" ballots, a fail-safe measure mandated by HAVA to enable officials to review disputed votes. But for many officials, resolving disputes means tossing ballots in the trash. In 2004, a third of all provisional ballots — as many as 1 million votes — were simply thrown away at the discretion of election officials.

Many voters are given provisional ballots under an insidious tactic known as "vote caging," which uses targeted mailings to disenfranchise black voters whose addresses have changed. In 2004, despite a federal consent order forbidding Republicans from engaging in the practice, the GOP sent out tens of thousands of letters to "confirm" the addresses of voters in minority precincts. If a letter was returned for any reason — because the voter was away at school or serving in the military — the GOP challenged the voter for giving a false address. One caging operation was exposed when an RNC official mistakenly sent the list to a parody site called — instead of to the official campaign site

In the century following the Civil War, millions of black Americans in the Deep South lost their constitutional right to vote, thanks to literacy tests, poll taxes and other Jim Crow restrictions imposed by white officials. Add up all the modern-day barriers to voting erected since the 2004 election — the new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted — and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.

"Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not," says Donna Brazile. "We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise." Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls — they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.

Contributing editor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the nation's leading voting-rights advocates. His article "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" [RS 1002] sparked widespread scrutiny of vote tampering. Greg Palast, who broke the story on Florida's illegal voter purges in the 2000 election, is the author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." For more information, visit No Voter Left Behind and Steal Back Your Vote.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My American Prayer - enjoy!!

This music video really captured me when I watched it - even brought a tear or two as I realized that for the first time since I reached voting age I feel a great sense of pride in casting my vote. I don't know where Barack came from, but I thank God that he's here just when we needed him most.

To learn more about the video visit,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Failed Conservative Values versus Gandhi's Heart Unity

Here's a brief video by my NV guru, Professor Michael Nagler, author of "In Search of a Nonviolent Future" and founder of the Metta Center ( He shares his thoughts on the difference between progressive values and regressive values.

This video is part of a documentary project on Progressive Values - visit the following website to learn more.

Women Lead the Way on Nonviolence in Iraq - La' Onf

This is from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. It's very encouraging news.

Additionally, Micheal Nagler has given an interview regarding some NV strategies and suggestions that might be useful in this difficult and complicated scenario for NV. Urgent Invitation for Arabic speakers to support Nonviolent Activists In Iraq! If you happen to be bilingual in English/Arabic maybe you can help traslate this short video, thanks.
Before the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, women played manyimportant roles in Iraqi society. Despite the horrors of Saddam'srule, women's rights were guaranteed by a secular constitution. Largenumbers of women were well educated and worked outside the home, in business, medicine, education, and important government positions.Today, lack of security and growing repression have forced many womento stay at home. Violence against women has increased dramatically.
One theme of La'Onf's third annual Week of Nonviolence has been toaffirm the importance of freedom for women both within the nonviolencemovement, and in Iraqi society at large. La'Onf has consciouslystructured itself to be like the society its members hope Iraq willbecome. La'Onf is multi-religious, multi-ethnic, with space forsecular members as well. The organization's fundamental commitment toimproving the status of and opportunities for women is part of La'Onf's own leadership structure.
At the local level at least 30 percent of La'Onf's elected provincialgoverning boards must be women. Members of La'Onf's NationalCoordinating Committee serve for two years and are responsible forLa'Onf's strategic planning. The body requires that at least one ofthe two representatives from each region be a woman and at least 30percent of its Executive Directory Board be women.
During the 2008 Week of Nonviolence, La'Onf has called upon thepolitical parties and candidates to present their programs to theIraqi citizens, including information about their "position on basic principles of human rights, especially the issues ofnon-discrimination against women and respect for freedom ofexpression."
Several activities during the Week of Nonviolence have focused on theparticipation of women and women's issues. On Wednesday (October 15),La'Onf member organizations in Najaf spent the day at the college ofEducation for Girls, facilitating discussions about nonviolence aswell as key issues in the upcoming elections. Over 250 studentsparticipated. In Babylon on Tuesday (October 14), the Organization ofGirls in Iraq ran the festival for children and youth. And in Dhuhokon Monday (October 13), La'Onf's representative body visited theheadquarters of the Kurdistan Women's Union to denounce violenceagainst women. Today they will be visiting shelters and clinics forwomen and children that face domestic and social violence. And last Sunday (October 12), the La'Onf group in Al-Anbar conducted a workshopfor women focused on increasing their participation in the upcomingelections. The workshop participants are now seeking to increase theproportion of women elected onto provincial councils. They assert that women's representation is important because of their role in buildingthe society and raising their children.
In Baghdad, Najaf, and Diwaniyah, the La'Onf coordinators are womenwho have all been active in the nonviolence organization from itsearliest days. Zainab was very impressed that a significant number ofwomen attended La'Onf's meeting in Sadr City, Baghdad; several of them expressed concern that they would not be able to vote because of thesecurity risk, especially for women. Salama has organized many pubicevents to promote discussion of the elections in Diwaniyah, where sheis the coordinator. She is also co-chair of La'Onf nationally.Thawwar, who is a high school teacher in Najaf, asks searchingquestions about the connections between how a society raises itschildren and the kinds of violence that exist in that society. She haschallenged the use of corporal punishment in the classroom.

Some Political Pondering

This came though the bog world as an anonymous comment over the weekend. I thought it hit the issue racism plays in this election square on.

Obama/Biden vs McCain/Palin, what if things were switched around?.....think about it.
Would the country's collective point of view be different?

Ponder the following:
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including
a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe
disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while
he was still married?
What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain
killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
(The Keating Five were five United States Se nators accused of corruption
in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings
and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included
disc ipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?
What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many
occasions, a serious anger management problem?
What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?
What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?
You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality,
do you really believe the election numbers would b e as close as they are?
This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes
positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in
another when there is a color difference.
Educational Background:
Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude
Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899
Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in
the land as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A song called War

Seda had this video on her blog and I must pass it along to all my blogs. It is powerful and so important as we move closer to this historic election.

The voice, the words and souls of thousands resonate in this song called war.