Saturday, December 16, 2006

Is Ethiopia a true ally against terrorism?

While debate over whether Somalia will become a terrorist state ensues, few in America question the legitimacy of Ethiopia. The current Ethiopian regime was elected democratically. In a New York Times article, that may seem legitimate enough. Reality states otherwise, because our so-called "liberal press" leaves out context.

Just as the Kurds and Tibetans have had their lands seized, history shows the Oromo also had their lands taken unjustly. The Oromo have a distinct culture, language , and even religion. Contrary to beliefs of some Abyssinian scholars, the Oromo have been in the region for some time. The Oromo language shares 20% of its words with Somali, and no one disputes Somalian heritage.

The Abyssinians believe they are, and might even be, descendents of Cush. They had faith that God was on their side. Therefore their kings were appointed by God, who justified war with the Oromo many times. Using their Christian credentials with European traders, they were finally able to crush the Oromo.

Abyssinians are the most ardent Christians in Africa. Being so before Europe "colonized" them, were able to postpone take-over. Italian Fascist Mussolini invaded Ethiopia using Oromo slavery as justification, without League of Nations approval, in 1935 and controlled the country until WW2 resolved.

The Oromo have steadily regained rights as time has progressed. In some circumstances Oromo are able to speak their language without punishment, but not yet in most public schools. They have used both political and violence to push for their cause. The most visible organization in their struggle is the Oromo Liberation Front.

How is the current Ethiopian government illegitimate?:

1) European Parliament resolution on Ethiopia

2) Human Rights Watch - Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia's Oromia Region

3) Amnesty International report on Ethiopia

4) US State Department codemnation

How is Ethiopia to justify war against Somalia when it is terrorizing its own people? How can Americans sit by and excuse human rights violations that are facts? How can America assume Somali will become a nation hellbent on American destruction? It takes quite a leap from reality to justify a war with Somalia.

Abdi Galgalo, an Oromo, makes his point against a war with Somalia. Siddise Abamagal believes genocide against the Oromo will be committed if war with Somalia breaks out. The American media ignore Oromo viewpoint, because they contradict Executive intelligence. But American citizens deserve to know what supporting a Somalian war entails.

If America supports Ethiopia, it supports terrorism and lethality against Oromo. This situation is not unfamiliar territory in American foreign policy. We ignored the Kurds, supporting Iraq, while at war with Iran.

Wake up America!
We cannot support terrorism and human rights violations in any form - even from our so-called allies. We cannot drag our flag in muddy water and immediately fly it with pride!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holy War or proxy war in the Horn of Africa?

Ethiopia, an ardently Orthodox Christian nation, is declaring war on Somalia - with U.S. support. The primary reason appears that Ethiopia fears a neighboring nation being an Islamist State. The United States does not want that either, for the irrational fear that it could become a "terrorist" state. For some odd reason, all Somalians have the unpolitically correct label of "Islamofascists." That is who we are are war with, according to many.

Eritrea, having just regained their lands from Ethiopia, supports the Islamist government because Ethiopia does not. Isaias Afwerki , President of Eritrea, wants a proxy war with Ethiopia. With Osama Bin Laden claiming Somalia as primary front for his war on the West, America will want a proxy war through Ethiopia. Somalia, having just regained some stability in 2004, faces the prospect of another harsh conflict.

When nations insist on war as a solution in Somalia, they key questions:

1) Do Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens gain from such a war?

Their money would be better spent diversifying their economies and tending to their own citizens. Their governments seem hellbent on destabilizing the entire region. The people of both nations and Somalia lose.

Ethiopia can certainly slaughter all of its opponents, especially if America chooses a more active role supplying weapons. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi probably assumes more aid from America if he does its bidding. This is quite foolish, like attacking a bees nest assuming you will get help. Neoconservatives may care about foreign aid, but Conservatives do not. And Democrats won't likely give Ethiopia more aid because they follow Bush as blindly as Kazakhstan.

Eritrea is rushing headfirst into fatalities. But they only want a way to hurt Ethiopia without officially declaring war. Foolish, but very ego driven.

2) Does lethality really solve anything?

I have long felt that we need to change the culture of lethality. For too long humans have generally lived peaceful family lives, but accepted that "their" nations military was on "their" side. Lethality is on no man's side but deaths. We need to see militarism for what is it - a last resort and not just a big stick worth wielding at the "other" AKA "the enemy of us."

Somalia is a stabler nation, and even if Islamists control it - will lethality make things better? Somalian Women, children, in addition to men of all ages await war. They wield machine guns ready to die for their nation. They will obey the will of Allah, otherwise the Americans have won.

3) What would no war in Somalia mean?

Imagine that all sides backed off from war. Bin Laden would have nothing to rally around except "Nation Building" in Somalia - what we are supposed to be doing in Iraq. Eritrea and Ethiopia could focus on domestic needs instead of fighting a pointless and irrational proxy war. The United States could focus on real issues, rather than supporting lethality further. All other nations not directly involved, the most signifcant being Kenya, would have no refugees coming caused by a regional war.

I can't imagine why any American would think they could change the mind of another country by use of lethality. Did we end Communism through brute force? How about Socialism in Latin America?

If China becomes the next superpower, would we want them to act as we have - spreading authoritian regimes around the world? America has a reputation and legacy to rebuild. If we are to pass the torch of global power to another nation or region we must become create the standards we want them to abide by. We should start by supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ensuring the UN enforces them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kucinich for America

Who is best fit to be the next President? The media is already in a frenzy over Hilary vs. Obama vs. McCain vs. [ insert latest hot candidate here ]. But yesterday someone stood up and said he would fight for a better America. One that would value all its citizens and enable greater equality. One where hope would triumph over fear. Dennis Kucinich declared his candidacy for President in 2008.

Why would I endorse a candidate this early in the game? Because Kucinich is the real thing. He is in this for the long haul, and has continually worked to gain each political office he eventually attained. He will make it to the oval office.

What issues does Dennis stand for? Simple:

  1. Universal Health Care
  2. International Cooperation: US out of Iraq, UN in
  3. Jobs and Withdrawal from NAFTA and WTO
  4. Repeal of the "Patriot Act"
  5. Guaranteed Quality Education, Pre-K Through College
  6. Full Social Security Benefits at Age 65
  7. Right-to-Choose, Privacy, and Civil Rights
  8. Balance Between Workers and Corporations
  9. Environmental Renewal and Clean Energy
  10. Restored Rural Communities and Family Farms
1) America needs some form of universal healthcare. Even Costa Rica has understood the value of this institution, and it has enabled its citizens to thrive in the 21st Century.

2)The United States cannot solve Iraq alone. Even if Kazakhstan and our "coalition of the willing" send all available troop strength - we will still be outnumbered. We need a stronger United Nations, if anything to preserve international order. It is unwise for America to undo the UN when it can be used as an international institution promoting human rights globally.

3) Free trade is not free. The environmental and labor regulations are trade partners do not have endanger our planet and local workers. NAFTA is not solving Mexico's economic woes, but exacerbating them - making America seem the only hope for the desparate.

4) The Patriot Act was passed after 9-11 through emotional fear rather than rational dialogue. It hasn't made us safer, and its effectiveness as a band-aid is beginning to wear off.

5) America is the only industrial nation to NOT offer its citizens free college. Do economically disadvantaged students really have to take out loans just to get what the rich already have? The only Federal program we have currently is the Pentagon, promoting lethality in conjunction with tuition.

6) Social Security does need some revision - it needs to be strengthened, not repealed. If SS benefits were offered on the free market, no citizen could afford it. But our government is able to provide this at a much lower cost than the financial market, to the benefit of our entire society.

7) Do we really need to undo the work of 30 years of human rights activism? Let's support the work already accomplished and a part of our culture. What isn't perfect can be reformed without dismantlement.

8) Corporations and business provide us all jobs - at least those not self employed or work for the government. But they cannot flout labor laws and treat its employees like cattle. Nor can employees expect to be useless to their employers. We need accountability on both sides, and a ways to ensure families and communites some economic stability.

9) Let's face it - oil and other hydrocarbons are starting to become more detrimental to our nation. When President Bush stated that America is "addicted to oil" we have made the first step towards ending the addiction - admitting it exists in the first place. Renewable energy can replace our needs more than we realized even 10 years ago. Further R&D in renewables will ensure a more sustainable future.

10) I can't agree more - we need a better agriculture policy than merely subsidies. We need incentives that have multiple bottom lines: more locally produced, biodiversified and nutritious foods, produced without chemicals that treat our soil like dirt.
I cannot think of reasons why Dennis Kucinich doesn't deserve the Presidency. The Democrats have become complacent, but have the opportunity to change that in 2008. I'm not talking about a further tilt to the left or center - but a tilt towards opportunity and hope. The mid-term election this November was a taste of what can be. Dennis Kucinich offers a glimpse of what is further possible.

The big question is: Will Democrats be bold enough to endorse a candidate not deemed "electable" as John Kerry or Mike Hatch were?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Government marketing marriage?

The US Government has decided to market marriage with taxpayer money. If there are clear benefits of marriage, then perhaps promoting it will benefit society. With 4/10 children born out of wedlock in 2005 ,would marriage benefit these children? Does it make a difference when a majority of these births are not to teenage mothers, but women in their 20s?

Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution claims there are
Four Simple rules to not be poor ( AKA end poverty ) :

1) Graduate from High School
2)Get a job
3)Get married
4)Have a child

The Federal government will spend $100M per year for 5 years promoting marriage, $17B a year for welfare, $35B year for food stamps. The theory is if all those unmarried with children got married - and took on characteristics of those currently married - the poverty rate would drop by 30%. Children would gain because two parent heterosexual and homosexual homes are more stable. Children thrive in an environment low in conflict, which usually have sufficient incomes.

This is quite an undertaking by the Federal Government, because currently there is more emphasis on marriage than education in welfare laws. While all this occurs 10M Americans went hungry , 38M intermittently hungry in 2005. Would marriage have saved them or not?

In reality work,education, and childcare would reduce poverty greater than a marriage certificate. 80% of the fathers of children out wedlock make a median income of $16K, only $4K more than the Federal poverty level. Getting these men a decent education and assisting them in doing so would reap greater benefits than marriage.

Getting married will also not reduce odds of domestic violence. A person does not change their internal characteristics indefinetely once they gain a marriage certificate.

The funding for this project ( $100M annually ) has come from refugee resettlement and Native American development projects. I would rather the money be returned to these programs than squandered on a social experiment.

Is this idea really in existence to reduce poverty or promote a social conservative perspective of marriage? I have no qualms with marriage, just the idea that it is a cure-all for poverty. And if it is a cure-all will this notion be applied to those who cannot currently marry - both homosexual and polyamorous?

When a homosexual couple adopts, would their child be better off if they were married? What about bisexuals who get together after having a child with another partner? If this experiment proves correct, that marriage is of utmost importance to reducing poverty for children, social conservatives will be in a predicament regarding homosexual couples. They would have to support them marrying, while denouncing their relationship. How odd reality can be!

And if two incomes are better than one - what about five? What's wrong with a polyfidelitous relationship if it is stable and provides loving nurture to its offspring? That is an avenue few have thought to explore and truly should. These groups exist in America because we are a free nation. To promote only one form of marriage using taxpayer money is not American. You would have to promote all those that work to reduce poverty under this program.

But if you don't agree with my few points, an organization that supports the unmarried has a few more.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Illegal Minnesotans

Listening to Governor Tim Pawlenty on MPR yesterday, a caller stated his fear for undocumented immigrants. He didn't want illegal immigrants or their children to get his entitlements or tax money. This caller also attacked the Governor for not deporting illegal immigrants and their families.

If only the situation was simple - it isn't. Immigration is not a black and white issue - very few things are. If we wanted to solve the problem of undocumented workers using the criteria of this caller - we would see this:

1) Children of undocumented workers no longer able to attend school.

What makes these children different? If they are born in the US, they are citizens. But if we punish them for their parents, we create a new class in our society. We become like India and create our own class of "untouchables." While it will not be as dramatic as a caste system, it will have negative repurcussions nonetheless.

2) We force local police, especially Minneapolis and Saint Paul, to enforce Federal immigration laws

The Minneapolis police force is not the INS. If they become the INS, it will increase crime. Crime is the sole purpose for a local police force, unless you feel immigration a bigger issue than rape, drug use, and homicide.

If you were an illegal immigrant, would you EVER call the police if you thought they would deport you? Would you hide in fear if you thought the police were after you? If you witnessed a crime, you would pretend you never saw it.

What to do about illegal immigration?

Immigration has occurred for as long as human beings have existed. All Americans are immigrants, because these are truly Native American lands. And even the Native Americans emigrated here from Europe and Asia. We outnumbered natives and therefore earned the "right" to their lands.

There is not much value in undoing what American ancestors have done with our current generation paying the price. But their is a possibility to accept those who are here, either by being born or immigrant.

Ben Powers, Constitution Party candidate for Senate this year, stated that if all the unborn children had been born rather than aborted - we wouldn't have a worker shortage. Therefore undocumented workers were of no value and should be deported.

His logic is insane, but it does shed light on a solution. The primary source of illegal immigration is Mexico. What are solutions?:

1) Mexico needs jobs

Why not prevent the problems that lead to them leaving their homeland? Would YOU want to leave where you had been born, raised, and where you feel at home? No, but if you had no job and a family to support - you would.

2) Mexico needs family planning

If all women in this world had access to family planning, we could reduce the population growth to below the replacement rate. This would alleviate pressure on economic and environmental constraints. Mexico's current population: 106M In 2030 it will be 1432M

3) Mexico needs higher taxes

At 19.8% taxes, Mexico could be doing more. America's taxes stand at 26.8%. A lot of people make a claim that Mexico and latin America are moving to the left. With such low taxes and few services, why wouldn't they? America may not like it, and both political parties in our homeland work to stop their left from winning. ( But they cannot buy votes as easily as they do here. )

You can't educate all children on the free-market system. Nor can you build roads solely using that method, while ensuring transit to those unable to own or use cars.

Their government should be serving their people, not those who do not want to pay taxes.

If Mexico alleviated population growth and focused on its own people, it could drastically reduce those leaving for America.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Midwest Conference of Spiritual Progressives

Politics and religion. The left-leaning elements in our political culture despise the idea of religion or spiritually intertwining in secular politics. But what secular politics is devoid of is a solution to living a life beyond a pursuit of money and power. They don't seem to see a problem in our society, and the problems are vast.

Rather than fearing those we do not know, Spiritual Progressives seek a world based on radical hope. The enemy is not the Republican Party but the cynical realism that has entrenched both major political parties. It is that realism that prevents the hope we all carry inside us of a better world.

Do we want to live in a world where we base the value of our life and others on material wealth? Should friendships and relationships be based on what they can do for us? Sadly, they are. This is a tragedy, and we need to refocus on the value of each human being - regardless of how society currently interprets worth. It is time for humanity to seek its full potential.

What is the purpose of the Spiritual Progressive movement? :

  • We are a grassroots movement creating a culture of purpose and meaning deeper than the mere pursuit of money and power.
  • We are working to reshape our economic, political, and social life in accord with a new bottom line of love, compassion, community, fairness, peace, and awe and wonder at the universe.
  • We invite everyone who believes in the power of love and generosity to join us in this process of healing and transformation.
When I tell my friends that Israel and Palestine have the possibility to live peacefully together they scoff. Nonviolent social change is a difficult thing for "realists" to grasp. They forget the power can be wielded not by the sword, but radical ideas fought sans lethality and excess violence. They forget Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. , and dare I say Jesus. There are many more unrecognized who have also paid the ultimate price without any fame. There will also be many more who take on such an important role.

Many participants were very hopeful and optimistic we would make a difference. But two weeks ago, there were only 40 people registered for this event. They were at least 500 people packed into the Wesley United Methodist Church. I think the Democrats winning by such a large margin in the election has empowered many in the Progressive community.

Many Democrats I spoke to prior to the election were very hurt, angry, and upset over the direction our nation was heading in. They wanted things to change with this election, and were doubtful that they would. I always told people that there was hope, that things would get better.

There were many cynics, and still are. I for one am doubtful the Democrats will embrace the ideals of the New Bottom Line this year. That is where activism comes in. That is where prayer comes in. That is where cultivating lovingkindness comes in. That is where hope will transcend such "realities."

Does it really matter which party embraces Spiritual Progressives? If the Republican Party stood by our values in 2010 or 2025 - it would be a victory for humanity. The movement has begun, please join us.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chris Stewart - Racist comedian or just Racist?

The newest member of the Minneapolis School Board thinks it funny to attack Tammy Lee with racial-based comments on a mock website.

I am rather sickened by the site, but perhaps many feel the same about white candidates. Race should not determine who one votes for, but issues. Some choose to identify themselves in a particular race ( or religion, class, party) rather than on the side of humanity. I consider myself a Minnesotan first, an American second, but interconnected to all beings on Earth.

There is always bias, be it subtle or glaring, in everyone for those outside our limited experiences and knowledge. Personally, I would like to see more community activists in general who fit better the communities they serve. But more often than not, community and political organizations in Minneapolis appear whiter than the areas they represent.

Chris Stewart has already shown us his perspective. Perhaps he made the "satire" page because Sabo didn't endorse Keith Ellison, and assumed it was racist. He claims to want a better Minneapolis, and I hope we all truly do in Minnesota. Our city has residents of all races and backgrounds, most of which Chris seems clueless about. Our democracy is more than about ones skin color or other such tribalism mentality. A better Minneapolis would include the perspective of all these citizens, not solely a racial-based viewpoint.

Comment has come from neither the Stewart campaign or the DFL.
( I thank the Lloyd Leta blog for posting about this and further information )

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote YES! Minnesota!

Vote Yes for Better Roads and Transit.

Why shouldn't one vote Yes?

It is unfortunate, but this imposes rules on the Minnesota budget by adding it to the state constitution. Other states like New Jersey have done this to such an extent, that their legislature has no say over the state budget. Minnesota should not go down that road, though this bill is only the first to do so.

Why SHOULD you vote YES ?

Republicans in Minnesota and in the Federal Government have shown contempt for fiscal sanity. They play around with budgets using transit and other such projects as wedge issues. By voting YES you ensure that transit has stable funding - something that has never occurred in Minnesota History! It would mean a decent transit system would be built, and Minnesotans wouldn't have to depend on foreign oil forever.

Pawlenty has also decided that loans are a better way to fund our highways than consistent funding. Of course, he's a Republican and not a fiscal Conservative, therefore he has no qualms doing this - or supporting this constitutional ammendment. It makes him and his party look like the "good guys" though they did nothing to shift MVST funding to roads and transit. They wanted Democrats to do the heavy lifting and get this bill passed.

Want to know where to vote?

Don't support transit?

If all current bus riders immediately began using single-occupant vehicles, an additional two lanes would be needed on the busiest corridors to accommodate the new traffic at current congestion levels. Of transit riders, 81% report using transit to get to work and 75% ride during rush hour.

Who should YOU vote for ( based on YOUR preferences) ?

Minnesota Public Radio has a decent "Select a candidate" program that I highly recommend. They aren't two-party centric, but contain major and minor parties.

Jay Pond and Keith Ellison appear to be identical on the issues. Of course they are both progressive, as is this district, but Keith has DFL endorsed. ( which Jay will not seek)

But Tammy Lee does have 24% of probable voters. Unfortunately, Democrats have this "spoiler" mentality and will not consider her because Alan Fine ( who truly has no chance in this race) could beat their candidate. It will be interesting to see the votes come in.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

State office - House 61A

Karen Clark

An avid supporter of Keith Ellison and city council member Robert Lilligren. Clark is a progressive who believes that the DFL will honor her values. I do not see her as the "enemy" solely because of such partisanship, but I wish she would find at least ONE Green to support in the future.

Honestly, are councilmembers like Paul Ostrow progressive? One party cities don't allow the public to truly see the direction its city is headed in, nor challenge its leaders in a debate. That is why the Greens exist, to give Minneapolis residents a voice and build a decent party in Minnesota.

Terry Borchardt's campaign is run from Golden Vally, has no website, and is a MCCL owned Republican. Need I say more? ( why not? Terry is another Alan Fine token candidate )

State Auditor

There are only two you should consider in this race (unless you believe that the Taxpayer's League and MCCL should run this position): Dave Berger and Lucy Gerold

Dave Berger

Single payer health care, equal rights, Green Audit

The Green Audit is something that Minnesota should be championing. By promoting ecological wisdom we reduce harm to future generations on our lands. By purchasing products that promote fair trade and reduce poverty, we can improve the lives of many others in this world. Economic security globally would greatly reduce physical security needs locally.

Lucy Gerold

( taken from her site):

No office in state government has as its main job to pay attention to local government - except the Auditor. Unfortunately, traditional auditors have used that role only to call press conferences to highlight mistakes or misdeeds. We should expect more for our money. The best auditors use their access to information as a tool to actually improve the performance of local governments. 60% of all governmental resources in Minnesota are managed by local governments. To deliver better results, we must do it with - not in spite of - our towns, cities, counties, and school districts.

Lucy Gerold is a change maker with a track record of turning around organizations and inspiring outstanding performance. She has worked in the Minneapolis Police Department in several capacities, including in her current role as a Deputy Chief. She led the implementation of the department's pioneering CODEFOR crime reduction and accountability strategies. In the 1980's she was at the forefront of the city's transformation to community-oriented policing - moving police officers out their traditional reactive role into a more proactive, partnership-based relationship with the community they serve. We need this same kind of transformation in the relationship between the state and local governments - a relationship that has become strained if not outright hostile in the past few years.


I think it fair to end with Dave's comments on the Auditor race:

Pat Anderson and Rebecca Otto have been supportive of the Minnesota Taxpayers League’s legislative agenda. Ms. Anderson has signed this special interest group's "no new taxes" pledge. Ms. Otto states that the Taxpayers League is a "special interest group funded by wealthy conservatives" and that this "Special interest group has taken control of Minnesota Finances" (see her website at As with her views and actions on equal rights, these unkind words do not match her actions. While in the State Legislature Ms. Otto had the highest rated Taxpayers League voting record of any DFL House member in 2003 . She now claims she is against this special interest yet she voted with them 55 percent of the time in a year when the average Democrat voted with this group a mere 17 percent of the time! While Ms. Otto desperately wants to paint herself as a progressive to solidify her base within the DFL, she has a great deal in common with the politics of the conservative Ms. Anderson. In addition, at least on these two issues, Ms. Otto states one thing and does another. Integrity and consistency is an important part of public service.

Both Pat Anderson and Rebecca Otto have received thousands of dollars of special interest PAC money for their campaigns (see the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board website ). Dave Berger does not accept PAC money. Such special interest money has an undue influence on candidates. Especially State Auditor candidates. "The State Auditor must be objective," states Dave Berger. "How can you be an effective and fair State Auditor if you support special interest groups and do not believe in equal rights and equal treatment for

Minnesota US Senate Race 2006

Michael Cavlan - US Senate - Green Party Endorsed

Michael is a populist Green who deserves a spot in the Senate. He would never last as a Democrat, because he believes in making Bush accountable for his actions. Nancy Pelosi may be the next Speaker of the House, but she is determined not to make Democrats appear to be obstructionists.Many Democrats want to investigate and make known various Bush and Republican secrets and illegal activities. Nancy Pelosi instead wants to position the Democrats for 2008 to appear as though they have a vision and will back it up with legislation. ( Nevermind that Bush will veto any major changes to our nations current path. )

Cavlan believes in withdrawing from Iraq ASAP, while Amy wants a more "comprehensive" solution. While on MPR, Cavlan agreed with Constitution Party Senate candidate Ben Powers that America needs major structural changes. Libertarians should take note: Cavlan wants to return to the Gold Standard and change our electoral system to be truly representative.

Ben Powers - Constitution

If one cannot vote for Cavlan due to his stance on abortion, love-based marriage, and faith-based initiatives, I highly recommend a vote for Ben Powers. He agrees with Greens on more issues than your average Republican. it also sends a message to Kennedy and his corporate owned party.

Robert Fitzgerald - Independence

Very young to be a politician in the Senate. I truly hope he does well and that he continues working against the corporate owned two-parties in Minnesota.

The following is from his site:

U.S. Senate candidate Robert Fitzgerald supports energy soveregnty, a balanced budget, a reduction in the national debt, and a more open government process. He believes government must demonstrate fiscal responsibility and service competency. He also believes the Federal government has lost its ability to be flexible and responsive and that state and local governments need to be the vanguard of good government.

Fitzgerald believes in returning fairness and balance to a government over-run with special interest legislation.

Amy Klobouchar - DFL

Not voting for her but I truly adore Amy's stance on fiscal sanity. She wants to not only get back to a balanced federal budget but PAY OFF THE DEBT! This issue has been part of my political dialogue since I first learned what the national debt was. All future generations in America will be hindered by this burden unless we sacrifice NOW by paying off Republican over-indulgences. ( political cartoon from the Tammy Lee campaign - she would be a good ally in Congress for Amy )

Amy will also win the election, because Kennedy is just another Rubber-stamp-for-Bush. Put aside the fact that Bush is not very popular, would YOU want to be represented by a politician who cannot articulate his state's values?

The last candidate, Mark Kennedy, claims that terrorists cannot be negotiated with, yet never defines a terrorist. Maybe Minnesotans can't negotiate with Republicans any longer for the same reason?

Friday, October 27, 2006

5th Congressional District House

Jay Pond - Green Party

Out of Iraq - Renewable Energy - Universal Healthcare

Three issues that Democrats have a hard time understanding coherently in this VERY Progressive district. Keith Ellison gained endorsement mainly because of his stance on these issues. Jay Pond also pointed out on an MPR debate that Keith believes in a draft . While Keith opposes a draft for the Iraq war, he believes in a "shared sacrifice" with regards to the Long War. Therefore when Democrats and Republicans join hands in a war against Iran and North Korea, Keith may promote a draft proposal.

Ellison is part of the DFL, who has a monopoly on Minneapolis politics. If he really stood for democracy, he would ask the Minneapolis DFL to split itself in two. Then their endorsement conventions would stop being city elections. That's okay Keith, you don't have to believe in local democracy. That's why the Greens exist.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Attorney General

Papa John Kolstad

I have no qualms voting for Papa John. He is more than competent to be the attorney general, having dealt with that office many times.
He is also the founder of the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition, and will promote UHC while in office. In addition, he will support the small business community and not give special favors to the corporate donors of the other parties.

Enforcing Minnesota Environmental Laws

Clean air and water are our most important resources. I will work so that we can eat the fish from all of our 10,000 lakes. Minnesota needs a strong energy efficient and renewable energy policy. We can lead the nation in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We need a policy of zero discharge of persistent toxic chemicals in our state, especially chlorinated compounds like dioxin which are key contributors to cancer and birth defects.

Protecting Minnesota Small Business

I propose we create a Small Business Division within the Attorney General's office. This Division will level the playing field between small business and the abusive large corporate conglomerates. This would allow me, as yLinkour Attorney General, to be an aggressive advocate for small business, as well as for consumers. The cost of health care and property taxes are two major problems for small business. Both of these problems are the result of bad public policy.

The wasteful health insurance companies dictate care and raise rates 10 to 15% per year, and this is retarding the growth of the economy and the creation of new jobs. As Attorney General, I would continue to audit and investigate the health insurance companies, and, where warranted, would aggressively pursue criminal charges against the CEOs and officers of these companies for fraud and abuse. I'd also propose new laws if the current ones are insufficient to prosecute these abuses. MORE

Minnesota Guard Home Now!

We must disengage from the immoral war crime we have committed in Iraq. This war has now lasted longer America's engagement in World War II. Each and every single premise for starting this war of choice has proved to be wrong.


John James

The Office of the Attorney General is the public's law firm. The AG's job is to represent the people of Minnesota. AGs traditionally want to be seen as the enforcer or prosecutor-in-chief - using the law to get justice for citizens. Enforcement is important, but if all we get from the AG is enforcement, we're not getting all we are paying for. We want people and organizations to comply with the law -- and laws to comply with the needs of Minnesotans and their communities. The AG should deliver both.

Minnesota needs an independent Attorney General. One who rejects the partisan DFL and Republican agendas that produce nothing but gridlock and finger-pointing. One who will be the people's lawyer, rather than working to protect the special interests and big campaign contributors.

As Minnesota's independent Attorney General, John James will:

Focus on Children

  • Enforce child protection laws
  • Crack down on domestic abuse
  • Keep kids in school

Focus on the Environment

  • Reverse a decade of increasing environmental degradation
  • Clean up Minnesota's waters

Focus on Fair Treatment from Government

  • Demand fair treatment of citizens by state and local government
  • Demand basic honesty from our leaders-taxes and fees are not the same!
  • Challenge unnecessary and preferential subsidies to businesses, so your tax dollars are spent on the things that matter

Protect the Interests of Average Minnesotans

  • Fill the vacuum of leadership on public safety to make Minnesotans safer from crime-without the death penalty
  • Protect consumers from dishonest businesses
  • Maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the Internet

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

State Office - Senate 61

Linda Berglin

She is the creator of MinnesotaCare. She understands the needs of Minnesota's least fortunate residents and Minneapolis. There are few Greens that find it important enough to run against her this election cycle, and it is wiser if we did not.

Lucky Rosenbloom is running under the guise of the Independence Party, though a long-time Republican activist. I considered him for the half-second it took to research him. I don't disagree with his stance on gun-ownership, but he snorts GOP dogma like the substances he claims to be against.

Why waste time discussing Mark Dolski ? Only Linda has bothered to even HAVE a website!! Vote for Linda!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hennepin County Commissioner

Farheen Hakeem deserves much more support than Peter McLaughlin. Peter supported the Stadium Tax, and should have considered his constituents more. Minneapolis libraries and public schools are having difficulty maintaining financial stability. Yet we build a sports stadium for a billionaire?

Farheen has the endorsement of the Green Party and support by many within the independent voter movement. She received 15% of the vote for mayor in the 2004 primary, and 40% in this year's County Commissioner primary. She will not allow the DFL Machine to dominate our city indefinitely, and deserves support for doing something about it.

What else does she stand for than against the imposed stadium tax?

Wind Energy

Wind energy was an issue I championed during my 2005 campaign for Minneapolis Mayor. I am pleased to report that since then, the County board has decided to explore the options of bring renewable energy to Hennepin County. With my expertise, and commitment wind energy will become a reality in our community.

Wind energy will not only lessen our burden on nuclear and coal energy, but it will save the county money. Right now, Hennepin County spends $7 million on electricity. Wind Energy is approximately half the cost as nuclear and coal, resulting in a savings of $2-3 million dollars.

As Commissioner I will advocate renovating our county buildings with energy-efficient technology — a short-term expense with long-term savings.

Child Protection

Hennepin County needs strong and healthy families, regardless of their socio-economics, race, religion, sexual orientation, or citizenship. As County Commissioner I will insist that we examine the ways in which our government programs fail to keep children safe, and work to transform the root causes of that failure.

The racial disparity in child protection is shocking. For example, many children who are taken away from their homes are people of color. In addition, county services are not friendly to families of color, and families very quickly get lost in the system.

According to a March 29th issue of the Spokesmen-Recorder, there are 267,000 children in Hennepin County, where 69% are Caucasian and 14% are African American. Yet, of the children that are served in Hennepin County Child Protection, 29% are Caucasian, and 44% are African American. In addition, with newly arrivals and immigrants in Hennepin County, there is a lack of translated materials and cultural competency within Child Protection services. We also need to increase recruitment of more people of color to be guardiem ad litems. This will not only increase the cultural competency of county services, but also decrease the number of cases in which families are unnecessarily separated after case workers misinterpret traditions outside of their own culture as being inappropriate or harmful to children.


As a former math teacher and a current youth coordinator, I’m very passionate about the education of all our children. Hennepin County schools must be well funded and well staffed. This will not only improve the quality of education to our students, but provide more jobs to the community.

One of my teaching positions was with Hennepin County court-ordered youth. The system is broken for our young people and we need to make more strides in preventing these children in entering the criminal justice system. We need give them the tools that they need so that they can build a future for themselves that does not included the revolving door of a corrections facility.

As county commissioner, I will implement proactive steps to get our children away from juvenile detention and on their way to being active members of society. Those steps include offering opportunities in supplemental education to our youth and an increase in before-school, after-school and during-school programming.

other major issues :


Public Safety

Public Finance


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Minneapolis IRV Referendum

A proposal to use Instant Runoff Voting in elections

VOTE YES! Why? It eliminates the so-called "spoiler effect" in multipartisan elections. Citizens can vote for any candidate they choose by ranking them.

Indepedence , Green , and DFL endorsed

Republican indifference.

The only known opponent: MCCL ( Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life )

Why does MCCL oppose IRV when it is not an abortion-related issue? Fear and their lack of support from voters. Less than 22% of the Republican voters truly care about outlawing abortion, but the GOP needs these votes as an edge to beat the DFL. If IRV becomes standard, expect the GOP to ignore MCCL because they know they will get a #2 vote from this minority. Expect MCCL to organize around the issue better, or become less extreme in order to gain political foothold.

MCCL, will continue to be the biggest opponent to Minnesotan electoral reform. But a true citizens organization would promote causes that benefit society and harms few.

IRV proponents have this to say to MCCL fearmongers:

FairVote Minnesota has issued a line-by-line rebuttal to the blatant distortions and outright falsehoods propagated by the MCCL. Key points in that response say that Instant Runoff Voting :
  • has been used in pro-life, Roman Catholic Ireland since the founding of that republic.
  • would assure that the winner of an election has the support of a majority of voters
  • strengthens the effectiveness of every vote
  • is attracting the interest of a growing number of civic-minded Minnesotans
MCCL has no comment at this time.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tammy Lee's growing momentum

Tammy Lee doesn't have endorsement by Martin Sabo - but nor does Keith Ellison. The fact that he is willing to have a photo taken with Tammy reflects the resentment this Old Guard DFLers has against Progressive DFLers.

Tammy's tagline is "Fiscally Responsible. Socially Progressive" and offers a very unique and refreshing campaign. Certainly checking out her issues page, one realizes it will appeal to disaffected DFLers.

But I can't help wonder if the many anti-Ellison suburbanites will worry about a lesser-than-evil vote. Do they think Alan Fine even has a prayer,? He appears a token candidate to make all DFLers look bad through one candidate. Katherine Kersten has wholeheartedly taken this stance in the Star Tribune. Yet, how can someone who believes in family values vote for someone who commits domestic abuse?

Jay Pond is getting nil publicity in the media lately, and Tammy has not only taken more space - she's gaining through a positive campaign strategy. While Ellison deals with Fine's negativity, he loses some positive momentum. Tammy doesn't have any such baggage, though she doesn't have the DFL Machine working for her either.

So will her new unity ads add any new endorsements by the Big Two partisans? I am not sure, but she certainly would stand a better chance with Instant Runoff Voting. IRV is poised to become the official voting technique for the city of Minneapolis.

What Tammy needs is more publicity, more supporters/volunteers, and more money. Will she be able to get those quickly without a large political operation behind her? The most important objective is getting votes, and the Big 2 know that third parties can get them cheaper than they can.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Muslim cabbies, Christian pharmacists, Hindu land-owners - what do they have in common?

It is hard to not find the irony in this debate. The founders of America KNEW this would be an issue, and thought to put it to rest by creating separations for religion and government. From that day forward, it has only become more contentious an issue with religious extremists. There is nothing wrong with being an extremist, but every piece of agenda should be scrutinized.

One should aks "does this act of government benefit the whole society?" instead of the belief that one should impose their version of God's will on others, an lack such societal benefits.

In Minneapolis, taxi drivers are imposing their will on those who wish to transport alcohol. If you have a can of Heineken, sorry, find another cab. The wrath of Allah will fall on me if I do my job.

Then you have the Christians working as pharmacists. A college student goes to Target to pick up a birth-control prescription and is told "sorry, I cannot help you." Because the wrath of God and/or Mary will come down upon the pharmacist if they do their job.

Some Hindus in India will not sell homes to you or let you live in certain neighborhoods unless you are a vegetarian. The evil karma of carnivores surely cannot be stood for.

What about sex offenders moving into a neighborhood with a high population of children? In Minneapolis, there are many offenders who move here thinking they are safe, only to find a rain of bullets impact their skulls. Vigilante 'justice' is not called for, but it happens.

I could go on, but you get the point. Imposing your religous beliefs on others, without consideration for freedoms and the benefit others may get, is immoral. People of many faiths understand this, and are confounded by those who share their faith don't understand secular values.

Does this mean we do not impose rules on those who could harm others? Of course not, society must condemn all harmful and detrimental actions treating the perpetraitors humanely. For if we lose site of humane treatment for the inhumane, we lose the possibility for positive transformation by the inhumane, thereby becoming what we so disdain.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The 5th Congressional District race for US House continues being very interesting. Though many are still confident that Keith Ellison will win, Alan Fine has taken the race to new lows. Saying Keith Ellison supports terrorism and is antisemitic.

IMHO many are afraid to vote for a black Muslim, and need some odd excuse to cover their hidden feelings. Mike Erlandson and Ember Reichgott-Junge split the anti-Ellison /pro DFL-establishment vote. Ellison activists were very critical in getting out the vote in Minneapolis. I met quite a few, and they were full of vibrant energy. It was wonderful seeing them exhibit the positivity of the Progressive Ellison campaign.

But will "moderate" DFLers vote for Alan Fine? His primary issues are as follows ( according to his website):
[my comments]


Protecting the environment

[thinks he can steal Greens? Doubt it...]
The welfare of our children
Making our neighborhoods safer and more
• Producing jobs and keeping our economy
• A return to fiscal prudence
Reducing the deficit

[but not eliminate it]
• World peace

[most likely through pre-emptive wars]
Dramatically improving U.S. diplomacy and
international relations

[by eliminating enemies, maintaining a strong global military presence ]
Affordable healthcare

[notice ambiguity - similiar to curent DFL beliefs ]
Improving our transportation systems and
reducing our dependency on fossil fuels

[mantra for decades by BOTH major parties, yet doing little]
Strengthening social security

[by investing it like a 401K , with no individuals allowed say in how invested ]

Basically Alan Fine could appeal to many DFL voters, especially wavering ones who dislike Ellison. His biggest liability is being Republican, and association with Bush policies. My bet is more on Independence Party Candidate Tammy Lee. Time will tell if she can gain any momentum in the race. If she doesn't , moderate DFLers will vote Ellison in grudgingly.

My hope is that Ellison sparks a renewed Progressive movement in the DFL. They can't keep coasting along without pushing for ideals that Minnesotans want, such as Universal Healthcare and preventing wars with a Department of Peace.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Where do the Greens stand with regards to Keith Ellison earning endorsement? That is quite the question, considering several greens I know have endorsed and are working on Ellison's campaign. But...

Jay Pond is still in the race. We need to have decent candidates that stand for the Ten Key Values that are inherently Green. Working within the Democrat party, one feels pressure from "important" contributors. I hope that Ellison can stay true to his values untainted by negative influences. But if he strays, that is where Jay will come in and focus on a positive message for 5CD voters.

I truly hope Ellison is as amazing as he appears in Congress. If he is anything like Dennis Kucinich, he will be an amazing voice for peace in all its forms.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's greatest achievement is challenging Islam to overcome its Dark Age tribalism and accept secular values. Just speaking about such a subject in Europe is quite taboo, and even American liberals pretend its a non-issue. But reforming Islam should be a priority for all of mankind, and not through physical force but nonviolent social change.

I rode the bus back today with a co-worker, Fato. She is younger than myself ( I am 24 currently), is married and has an 8 year old son. Her son is still in Ethiopia and husband living in Colorado, but he is in control of her life, as she is Muslim.

She wears clothing to cover her body, and most of her face. I understand the value of modesty, it is quite attractive to see it in women. But I do not understand why her husband forbids her any friends. That is correct, she is lucky enough to be able to have a job outside of her sister's home. At Mystic Lake Casino, she can chat and joke with others. But outside of work, she is to remain forever lonely. She can't even give out her phone number or call those her husband does not approve of. ( which is only Fato's relatives ) She is allowed to go shopping, alone and never with anyone but her sister.

I asked Fato if she was lonely, she is but "I love my husband - that is where my heart is." She has not seen her son for nearly 6 years, and she was visibly starting to cry but holding back any gush of tears. She talks to her husband and son twice a week, and has photos of them. But she yearns for the day he can be in America with her.

Fato's husband is liberal in allowing his wife to work outside the home, but his archaic antifriend stance hilights how ancient tribalism still entrenches upon Muslims.

An excerpt from The Caged Virgin:

The biggest obstacle that hinders Muslim women from leading dignified, free lives is violence - physical, mental, and sexual- committed by their close families. Here is only a sample of some of the violence perpetuated on girls and women from Islamic cultures:

  • Four-year old girls have their genitals mutilated: some of them so badly that they die of infections; others are traumatized for life from the experience and will later suffer recurrent infections of their reproductive and urinary systems

  • Teenage girls are removed from school by force and kept inside the house to stop their schooling, stifle their thinking, and suffocate their will

  • Victimes of incest and sexual abuse are beaten, deported, or killed to prevent them from filing comlaints

  • Some pregnant victims of incest or abuse are forced to have abortions by their fathers, older brothers, or uncles in order to keep the family honor from being stained. In this era of DNA testing, the girls could demonstrate that they have been abused. Yet instead of punishing the abusers, the family treats the daughter as if she had dishonored the family

  • Girls and women who protest their maltreatment are beaten by their parents in order to kill their sprits and reduce them to a lifelong servitude that amounts to slavery

  • Many girls and women who can't bear to suffer anymore take their own lives or develop numerous kinds of psychological aliments, including nervous breakdown and psychosis.They are literally driven mad

I have no doubts that this type of control is being exerted over Fato. She knows that her life could be better, but her family and her past experiences make her feel helpless. I could see the pain in her eyes, sacrificing her feelings and needs for a Husband miles away.

In advance, I would like to state that I am not 100% knowledgeable of Shariah or Hudood laws, except that they seem harsh and comprehend the Koran in a fundamentalist manner. Though I disagree with their methods of punishment, I strongly disagree that they should form the base of a government anywhere. I would appreciate any comments from the Muslim community, as any dialogue will improve understanding of current Islam.

Forcing attachments on people through violence and intimidation is wrong. If we are to live in a truly free world, we must condemn all such acts. As a Buddhist and American, I cannot sit by and watch this occur. I must make it known that such atrocities exist, and that we must all work to eliminate them. This is not an attack on the Islamic faith, but on the underlying tribalism still inherent in its culture. It is time for them to abandon Hudood(Islamic Penal System) and Shariah laws, and embrace the right of individual freedom. Let the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights reign throughout the Earth!

Friday, August 18, 2006

I had the displeasure of hearing Mike Hatch speak on MPR. After hearing him, I am appalled that the DFL endorsed him! But listening to their convention, I understood why. Their mentality is "electibility" and choose a relaxed stance on core issues. Maybe Mike Hatch seems electable with the convention, but with average Minnesotans and DFLers Hatch is an arrogant and egocentric, and will not build a positive movement.

What Hatch will do is alienate the left from the DFL and embolden the GOP. Of course, perhaps the left is now morphing into the "anyone but GOP-party." This is an unfortunate turn of events, but it seems more true each election cycle. Would Republicans still get nominated and elected as the "non-Democrats?" Would they and do they reach for the so-called "center?" No, but the DFL is no different from the DNC, concentrating on funding and electibility issues first, then political issues second.

What I find most infuriating about Hatch is his anti-third party stance. He refuses debate with any non-Republican. He dismisses their issues and instead talks about a referendum on Pawlenty and Bush. Last time I checked, George Bush wasn't running for re-election. And a vote for Pawlenty, Hutchinson, or Pentel is not a vote for Bush - contrary to what Hatch believes.

I truly hope he loses in the primary to someone who can move Minnesota in a postive direction. Someone like Becky Lourey, who will work towards bringing home our Guardsmen and Universal Healthcare.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Discussion with a "pro-lifer"

I do not even know her name. I just know I saw her with a sign in front of a medical clinic, and I guess they perform abortions there on Saturdays. I do not even know what organization she is from, but I now know where that anti-abortion literature litter is emanating from in Ventura Village.

We had an interesting discussion. Unfortunately most of it one-sided. She really wasn't interested in anything but her own opinions and dismissing any of my reasoning. Clear arguments were dismissed such as:

-17 per 100,000 women who give childbirth die ( aka maternal death ) in the United States. Yet 1 in 250,000 die of abortion. This gives childbirth a 40 times higher risk of death than abortion. Pro-lifers scoff at such a claim.

-To her anything prohbiting the creation of a child from sex is evil. No birth control should be legal because it is against "God's will"

- Any form of sex outside of marriage and heterosexuality is evil. It is in her words "perverting the meaning" of a sacred act.

Yet she has never had sex. Nor is she married. She is celibate and claims to never masturbate ( because that is evil too).

The question I have is - should asexuals give heterosexuals and homosexuals advice on sex? Put this way, her stance is ludicrous.

Developmental psychology states that those who have not performed devolpmental tasks in a certain area lack competent wisdom regarding that subject. So does one go to a doctor who has never even practiced surgery? He may have read the books, but without any hands on - do you trust him with your life? Would you ask a single college woman how to raise a child at the bar?

So, asking a fervently religious celibate how to engage in a proper sex life is utterly ridiculous. Yet, she has made many turn away ashamed at their sexuality. She not only turns people away from abortions, but she heaps scorn and wrath upon those who engage in any form of sex.

In her eyes homosexuals should remain celibate. She also believes that the human body makes a person "who they are" because women and men are just so very different.

As a Buddhist, I can take heart in knowing these things are easily understood without harsh dogma. A homosexual can be theirself and not have to worry about the wrath of some unknown God. A man and woman can have "pre-marital" sex as long as they have the right intentions and know what they are getting into and obviously strive to be safe.

In fact, the Buddha never made any rules regarding marriage. He stated one should follow the secular laws put forth by their locality. This means in America, I am not bound to marry - nor should I worry about homosexual or polyamorous people from sharing in a secular yet emotionally bonding agreement. Many fundamentalist Christians cannot see the world in such a way. Instead they spread fear, anger, and hostility to those they do not understand.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BPF Statement on situation in Israel and Lebanon

During the past week, the world has been witness to a frightening drama unfolding in the Middle East, as Israel and Hezbollah are locked in an escalating conflict that neither party seems willing or able to diminish, and at the same time Israel’s operation in Gaza is creating a humanitarian catastrophe.

Each time such a situation comes to pass, we at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship are reminded of the Buddha’s injunction that “hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love.”

These words are easy enough to say for those of us outside the conflict zone. We realize that life must feel quite different right now in a place like Beirut, Lebanon, where men, women, and children are under fire by Israeli bombers. Just today--July 19th--news sources report anywhere from 19 to 49 civilians have been killed by these air strikes, and more than 200 have died in the past week. And we empathize with the citizens of Haifa, Israel, and in other areas along the northern border where at least 30 people have been killed. There, wise words from any religious tradition may seem irrelevant with rockets landing in backyards and people injured or dying. For those of us who have never lived in a war zone, it may be impossible to realize just how stressful such a situation is and how easy to succumb to the practice of retaliation in the name of protecting one’s own people.

Still, it is up to all of us in the global community to speak clearly for sanity amidst this insane march toward destruction, and to hold up the truth that violence only perpetuates more violence. And we must take actions to support this belief and to support our sisters and brothers in Israel, Lebanon, Gaza, and the entire Middle East.

One action that those living in the U.S. can take is to contact the Bush Administration and Congress to demand that the U.S. take immediate action to help the conflicting parties declare a ceasefire and begin negotiations. We can also organize delegations of peace advocates to Congressional offices. Call the White House (202-456-1111), the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000), and the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3121), which will connect you to your Congressmembers' offices,

Click here for more information on actions you can take to support peace in the Middle East:

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship shares the perspective of the United for Peace and Justice coalition: “Just as in Iraq, there is no military solution to the current crisis. The only real and lasting solution is to resolve the source of conflict by negotiating a resolution based on freedom from occupation and equal rights for all as enshrined in international law… The Lebanese government is imploring the international community to press for an immediate ceasefire, for United Nations intervention, a negotiated settlement and release of all prisoners -- Palestinian, Lebanese and Israeli.” We at BPF and in the peace movement can and should add our voices to this call, as soon as possible. We join in making this call with friends from groups of all religious traditions, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

We recognize that this is a complex issue, and the current situation has widening circles of involvement beyond Israel and Lebanon, with the U.S., Iran, and Syria all implicated. The weapons and financial aid these countries provide to Israel and Hezbollah fuel the fire of this conflict. All parties must be encouraged to see the utter futility of this approach.

BPF calls upon the U.S., as a world leader, to use its diplomatic influence to immediately help bring these parties together in dialogue and to make it clear that the current violent methods are unacceptable. We encourage the U.S. to support the efforts of the United Nations and the European Union to broker a cease fire.

While Hezbollah's attacks on Israel are unconscionable and we should certainly speak out against them, those of us who are Americans must recognize that we have some accountability for the acts of the Israeli defense force. Israel is our close ally, and Israel's weapons have been supplied by the U.S. government. The U.S. Senate has just passed a resolution endorsing Israel's military actions in Lebanon. So it is all the more incumbent upon us to raise our voices. Those of us who live in the U.S. need to pressure our government to withhold financial and military support from Israel when it violates international law by acts of massive retaliation such as the current offensives, and refuses to negotiate with the party the Palestinian people have elected.

Homeland security, in every sense of the word and for all people of the earth, depends on upon our participation in this process.

Monday, July 17, 2006

End the Suffering in the Middle East
By Rabbi Michael Lerner

The people of the Middle East are suffering again as militarists on all sides, and cheerleading journalists, send forth missiles, bombs and endless words of self-justification for yet another pointless round of violence between Israel and her neighbors. For those of us who care deeply about human suffering, this most recent episode in irrationality evokes tears of sadness, incredulity at the lack of empathy on all sides, anger at how little anyone seems to have learned from the past, and moments of despair as we once again see the religious and democratic ideals subordinated to the cynical realism of militarism.

Meanwhile, the partisans on each side, content to ignore the humanity of “the Other,” rush to assure their constituencies that the enemy is always to blame. Each such effort is pointless. We have a struggle that has been going on for over a hundred years. Who tosses the latest match into the tinder box matters little. What matters is how to repair the situation. The blame game only succeeds in diverting attention from that central issue.

Within the context of blame, there’s enough to go around. It all depends on where you start the story. Counting on lack of historical memory, the partisans on all sides choose the place that best fits them into a narrative in which they are the “righteous victims” and the others are the evil aggressors. Palestinians like to start the story in 1948 with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes during the war on Israel proclaimed by neighboring Arab states, and the refusal of the Israeli government to allow these people to return to once the hostilities ceased. Israelis prefer to start the story when Jews were desperately seeking to escape from the genocide they faced in Europe, and a cynical Arab leadership convinced the British military to side with local Palestinians who sought to prevent those Jewish refugees from joining their fellow Jews living in Palestine at the time. I tell the story, and how to understand both sides, in my book Healing Israel/Palestine.

Or one can start more recently, with this summer’s escalation of violence. But where exactly did that start? Please go to the website of Israeli Human Rights Organization B’tselem to see that each side can point to outrageous acts on the part of the other.

Since the death of Yasir Arafat and the assumption of power by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine’s major political factions – Fatah and Hamas – observed a hudna, or ceasfire. Yet Israel, pointing to the fact that Abbas’ police force (decimated by Israeli bombings during the 2nd Intifada of 2001-2003) was unable to fully restrain the violence of Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade and Islamic Jihad—and used that weakness as its reason to claim that there was “nobody to talk to” when the peace forces in Israel pleaded with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and later with current PM Ehud Olmert that the Palestinian request for negotiations should be accepted. Instead, Israel announced a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank (implemented in 2005) and from forthcoming sections of the West Bank (to have begun with the removal of illegal outposts this summer) that would de facto create new borders which would incorporate into Israel large parts of the West Bank that Israel had agreed to leave during the 1990s. Tikkun magazine and Israeli peace forces warned that the unilateral withdrawal, opposed by the Palestinian Authority, would add credibility to Hamas’ claim that all the Palestinian Authority’s efforts at non-violence had produced nothing more than Israel refusing to talk, whereas acts of violence by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza had led to the IDF withdrawing to protect its soldiers.

It wouldn’t be hard to see why Sharon went ahead with the unilateral withdrawal. If his intention was, as stated, to hold on to as much of the West Bank as possible, it would be far easier to convince the world that “there is nobody to talk to” if Hamas would win the coming election, since Hamas was universally recognized to be a terrorist group. When the Palestinian people complied by falling for this trick and establishing a government run by people who refused to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, it was easy for Olmert to affirm the Sharon unilateralism and announce plans to withdraw from the West Bank that would be the political cover for Israel annexing significant parts of the Occupied Territory. Hamas played its expected role by lobbing Qassam rockets at Israeli population centers, thereby “proving” for the Israeli right that any withdrawal would only intensify Israeli vulnerability and give Israeli hard-liners reason to oppose Olmert’s partial withdrawal as appeasement that had already failed to bring peace in Gaza.

Of course, from the standpoint of Hamas, this was only part of an ongoing struggle to free thousands of Palestinians who continue to be “arrested” (or, from the Palestinian perspective, “kidnapped”) by the IDF, incarcerated without charges or trial for six months in huge prison camps, often subject to torture. Yet Hamas, faced with an economic boycott (including the withholding to Hamas of taxes Israel collected from Palestinians that Israel had previously promised it would give back to the Palestinian Authority) that was preventing it from being able to function as a government, made statements that indicated that it was exploring the idea of de facto recognition in response to the Prisoners document, which threatened to undercut everyone because it was signed by members of every major faction of Palestinians sitting in Israeli jails).

For Israeli militarists and the settlers, Hamas recognition of Israel, however partial, would have been a dramatic propaganda defeat. Within days Israelis began shelling inside Gaza (allegedly to stop Hamas’ firing of Qassam rockets against Israeli population centers). One such shell landed on a Gaza beach, killing a family of eight who were simply enjoying the sun and water. A few days later, a Hamas group captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and Israel used this as its excuse to implement a plan it had developed months before to re-enter Gaza and destroy the Hamas infrastructure.

At this point a huge escalation took place. Instead of narrowly focusing on Hamas’ capacity to make war, the Israelis chose the path of collective punishment, a frequently ineffective counterinsurgency policy used to eliminate public support for resistance movements. In the height of the oppressive summer heat, Israel bombed the electricity grid, effectively cutting off Gaza’s water and the electricity needed to keep refrigeration working, thereby guaranteeing a dramatic decrease in food for the area’s already destitute, million plus population. This act was yet another violation of international law that include the arrests of thousands by Israelis and the shooting of Qassams at population centers by Hamas.

In response, Hezbollah fighters who had occupied the land abandoned by Israel when Israel terminated its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, launched an attack on Israeli troops inside Israel in clear violation of the understandings that peace would be maintained on that border—understandings that made it politically possible for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon without fear that its northern citizens would once again be subject to rocket fire that had put many Israelis into bomb shelters off-and-on for years since Israel had invaded Lebanon in 1982.

From the standpoint of some in the Arab world, the attack on Israeli troops in northern Israel was an act of Islamic solidarity in face of the huge escalation taken by Israel against the entire population of Gaza. They argue that what really needs to be explained is not why they acted, but why the rest of the world did not act to demand that Israel end its outrageous punishment of a million people for the acts of a few (when the U.N. tried to act, the right-wing government of the U.S. vetoed a resolution supported by the Security Council majority).

Yet from the standpoint of Israel, the attacks by Hezbollah were a blatant violation of the understanding that had kept Israel out of Lebanon for the past seven years. And in fact, it was also a violation of international law and human rights, subjecting a civilian population to random bombings aimed at terrorizing the population. Hezbollah had shown itself to be the vicious terrorist force that Israel always claimed it to be. People living in Haifa or Tsfat or dozens of other locations in Israel are at this very moment living in the same kind of fear that rekindles the fears of earlier experiences in their lives (some, remember, are Holocaust survivors, others the children of survivors, and many have lived through wars that were explicitly aimed at the annihilation of Israel). Those fears are unfortunately likely to be played on by right wing politicians in the coming years.

Nor should we underestimate the malevolence of Iran and Syria in attempting to stimulate unrest and destabilization. While there are some in both of these countries who genuinely feel outrage at Israeli behavior toward Muslim co-religionists, the record of indifference to the plight of the Palestinians in their own countries and failure to provide material support for Palestine to build up its own economic infrastructure when it was needed suggests that their assistance to Hezbollah comes more from seeking political advantage and domination in the Middle East than from genuine moral solidarity with the Palestinian people. And the fear of Iran, a country whose president out and out denies that there ever was a Holocaust and who explicitly affirms the goal of destroying the State of Israel gives Israelis real reason to worry when his proxies in Hezbollah or Hamas develop the capacity to shoot rockets into Israeli population centers.

What was Israel to do?

Well, had Ariel Sharon been in power, having learned his lesson in Lebanon, he likely would have done the exact same thing he did two years ago when an Israeli businessman was captured by “the enemy”—namely, a prisoner exchange in which hundreds of prisoners are released for a single Israeli. That exchange had been asked for by Hamas and pleaded for by the family of POW Gilad Shalit, but was been rejected by the Israeli government. Please read the analysis of this error, and other articles analyzing the current situation at the daily updates of “Current Thinking” at .
The consensus among Israeli peaceniks is that both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Labor Party Defense Minister Amir Peretz feel the political need to show that they are “strong” and hence the invasion and attack on Lebanon is their only politically possible strategy. For the sake of their egos and their future political viability, they “must” proceed with the wild escalation of the struggle against the Lebanese people, most of whom had exercised their democratic rights by rejecting Hezbollah’s electoral appeals, voting in a government that had only a small minority of Hezbollah within it.

What could Israel still do? It could redefine these issues as minor border irritants, exchange POWS, and unilaterally announce that it will no longer hold arrestees for more than 3 days without filing formal criminal charges against those who had acted with violence and releasing everyone else, giving speedy and public trials, and punishing any soldier or Shin Bet or Aman officer who engages in torture (or, as they call it, “moderate pressure”) on detainees. It could then immediately announce its intentions to strengthen the position of Palestinian Authority President Abbas by giving to him the tax monies withheld from Hamas, and opening “final status” negotiations within two months. Meanwhile, Israel could begin dismantling the Separation Wall, and promise to rebuild it only on the lines of an international border agreed to by both sides. And Israel could unilaterally censor anti-Palestinian incitement within government-controlled media and instead begin to build a culture of non-violence and educate Israelis about the need for reparations to Palestinian refugees.

What could Palestinians do? President Abbas could announce that he is inviting Israel to form a joint Israeli/Palestinian border force to ensure that there are no more violent attacks on Israeli civilians, in exchange for the immediate opening of “final status” negotiations with Israel before any further West Bank withdrawals are created. There were joint patrols and security coordination until Sept. 2,000 and they contributed to the low level of violence on both sides until Ariel Sharon made his famous provocative trip to the Temple Mount. Abbas could further announce that the Palestinian people who elected him are committed to a non-violent (not passive) struggle for ending the Occupation, but that anyone engaged in violence against Israel or against fellow Palestinians would be tried and, if convicted, would lose their Palestinian citizenship. Abbas could tour the West Bank and Gaza preaching non-violence, implement an immediate end to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric in the Palestinian press and in their schools, and could announce that he is determined to build a culture of non-violence inside Palestine.

What could the U.S. and other Western states do? They could immediately establish an international conference representing all the nations of the world who were willing to accept the right of Israel to exist within the 1967 boundaries and the right of Palestine to exist within Gaza and the West Bank, and let those countries impose on both sides a settlement that is fair to both sides and enforce such a settlement, guaranteeing peace and security to both sides. Each participant country in this international conference would be allowed in after it had given to a neutral international bank a deposit equal to .01% of its GDP for the purpose of creating the beginning of an inernational fund for reparations as described below.

As the Tikkun Community has outlined in the past, the terms of that settlement should include:

1. Permanent boundaries for both states that roughly resemble the pre-67 borders, with some border adjustments mutually agreed to along lines developed in the Geneva Accord (Israel incorporating some of the border settlements into Israel, in exchange for Israel giving equal amounts and quality of land to the Palestinian State).

2. Sharing of Jerusalem and its holy sites, with each side entitled to establish their national capital in Jerusalem, Israel to have control over the Jewish and Armenian quarters plus the Wall and adjacent territory, and Palestine to have control over the Temple Mount with its mosques.

3. All states participating in the International Conference would dedicate at least .1% of their GDP toward an international fund for reparations for Palestinians who lost property, employment or homes in the period 1947-1967, and to Jews who fled from Arab states in the same period (however, reparations will not be paid to any Arab or Jewish family with current gross assets of more than $5 million dollars).

4. A joint Israel/Palestine/International Community police force will be set up to enforce border security for both sides. The U.S. and Nato will enter into a mutual security pact for both parties guaranteeing that each side will be protected by the U.S. and Nato from any assault by the other or by any assault from any other country in the world.

5. Creation of an Atonement and Reconciliation Commission which will unveil all records of both sides, bring to light all violations of human rights on both sides, bring formal charges against those who do not confess their involvement in those violations and testify to the details, and supervise a newly created peace curriculum for all schools and universities aimed at teaching reconciliation and non-violence in action and communication. The explicit goal of this Commission will be to foster the conditions for a reconciliation of the heart and a new understanding on the part of both peoples that each side has been cruel and insensitive, and need to repent, and that both sides have a legitimate natrrative that needs to be understood and accepted as a legitimate viewpoint by the other side.

Who are Israel’s friends and the friends of the Jewish people? Those who support this path toward peace and reconciliation. Who are its enemies? Those who encourage it to persist in the fantasy that it can “win” militarily or politically. Just as the objective enemies of America in the 1960s were those who egged it on to persist in the Vietnam war, and those who were its objective friends were those of its citizens who actively opposed that war, so similarly today the friends of the Jewish people are those who are doing everything possible to restrain it from cheerleadng for Israel’s militarist adventures and refusal to treat the Palestinians as equally entitled to freedom and self-determination as the Jewish people.

Who are Palestine’s friends? Those who encourage a path of non-violence and abandoning the fantasy that armed struggle combined with political isolation of Israel will lead to a good outcome for Palestinians. Who are its enemies? Those who preach ideas like “one state solution” or global economic boycott without offering the Jewish people a secure state in Palestine--paths that will never produce anything positive but continued resistance by Israel and world Jewry.

As for us in the Tikkun Community who are friends of both sides, our orientation is clear. Our goal is to speak truth to both the powerful in Israel and the powerless in Palestine, to tell them that their goals cannot be achieved without a radical reversal in the strategic directions they have been following. This truth will eventually be heard—the only question is whether it will be heard without another generation of Arabs and Israelis losing their lives. Because we care very much about the human suffering on both sides, we pray that this truth will be heard, and our strateges for a solution will be implemented. And we will do more than pray—we will also demonstrate against the governments of the U.S., Israel and Palestine till they all change their directions in the ways suggested here, we will organize and educate, and will take other non-violent stepts to get our message heard.

You can join us. Join the Tikkun Community as a dues paying member at . Or help us get our message printed in Israeli and U.S. media or broadcast on public radio and television in the US and Israel—by sending a tax-deductible donation of $300 or more (if you want your name added to the list of signatories who are putting out this message) or less than $300 if you just want to help us get the monies but don’t want to have your name listed). The reason for these funds: buying media space is very expensive, but it’s also the only way to get our message out to a population that has simply never heard anything like the message of Tikkun’s “progressive middle path.” Send donations to TIKKUN (yes, it can also be in the form of a credit card number, expiration date, and name on the card and billing address) c/o Middle East Peace Ad, 2342 Shattuck Ave, Suite 1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704.
You can take this message and shorten it, write its message as op-eds or letters to the editor. You can ask elected officials or candidates for office in any and every poliical party to endorse it, setting up meetings with their aides if you can’t meet with them, establishing relationships, and continuing to push for this position every few moments. . You can create a local demonstration around this analysis. You can create a study group using Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003) and The Geneva Accord and other Strategies for Middle East Peace (North Atlantic Books, 2004), so that you personally feel empowered to present a progressive middle path as an alternative to the partisans of each side. You can demand of the other peace groups that they work together with Tikkun to create a yearly gathering in Washington, D.C. of all these groups that support this kind of balanced perspective rather than having each meet with elected officials separately in order to build their own separate political power base rather than give the task of changing America’s policies the highest priority (which they’d do by merging with other groups and thus appearing stronger than any group can be on its own). And you can write letters to the governments of Israel and Palestine sharing this perspective, using my words or your own. So don’t just sit there despairing—there is much that can be done, and lives that can be saved.

But lets not abandon prayer, meditation, song and celebration either. We need moments to come together, to nourish our souls, to rekindle our hopefulness, and to joyfully recall all the goodness in the human race, including the goodness of the majority of Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and everyone else on the planet!

Rabbi Michael Lerner is author of Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation (Harper, 1995), Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003), most recently The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006) and seven other books. He is the editor of Tikkun Magazine in Berkeley (510-644 1200) and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue which meets in both San Francisco and Berkeley. or call 510 528 6250.