Sunday, December 31, 2017

Israelism, Upcoming Documentary On The Strange Relationship Of American Jews And Israel

Last night I had the rare good fortune to be part of a group in Skowhegan, Maine premiering clips from Eric Axelman's upcoming documentary, Israelism. The film's working title used to be 70 Years Across the Sea: American Jews and 21st Century Zionism and its facebook page still is for the time being.

As a half Jewish man raised as a Jew, Axelman is fascinated by how devotion to Israel replaced devotion to Judaic teachings for so many of his and his parents' generations.

To kick off his documentary, Axelman took a free trip from the Zionist organization Birthright Israel, bringing along camera and recording equipment. He was amazed at the extent of apartheid in Israel, and returned even more fired up to continue the project.

Then, he scored an interview with Noam Chomsky early on that helped immensely with fundraising. Clips of the interview are incorporated into the first trailer for the film, which you can see here.

A salient Chomsky quote from the interview:

Loyalty to Israel simply meant whatever they do, we support it -- even if we don't know what it is.

Other notable interviews already in the can include one with Cornel West on "the battle for public opinion" so that "AIPAC doesn't take up all the air in the room." 

Also activist Issa Amro of occupied Hebron in the West Bank. A new trailer shows Amro  blindfolded and arrested for the umpteenth time for nonviolent resistance to settlements crowding out Palestinian families in what the UN said in 1948 was supposed to be Palestine.

Also Rabbi Alissa Wise, the first rabbi banned from entry to Israel because of her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to support Palestinian rights in the occupied territories.

Also Simone Zimmerman, a Jewish outreach coordinator who was fired quickly by Bernie Sanders' campaign for a social media post where she called the Israeli PM (Bibi) Netanyahu an "arrogant, deceptive, cynical asshole" and wrote, "Fuck you, Bibi...

He does not speak for me as a Jew, an American, and as a thinking person."

In the clips I saw last night, Zimmerman in particular details how the ugly truth of Israel's human rights abuses was hidden from her as she was growing up. "My questions about Israel were met with radio silence," she told another interviewer. Not surprisingly, Zimmerman began to wonder what was so awful that it had to be so carefully hidden.

All great stuff, and I cannot wait to see the finished film in a year or so.

Pushed Learning and Media is producing the film,  a non-profit that Axelman co-founded while a student at Brown University. Their stated mission: We use performance and multimedia to start conversations about privilege, identity, and oppression.

Donate at to help finish post-production on Israelism.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Erica Garner Suffering Long Term Effects of @NYPD Violence #BlackLivesMatter

Men in New York thought mocking Eric Garner's dying words was a good idea in 2014.

It's nine degrees below zero (Farenheit, that is) and the extreme cold has me thinking of the extremely vulnerable. Especially people with asthma struggling to find shelter and air warm enough to get oxygen into their bodies.

Eric Garner died hollering "I can't breathe" and now his daughter, activist Erica Garner (interviewed on Democracy Now! in the video above), has been declared brain dead due to oxygen deprivation from an asthma-induced heart attack. She is only 27 years old, and has two little children.

Erica in action on Staten Island, where her father was choked to death by police for selling loose cigarettes on the street.

The NYPD cleared the hospital room where she lay in a coma this week, kicking out other members of her family who were gathered to support her.

Why were police even in her hospital room in the ICU -- guarding a woman in a coma? Doubtful. Probably spying on those who loved her. Black activists like Erica are routinely targeted and harrassed by law enforcement, whose salaries are paid by me and thee and who should be public servants.

The NYPD had already been photographed mocking the elder Garner's dying words (see above).

In a well-resourced article by Christen A. Smith of the University of Texas, Austin, evidence piles up to answer a salient question: "Slow Death: Is the trauma of police violence killing black women?"

From Smith's article in the academic blog The Conversation: "A woman protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman"

What kind of emotional toll does it take to be handcuffed, or watch a loved one be handcuffed, for the crime of speaking up about police brutality? What about watching a loved one bleed to death or choke to death at the hands of police? To watch people that look like your children senselessly dying? 

Black women are often victims of sexual violence at the hands of police, too. Few officers are ever held accountable by their management or their unions.

One of the things I'm going to do in response is to read the words of women of color every chance I get. That includes not only news and research but also blogs, essays and fiction. Starting with some of the titles from "46 Books By Women Of Color To Read In 2018." Art doesn't heal these wounds but it can deepen my understanding of what they mean to the women and girls who lived the experiences.

I'm also going to send material support to Erica Garner's family, and urge you to do the same. And I'm going to remember:

the kleptocracy's war on the poor is a racial matter.

Nothing will bring back Eric Garner but his daughter Erica's activism didn't have to end this way. We will not forget.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Onward, Kleptocracy: General Dynamics Writes Your Tax Legislation

General Dynamics and its lawyers are busy "helping" representatives in Maine write tax legislation to benefit their bottom line. Here I share the report back of tireless peace organizer Mary Beth Sullivan about her meeting December 21 with legislators promoting a big tax break for this mega wealthy corporation (it paid its CEO $21 million last year).

Also the opinion of a former member of the Maine legislature that the meeting MB attended was illegal on several counts.

I have added the bold emphasis, and the contact information for two Maine legislators.

Former Rep. Jeff Evangelos is of the opinion that any meeting concerning tax legislation is public in nature, and may be videotaped or otherwise recorded.

See his comments below Mary Beth's. Note that BIW means Bath Iron Works, which is owned by the General Dynamics corporation.

It has been reported in newspapers that State Representative Jennifer DeChant is submitting a bill in this legislative season to provide a $60 million tax subsidy to BIW over the next 20 years.  This Bill would extend Maine's Shipbuilding Facilities Credit which has delivered BIW an annual $3.5 million subsidy since the 1990s. 

When she received correspondences opposing this bill, she invited people to her home for a meeting to discuss this bill.  She then changed the venue to the Bath Library, then changed it again to City Hall. 

The meeting took place on Thurs, Dec 21. Besides myself and State Rep. Jennifer DeChant, the following people were there: State Sen. Louise Vitelli (who will be a Senate sponsor of the bill), Brown Lethem, Karen Wainberg, Jerry Provencher, Gary Anderson, Lisa Ledwidg, Lou Ensel ~ and two VFP members who don't live in Bath, John Morris and Peter Morgan. 

Martha Spiess showed up early to videotape the event, and Jennifer did not allow that to happen, so Martha left. 

I did not know that occurred until I got home and read Martha's email.  I'm sorry that happened. 
Jennifer reported that she did not intend for this to be a public meeting; she intended an “informal meeting.” She also reported that she is willing to hold a “public meeting” anytime. I disagree that a meeting held with constituents about pending legislation is something less than public. Transparency should be at the heart of a democratic process. I heard nothing in that meeting that an audience of Mainers would not benefit from knowing.  
State Representative Jennifer DeChant
Home Telephone: (207) 442-8486

Jennifer ran the meeting.  As I understood the basics:  she was asked by a constituent (BIW) to submit a bill to allow BIW to continue to receiving the tax break it has been receiving for the last 20 years. She agreed. The language for the bill is being written; it is in the legislature's Revisor's Office;

BIW lawyers are assisting in drafting the language; 

it is important to her that language using some of these dollars training is in the bill. 

State Senator Eloise Vitelli
Home Phone: (207) 443-4660
Jennifer and Louise described that the process is this:  the bill's language will be completed soon.  The Taxation Committee will take it up, and hold a public hearing.  By law, the Taxation Committee needs to hold a public hearing, and give a 10-day notice to the public. When people come to the hearing, they can speak for three minutes on the bill and submit something in writing to the committee. The next step is a work session.  The public is allowed to attend, but not to speak or participate.  Then, if it passed out of committee, the bill goes to the floor. If passed, it goes to the Governor to sign. 

I perceived the conversation that ensued as civil, lively, honest and blunt. Many of those attending had many questions, and expressed opposition to the bill.  My notes cannot do justice to the great questions and concerns that were expressed; I urge those who attended to add to this email any of the important exchanges that should be shared. 

We were urged to pay attention to the Taxation Committee agenda (Jennifer said we could sign up as friends of the taxation committee to be apprised by email of when the hearings will happen) and to show up at the hearing to express our opposition.  Jennifer also urged us to stay in touch with her if we have any questions along the way. 

Thanks to all for paying attention to this issue.  It is never too early to contact your local reps/senators to express your opinion of this bill. Consider letting them know that BIW is a strong, capable, successful shipbuilding company.  At $4 billion of taxpayers dollars a ship, they (and their parent company, General Dynamics) should certainly be able to budget well enough to meet their financial responsibilities. 

On the other hand, Maine is constantly stressed in its efforts to meet the needs of its constituents impacted by a decaying physical, educational, medical and social infrastructure.

Create a vision for what you think might be a higher priority for the $3 million a year over the next 20 years, and share it with your State Representatives and Senators. 

If you have not yet seen it please watch the interview with emeritus USM Law professor Orlando Delogu who discusses this tax subsidy - 

Thanks for you attention and activity around this issue. In peace, Mary Beth Sullivan Bath, Maine

Dear Mary Beth,
As a former member of the Maine Legislature, I am disturbed to hear that 2 legislators attempted to hold a private meeting in a public space for what is clearly public business, done in an effort to influence public opinion, on a clearly public issue, ie, the use of taxpayer money to subsidize a corporation. Legislators must strictly adhere to the Right to Know Laws in Maine. A meeting of legislators and members of the public at City Hall is a public meeting and is subject to all FOAA requirements. State law also says you are allowed to video tape and record what are clearly public proceedings. There are no exceptions to this as long as the taping does not interfere with the meeting. Martha had an absolute right to tape thisproceeding and she should have refused to leave and told Rep. DeChant she was violating the law. In public business, there is no such thing as an informal meeting, everything we do as legislators is public. 

The Attorney General's Office has an employee who works on these issues and handles complaints, here is the link to her contact details: 

The Maine Ethics Commission also advises on ethical breaches by legislators:
Neither Rep. DeChant or any other elected official has the right to determine what is public and what is private. This is a matter of law and the public's right to know. 
Yes she can have a few constituents over to her private house for a conversation, the content of which  is still public if what is discussed pertains to pending legislation. But once that meeting goes to City Hall, a public building, the entire Right to Know Law comes into play, especially when a meeting in a public space is called by a Legislator to discuss pending legislation and the possible expenditure of public money. 
 From what you have described, this meeting violated your rights and violated Maine law. Preventing the video taping also violated the law 
Jeffrey Evangelos
Friendship, Maine
former member, Maine House of Representatives 2012-2016

Under the current system of kleptocracy, taxation without representation has become the order of the day. And in case you think it is only the bad, bad Republicans who are in government in order to represent their corporate sponsors, note that both DeChant and Vitelli are from the other corporate party. Because Democrats are eager to carry water for their corporate donors, too.

From the corporate tax bonanza just enacted in Washington DC to the one about to be proposed in Augusta, Maine, corporations are bailed out while we, the people, are sold out.

Join me in contacting the Maine Attorney General to register a complaint about the "informal" meeting to discuss tax legislation where the public's right to know was violated. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Is Dissent A Criminal Act? No Says DC Jury As It Acquits Six #J20 Inauguration Protesters

The first six of more than two hundred protesters from the J20 group arrested in DC on inauguration day have been acquitted.  

The J20 were charged with felony conspiracy and other ridiculous charges, and the group includes many journalists who were not protesting but were present doing their jobs.

Sarah Lazare of In These Times interviewed one of those acquitted, street medic Michelle "Meil" Macchio, who said:
Hopefully, through our dissent and this case, we can get the message out that we will not stand by and let this happen. We will continue to resist and build our movement. 
I hope people are paying attention to the ongoing Standing Rock cases. While we were in trial, a number of undocumented folks were arrested for standing up to protect DACA after launching a hunger strike.

I noticed the term "trial family" in Maccio's description of the solidarity she experienced. And it made me remember how much I love my Aegis 9 trial family (ok, one of them is my husband) and supporters. Our trial for protesting at General Dynamics begins on January 4, 2018 in West Bath District Court. If you're in Maine, we would love to have your support.

Maccio's account of outside support for the J20 reminded me how important it is for us to support Aegis 9 family member Jessica Stewart who, along with Ridgely Fuller and Sharon Dean, were arrested for refusing to leave Senator Susan Collin's office in Bangor on Monday over her vote for the tax scam.

Happy solstice. Be of good cheer! We are all in this together.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Protecting The Children Of Yemen: One Thousand Days Of War

Mohammed is one of thousands of malnourished children in Yemen. His family brought him to hospital because he is 2 years old, starving to death, and cannot sit up on his own.  Source:  Norwegian Refugee Council.
Of all the festering sores of greed* on the face of the planet right now, Yemen stands out. Nearly invisible to the masses in the U.S. consuming the false narratives of corporate media, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions has been brought on by the Saudi war against the people there. 

Yemen has the bad fortune to be located in a strategically important spot their powerful U.S.-allied neighbor aspires to control. Thus it has been bombed and blockaded for close to three years now. Hospitals are forced to close because they cannot get the energy needed to operate.

At a hospital in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, children are treated for cholera and dehydration. Source: The Guardian

Besides malnutrition, the children of Yemen are suffering from a cholera epidemic. 

Reportedly the worst cholera epidemic in history, spreading rapidly. By the end of this month about one million people will be affected. Up to 600,000 children are suffering from this deadly, preventable disease.

As reported in The Guardian, Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, said an epidemic like this is, “what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need...There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation.

From Nuha Mohammed reporting in Aljazeera:
Amani, 12, from Taiz lost her father and has been displaced ever since. "The clashes got intense and we were the last family to escape from the village. We fled to a safer place and knew our father was a little way behind us when a shell hit and killed him. He died on the spot but we did not know. We kept calling his phone but got no answer and only later we heard he was dead. Everything is bad about fleeing your home: here there is no water, no firewood, we have nothing. Back home we had everything. I used to go to school, but now I cannot. I am afraid of the war; the scariest thing is hearing the bombs, the shotguns and the shells. We were terrified. We were hiding in our room and fearing death."
What is the U.S. role in the war terrifying Amani and her family?

According to Shireen Al-Adeimi, a graduate student at Harvard from Yemen:
The American military is refueling Saudi jets midair as they’re bombing civilians and there have been plenty of reports, I mean, it’s not a secret that the Saudis are indiscriminate in their targeting. They’ve targeted hospitals, and homes, and schools, and it’s well-documented. The U.S. military has continued to refuel their jets midair. They’ve provided intelligence. They’ve provided logistical support. This is besides the *weapon deals...
Dr. Mariam Aldogani, health advisor to Save the Children in Yemen, gave her analysis as reported in The Guardian:
All the NGOs are trying to increase the knowledge of how to prevent the disease, because it’s preventable, you have to boil the water. But if you don’t have money to buy gas, and you have to walk a long way to get the wood, how can you boil the water? 
The war is a big problem for us, it’s a wound. But with the cholera, you have the wound and you put salt in the wound. It hurts. I hope this war can be stopped.
We need peace for the children of Yemen.
What to do? You could share this blog post or other information about facts on the ground in Yemen.

And, if you're not too busy decrying class warfare in U.S. as the kleptocracy's tax bill goes to a vote this week, you could call Congress to let them know Yemeni children are not forgotten:  (202) 224-3121. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Celebrate Black Women By Learning (And Teaching) More About Their History

Black Women is trending on Twitter this morning as those are the voters in Alabama who defeated the pedophile Senate candidate supported by the demagogue with bad hair.

Doug Jones will be the newest U.S. senator instead, another white man, but one with a legacy of civil rights significance for prosecuting the white supremacists who murdered four black girls in Alabama by the infamous bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham.

I imagine that made a compelling case for voting for Jones and not just against the pedophile.

Many of my retweets of this news were along these lines:

One way you can join me in doing some of these things is to purchase and share the terrific new history resource from Urban Intellectuals, Volume 2 of their Black History Flashcards, devoted entirely to women.

This history major was humbled but not surprised by how many important black women I did not know of before reading through the deck. Because the history of black women has been suppressed for my entire lifetime!

By Source, Fair use,

Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertsone and Cynthia Wesley never grew up to vote. They did become part of the shameful history of racism in this country though. 

Educating ourselves about black women is part of the work we white people must be doing at this moment in time.

We can also educate ourselves about the dire legacy of systemic racism and economic exploitation of black women and their families. This stretches from Alabama to Maine.

The Boston Globe is running an investigative series "Boston. Racism. Image. Reality." exploring the legacy of racism, which includes data on the average net worth of black people in that wealthy northern city: $8. Yup, that's eight dollars and no cents. 

Blocked from access to quality education and home ownership has taken its toll on generations of black folks. WTF? America, we can do better.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Stop The FCC From Making Access To The Internet Unequal

On Thursday, join activists all over the planet to demand the U.S. keep open acce$$ to the internet.

The internet is a powerful education tool that will be compromised if it is sacrificed to the almighty dollar.

Reports are that email to the FCC has been flooded with fake accounts spamming it. An alternative is to contact FCC chair Ajit Pai to leave a voicemail at 202-418-1000. You can do this 24/7 and reportedly need to leave a name and address in order to have your call filed. 

For more tools and ideas, go here: Break the Internet, Save Net Neutrality.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Protecting The Children Of Palestine When It Cannot Be Done

Schools in Jerusalem are often targets for harassment by Israel's military.  Photo of students in occupied Hebron by Wisam Hashlamoun / APA Images.

The distraction machine known as the demagogue with bad hair has caused a furor by announcing that the embassy of the U.S. will be moved to Jerusalem.

Long coveted as the capital of Israel, Jerusalem is a flashpoint of Zionist ambition.

Leaders in the region have warned that the move would be a disaster. Hanan Ashwari of the Palestine Liberation Organization reportedly commented that the move risks "annihilating the chances of peace and destroying the stability and security of the entire region, proking violence and playing into the hands of extremists."

How might this affect the long suffering children of Palestine?

Here's a video of Israeli soldiers harassing teenagers at their school, made by Jewish Voice for Peace and posted by activist Zelda Edmunds with the comment:

...The daily challenges of being Palestinian in H2 area of Hebron... It's unimaginably horrific that people live like prisoners in their own neighborhoods because of the ongoing occupation, apartheid and colonization taking place. So many kids put their lives at stake everyday just to go to school, go home, or simply walk on their own streets.

Here's a video of Israeli soldiers harassing an 8 year old.

Here's a video of Israeli soldiers harassing a 7 year old.

And here's an account of life for children in Gaza by Khulud Jaber. Her kids (depicted above) may live their whole lives in a-Nuseirat refugee camp as their family home has been occupied by Israel:

Lately, we’ve been getting power for fewer and fewer hours. At first, we were getting electricity for six hours, with 12-hour blackouts, then for four with 12-hour blackouts. Now it’s gotten even worse and the blackouts last for 18 hours every day. Also, the power does not come on at regular hours, so sometimes there’s electricity only when we’re asleep at night, or when we’re out of the house. My husband has lymphatic cancer and has been out of work since 2007...
Without electricity, the children really suffer from the heat, and you can’t turn on a fan.  
How to protect the children of Palestine?

Share information about the reality of their existence under occupation.

From an account of night raids on Palestinian homes, September, 2016
"Israeli soldiers invade Bil'in in attempt to break the people's spirit

Contact your elected representatives to demand they stop funding Israel's military occupation of Palestine. The current administration has pledged to give $38 billion of U.S. taxpayer-funded military "aid" (mostly credits to buy weapons) over the next ten years.

Donate to human rights organizations like B'teslem that document abuses of children by Israel's government.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Protecting The Children When It Cannot Be Done

Yesterday on the bridge a car pulled over and motioned me to approach. I was carrying a sign my husband made that says NO ROOM FOR RACISM while the rest of us held various messages opposing war and promoting peace.

A young white man with two children in the car greeted me with a big, friendly grin (in retrospect I'm pretty sure this was because I, too, am white).

Him: What is your sign about? What racism is it about?
Me: Um, white supremacy.
Him: You've got it all wrong. The racism is all on the other side. I can prove it! I have tons of videos I can show you.
Me: Is that what you're teaching your kids? I am going to cry. I've got to go.

Then, I walked away. Yes, I bailed on the chance to engage in some racial justice dialogue with kids as part of the audience. Why would I do that?

I was already struggling with very low spirits and I really did think I might cry. Or, fail to listen with an open heart and without betraying my disgust.

A student of mine watched his only parent get busted for heroin/fentanyl and put in handcuffs before school last week. The student was traumatized and so was I. Another family member whisked him away before the day ended. It was reported that some of the drugs were found in my student's bureau drawers. I doubt that we will see him again.

This is a common occurrence with children at risk: they disappear suddenly from your classroom community, and you mourn their absence. I am reminded of indigenous groups believing that the loss of a person creates a gap which weakens the group.

I have been mourning all weekend, and today is the day I will find ways to help the other seven year olds process why a member of our community has vanished.

There are children in my family that have alcoholic or otherwise drug addicted parents. 

Some of their parents won't speak to me anymore after I've objected to their being staggering drunk while "caring" for their children, driving them around in a car. My late brother's ex-wife sent me a diatribe claiming I am the most judgmental person on the planet and I live to judge to others.

Not being able to protect children from the ill effects of their parents' diseases of despair is a major theme of my life. I was the oldest child in a family with an alcoholic parent. Alcoholism has plagued both sides of my family for generations. Heroin, cocaine and other substances have crept in there, too. As there's little I can do about that, I speak up against racism and the empire's racist wars.

These days many people are willing to speak out against racism while few are willing to speak out against our many, many wars.

It doesn't matter to me if the majority or some guy in a passing car disagree with my point of view. How many times have I gotten yelled for being wrong when it turned out in the end I was right about what was really going on? More times than I can count. I didn't write this essay on following your own lights by Caitlin Johnstone, but I wish I had: "It Is Your Human Duty To Stand Unapologetically In Your Own Authority."

In the end, the tax heist performed in the dark hours before dawn last week will come home to roost. And so will the chickens of our chicken shit wars.

In five years I may not be able to afford the gas money to drive into town and stand on the bridge each Sunday. I may be physically attacked for daring to stand up to white supremacists. I may be jailed for saying that Muslims pose no threat to our safety, that billionaires don't need more tax breaks or that kleptocracy will be the undoing of civil society.

I just hope I'm not too discouraged by then to not go quietly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Will Maine's Senator Susan Collins Sell Out Her Constituents To Enrich The Wealthy? She's Saying Yes, She Will

I wish I could say I was shocked to hear that Maine's Senator Susan Collins, often viewed as a moderate Republican swing vote, is going over to the dark side on tax reform.

That is "reform" that would saddle teachers like me with even more federal taxes than the 30% I already pay, and would eliminate most low and middle income tax shelters e.g. the mortgage deduction. Also tax student financial aid as if it were income.

Oh, and personhood for fetuses -- which is not a tax issue. But blocking access to legal, safe abortion is a signature of the nasty corporate party currently at the helm of the sinking ship of state. (You can view their whole stinking 429 page bill here.)

If I were wealthy enough (and creepy enough) to own a private jet, I would get a hefty write-off under the new law.

The bill already passed the House and was rushed along through the Senate's Budget Committee yesterday, before the requisite analysis by the Congressional Budget Office could be completed.

Now, a mere week before the Senate is likely to hold their vote, the analysis is out. Here's how it will affect taxpayers at all income levels:

Susan Collins had been sucking up to her corporate sponsors for years while trying to maintain a facade of moderation as she allegedly represents voters in a chronically poor state.

She's obviously ambitious and she knows which side her bread is buttered on. Here are just a few corporations that she has accepted $$$$ from in the last few years:

Anyone who cares to let Collins hear from them can use these numbers. But hurry, because they are rushing this legislation through Congress like Scrooge himself on the eve of Christmas:

Augusta:         (207) 622-8414
Bangor:         (207) 945-0417
Biddeford:         (207) 283-1101
Caribou:         (207) 493-7873
Lewiston:         (207) 784-6969
Portland:         (207) 780-3575
Washington, DC     (202) 224-2523