• 19 April 2023: Eightieth Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

    To read a clear and comprehensive account of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that began on April 19, 1943, Passover eve that year, go to https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/warsaw-ghetto-uprising.

    I visited the monument in Warsaw years ago, in the wake of WWII, when the city was largely in ruins, though the historic Old Town had been rebuilt and a newly erected “birthday cake”-style concrete government building, the Palace of Culture, loomed high. My father took my family of five—mother, two brothers, and me—along for two months there while he worked for the United Nations as an engineering consultant for the Communist government.

    It was grim. We were instructed to keep our mouths shut about the virtues of democracy or the dearth of food supplies compared with our bounty in the United States. People walked down the streets with visible war injuries: missing limbs, facial features. Some would stop us wanting to change their zlotys into dollars and others would vociferously complain about the constant procession of wars in their country and yes, about the current governmental system. I admired their courage.

    We visited the museum at Auschwitz. I remember more details than those at the Ghetto monument: a sign “Work leads to freedom” (Arbeit macht frei) at the entrance; a gallows; glass cases filled with shoes and other personal effects; a large, hollow gas chamber.

    Here are some fragments of a poem I wrote about that experience:

    Thin dry wind,

    Sun burning, aching, glaring;

    Barbed-wire fence

    —the power’s off now, the power’s off now, the power’s off now.

    Barbed-wire fence, the power’s off now;

    Handful of visitors,



    Arbeit macht frei!

    Welcome to prisons

    and concrete chambers with smokestacks!

    Smoke that was people met air that was clear.

    Met air that was clear, met air that was clear!

    Smoke that was people met air that was clear.

    Handful of visitors, 



    Museum of millions

    A handful now bear—


    I was there.


    My paternal great-grandmother and great aunt were killed at Auschwitz, as were my maternal great grandparents and one of their daughters with her husband and three children.

    In the latter case, my great uncle went to the tiny village outside of Bialystock, Poland, to plead with them to migrate to the US as he had along with another sibling, my grandmother—the youngest sister had gone to Israel. They dismissed his warnings, sure that the toxic prejudices would pass.

    My paternal grandfather was kidnapped by Nazis on Krystallnacht and taken to Dachau for forcedlabor. Some wealthy British relatives bribed the Nazis to release him after three months. There is a photo of him emaciated after that ordeal. He survived for another fifteen years, brought to the US by my father along with his two daughters and wife, all of whom migrated to Los Angeles after afew years in Trenton, NJ.

    Details of life in Nazi-ruled Vienna handed down to me were few. No one wanted to take about them,understandably. My father did tell us of days when his mother would wake them up with the news that there would be nothing to eat for the day. He also warned us children that we might feel secure—just as he did growing up in Vienna freely among Gentiles—he and his eldest sister were both romantically Involved with Christians when they were forced to emigrate.

    Beyond that, my father was grateful for the tolerance in this country and considered it a privilege to pay taxes every year. Sitting comfortably at the head of the dinner table, he would from time to time remind us how lucky we were. He was proud of his meteoric career success here—from hospital orderly when he first emigrated to Brooklyn, sponsored by a well-established relative who’d become a successful radiologist--to world-class HVAC engineer with 29 patented inventions.

    Growing up among first-generation refugees was largely in a xenophobic minor key and I purposely assimilated--though as a teenager haunted with my father’s warnings beseeched close Christian friends to shelter me in the event of a Holocaust. I married a Christian and had a daughter with him. I wanted to dilute, not suppress the painful legacy for her while gently teaching her about her heritage from my side of the family.

    She is fully assimilated and at the same time proud of her immigrant roots and passing them on to her two young daughters. 

    To know how many Holocaust deniers there are and that the numbers are growing; that Trumpism has unearthed latent Nazism into society is disquieting.  I live each day to the fullest and hope for the best. I can’t predict the future but if one thing is clear, it is that lessons from the past are forgotten and buried like the bones of slaughtered Jews and all others who have perished as a result of holocausts and other manmade violence all over the world.

  • There's a Dire Emergency, Joe & co.!

    live .taticflikr.com "End of the Day" VD 177707

    “Marta, you look so sad, as if the world were coming to an end,” said Mom many times when I was young.

    Young? At least I had a future. And the sun had billions of years to endure before imploding, and by that time we’d have invented ways to survive beyond that.

    These days, “The future” as we think of it could easily end in less than a decade.

    It evolved for the youngest generations already, because for the first time in a long time the quality of their lifestyles will not equal or surpass their parents’. In other words, the American Dream is dead for most of them, victims of the economy and their college debt, if they chose to invest in a future that now entails drudgery rather than inspiring pursuits. 

    Education as a ladder? Oh well. Literacy is eroding as is the value placed on it. Illiterate people are being chosen to govern us.

    And so Enlightenment values, the basis of the founding of this country, are eroding. The consequences of that also assail us.

    Nature and culture alike are on the skids.

    If the Biden government were to “effectively” respond to the UN Committee report released this week, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)  (a summary of its contents for policymakers is at https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6syr/pdf/IPCC_AR6_SYR_SPM.pdf), they would publicize a list of immediate actions we all must take to extend our existence beyond the next few years, after which the Earth is predicted to become uninhabitably warm. But politics intervenes even though the End of the World is surely something more exigent. At this crucial point, with the economy reeling and conservative extremism challenging moderate politics-as-usual, declaring a climate emergency would alienate voters of all stripes but especially conservative ones. 

    But there is a crucial climate emergency, Joe & co. Each one of our lifestyles should drastically change, from corporate to individual. Turn off the heat and the smokestacks. Writ large, drastic change must sacrifice the present to the Future. The advent of the omniscient Bot won’t change things, even with its store of Everything We Know, even with all of Its suggested syntheses, brilliant or not.

    An immediate to-do list must be generated and followed, no kidding. Austerity for all of us, even billionaires, in every way. 

    Otherwise, the Future is caput.

    If I were young, I’d be very, very mad.


  • Apropos of the UN Committee Report Giving Our World Less Than Ten Years to Survive (unless ...)

    Blyth, Ss Mary & Martin's church - Doom painting
    (Image by Jules & Jenny)
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    I went to ChatGPT to ask where to go and what to do to escape the UN committee's prophecy about the overheating of the Earth in less than 10 years--if we don't take drastic measures immediately. The window was temporarily out of service, but it occurs to me that so many will acquire answers to the same question that the refuge--New Zealand?--will be overloaded in no time, so that my question is well-nigh useless.

    Who wants to live in the luxurious safe havens being built by and for billionaires? They won't survive the imploding ecosystem for long. In less than ten years, will Elon Musk's forays to Mars have resulted in hospitable new homes for a few billionaires there? Or further trips to the Moon post haste? I'd wager not.

    I wish "they'd" apply all that energy and acquired knowledge to saving the world for all of us instead of a few tycoons. Who really deserves to survive? Where are the Noahs? Saving the world? It's already imploding with earthquakes and climate change. A gradual process to read about in the headlines before experiencing it ourselves. I wonder if some sources are sending out eschatological witnessing in space capsules? 

    "Here's the way the world was: blind to the truth. Here's what happened before we perished": fill in the blank in 25 words or less: "Most of the world was starving, diseased, perishing altogether, and way underserved. Some religious souls prophesied that God ordained the End and would save believers." Add another 25? "Science and technology taught us so much about reality! Many truths but no other Truth--where do we really come from and does God exist?"

    What else might this sort of time capsule witness? Write an old-fashioned Britannica- or Wikipedia-style history of Earth's reality. How would you sum it up succinctly? Maybe there's one word. I know there are millions. Maybe the right words will lead to a right conclusion how to save our own lives? Kevin Marley's great OEN-headlined article "Moonshot: Ten Ideas to Save This Frickin' World" (Click Here) proposes ingenious solutions but we need them much sooner, if the UN committee report is accurate.

  • On Making St. Valentine's Day a National Holiday

    This blog was originally written in 2011 and rerun a few times at this page's predecessor, WordsUnLtd.com. Here it is again, ripe for the ages until this day of love receives the importance it deserves for honoring love above all else. Three cheers to Hallmark Cards for popularizing it as much as it has been!

    Valentines Day
    Valentines Day
    (Image by Cold Rock Aspley 0417115707)
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    It is one of those times that I know a holiday is within me waiting for expression to its depths.

         There are saints backgrounding several of our major holidays--I consider this one the biggest of them all, for what is our ultimate wealth, joy, stability, prism, magnifier, if not love?

         What was Jesus' message if not love?

         There is All Saints' Day embracing Halloween; St. Patrick's Day, Christmas--Jesus the ultimate saint for many of us, St. Nicholas having jumped on his sleigh only a few hundred years ago.

         There is a Saint Lucia important to the Nordic Christmas, and so on. I'm thinking literally now--not in terms of how sainted our laborers and military have become. That's another article.

         St. Valentine, martyred for giving, martyred for activating love.

         We need to start a movement to make St. Valentine's Day a national holiday. If we tweak our priorities and perhaps turn it into St. Valentine's week--imagine.

         To observe this week-long holiday, we will have to activate love conscientiously every day, every night. We will all get the week off, but hardly a vacation. No trips to the Caribbean. Maybe lots of babies will be born in November.

         But we can create all sorts of ways to celebrate this week. Perhaps it will become the most crime-free of all fifty-two.

         We must be careful not to go any farther into the materialistic aspect than we already have. And then be sure all Valentines not kept are judiciously recycled in a special compost heap of love. What can we do with that?

         We need effective, charismatic leadership to actualize this idea. I'm just a writer. Presidents' Day has been around for years (I remember the days when the two birthdays were celebrated separately, without a three-day weekend). What do we accomplish by lumping Washington and Lincoln with all the other presidents? Not much. "Back in my day" (I don't believe I'm writing this, but Soc. Sec. is just around the corner), we studied Lincoln on Lincoln's birthday, and Washington on Washington's--who tells the story about the cherry tree anymore, or about Lincoln's proverbial and literal burning the midnight oil to educate himself?

         On MLK Day, we have a single focus and a very meaningful experience of another martyr who preached love and nonviolence. All kinds of love lump together far better than do all kinds of presidents.

         I don't know what I'd do with this amorphous creature Presidents' Day. I don't mean to belittle it.

         February is the most holiday-ridden month of the year, though no match for the holiday rush that precedes the materialistic aspect of Christmas--as I've said before, all that spending and gift wrapping are a form of activated love, but not at its highest level.

         We need to learn to give at that level of intensity and quantity at higher levels. We need to learn so much.

         Ideas are most welcome. Shall we draw up a petition to send to Congress? Will it resonate with the top one percent? Will they turn on a giant fan and liquidate all their billions to occupy the lower airs, line birds nests, change lives--these metamorphosed Scrooges must stipulate where the money is to go, to higher levels than the next vertical or horizontal mall.

         The Egyptians have given peace a chance as the whole world watches and wonders.

         Now it's time to give love a chance, too.


  • 12/12, a Dark Day for America and the World

    From flickr.com: Unique disaster {VID-176973}

    On December 12, 2000, after a protracted presidential electoral process  corrupted by nepotism and rampant Republicanism—hanging chads and the Brooks brothers riot, the “Jews for Buchanan” fiasco and votes stolen from 54,000 Blacks falsely disenfranchised as felons [but never prosecuted]—Bush v. Gore was decided in favor of George W. Bush by SCOTUS and the candidate who lost by 500,000 popular votes was allowed to ascend.

    Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had been overheard at a cocktail party asserting that she wouldn’t retire if Bush lost and Scalia had claimed that the recount in process ordered by the Florida supreme court, which would have resulted in a victory for Gore, would do “irreparable harm” to Bush.

    Irreparable harm was done to the world instead, as disasters proliferated under the Bush regime.

    9/11 happened as if to “wag the dog” to distract from the administration’s domestic ineptitude. One of its first actions was to lower taxes on the super-rich. Human life was devalued first at home and then internationally. 

    What if Gore had been elected fairly? Surely no utopia but far better hypothetically. The entire meme and language of stolen elections that resulted from the 12/12 decision, was eventually appropriated by Donald Trump with disastrous results, including the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

    Today, googling election integrity brings up Republican distortions and the original opposition to election corruption has been obscured if not forgotten. But the activists persist, working with the “new generation” to cling to rational and ethical procedures where possible.

    Corruption in government has always existed. But milestones of aggravation and destruction blemish history, so much of them ignored or suppressed. 

    Had the 12/12 decision been ethical, who knows where we’d be now?

    What a way to bring in a new millennium.

  • Navel-Gazing on NEVER and Mortality

    From flickr.com: Never {VID-176964}  

    Have you ever surveyed cars whizzing past you on a highway and realized you’d never meet any of the drivers? Never. This “never” applies to souls you pass on busy city sidewalks as well and where else?

              NEVER pervades our reality. We will NEVER know its ultimate nature. Where do we really come from? Theories abound. Was there ever really NOTHING?

         What we do know is miraculous—mathematics, for example, which defines infinity in its own way and entails many other forms of NEVER, including irrational numbers like pi, whose decimal places never end. Math is a cell at the tip of a fingertip of what there is to know. Among other things, we won’t last long enough to learn enough to get around the infinite forms of infinity because we’re busy self-destructing. Someone must emerge to combat that as a unit—probability implies the possibility, but beyond that, there is sadly evidence that many civilizations comparable to ours throughout the universe have already self-destroyed.

         Isn’t it amazing that astronomers have figured that out from microscopic specks found by their telescopes? Mars is yielding up that secret about itself, scientists say.

         The most erudite people on Earth don’t even come close to knowing everything, which a classmate of mine accused me of back in first grade. I was Marta-Smarta, but brushed off that compliment.

         Even Goethe didn’t know everything, though he encompassed the sciences, humanities, and arts. It’s all one lump really, all of those thirds we segregate. Someday they’ll be of a piece if we can send the Doomsday Clock backwards.


    Then there are all the people we’ve met and even known well whom we’ll never see again. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s sad. Facebook is great for looking them up without contacting them to find out what they’re up to. Google works, too, though most of us share names with several others, entailing a long and daunting search.

         And speaking of childhood, way back when, I challenged Death to a fight and lost. I would squeeze my eyes shut and exhort time to stop: “Now’s now and it’s going to stay now!” It never did. I got old. Consciousness, so ephemeral. Marta the child was so scared of Death sometimes she couldn’t sleep at night and would run down the steps to her parents sitting in the living room watching television. They warmly allowed me to stay without asking what was wrong. I didn’t dare tell them. Angst. 

         This child also found herself pitying her family’s garage door because it lacked consciousness. Never would it have an ‘Ich.’ Pity mixed with grappling absurdity. Again: the disease of ‘Never’ that plagues us all, more or often less.

         There’s always belief in an afterlife and any number of people who swear to it through firsthand experience. I drift in and out of that security. It’s possible.

         Somewhere out in the universe, other beings may know what we never will. I want to know all that. NEVER will. I coexist with my own infinities—the universes that may inhabit my fingertips, the infinite amount of knowledge I’ll never have.           

         Again, others out there in telescope-land and beyond may know everything.

         Is that a consolation? 


    I lived in Atlanta during my senior year in high school, for just a year. As I was moving on, the city was building its rapid-transit system, MARTA. I took comfort that everyone I knew there would be using my name in casual conversation for a long time to come and for at least part of that time might think of me at each mention of it. But the few times I rode on MARTA, no one thought it all remarkable that I was named Marta when I announced it. Once I told a driver my name and asked if I could ride for free. “Get on,” he said so dismissively that I paid. Another time I turned to a woman sitting next to me and told her my name. “My name is Jane,” she responded pleasantly. We chatted on—another stranger I’d never see again.

         I once wrote:                                

    Death of a sudden peered / Through the drift of melody /  “Boo, remember me?” he leared …

    I forget the rest—the meter abruptly expanded into longer lines--but death still interrupts my routines and rituals and busy-ness during the day.

         Boo! Being an Earthling isn’t easy. Stay busy and physically active so you can sleep at night.

         All the thinking and studying in the world won’t transcend what we know and can know. But they will try. Even I have always tried.

         I’m going to watch television and forget about it for half an hour.


  • "The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party": John Nichols on E2022

    John Nichols
    John Nichols
    (Image by Joe Mabel)
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    Progressive journalist and prolific author John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, addressed the 144th townhall of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Sunday, on the ups and downs of the "red ripple" that, he said, salvaged the status quo for America, preserving social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and environmental concerns.

    A week before, he was just wondering how many positions the Democrats would lose. "This election is why I love politics," Nichols said, calling the results "rare and wonderful," the best midterm outcome since FDR's in 1934, though multiple parties were running then in the midst of the Great Depression.

    With the Senate majority won Saturday night in Nevada, Democrats can approve judges, cabinet members, and ambassadors and even negotiate with the fractious Republicans who will probably control the House. Speaker McCarthy will be boxed in by the Freedom Caucus but more moderate Republicans may be reachable for bipartisan measures.

    Democrats swept secretary of state offices, so crucial because most of them are in charge of elections. Two governorships were added and three or four state legislatures turned blue and none flipped to the GOP that hadn't been there before.

    Issues of inequality, the climate crisis, and the Pentagon's voracious hold on the budget won't change, said Nichols. Why not more progress? He blamed structural failure among Democratic elites, who overspend on TV advertising while devaluing vital grassroots support that could have won Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin a Senate seat, for example. The racist, xenophobic campaign waged against him outspent Democrats by $10 million. The difference in vote totals between winner and loser was 26,000 out of more than two million. A similar outcome kept Cheri Beasley from winning in North Carolina.

    Republican ingenuity publicized fake or marginalized polling results to influence Democrats' allocations also. Democrats needed to concentrate on rural and small-town locations, where many more votes could have been won and with them a majority in the House. "The Democrats have a narrow vision of their true base."

    Moreover, Nichols said, the Democrats lacked a coherent message weaving together issues of concern to everyone: They ran as "not Republican," rather than on issues like inflation, entitlements, the future of democracy, and abortion. Fetterman's successful campaign was based on such issues: healthcare, the right to join unions, legalization of marijuana, criminal justice reform, women's choice, and the future of democracy. He went to rural counties and small towns.


    Elections in this country are more popular worldwide than the World Cup (which begins next week). Biden will probably be energized by this historic gain and run to stay in office in 2024, though we must be vigilant in case old age wears him down, Nichols said. Bernie Sanders has said he won't run for president unless Biden steps aside.

    Turning to the vital importance of the youth turnout that so steered electoral results, Nichols urged PDA to prioritize them--its "single best investment." Had those aged 45 and over prevailed, more Republicans would have won. Thirteen percent more of those aged 65 and older voted Republican rather than Democratic, as did 11 percent more of the 45-65 age group. PDA should base themselves on college and high school campuses and workplace venues where young people are likely to go if they skip college.

    PDA must work harder, Nichols said, at opposing Democratic corporate power. For Election 2022 between $17 and $18 billion was spent. Campaign finance reform is imperative. The voting age should be lowered to 16. Trump, who specializes in belittling Republicans, will destroy DeSantis--don't write him off.

    And there's one thing more powerful than money in politics. It's gerrymandering, which is the fight of democracy. In gerrymandered Wisconsin, Nichols's home state, if Democrats win control of the supreme court next spring they will be able to outlaw gerrymandering. 

    In short, PDA, focus on youth, gerrymandering, and courts. In addition to everything else.

  • Election Day, the Lottery, Nature vs. “Culture”


    Many harbingers, okay, events, surround Election Day this year. First, Powerball stakes skyrocketed to more than $2 billion. I entered and lost, new to the game and wanting to trade the issues of “making ends meet” with those of a tree that would be inundated by fungi—that is, my whole karass would convert me into a human wallet.

    “I’d rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable,” my father used to say.

    After Powerball, or simultaneous with it, came the last lunar eclipse until 2025. We’d see a reddish full moon gradually shadowed over. I carefully noted the time of visibility and stumbled out of bed to greet it at 5:30 am, but when I peered through the slat of my vertical blinds, I was blinded by a harsh light from the top of a neighboring building. I couldn’t make out anything else.

    Step two: another bust. I staggered back to bed after glancing at my cellphone to see ifthe winning lottery ticket had been drawn. It hadn’t.

    Up this morning slowly because of interrupted sleep, I next focused on this day of all days, Election Day. My polls are right on the acreage of my apartment complex. Few people vote there but enough to support its presence. I strolled over to take some pictures—having voted by mail weeks ago—expecting little “action.” I turned out to be it when I asked the front desk if I could photo the room with the machinery and was told to go ahead.

    Once there, I was told harshly to stop—no photos. Go outside where there are signs. Sure, I said. No problem. I didn’t blame their coworker. Blame games are becoming more and more irrelevant to my life, though not to politics. What is campaigning but blame games even more than vital issues?

    So I photoed the signage. Interesting arrangements. The ones advocating Democratic candidates, scarcer than GOP ones, greeted drivers as they pulled up to park but were to the right of the portion of the building where people were voting; GOP ones fronted that area in a neat horizontal row. Then at the parking lot exit, a vertical row of them saluted voters.

    If I didn’t know the political orientations of residents nearby, I would have guessed it.

    So I wended my way home along the winding path that passes the Delaware River. There an array of trees posed for pictures: a stately birch alone among other varieties, embraced by a smaller, gnarled tree about a third of its height. What did that mean?

    Should I personify it?

    I thought of the “woodwide web” formed by trees communicating and sustaining each other via fungal threads, a theory first offered up in the late 1990s by ecologist Suzanne Simard among others. Could I extend this to a tableau of tribute beng paid to a lofty birch by lowly ones with dark-hued bark? Racism perhaps?

    I passed by a self-effacing black woman once I walked further. I wanted to tell her not to forget to vote but remained silent though I hoped she was en route to the polls and not intimidated. Racism lurks barely below the surface of this year’s election—so what else is new?

    I came home to find out that someone in California won the lottery with a perfect ticket. I had purchased my ticket online and allowed for random numerical arrangements. My lucky numbers weren’t winners anyway this time. Maybe I should stick to the state lottery and settle for a jackpot of millions. Yes, I’d settle for millions. Even less, but not by too much.

    Rightwing reactions to the election won’t nurture our democratic ideals. That fungal web has other agendas, more like our more traditional imagery of fungi. Many are poisonous. And so on. Some are delicious … like democracy.

    A hurricane is forecast to hit Florida and then proceed northward to Georgia and produce heavy rain farther north. That’s later this week, just when all the mail-in ballots are being counted and controversy inevitable as the host of election-denying candidates contest (violently?) winners other than themselves. November, usually the tail end of the hurricane season, will be stormy at that level if not literally. Winter follows. I’m told it will be a rough one.

    For democracy?

  • Another [Temporary] Escape from Doomsday Dread

    From flickr.com: Teeth {VID-176489}

    (image from Flikr)

    One remedy for despair over the horrors worldwide and domestic is to go to the dentist for your semi-annual cleaning.

    The technology has evolved to a needle-like device that sprays water at and between your teeth as it probes for plaque and God knows what else. It is screechy loud. That is step one. Oh, please don’t hit a nerve!

    How can I be wishing that this hour will pass? I ask myself. How can I wish my life away?

    Next come all the pointy instruments sterilely packaged in cellophane—those things that jab at you as you again dread a nerve being hit, which today I compared to listening to ragged fingernails scratching a blackboard. Why is that sound such a horror? So is a nerve being hit  and that worst of all possibilities, one of those needle-like implements getting caught in a tooth. A cavity. Fillings are such fun also. I once had one done without anesthesia. I must have been crazy.

    But back to the cleaning: Skreeeee! Oh get your fingernail out of my lip! Why don’t you manicure your nails shorter? Ouch.

    Finally, the fun part. Rinse out and then …  time to floss! Two feet of floss for one mouth? Then toothbrushing time! But oh, you’ve got to be kidding—strawberry flavored? I’m probably the only person in the world who dislikes strawberries. But the taste is mild and still the best part of the ordeal until … the end! Rinse out! Ptui!

    No cavities, everything else normal: tongue, neck glands, whatever else the man dentist, who enters dramatically afterward, was looking for. Oh, please don’t find anything!

    Clean bill of oral health. They’re all out of free toothbrushes and miniature containers of floss, but here’s a travel-sized tube of your favor toothpaste brand. Thanks. 

    Free for another six months. 

    I’ve been going to the same dentist off and on since the mid-nineties. I first went to him for a toothache. A total stranger. Then I looked up at the guy bent over my teeth and saw the handsomest man I’d ever seen in my life. Surprise. Not that getting a filling was pleasant but the shock was. His wife at the front desk was extremely pretty. So going to the dentist was at least esthetically pleasing after that.

    I strolled out into an achingly beautiful autumn day, the sky sharply blue, the foliage peaking. Then reality came crashing down. Back into this pathetic, doomed reality of our poor old world we’ve plundered so badly.

    Putin’s accusation that Ukraine will be using dirty bombs on his country reminds me of Bush Jr.’s “WMD” hoax that led to the Iraq war and all the hell after that. This time the Doomsday Clock’s hand is even closer to that twelve.

  • Congressman Jamie Raskin: "Thank you, PDA, for hanging tough"

    Jamie Raskin
    Jamie Raskin
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    [It all boils down to this:] "Voting is like driving: if you want to go forward, you put it in D; if you want to go backwards, you put it in R."--Jamie Raskin

    The 115th session of the Zoom group Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition (GREEP) featured Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who gained national prominence recently as lead manager in the second set of impeachment hearings against Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Farther back in time, Raskin also helped found the Progressive Democrats of America, in the company of two other pioneer activists, Mike Hersh and Joel Siegel. Most of the session focused on the upcoming elections, expectably, as well as MAGA's fascistic threats against our democracy.

    The majority of this country are on our side, Raskin began; youth are registering Democratic at a ratio of two to one; all are moving in our direction. The Republican Party has been reduced to a cult of authoritarian personality around Donald Trump, a huge dive from its origins as Lincoln's party. Rightly did Biden accuse them of semi-fascist elements: "It the shoe semi-fits, you semi-wear it!'

    He named actions like the attacks on early voting, weekend voting, and the mail-in ballot as well as voter challenging (happening in Georgia), gerrymandering, and the filibuster as large symptoms of the decay of democracy we must fight against.

    We need more Democrats in the Senate to codify Roe v Wade and promote gun safety. The GOP thrives on the Electoral College, responsible for installing five popular-vote losers as presidents, two Republicans in this century alone. Gerrymandering isn't in the Constitution, but the Electoral College is. Presidential campaigns focus on swing states almost exclusively: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and aa few others. We export democracy hypocritically while whittling it down at home. We must have direct elections, which are indeed "democracy itself." 

    For Biden democracy may seem static (as he implied in a speech a few weeks ago), but for Tocqueville it was expanding or shrinking 150 years ago. Raskin specified six Amendments out of many that expand democracy: numbers 15, 17, 19, 23, 24, and 26. We must get back on that track--to a sea change that statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico would accomplish, for example. We must add an amendment on the right to vote and restore the Voting Rights Act back to the full strength that SCOTUS gutted in 2013.

    "There is no solution to the ills of democracy except for more democracy." We're fighting to keep it this way.

    Joel Siegel, co-convener of GREEP and former lead counsel to Congressman John Conyers, asked Raskin to specify, as a Constitutional scholar (a former professor of Constitutional law before he became a state senator in Maryland), what exact federal laws Trump had violated with the January 6 insurrection: Conspiracy to interfere with a federal proceeding, the official counting of the electoral votes?

    Raskin replied, a federal statute. Halting the proceedings was the whole point of the Stop the Steal movement. "He pointed them like a loaded gun at the Capitol; he knew that they were armed. Bring down the magnetometers, bring down the metal detectors. He had been mobilizing [the opposition]. They sharpened the United States flag into weapons," the Congressman said. They have been accused and convicted of seditious conspiracy, to overthrow the US government. There is a very powerful circumstantial case to be made against them and 150 have already been prosecuted. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice are in a position to prosecute any federal crimes that they see. Many of those prosecuted point to Trump as instigator who forced them to do what they did: "If I'm guilty, then Donald Trump is guilty." And he's facing many other charges, including bank fraud, real estate fraud, and election fraud.

    Another question from Siegel concerned the possibility of limiting the power of extremist groups and their violence against minorities. Why should they be allowed to threaten voters? Aren't there limitations we can put on these groups before it's too late? All 50 states ban "private" militias, Raskin said; this is made very clear in the Constitution. These can be banned. They must be banned at the federal level too. They can be prosecuted but also sued, and many such groups have been bankrupted by this process. This is probably the best way to put them out of business.

    The next subject was Georgia, a hotbed of election corruption with its notorious SB 202 passed in the wake of the "Georgia Miracle" that handed the Senate majority to Democrats. Ray McClendon, head of the state's NAACP and architect of the Georgia Miracle said that early voting began last week and almost 750,000 have already voted, in a ratio of 60 percent Democratic to 40 percent GOP, numbers nearly as large as in 2020 at this time, though-mail-in votes are falling behind. Blacks are overperforming as a percent of the total black registered voters in the state, as a result of massive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. McClendon asked Raskin how to amass more support from the funding community for these crucial grassroots efforts, which must be ongoing year-round rather than just during election seasons--how to amass more grassroots support.

    There are strict laws governing financial support of campaigns, said Raskin, and we can't get involved at the level of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations. We all must realize the importance of defending the right to vote at the local level and using that right to reflect the will of the people and procure effective leadership to accomplish this. 

    Civic engagement and civic activism are of crucial importance, Raskin continued. There is a crisis of Constitutional illiteracy. People must be educated; the MAGA component believes that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow people to overthrow the government and that the Constitution makes America a Christian nation. It is that kind of Constitutional illiteracy that has gotten us into this terrible situation.

    Said McClendon, the Center for Common Ground is building Democracy Centers all over the Southeast that teach civics, a subject no longer taught in public schools. We're making people aware that they can become activists and participate in the government at the city and school board levels, where the other side has become involved. We need to counterbalance that. When we go into barbershops and beauty shops and out on the streets to to reach out to the people, they ask where we are the rest of the year beyond getting us to vote. 

    Raskin pointed to certain practices already in place year-round, including free minor auto repairs so that people won't be pulled over and harassed because they need them; diapers and food are also made available to those in need.

    GREEP co-convener Harvey Wasserman, also an author and academic, emphasized how crucial it is for the Democratic Party to move away from its marriage to high-expenditure media to a far more effective level, grassroots organizing, which could win the upcoming election.

    Well-known author and fascism scholar Brynn Tannehill spoke of the fascistic scapegoating of transgender populations by Putin, Orban, and Members of Congress like Margery Taylor Green and even Marcia Blackburn. "There's still a great degree of discomfort about transgender people." They will bear the worst brunt of the fall of democracy. It's extremely scary. She spoke of planning to leave the country with her family if things continue in this direction. She asked what officials like Raskin are doing to protect against this.

    Raskin said he was proud to have sponsored and seen passed a gender rights bill in Maryland in 2014. He said we must protect transgender people against violence and Republicans' discrimination. For protection we must support the police rather than defund them. On January 6, mostly black and Hispanic police saved his own as well as his son and daughter-in-law's lives--they were together at the Capitol that day. The bigoted element must be eliminated, of course. But police have performed well in major cities. 

    Dennis Bernstein, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Flashpoints, next compared the recent voter intimidation and thuggery in Arizona to death squads in the drug-dealing Central American military who threaten those who dare to testify against them in court. Bernstein further pointed to arrests in Florida of ex-felons unaware that they still lacked the right to vote. The state legislature, Raskin added, had voted to charge ex-felons for the expenses of their imprisonment, a poll tax right out of the end of Reconstruction, in violation of the Twenty-fourth Amendment. We must address such discrimination in all of the states and get the Department of Justice to proactively protect the right to vote.

    Bernstein further asked how dangerous are the threats of nuclear attack being traded by both this country and Putin. Raskin called Putin a desperate madman. "We must aggressively support the national sovereignty and democracy of Ukraine and keep diplomatic channels open," he said, expressing hope for a Ukraine victory and US intervention to get Russia to rebuild the county.

    Wasserman commented on the importance of aid, worried about a GOP takeover of Congress in 2022, which might oppose it, and the consequent possibility of Putin taking over the nuclear power plants in Ukraine and thereby becoming dictator of Europe.

    Activist Jim Garrison, founder and president of Ubiquity University, asked how it is possible that Donald Trump isn't already in court and in jail, given the enormity of his ongoing coup attempts, white supremacy violence, and thuggery. Where is the federal government? Why aren't Democrats taking the kind of action that will be normal?

    "The walls are closing in on Donald Trump," said Raskin. In New York, in Georgia, not to mention his theft of crucial classified documents that he hid at Mar-a-Lago. It's got to be charged. There was probable cause that a crime had been committed and much more contraband found than was initially expected. "I don't know what's going to happen." Congress can discover and make known the evidence and proof, but it's up to the Justice Department to indict. How can it not indict in a situation like that? This was an overall conspiracy to interfere with government proceedings. Raskin called Trump a "notorious and hardened criminal" for this and the many other attacks on American democracy by him and his supporters. 

    He quoted MLK that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." 

    Go to https://grassrootsep.org for a video recording of the complete event.