Letters from lockdown: We’re up first. Let’s get this right.

Okay, California. We’ve given the world skateboarding, Napa wine, sourdough bread, valley girls and hippies. How about we make this social distancing thing the next hot trend? To do that, we need to take it really seriously. Without losing our California cool, of course.

I think Rose Aguilar summed it up best on her radio program this morning. Rose said she had been “struck” by something she read, that what we need to focus on is setting a good example for the rest of the country. 

That hit home for us, as well. We’re up first. Let’s get this right.

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Rose Aguilar’s program, Your Call Radio, is a key part of the daily routine in our house. We highly recommend it. She’s focusing on the coronavirus emergency these days, of course, and is bringing great resources — and inspiration — to the community. https://www.kalw.org/programs/your-call  In the Bay Area, 10:00 AM Mon – Fri, KALW 91.7 FM.

Letters from lockdown: The announcement

We heard it on the radio in the car, on our way to the horse pasture at the top of the hill, a front row seat overlooking  multiple verdant hills. Sandwiches were on board, packed for a quick picnic lunch — al auto — during what would surely be but a brief break in the rain.

Our radio informed us that starting at midnight, we would not be allowed to do what we were about to do. We were going on lockdown. It appears the San Francisco Bay Area will be the first region in the country to take this step. And our home county is the hot zone right now.

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Years later, a taste of justice for El Salvador

As we walked from El Mozote, where we had just met with the sole survivor of the massacre, we came across an FMLN patrol. That’s me with the camera.

Late last month, in a crowded courtroom in the eastern part of El Salvador, a small taste of justice was granted to survivors of the worst slaughter of civilians in Latin American history. The courtroom in San Francisco Gotera, in the heart of what had been known as the “conflictive zone” during the years-long civil war in El Salvador (1979 – 1992), heard testimony from a former military commander that, for the first time, tied the Salvadoran government and its armed forces to the El Mozote massacre.

Thirty years ago, as the war still raged, I visited El Mozote in the company of the only survivor, Rufina Amaya. It was one of the most emotionally wrenching experiences I’ve had.

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Let ‘er rip! Trump’s speech deserved shredding.

 

Soaring Presidential rhetoric ala Trump … a selection of terms from his State of the Union speech: murder (used five times), brutal (twice), terrible (thrice!), catastrophic, gruesome, deadly (another triple winner), viciously, smashed (twice), hijacked, barbarians, bloodthirsty, horrifying, miserable, ruthless, butcher, evil, decay, scorned, brutalizes, failing (another triple), bankrupt, criminal (eight iterations!), destruction, tyranny (twice), fascism, assault (six times), vile, wicked, menace, poisonous.

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Beyond the dream: MLK’s revolutionary analysis is still needed

A few nights ago my I attended the premiere playing of a newly discovered audio recording of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s controversial (as it turned out) “Beyond Vietnam” speech, given on April 4, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York. The recording was one of six long lost tapes recently discovered in the archives of WRVR, a public radio station that was owned and operated by the Riverside Church from 1961 to 1976.

The public premiere of this recording was sponsored by Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute and held at Stanford’s impressive Memorial Church, an attempt to recreate the environment in which the speech was originally delivered.

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I’ve been saying “U.S. Out of Iraq” for nearly 30 years. Is it finally happening? Probably not. So let’s keep demanding it.

One of the many protest marches against the Iraq war that I organized over the years. That’s me on the right. Photo by PH Yang, used with permission.

I became the director of Peninsula Peace and Justice Center on August 1, 1990. The next day, Iraq invaded Kuwait. By the end of that first week, President George H. W. Bush had deployed 25,000 troops to Saudi Arabia and I had organized my first anti-war demonstration as director. 

Iraq and I go way back.

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Video: Haiti – Ten Years After the Earthquake

It was a pleasure to be able to sit down with my old friend Pierre Labossiere last night. What has happened politically in Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake is a tragedy. After the great optimism of the Aristide years — an optimism rooted in real advances in alleviating poverty and inequality — the elites have seized absolute control once again. And the repression of dissent hearkens back to the dark time of the dictatorship. And it hardly merits a word in the media. That’s why I put time and energy into alternative media.

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Drone strike won’t lead to war. It is war.

Yesterday’s drone strike in Iraq by the US against a top Iranian military commander won’t lead to war. It is war. More precisely, it is an escalation of the US war on Iran that started within months of Trump’s inauguration. 

In his prepared remarks today, Trump said, “We took action last night to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war.” That’s a lie. Last night’s action was a ramping-up of an ongoing war.

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Another roadside distraction. And another. And another.

This is a photo of Lucy the Elephant, America’s oldest roadside attraction. Think of her as a symbol of the year ahead in politics — endless exhortations to “look over there” at one meaningless distraction after another.

Trump’s constant efforts to divert attention away from whatever issue is currently generating negative headlines for him are certainly well known and well understood by now. Ezra Klein of Vox has referred to the distractions as “the core of Donald Trump’s political strategy.” The political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow was moved to pen a strip titled “Are Trump’s Distractions a Distraction From His Distractions?” just a couple of months after Trump was inaugurated.

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Please join me for this forum. It’s important.

This post is adapted from my Not-Very-Often Newsletter, which comes out on a highly irregular basis. The really good news is that it doesn’t land in your inbox very often at all. To subscribe, just send an email to paul@dissentment.com

* Paul George’s Not-Very-Often Retirement Newsletter * 

Dear Friends – Happy New Year! I hope you all are having a relaxing holiday season, because we’re all going to have to work our butts off in the coming year, right? For me, retirement has meant this is the first December in 30 years that I haven’t been sweating out the results of the all-important year-end fundraising drive for Peninsula Peace and Justice Center. Believe me, that’s a huge relief. But I still care, of course, so if you haven’t made a year-end gift to PPJC yet, please click here right away. Thank you very much.

I’d like to urge you to join me for the first Other Voices TV program of the new year. On January 7 at 7:00pm I’ll be hosting Pierre Labossiere, a renowned and beloved Bay Area human rights activist who originally hails from Haiti. And that will be our topic.

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