Writing Candidates

And because now is the season of the primary, we can write letters to the 82681263 Democrats:

Dear Senator Warren,

I am considering voting for you in the primary but I want to hear you speak out against the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Mr. Soleimani was a leader in a sovereign nation. Iran will rightly perceive this as an act of war. Surely we’ve had enough of starting wars in the middle east? How many more lives will we sacrifice there?

I hope I can count on you to put the breaks on Trump’s reckless foreign adventure.

How you respond to this issue will determine whether or not you have my support. Thank you for your time and your service.

For this, I am using the form on her campaign site. With the other candidates, I will probably tweak the wording somewhat, as I don’t want to fib. The circumstances that would lead me to vote for Biden, for example, would be rather fantastical.

Writing letters

Trump wants a war. Fuck him. This is the letter I wrote for my liberal senators:

Dear X,

I was very disturbed to read that the Trump administration carried out an assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Mr. Soleimani was a leader in a sovereign nation. Iran will rightly perceive this as an act of war. Surely we’ve had enough of starting wars in the middle east? How many more lives will we sacrifice there?

I hope congress acts to censure the president and reclaim it’s constitutional mandate to be the only body allowed to declare war. I hope I can count on you to put the breaks on Trump’s reckless foreign adventure.

I live at Y and voted for you in the last election. Thank you for your time and your service.

Best Regards,



I’m going to create a PDF of this letter to fax to my senators, using a free service. I hope they get a large pile of hard-to-ignore paper. It’s important to include my voting address so they know I live within their district and state.

My representative is actually a leftist and my letter to her will take a different tone about the immorality of drone strikes in general and wars of choice in particular. That will be sent by email. I trust her to do the right thing, but being able to cite the support of constituents is always helpful.

Letters to the editors of newspapers continue to carry a certain amount of weight, so I’ll send a few of those as well. Our congress is made up of cowards who will wait to see which way the wind is blowing before they act. We need to make out voices heard.

Trump and the American Nuclear Arsenal

In 1983, the ABC Television Network aired a film, The Day After, which broke all kinds of records for viewership. It’s subject was the aftermath of nuclear war. It’s plot follows a few individuals near Kansas City who survive the initial blast and the next several days after that. The film is fairly well done and so affected Ronald Reagan when he saw it, that he slowed down US nuclear expansion and instead signed some treaties aimed, theoretically, at eventual disarmament.

The backdrops of the film are the familiar landscapes used in post-nuclear war films. However, by the time it was aired, they were already known to be wrong. Scientists interested in mass extinction events, climate change and space had started running simulations on super computers in their spare time to model what might happen if all of the major cities in the west caught on fire all at once. A lot of particulate matter would get into the stratosphere.

Getting particulate matter into the upper atmosphere is now discussed as something we might do on purpose, called geo engineering. These particles would change the colour of the sky, but they also reflect sunlight. This is proposed as an emergency measure against global warming. The reflected sunlight never gets a chance to warm the earth, everything gets slightly colder and darker, but we can burn as much oil as we want.

However, in the case of nuclear war, there would be quite a lot of smoke in the upper atmosphere – enough to make it dark at mid day. And it might stay that way for week or months. Eight days after a full assault, enough sunlight would be blotted out that temperatures would be well below freezing. The cold temperatures and the lack of light would kill most plants within a few weeks – thus depriving animals of food and oxygen.

Fictional depictions of nuclear war, like the film that so effected the president, imagine a war that some might survive, influenced by the testimony of atomic bomb survivors after World War 2. But modern nuclear warheads are so much more powerful than the WWII bombs, that they use those bombs as triggers to start the main explosions. A nuclear war would be an extinction level event on the order of what killed the dinosaurs. Albert Einstein famously said, ‘I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’ This may be true, but it won’t be humans holding the sticks and stones millions of years from now. A nuclear war would end human life.

This existential threat was the subject of much activism through the 1980’s, but after the Cold War ended, many people lost interest. The bombs, however, are still around. Russia and China are modernising theirs. Indeed, Putin is rather proud of the updated weapons, warning people not to mess with Russia.

Not to be outdone, the US is doing a major upgrade of its own nuclear arsenal, significantly enhancing it’s ability to end all human life on earth at a cost of $23 billion last year. The project will cost $1 trillion overall. This endeavour – to enhance the ability of the US to end all life on earth several times over – has been ramped up significantly under Obama. Despite this new increase in existential peril, there has not been much in the way of public discussion on the advisability of being able to kill all humans within a few minutes.

If the moderate Nobel Laureate Obama increased nuclear funding by 55% more than George W Bush’s spending, it’s hard to imagine what the more hawkish Clinton might do. This escalation is not only moving away from disarmament, but is also causing instability. By contrast, the prospect of Trump having the launch codes is even more alarming.

Of course, Putin’s remarks are worrying and mark a major revival in nuclear posturing. This kind of rhetoric is, unfortunately, typical for authoritarians. As a part of Bob Altemeyer’s research on this personality type, he had them play a massive board game called The Global Change Game. This didactic game simulates diplomacy and trade with regard to challenges such as climate change, famine and war.

When Altemeyer organised a game with all authoritarian leadership and players, they escalated conflicts until they reached nuclear war. The facilitators then reset them back 50 years previous to give them another chance, but they quickly escalated back to the brink of nuclear war again when they ran out of time to play.

Domestically, the US has always defended it’s ability to kill all of it’s citizens through American Exceptionalism. Other countries might be unstable, but for unexplained reasons, the US is immune to fascism. Alas, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the US is not as exceptional as it might hope. It can happen here and, indeed, might do so within a few months. We are heading for a scenario where the majority of the world’s nuclear arsenal is held by authoritarian leaders. Given that Trump openly admires Putin, would the two operate on a mutual respect level and abstain from murdering all humans, or will they get into a dick measuring contest and kill us all?

Last year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists nudged the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight, citing climate change and ‘modernisation’ programs, warning that we might be entering a new nuclear age. This new age requires new activism. It is vital that, rather than modernise their nukes, the US move as quickly as possible to disarm them. While there is no elected leader who can be trusted with the keys to extinguish all human life, putting them into the hands of fascists is a completely unacceptable risk. Whatever threat that the US would face were it to unilaterally disarm, is minor when compared to the threat of ending all human life.

We cannot continue to rely on the restrain of elected leaders. Even if the US resists fascism in this election, there will always be, like in any country, the risk of electing a government intent on waging war. There is no way to guarantee the safe handling of nuclear weapons, so long as they exist.

Berkeley Politics

My home town, the city of Berkeley, California is in the public eye for objecting to a US Marine Corps recruiting station downtown, near both the university and the high school. The right wing blogosphere went kind of nuts at this and you can read more about it here, at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

I went today to see the protests. Code Pink in Berkeley The anti-war group, Code Pink was set up in front of the City Hall. They had camped over night. This is a women’s group and most, but not all, of the women seemed to be retirement age. There were also a lot of very energetic young people running around, most ly on the other side of the street. Activists in Berkeley
Also across the street were a bunch of right wing pro-war types. Even in Berkeley, alas. Pro-war vs Youth They had a very loud sound system set up playing Sousa marches and country songs. While I was mingling with the Code Pink types, somebody I knew from Mills came up to me. She said that when the pro-war folks showed up at 5AM, they started chanting “Burn! Burn! Burn!” at Code Pink. “They just seemed very angry.” She said.
Parked behind all the action were a bunch of news vans. Code Pink in Berkeley Whenever the police started herding people around, something they were fairly aggressive about, the news cameras sprung into action.
I didn’t stay at the demo long. I was enlisted to help distribute water to the Berkeley High students. Many of them had cut class to go protest. I heard one girl telling her friends that her “mommy” had given her permission to skip school and protest. The kids involved seemed to be very diverse – girls and boys, many races, many teen sub groups. Skaters, goths, and jocks were all out there, all having a good time.
I quit distributing water when the kids started throwing it on each other. I’m not going to carry several liters of water around on my shoulder so they can play with it. As I got on my bike to leave, I went very near one of the news vans. Inside, I heard the anchor ranting about how this sort of thing has been going on for 40 years. The unbiased media was full of scorn for the peace movement. Isn’t it tired to spend the last 40 years advocating for social justice and non-violent conflict resolution?
Even if some individuals have been advocating the same thing in the same way for almost half a century, that doesn’t make their cause less right. Peaceful Hippie in Berkeley

It’s alllllliiiiive!!!!!!

Caravia asks, rhetorically, I hope, “Is feminism dead?” There’s nothing as fun as answering a rhetorical questions, so therefore, my answer is “if it was, you wouldn’t be asking that question.”

She goes on to point out that the key players in the Iraq war boondoggle have been almost all men. That’s true, but I would caution against the drawing of certain conclusions based on that. Lest anyone think that women are automatically better, more peaceful leaders, may I draw your attention to Marget Thatcher. I think it’s an error to assert the automatic superiority of women in any matter. Women suck just as much as men. We already have equality in stupidity.
The reason fewer women were in war planning has to do with the spectacular level of sexism in the US. However, it may also be the case that the war itself is a result of the same sexism. The US seems to be going through a certain crisis of masculinity. There’s a desire afoot to assert a masculine presence. Columnists fret about a metaphorical castration of the armed services. Voter’s positive evaluations of Bush before his re-election also seem to be mostly based on the perception of him as the more manly candidate. Therefore, I would say that the lack of women in high levels of the Pentagon did not cause this disastrous foreign adventure, but instead, is also an effect of the same social forces that caused the war. What better way to assert a hyper-masculine presence than kicking some ass.
Note that the war was marketed as “ass kicking.” Toby Kieth sang, in the widely played song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, “An’ you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. / ‘Cos we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” Of course, it was not Iraq that “messed with” the United States, it was Al Quaeda, but an extensive misinformation campaign caused the majority of Americans to believe that Iraq was at fault. Kieth sang, “A mighty sucker-punch came flying in from somewhere in the back.” obviously alluding to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. A sucker-punch is an unexpected hit: a tap on the shoulder from behind followed by a fist to the face. He felt this was a damage to the dignity of the US, singing metaphorically about a “big black eye,” which is used, typically, not to just refer to an physical injury, but also a humiliation. In the barroom brawl in which he imagines foreign policy occurring, the US’ masculinity has been compromised.
Alas, the “boot in ass” did not go as well as some might have hoped. Osama bin Laden was at large. There was no catharsis in extending the suffering of Afghanis and the already-destroyed infrastructure in Afghanistan. By contrast, there were plenty of things to blow up in Iraq.
The recipient of a sucker punch must retaliate to the punch or risk being labeled a “pussy.” “Pussy,” of course, is a crude word for a vagina as well as a descriptor for an insufficiently masculine man. The symbolism of the toppelling towers was not lost on the American subconscious. We were castrated, a hole left where once a tower stood.
The presence of more women in the Pentagon, then, wouldn’t mean the women there would be any smarter or less loyal Bushie than their male colleagues, but it would imply that the crisis of masculinity was lessened or passed, thus causing a decrease in sexism and an increase in female participation.
Caravia goes on to note:

The idea with . . . peace movements driven by women is to raise awarness about the consequences of the war, the millions of civilian casualties. Not only the killed, but . . . the raped women, carrying the children of their rapists, the people killed in genocides around the world.

Her implication is, then, that male-driven peace movements focus on something other than civilian casualties. Perhaps they focus more on the (not inconsiderable) harm suffered by American soldiers? This is an interesting assertion and one that bears further analysis. It’s certainly the case that woman are more able to have an immediate empathy with foreign victims of rape. American women are taught rape fear from an early age. Outside areas at night, mall parking garages, even the homes of friends are all fraught with danger. This ever-present rape awareness creates a connection between American women activists and their sisters in war zones. (I can’t speak for European women’s experiences.)
Others seem to have a harder time empathizing with women. In his song, Keith clearly imagines his metaphorical protagonist as male. What happens when somebody “sucker punches” a woman? Firstly, I doubt many would refer to it as a sucker-punch, but rather as an assault. And the response to an assault isn’t to get into a brawl, but rather a more legalistic approach of calling the police, pressing charges, etc: a due process where, ideally, everyone involved is treated fairly and justly. This kind of response is one that might not work as well in a song (“Whip out my cell, before you can run / dial the operator at 9-1-1. / The police will come and put you in jail. / It takes 72 hours to set bail”), but is one that doesn’t harm innocent bystanders or set off a larger, regional bar-brawl.
That Keith and others couldn’t imagine themselves as acting as anything other than a humiliated man may stem from a horror at their tower being replaced by a hole but more likely shows that the crisis of masculinity was already present, probably brought about by other social factors, probably including economic insecurity. This shows that a thriving feminist movement could result in peace and also that it’s tied to other struggles, like class inequality and the healthcare crisis.

Xtain Pacifists

So right before fall break, I happened upon a very small peace vigil in “downtown” Middletown. It was a few old guys with peace signs standing in front of the episcopal church. So I stood with them for a while, holding a sign with a pro-peace message on it and decided to come back the next monday after fall break. Being active is important. Maybe more so in tiny towns than in big cities where everyone expects you to be.

today I came back and it was raining, not hard but apparently enough to make the ink run on their signs, so they were standing in the church door, instead of down on the sidewalk. They were all fired up about the march on Washington, which they had gone to, but I did not. I stuck my bike in the vestibule and went to stand with them. Only one guy was holding a sign and it said “Jesus is the Prince of Peace.” I picked up some sign about the administration lying and we stood in the church door while they stood around and dissed the Green party. The Greens in CT are apparently less together than they are in CA and are apparently looking to get some of the peace crowd to join the party. These guys were tired of the Greens trying to convert them, especially since they’re so inneffective (because they have so few members) blah blah blah. Uh, yeah. I’m a Green. they’ve been tremendously successful in Germany. then the subject switched to SUVs. A woman there was talking about how tiny women drive SUVs. tiny women! They have no buisiness driving that kind of car! they get in accidents!
I switched the subject to SUVs as a symptom of class warfare, lest I start defending the right of tiny women to drive any car they damn well please. and it went around for a while until the Quaker woman standing next to me said that she was uncomfortable with the Jesus sign. I pointed out that it was impossible to tell whether the guy holding it was a pacifist or a bible thumper. He got adamant about how this was a religious peace group and he was not taking Jesus out of it. It was bad enough that they had to quit carrying the pro-Palestine signs because the local Rabbi had complained. and then the subject wended around to Jews.
It’s a small town. folks in a small town might not know the difference between Zionists and Jewish people as a group. The problem with Jews . . .. Oh but that one guy that spoke at the march was Jewish . . . blah blah blah. yikes. So I ran away.
As I was retrieving my bike, they seem to have come back to their religious (Christian) identity. “We’re a religious group!” the guy with the Jesus sign was saying. Quakers. Catholics. etc. “Actually, I’m an atheist.” I said as I snapped on my helmet. yes really. maybe, indeed I would turn to God on my deathbed, who can know the future?
they want me to come back next week, maybe so they can convert me back to being catholic, or maybe so I can convert them all to being Green.
I reported all of this to Aaron, my housemate, and he said, “wow. Greens. Women. Athesists. you’re lucky they didn’t start talking about gay people.”
indeed. I need a new peace group.

Day of Homeland Resistance

so after staying up too late last night wasting my time and money and hours of my life, which I will never have back by watching something on a par with Bulletproof Monk, I got up early this morning to go to a protest outside of San Francisco City Hall. I showed up 15 minutes late and there was no one there. the date on my watch is mis-set, so I became convinced I had the wrong day. I started to leave when someone approached me and asked me where the protest was. so we went looking for it and found some other members of the band. We played one song and the sherrifs said that we had to stop since the protest did not have a permit to be near city hall yet. So we marched and played over to where the rest of the protesters were (by the bart station) and then listened to some stock speeches covering all leftist issues in one breath. We need jstice, housing, healthcare, peace equality, and end to evil and more good. Yes.
then we marched back to city hall, but the band did not play, because the protesters wanted to chant. then we listened to more speaches for good and against evil. then we did not play because the protesters wanted to chant. Then everyone was assembling into a freedom for Palestine march to the Isreal consulate. It was a funeral procession. so we figured out some funeral songs to play. But the protesters started chanting again and I decided that I didn’t want to carry a tuba over to a consulate and not play it. And i don’t know as much as I should about the Isreal/Palestine conflict as I should anyway. I bought a Chomsky book on it, but haven’t read it yet. so I took bart over to Christi’s office
I have recordings of all the speeches and one of the two songs that we played. I also have recordings of comments people made to me about the tuba on bart. the best/wort one, “wow, that’s kind of sexual.” thank you. goodbye.

Sousaphone Protesting

I meant to post first about Tennis Roberts and then talk about the protest that I went to today, but I ended up digressing so much into tuning that I feared Tiffany would just stop reading the post, since she has no patience for rambling about tuning. So I’ve broken it into two posts.
Christi’s uncle came over today to pick up our old imac. Late last night, I reofrmatted the purple imac’s hard drive and put OS9 on it and a few applications. It’s really much happier as an os9 machine. It runs fast and has a ton of hard drive space. But there’s something very sad about about reformatting a computer and not restoring it. It’s soul is gone. even if azll your data is moved over and you finally figured out how to move your bookmarks, it’s still… No two computers are exactly the same. They all have bit rot. But they all have it in different ways. I should light a candle or something for the repose of the soul of the purple imac.
Um, anyway, Christi’s uncle came over and we chatted for a while and then got lunch and then Christi started showing him how to use word. Christi’s uncle, Forrest, works in a dump. He drives the forklift around. Maybe he runs the whole place. Apparently he sees imacs at the dump all the time, but he didn’t know what they were until now. He just fished a plasma cutter out and now has a very nice welding rig. He says that he’s seen every item in our house at the dump. He didn’t know people were like that. What are they thinking about, throwing away their imacs?? Anyway, Christi asked him to fish them out. We could do some cool super-array of imacs runnign supercollider or something. It would be awesome.
So I left them to go play at the Okalnd docks protest. Last month, protesters formed a picket line across the entrance to the docks for APL, a military contracter that ships war materials around. The Oakland police shot at the protesters with “non-leathal” weapons and ended up also hitting some longshoremen and others. This was roundly condemned. I was in Seattle for the first one and missed it (which is ok, since I don’t really want to be shot at). But the BLO was playing this time, so I lugged my sousaphone on to BART. My poor horn is covered with duct tape, which is sealing off several leaks. Many people felt obligated to make duct tape jokes about it. Yes, it is ready for biochemical attack. I just used the tape cuz I like John Ridge. Anyway.
A large croud of people was assembled outside of the West Oakland Bart at 5:00. At the same time, a group of people was protesting outside of the APL building in Seattle. Cool cross-costal actavism. People were handing out flyers and maps and stuff. Other folks were addressing the croud about non-violence and strategy and various important annoucements, whcih I ignored in favor of adding duct tape to the horn. You can’t have too much duct tape.
some body gave a me a free newspaper that had in the mast head linked female signs with fists in them an a hammer and sickle. I was very excited to get the radical, communist, anarchist lesbian newspaper, but I can’t find the queer content in it. Anyway, One of the organizers, named Gopal, decided that the band should lead off the march to the docks. I was darn hot and it’s a long way to the end of the docks. I had to stop and pant several time during songs, none of which I had ever played before. The sax player who was being drum major would give me a quick run-down of the notes in the bass line, which I would promptly forget. But I was getting the hang of it the more we marched. and it was very nice to get a break at the last dock. I laid on the ground next to my horn and was then surrounded by press taking my picture. I guess exhausted sousaphone pkayers are picture-esque. Also, the horn is quite a bit bigger than me. I can see the captions now, “tiny sousaphone player can’t actually play horn.” Anyway, I might be in the Oakland Tribune tomorrow and the Daily Cal.
The rest of the band was coming in a 6:30 shift and was marching up from the bart station, so we decided to march back to gate 3 and meet up with them. The BLO is cool, because it has a strong emphasis on improvisation. We’ll play the head of the song and them maybe a verse or something and then the drum major will point at somebody and they’ll solo over the chord changes of the head. This goes on for a long time. Some of the folks a great solosists. Then we’ll play the bridge section, then maybe the head again and then maybe end the song. Some times we’ll sing the words instead of playing. So we played several songs on the way back to the gate and then played a bunch of songs there. We had just finished playing a very upbeat rendidtion of “We Shall Overcome,” when Gopal announced that we had oversome and had sucessfully stopped work at the docks for the shift.
So we all marched very triumphantly back to the BART station. It was a huge, jubulant crowd. when you see pictures in the news papers of giant crowds of leftist europeans carrying signs and celebrating because they won some thing. It was like that. We played and sang “Le Internationale,” but I only know the Billy Brag words and so couldn’t sing along. During the entire evening, the cops just sat and watched. Some of them bobbed their head a long with the music. They were completely hands-off. A definite improvement.
During the triumphant march back, my back was having no more of it. I had already been playing and carrying the horn non-stop for more than three hours. It’s a heavy horn. So I staggered back to the BART station, without playing anything. I felt vaguely guilty, but it hurt more than I wanted to deal with. Pain while playing music is not a good thing.
It doesn’t make you better, it just makes you hurt. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have a reputatiuon for being the whiny new tuba player or something. I’m very embarassed that I couldn’t keep it up the whole time. I ought to be able to handle my horn. I expect that taking the sousaphone back up will get me back into shape though. And I expect that my shoulder is going to be screwed up for several days. All the weight goes on the left shoulder, high up, on the neck paert, right where I gave myself a nastly sunburn on saturday. But it wasn’t bad until the bitter end.
We got back to the bart station and I laid on the ground again. I think more news types may have taken my picture, but I’m not sure. After a while, my shoulder no longer felt like it was on fire and played a couple more songs with the band. Then I staggered towards the BART platform while they were still playing.
So we won! It was awesome! (“awesome” is the word of the day.) And very high energy the whole time. I couldn’t beleive it when I realized it was past 9:00 and I had been marching around for almost 4.5 hours. It’s also great because I don’t like going to things by myself and can’t always find anyone to protest with me. I can’t wait until next time. Maybe I’ll do some pushups between now and then to build some strength.

the BLO

I have an mp3 of the BLO playing the commie anthem. I coudl tell you why I haver just this exerpt, but I would have to kill you. Disk 3 exerpt. It’s short, low-fi and loud. It’s also a recording of what tuba players hear in disorganized marching bands. You could use this for a paper, if you had to.