It's difficult to grasp the facts behind the murky fog of Venezuelan crisis. Based more or less on intuitions, but also credible documents, some blame most of the crisis on the CIA. Some national security types, abhorring populism, claim that the Venezuela state is consolidating dictatorial power precisely by winning so many elections! Others, while friendly to Venezuela, blame the Caracas government for failing to address the problems of violent crime and economic malaise.
The Peace Exchange Bulletin
Published by Tom Hayden, The Peace Exchange Bulletin is a reader-supported journal, critically following the Pentagon's Long War in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as the failed U.S. wars on drugs and gangs, and U.S. military responses to nationalism and poverty around the world.
Famed Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is being pressured by anti-government forces to condemn the Maduro government in Caracas, a step that could force him to leave El Sistema, the national music program enrolling one half-million Venezuelan youth. The LA Times inaccurately reported that Dudamel directed a youth orchestra in Maracay on February 12 with President Nicolas Maduro attending, on the day when demonstrators were fatally shot. The Dudamel concert was in Caracas that day, two hours away.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. This essay is the preface from a forthcoming book edited by Professor Robert Cohen.
It is a worthy time to study and treasure the eloquent speeches of Mario Savio, "freedom's orator" as the historian Robert Cohen rightly calls him.
Spurred by persistent environmental campaigners, Governor Jerry Brown claimed, "we're on our way to a million electric vehicles," in his January State of the State address. The Brown initiative, likely to be followed up by legislation, asserts California's leadership in renewable energy, as the federal government remains paralyzed. The "million green cars" goal is certain to be copied by other states seeking to build a clean energy economy.
Friends of liberation theology:
I have to admit that I was concerned when I learned that our new Pope Francis emerged from Argentina's dictatorship. Not again, I thought, a Pope on the side of another dictator, in the spirit of the Santa Fe Declaration, come to bury liberation theology more deeply, another Ratzinger. After all, in an institution so centralized, how could the spirit of the progressive church be manifested? I still don't know the answer, but Harvey Cox's excellent perspective in The Nation is convincing. Francis is on the side of liberation theology, working from within, towards his moment. His choice is more miraculous, if you will, than the rise of Barack Obama in 2008.
When Pope Francis is the left-wing of the world, I say God dammit, celebrate Christmas and the risen Jesus! I know Francis has a ways to go on certain issues, but denouncing the fundamentalists' obsession with sex and gender is a start. What we often think is Lost is Found. If the church of the poor is rising, can a party of the poor be far behind? If Latin America is lifting the pope, is that not Good Tidings for the immigrant? If the Pope takes the name of Francis, does that not mean that the earth and universe are consecrated? I don't mean to preach to you, brothers and sisters, but it's that time of year when the Spirit is born where least expected. Have courage, gain wisdom, laugh at the powerful, spread love, rant when necessary, raise your fists, organize, and keep Lucifer at bay- or at least out of office. If Francis can be pope, anything is possible.
On Friday, November 29, as Americans chose between sleeping off Thanksgiving turkey and shopping at dawn for electronic and clothing bargains, another big factory fire burned in Bangladesh.
At first glance, it seems a horribly familiar story line: one of the largest garment factories in Bangladesh -- employing perhaps 18,000 workers -- burnt down. This follows the tragic Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers in April, and the Tazreen fire that killed 112 in November. As a recent report by the International Labor Rights Forum documented (and for full disclosure, to which I contributed), Bangladesh has been a careless inferno of workers' lives over the last 20 years.
Lawrence O'Donnell last night was questioning why Governor Brian Schweitzer was in Iowa questioning Hillary's support for the Iraq War. Good question, but Karen Finney's answer was pure Hillary spin. Anyone who hopes that Iraq is "old news" still has to explain Hillary's unexplainable support for the wars in Afghanistan and Libya, her demand for a missile strike on Syria and her general support for the unwinnable unaffordable wars of the last decade. Votes in the peace state of Iowa will want answers. Equally important is her embrace of Wall Street at a time when most Democratic voters are demanding an alternative to economic inequality. The question is why she is in disagreement with a majority of her Democratic base?
Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I'm 64 74?
December 11, 2013
I turn 74 today, and with your support feel fully ready to write my brains out until they last. I am oddly proud that my work is uncompensated in this money-made country. That's right, the hundred or so Peace Exchange Bulletin articles of the past year - unpaid labor. The dozens of The Nation and Huffington Post pieces - also unpaid. An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times or The Guardian - a couple of hundred bucks towards my kid's education and music classes. Two years' work on a book - maybe a thousand bucks a month, with no money for advertisements and promotion. You get the picture, because many of you are in the same boat or an even leakier one.
Before 2013 ends, please make a contribution to the PJRC to pay for my stellar research assistant, Emma Taylor, and our minor administrative expenses. Nothing's free, but we are as free as it gets. If you cannot donate to the PJRC, please pledge to copy, paste and circulate our materials as widely as you can. And send feedback too.
One of the nicest messages I've received recently came from Michael Ratner, the human rights attorney who heads the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which has been litigating against stop-and-frisk. When I wrote in The Nation about William Bratton's record in Los Angeles, Michael replied, "Tom, that was a very good and important piece. No one else has said it." Additionally, he tweeted the article to his six thousand followers. This support is invaluable.
My own favorite five days this year was lobbying in D.C. against the impending US missile attack on Syria. With my friends in Progressive Democrats of America (You should join up!), we published an argument against escalation in the insider paper, Roll Call, visited over one hundred congressional offices, and witnessed the shortest successful peace movement in memory - the escalation was called off after a week!
Also dear to my heart are the California prisoners who went on hunger strike to oppose decades of solitary confinement. I wrote for the Los Angeles Times and The Nation about their struggle, lobbied Governor Jerry Brown and key Senators for hearings, and finally, we succeeded in forcing the Legislature to engage with their life-and-death issues.
For 2014, I am committed to writing the unknown history of the Cuban Revolution and the New Left, and speaking everywhere I can on behalf of normalization of relations before President Obama leaves office. My intuition and experience tell me that it's doable at last. My new book on Cuba will be out next year, published by Seven Stories Press.
I am blessed to watch and witness the seasons of life go by, in awe of the unpredictability of history and with faith that social movements are always being born.
Director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center