Friday, October 1, 2010

Offline for now

Since I'm no longer in San Diego, I've retired this blog.

My new blog is online here:

Coyote's Blog

I now focus primarily on digital activism, though still with an emphasis on peace and social justice.

San Diego Peace Guy

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Looking Backwards

President Obama made a speech yesterday. Before I get to that, I want to tell you a story.

Imagine a middle class family, the Fishers. Imagine further that they are homeowners, being foreclosed on by a bank that was guilty of malfeasance in the current financial crisis. They need $100,000.00 within two weeks, in order to avoid foreclosure. Mr. Fisher is a computer tech, recently laid off from his job repairing computers at an affiliate of the same bank that is foreclosing on his home. Mrs Fisher is an attorney. Their three sons, Billy, Mike, and Sam, are high school students.

Mr. Fisher realizes that if he were to make a device that could fool an ATM machine into thinking he had legal access to the bank's accounts, he could withdraw enough money to stop the foreclosure. Mrs Fisher believes that they should try to refinance the house, or negotiate with the bank, or as a last resort, declare bankruptcy.

Mr Fisher scoffs at that, and sets to work. He builds a complicated electronic key card. With his son Billy driving the getaway car, he goes to a several local ATM machines over a period of about a week, and withdraws a total of $100,000.00.

The Fishers pay the bank and save their home from foreclosure. When Mrs Fisher finds out what has happened, she is outraged. Mr Fisher, and Billy Fisher, move out to the furnished garage. Mrs Fisher takes over management of the household finances, and becomes the de facto head of the household. Her sons Mike and Sam fully support her in this.

After a few weeks, the police catch up with the Fishers. Mr Fisher and Billy are arrested, and go to trial. Mrs Fisher, as head of household, and as an attorney, reluctantly takes his case.

She argues in court that indeed, mistakes were made, and that it is absolutely true, that rigging an ATM machine to grant access to a bank's accounts is in fact robbery. However, she notes that the family's immediate security was threatened, and that without the admittedly flawed and shameful behavior of Mr Fisher, the family could have lost their home. She advises the court that Mr Fisher is now employed as a janitor in the local high school, and is no longer pursuing computer technology as a career.

She urges the court to look forward, not backward. She argues that clearly the Fishers have embraced change, as evidenced by the fact that Mrs Fisher is now the head of household, and that Mr Fisher has taken up a humble residence in the family garage. She explains that it would do no good to dredge up the past, and reiterates that it's time to look to the future, and focus on what needs to be done to keep the family afloat. She goes on to say that she reviewed very carefully the "enhanced cash withdrawal technique" used by Mr Fisher, and that though it could be argued it was effective in the short term, its use has damaged the family reputation.

Mr Fisher is currently on trial for grand theft, with Billy charged as an accessory. This makes it very clear that in the long term, the family's security was endangered, not helped. She explains that she has reviewed the matter with her sons Mike and Sam, who were and are both opposed to the technique. It is now a family decision to no longer use enhanced cash withdrawal. It would be unjust to have Billy suffer because he was misled by Mr Fisher, when Billy thought he was just working hard to keep the Fisher family safe.

In fact, fully sixty percent of the Fisher Family remain opposed to the use of enhanced withdrawal. She promises the court that in her position as head of household, she has forbidden its future use, and requests that the court drop the charges, since it's obvious to everyone that this will no longer happen in the future.

As the above is clearly a convincing argument, the court drops the charges, and the Fishers go home. Mr and Mrs Fisher remain estranged, with Mr Fisher and Billy exiled to the garage for the foreseeable future. 3 out of 5 Fishers are determined that enhanced cash withdrawal will no longer happen, and only 2 out of 5 still believe that it helped to keep the family safe. We have nothing to worry about.

The above is an admitted cliche, a simple device to highlight what I feel is a simple truth obscured by pundits, politicians, and news anchors using euphemisms. The real truth is never discussed except on blogs.

President Obama has clearly stated, repeatedly, that he has “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” Last night, he referred to torture as a "shortcut" and said that while "we got information from individuals that were subjected to these techniques", that fact doesn't let us know whether we could have gotten the same information "without resorting to these techniques".

Is it me? Why is this even a debate in our country? What world do we live in, where the use of torture (Torture!) is debated in the media, and whether it is effective or not is even a matter for consideration in the discussion? Why is there any question about whether or not to prosecute those who have admitted to committing these crimes? I know that I am not alone in this position, and for full disclosure, I support Obama in most domestic issues. I differ on many, though not all, foreign policy issues. I wonder what it is he's trying to do. He's too intelligent to think that by trying to brush off the rule of law, that he will quiet dissent on this, either in the U.S. or internationally. My hope is that he has a broad plan to encourage continued discussion, and to keep people riled up about it so that the issue doesn't die. My fear is that he just wants it to go away.

Either way, it doesn't matter. Our job is the same. Push him. Push the Justice Department. Push hard.

This is not a political argument. This is about upholding the rule of law. The right, enabled by the media, has characterized this "debate" as partisan bickering, and has insinuated that if (and when) Democrats are implicated, that the left would immediately shut up. To me it's clear that Democrats as well as Republicans are implicated, both as direct actors and as informed bystanders, and that a prosecutor needs to investigate and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Click here to Email Eric Holder. Tell him to prosecute. Tell him to uphold the rule of law. Tell him to uphold his oath.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Veterans Untreated

This is a story all too common, very clearly portraying how low a priority veteran's care is, and how misdiagnosis and neglect by both the military and the VA can lead to tragedy.

I am hopeful that this message, clearly given by our own Jim Brown, Congressman Bob Filner, and brilliantly reported by Noah Gonzales will help energize us in this next phase of our struggle.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Stop Blackwater Protest September 13, 2008 Otay Mesa

Click here for a full-size flyer in English
Chascar aquí para un folleto completo en Español

Directions: 805 South to 905 East
Right on Brittania, Left onto Siempre Viva Rd
(park on the street)

for more info call 619-263-9301 or 619-528-8883
(en Español 619-270-5470)
or go to

Sponsored by:
San Diego Peace Resource Center

Activist San Diego

Citizens Oversight Project

San Diego Veterans For Peace

San Diego Coalition for Peace & Justice

(and others)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tip of the Iraq Iceberg

At the bottom of the post is a graphic I created, with the intention of showing what lies beneath the general understanding of the majority of Americans. This gives a dramatic visual representation of the actual human cost of the Iraq War.

The numbers flashing on the news screen are almost always reflective only of U.S. military deaths. There are reports daily of Iraqi civilians being killed, 10 here, 15 there, 5 someplace else, but those seem to be somehow edited out of the public consciousness.

The Virginia Tech shootings were front page news for weeks across the nation, and still from time to time there are stories about the families of the victims. There is the equivalent of a Virginia Tech in Iraq every day.

This is a photograph of a pair of baby shoes that I presented to Vicki Middleton in January 2007. She is Duncan Hunter's chief of staff, and I gave them to her when I participated in a lobby effort to the San Diego congressional delegation. I am Duncan Hunter's constituent, so I made the presentation.

Attached to the shoes is the name of an Iraqi child killed by an American bomb. Her name was Akea Hmza Mushad Alhgebr, and she was eleven months old.

The current graphic shows the human cost as of March 24, 2008. Click on a particular section of the map for links to citations for those statistics.

Click Here to see a larger version of the map.

Click Here for a larger version of the map - with citations.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Race & Politics

This speech, more than any other, convinces me that Barack Obama is the best hope for America. I have heard no speech in the history of our country that more succinctly and eloquently defines the problem we face with racism. It covers the entirety of the issue, from both sides, recognizing the justice that is beneath the real issues faced by all Americans. At the same time, it offers the solution. This man does not shy away from divisive issues, he does not hide from controversy, he confronts it, and in these "mere words" he begins to actually rekindle my hope for a better future.

If you are receiving this post as an email, you can view the video by clicking here.

Yes we can.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama and Hope

I've had some time to sit and reflect recently, and many things have been going through my mind.

To start with, I think I need to explain a few things about myself, and about why I am posting this blog. I am pretty involved locally with the peace and justice movement here in San Diego. The group I'm most involved with is the San Diego chapter of Veterans For Peace. I also do some work with the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, and am a freeway blogger.

I am deeply concerned about the direction of the United States. In March of 2006, I came to a turning point, and that is when I started to become active politically. At first I believed that there was momentum behind the peace movement, and that it was time to take back our government. I went to peace rallies. I sent letters. I became involved with Vets for Peace, formally joining and being elected as an officer in our local chapter. Following the election, full of hope and feeling that the newly elected Democratic majority would be behind us, in January of 2007, I went to Washington DC. I participated in a large national protest, and an effort to lobby congress to defund the war. The effort failed, largely because the Democrats have accepted the Republican talking point that defunding the war is not supporting the troops.

I continued to work at it, writing my congressman repeatedly (I have the good fortune to have Duncan Hunter as my representative here in California's 52nd district). In addition, I have participated in meetings with the other members of the San Diego congressional delegation, gotten involved peripherally in the East County Democratic Club, and jumping on the bandwagon from time to time.

I have become frustrated with trying to influence politicians. I now feel pretty strongly, most of the time, that involvement in the mainstream political process has become increasingly irrelevant. Grassroots activism is what fills most of my time, and as my friend Elliott Adams says (to paraphrase): "The members of congress are not our leaders, they are our followers." By this he explained that he means that politicians will blow with the wind, and if they feel that their jobs depend on it, they will change their vote. If enough people get motivated to change things, the politicians will respond out of fear of losing the next election. So since my disillusionment with most attempts to directly influence politicians, I have been learning and attempting to apply grassroots actions to try and move the public.

I am, however, a political geek, and while mostly my politics are of the grassroots variety, and not specifically aimed at the political process, I pay attention. The candidate for President that I most identify with, and whose positions I share most closely is Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich has no chance in this election. A few days ago, Dennis Kucinich asked Iowans that supported him to caucus for Obama as their second choice. This intrigued me, and made me take a second look at this candidate.

About eight months ago I did research on all of the various candidates. In the midst of that, I went to Obama's website, watched his videos along with everyone else's, and the one thing that struck me was that while I agreed with the basic positions of most of the candidates, Obama was the only one to actually move me.

I read Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. After reading it, I was impressed, more or less, but was not satisfied with some of his positions. I'm pretty liberal on social issues. Obama's tepid stance on gay rights and to be honest, his identity as a deeply faithful Christian combined to turn me off a little bit. That combined with the standard American politician position okeydokey-ing the use of force as a tool of foreign policy, even only if "justified", turned me elswhere.

Now, looking back at that, I may have reacted with a bit of prejudice because of his relative conservatism compared to where I stand on things, and because of his faith. I have moved my politics increasingly to the left, and Obama's position is carved out pretty far out towards the center, so that takes me out of my comfort zone a bit. My second look has caused me to reevaluate what I think. To be completely honest here, there is no candidate, except Dennis Kucinich, who even approaches where I am politically, and I am enough of a pragmatist to recognize that I have to vote for someone who is likely to end the war, restore the rule of law in America, restore our civil liberties and the checks and balances in our government, and attempt to restore our sullied reputation internationally.

Kucinich might not be able to do that even if it was possible for him to be elected, because he is, like me, a liberal nonviolent tree-hugging hippie moonbat. It is difficult to motivate people when they see you as an extremist.

Obama gave his Iowa Caucus victory speech tonight:

Damn it's a good speech, it made me cry. I'm an optimist, despite everything, and Obama stakes out a position that we can all see as rational. He includes all of us, as Ghandi did, and as Dr. King did. He could move the center. I feel some of the hope that he speaks of, and I haven't felt that from our political process for a while. I'm not convinced yet, but my vote meter just moved three pegs in the Obama direction.