Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bitter Dead-Enders -- Republican and Democrat

The Dead Enders in America tried to ring the death knell for Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy last week. And for America too.
The Dead-Enders -- those that wish only to fight the culture wars over God, abortion, guns and evolution while America slips into financial ruin, spiritual death and political dementia -- the Dead Enders finally got the “Gotcha!” they’ve been waiting for.
Obama’s remarks at a San Francisco fund raiser about “bitter” white, working class folk clinging to their guns, religion and xenophobia will be playing at your local Swift-Boating Cineplex until the Democratic National Convention, and possibly held over until November. And its popularity as a dirty trick will be helped in no small part by the leader of the Democratic Dead Enders – Hillary Clinton, who brought out all guns to blast Obama for nothing more than his candor and insight.
Because the “Gotcha!” that they’ve got is not that Obama actually dissed the white ethnics known as Reagan Democrats, the gotcha is that Clinton, Fox News and CNN now have official “proof” that Barack Obama is too smart and honest to be president of the United States.
An unabashedly smart and honest leader, in many ways, is what this election is really about. And why it is a seminal opportunity in what is too often a horse-and-pony show. This might be the last election in which America can choose leadership which will alter what increasingly appears to be our fate: that the American Experiment of the last 250 years will turn out to be an evolutionary dead end.
Think of it this way: What nation in the world – given the choice -- would ally itself to the US through NAFTA rather than join the European Union with its economic tigers from Ireland to Spain? Given the choice who would choose to be paid in yankee dollars rather than Euros as you’d be making 50 percent more? Given the choice who would choose the American health care, or child care system, over Canada’s? Who would rather ride the Amtrak “Water Buffalo” than a sleek Japanese or European “Gazelle”? Who would choose the American public school system which produces the most under-educated graduates in the industrialized world?
Given the choice who would choose to be America? The world’s lone “hyper power” is a reviled bully mired in the bloody chaos of Iraq where its multi-billion dollar state-of-the-art military is getting bested by ragtag militias. Our economy is wilting under the burden of the Iraq fiasco, draconian tax cuts and one ruinous financial ponzi scheme after another brought about by a frenzy of deregulation which the Republican Dead Enders promised 25 years ago would set us free. Who indeed would choose America except the poor immigrants so mistrusted and hated by the very Dead Enders who’ve led us to the precipice?
And all of this occurs in the warming pressure cooker of climatic change when once again the United States – with 5 percent of the world’s population greedily devouring 25 percent of the world’s resources -- is completely out of step with science and forward thinking policy.
This election truly offers a choice between the Dead End ideas of the past 25 years and a new way of thinking and seeing – a chance for a new majority to emerge which is not bound by the self-destructive, divisiveness of the phony culture wars. And a desire to vote for Hillary so she can be the first female president is as Dead End an idea as voting for Obama so he can be the first black president. Racism and sexism are as real and important phenomenon as patriotism and terrorism. But they are still “isms” in an age dominated by “tions” – pollution, education, United Nations, solutions.
Barack Obama represents the only choice in this election for some new ideas to lead us to a new way of doing things, a new way of organizing our national priorities. To do this he must be braver than the average politician and smarter than the average citizen.
And that might be why the bell tolled last week.
In case you missed it Obama, answering a question about why he lags in the polls in Pennsylvania, said
“You go into these small towns…and like a lot of small towns…
the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing replaced
them. And they fell through the Clinton and Bush administration,
and each successive administration has said that somehow these
communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s
not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion
or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant
sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their
And from that prescient analysis, filled with his usual empathy for people, the McCain and Clinton Swift-Boaters are fashioning a noose from the word “bitter” with which to hang both Obama’s presidential ambitions and America’s hopes for real change.
The increasingly desperate Clinton responded with a treacly homily about her church going family, and Daddy teaching her to shoot -- as if she has faith in any god other than her own ambition, or is shooting for anything other than her own coronation. She will use his honesty to leverage more Super Delegates to her tally and drag out the nomination fight, feeding the Republicans ammunition as she goes.
And she is helping to hand the Republican Dead Enders precisely the poison bullet they need: to tar Obama as the too-smart boogey man; the “elitist, effete intellectual” who makes us too nervous about our own intellectual failings to win the presidency.
Clinton is already trying to turn Obama’s insightfulness into attack ads portraying him as somehow un-American for calling it not only as he sees it, but as it actually is.
But should he yet squeak past Clinton’s Dead Ender juggernaut the Republican Dead Enders will use it against him without mercy.
Obama may yet prove himself too smart for America’s breeches. And if we reject him for it then we deserve the dunce, and the dunce cap, we will get.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why Martin Luther King Had To die

King's Death Doomed U.S. and All

will be published Friday 4/4/08 Daily Hampshire Gazette

Forty years ago April 4th a shot rang out in Memphis which changed America forever when it killed Martin Luther King Jr. But the seeds of that assassin’s bullet were sown exactly a year before when King delivered his greatest and most everlasting speech: “Why I oppose the war in Vietnam”.
For the most important question is not the tail-chasing, conspiracy laden “Who killed King?” But the far more tragic “Why did King have to die?”
And on April 4th, 1967 he gave the speech which sealed his doom – and maybe America’s too. For in that speech he laid down his agreed upon mandate as a civil rights leader, and picked up the mantle of true revolutionary. In that speech he made it clear that his goal was not for Rosa Parks to sit wherever she wanted, but to dismantle what he said were the very foundations on which America stood. The “triple evil… of racism, economic exploitation and militarism.”
Since his death America sadly has embraced the sanitized King of the 1963 “I have a dream” speech who wanted nothing more than for “little black boys and girls to join hands with little white boys and girls” in a rainbow version of America The Great. But by 1967 King himself had come to realize how meager that vision was, and found himself compelled against all advice to issue his unequivocal call for a “radical revolution in values.”
It was the bankrupting of the country and its unconditional surrender in the War on Poverty – through the squandering of resources in Vietnam -- which made him declare America a “society gone mad on war.” The single greatest American in the nation stood at a pulpit and declared the United States “the single greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
He told a country convinced of its moral superiority that it acted like “a policeman of the whole world.” He had the outraged courage to warn that he heard “God telling America ‘You’re too arrogant! And if your don’t change your ways I will rise up and break the backbone of your power and place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know My name!’”
King also ripped into the refusal of many Americans’ to oppose the war behind a cloying concern for “our troops” when he laid at their feet responsibility for the vets returning “physically handicapped and psychologically deranged” by the wounds they suffered and the violence they inflicted.
In that speech King declared his “eternal hostility to militarism” and issued a thinly veiled call to draft resistance when he specifically told the young men of America to “take a stand” against the war.
And all of this was not because we were losing in Vietnam; not because we were wrongly involved in someone else’s civil war; not because it was too expensive or making America less safe. No, his implacable opposition to the war came from his singular conviction that it was immoral.
Most touchingly, however, King made it clear his condemnation came from love. “I love America…There can be no great disappointment where there is no great love.” Above all what he wanted was for America “to come home” to its founding ideal that all people are created equal. “Come home America.”
And that love of country pushed him even further. Years after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts became law, King was still not satisfied and declared his intention to escalate his struggle to include the “glaring contrast of poverty and wealth” in the richest nation on earth. He placed in this non-violent sights the multinational corporations which not only exploited Third World nations, he said, but “profited” from the Vietnam war and so opposed its speedy end.
But to truly understand that this speech is what marked him for death, you must listen to it. For it was not just the message which got him killed, but the medium. Go to YouTube and sit through those 22 minutes and 48 seconds of spine-tingling oratory and you will understand that someone listening in real time – whether James Earl Ray, J. Edgar Hoover or John Q. Public – shuddered, and decided that King must die.
But the King lives. Not in our official, non-threatening “remembrances” of him over a three-day weekend in January; but in our current national malaise which has reduced our political discourse and electoral politics to such a dumbed-down state that the sovereign citizenry, to which we all belong, seems more like an idiot man-child still lumbering through the world destroying nations, killing innocents by the thousands and bankrupting our children’s futures, while the gap between the One Percent and the rest of us grows ever wider and wilder.
True prophet that he was, King foretold of this malaise in 1967 when he warned that “a nation which spends more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” As America continued to do that for 41 years, that spiritual death is long upon us.
And it does not matter what spiritual enlightenment we pursue individually or in small valleys, there is a core part of our collective spirit into which rigormortus has set.
The continuing price we pay for that bullet 40 years ago is that King in 1957 was far outside the mainstream consensus on race in this country; yet the arc of the moral universe bent towards him and the consensus shifted to meet King. In 1967 he was again far outside the mainstream consensus on America’s need for a “moral revolution”, and had he lived the country might yet again have shifted to meet him.
Dr. King would only be a bit older today than John McCain. What prospects America might have had if King had been alive on 9/11; or in 2003 when Bush marched Iraq and the US over the cliff of illegal, “preemptive” war?
If that sounds like crass nostalgia, go to YouTube, listen to that speech and when King says Vietnam hear Iraq, when he says communism hear terrorism, and you’ll know that after 40 years being dead, Martin Luther King Jr. is still our leading light.

On Condi Rice, General Ripper and the Middle East

U.S. Amnesia in the Middle East

Published 3/14/08 Daily Hampshire Gazette

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s fruitless visit to the Middle East last week
has brought to mind General Ripper from the movie “Doctor Strangelove”. The demented Ripper, you might recall, starts a nuclear war because he is convinced the “Ruskies” have poisoned America’s “purity of essence” by fluoridating its water supply.
And while the film remains a sly allegory for our time, there does seem to be something contaminating America’s essence which causes a kind of political amnesia when it comes to brokering peace in that part of the world.
In her frantic shuttle diplomacy to bring about some kind of settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians which might dilute History’s utter condemnation of her president, Rice has been sidelined by events on the ground in Gaza where the Islamist Hamas trades bombs and casualties with the Israeli Defense Forces.
And that is precisely where amnesia comes in. The latest roadblock in the road map to peace was setup, we seem to have forgotten, not with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the late ‘60s; nor the first nor even the second Intifada in the ‘80s and ‘90s; but in 2006 when Hamas handily won about the freest and fairest elections ever held in that part of the Arab world.
But the crisis which derailed Bush’s hope for “redemption” – and worse, makes it less likely the next administration can broker a real peace – began after the election, we seem to have forgotten, when Israel, the U.S. and even the European Union began a campaign to undermine and delegitimize that impeccably democratic vote. Why? Because Hamas is a “terrorist” organization – meaning it will not give up guns and bombs as a way to fight an occupying power? Because only the US and EU and Israel get to vote for whomever they want and the rest of the world must merely do as it is told?
Again, amnesia as much as hypocrisy seems to be in play.
Don’t we remember that in a tiny corner of Europe there has long been a deadly political battle over rights and territory which seems to be religious war? In Northern Ireland – now blessedly if uneasily at peace for almost 10 years – a “terrorist” group known as the IRA took up both the ballot as well as the bullet in 1981 when a “terrorist” named Bobby Sands won a seat in the British parliament while on hunger strike for POW status. He died, and in 1983 Gerry Adams, the leader of the “terrorist” Sinn Fein won that same seat.
The Protestant Unionists refused to negotiate with the Catholic Terrorists unless the IRA renounced violence and their desire to drive the British into the sea. The IRA refused to surrender its founding principles until irreversible negotiations were underway.
Sound familiar?
But Sinn Fein, with Gerry Adams elected to parliament but refusing to take a seat there, kept standing in mostly local elections and winning. As it did, more and more of its supporters were drawn to a negotiated peace deal, and away from armed struggle. And when that peace was finally made it was between the “extremist” camps of the hard line protestant Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, whose leaders were so-called terrorists. Today these implacable enemies run the government together, while the once favored moderate parties of both camps have virtually ceased to exist. (Which may be why the Palestinian Authority went along with the subversion of Hamas’ victory – the hidebound, corrupt PA may fear the same future.)
But peace would not have happened had those democratic elections which brought the IRA to public office been subverted. Instead the proponents of armed-struggle-forever would’ve prevailed.
What amnesia, what loss of political essence, makes the powers-that-be and the citizenry overlook such a successful formula for peace in Palestine? Is it that the Northern Irish are white Christians and the Palestinians are Arab Muslims?
The Palestinians knew perfectly well what they were doing when they voted for Hamas. As did the Catholics of West Belfast when they voted for the IRA. As the latter’s vote was honored, so must the former’s be. All democratically cast ballots are equally sacred, or democracy is just another word for flim-flam.
What peace in the long, sectarian war in Northern Ireland reminds us is that you do not insist an armed group with a legitimate grievance give up its guns and grievances before real peace is offered. Rather, you draw it further and further into elected politics so that, as happened in Northern Ireland, the moderates in the extremist camp can show results from the democratic process. But you certainly don’t teach it that it is a waste of time to engage in democratic politics. And the real extremists in Hamas are trying to make precisely that case – having tried the ballot and been overthrown, there is a rational argument to be made that nothing is left but the bullet and the bomb.
The tangled obstacles now thwarting Rice’s frantic efforts can only be removed by restoring those election results and pledging to let whomsoever the Palestinians choose as their leaders, lead the way to negotiations between enemies. Rice and Bush will not do that, the next Administration must.
Only that will restore the peace process’ purity of essence.

School Integration is dead; School Equityis the key

In our schools, Equity more than Integration

Published 7/23/07 Daily Hampshire Gazette

In 1903 W.E.B. Dubois foretold that the question of the 20th century was the question of the color bar. He was right, as it took until 1956 for the U.S. Supreme Court to proclaim segregation in public schools unconstitutional. And it took America until 1965 to declare all Americans equal by passing the voting rights act and other civil rights legislation.
A few weeks ago the Supreme Court begged the question as to whether color is still the question of the new century when it declared school integration plans unconstitutional – including the temerity of citing the 1956 landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case to uphold the majority’s reactionary, activist agenda.
And while we perhaps could expect no more from such a conservative court, the damage done by that ruling is perhaps worse than at first look. Other than setting back well-intentioned integration plans, the ruling could deplete even more vital energy from citizens who believe it of paramount importance to turn back such a ruling-- which seems to want to turn back the political clock to a darker day.
And yet integration itself – as a policy goal requiring enormous political resources -- has not been of paramount importance for almost thirty years. We often forget that Brown vs. Board of Education was not necessarily meant to enforce integration, as to halt legal segregation..
What is of paramount importance – in our schools – is the horrific decline in education quality for a generation. Since the right-wing led “tax revolts” of the 70’s (Prop 13 in California, Prop 2 ½ here) reduced or capped the property taxes which govern a school’s basic funding, and therefore excellence, the quality of our national public school system has declined woefully. The white flight which followed busing and integration plans made it that much easier for the “tax revoltistas” to earn a sympathetic ear from the whites who fled.
As such, whether liberals want to acknowledge it or not, Integration has long been supplanted by Equity – the iron clad assurance that all schools in all districts have precisely the same resources according to their needs – as the most fundamental issue “segregating” today’s public school students. To put it bluntly – it is not as important if children learn in an integrated classroom. It is important only that they receive a quality education. And as America remains an overwhelmingly segregated nation – in terms of housing and neighborhoods – the truth of the matter is that black and Latino students do attend mostly segregated schools, which also provide an inferior education. But then so do most school districts outside our affluent communities. We must ask which is most important: diversity or excellence in education? As in most of our public schools we have neither, it may very well be we need to choose one to focus our limited energy and resources on.
When I taught at an over-crowded, under-funded high school in South Central L.A. my journalism class did a study of all the standardized test rankings published in the Los Angeles Times, and to no one’s surprise those rankings – with exceptions that proved the rule – followed zip codes from wealthiest to poorest neighborhoods all over the city.
Closer to home in Holyoke, where I teach now, $25 million has been cut from the school budget in just the past six years in a racially mixed district which is on the verge of being declared incompetent because of low standardized test scores. Of what use is it to spend enormous resources and energy integrating a school district when enormous budget cuts are the rule, rather than the exception, in cities and towns all over America?
My students in L.A. did not suffer from the lack of white classmates, their neighborhood was 90 percent Latino and 10 percent Black, as was their school. They suffered from the poverty of their education: from the lack of highly qualified teachers, the lack of books, the lack of music and art classes, the lack of clean bathrooms and enough support staff, the lack of commitment by their city, state and nation to secure them a quality education not based on their parents income, but their need.
This is why Equity is a far more radical issue than Integration has been for a generation, or maybe ever was. Equity would require a re-ordering of national priorities not seen since the New Deal. Equity as the law of the land, would require a new permanent method for funding schools other than property taxes which assure poor schools in poor neighborhoods. Equity would require a significantly greater expenditure of human and financial resources in low-income communities from South Boston to South Central because – as we often forget -- ignorance is to poverty what knowledge is to power.
And in America we often confuse poverty with race. We overlook that there are far more poor whites than blacks or Hispanics.
The supreme court ruling pushes back both integration and equity, because the primal response of many liberals will be to fight on for integration if only because a reactionary majority on the court has overturned it. But to say “Yes!” to integration merely because the court said “No!”, is only to play into the Right’s continuing domination of the American political agenda.
It is in our public schools where we give the truth (or more often the lie) to our founding proposition that all people are created equal. If you believe in that Equality, then School Equity is the question of the 21st century.

Henry David Thoreau on US in Iraq

Our obligation to a ‘broken Iraq’

Published 2/8/07 Daily Hampshire Gazette

News and photos of the big anti-war march in Washington D.C. and the Valley last week brought to mind Colin Powell and Henry David Thoreau.
It was Powell who warned President Bush in 2002 that if the U.S. “broke” Iraq by invading it, the U.S. would own that broken wreck. It was also Powell, of course, whose pernicious testimony before the United Nations helped the United States do precisely that: leave Iraq a broken wreck which will not be mended any time soon.
And yet I find myself in complete agreement with Powell: Republican or Democrat, southern conservative or Valley liberal, the United States as a nation "broke" Iraq and now we "own" it -- not its oil, not its land, not its people: we own the wreckage. And whether you're a "stay the course" die hard or a "troops out now" dissenter, those opposing camps are conjoined twins on one issue: neither believes that we own the wreckage in Iraq.
The former wants to hand the bloody mess over to the Iraqis themselves, (They stand up, we stand down); and the latter wants to hand it over to some imaginary U.N. or Arab force. (As if the world will take ownership or our wreckage.)
Dispirited by the inability of either camp to put forth any plan which places the Iraqi people at its center, and thus claim the wreckage which engulfs them, I turned to Thoreau. Good ole Henry David.
The Massachusetts born and bred radical whose seminal "On Civil Disobedience", first published in 1849, echoed so strongly down the decades it inspired both Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The pamphlet began as a speech Thoreau gave to explain why he spent a night in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax levied by Congress to finance the war against Mexico, which annexed the southwest and California to the stars and stripes. He refused to pay the tax because he believed the war to be "illegal", a mere land grab. (And don't Senators Hilary Clinton and John Kerry wish they'd been so brave?)
This story could end there, except Thoreau was such a citizen of the world, he took it one radical step further. In a passage which could not but take the breath away of any American who reads it today, Thoreau used the metaphor of a drowning man to explain the duty of all citizens to overthrow both slavery and the war against Mexico, though both profited their nation: "If I have unjustly wrestled a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him, though I drown myself…(The American people) must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people."
Who among us today, left, right or center, would make such a claim in regards to owning the wreck we have made of Iraq? We accept the benefits of being the lone hyper-power in the world (we are 5 % of Earth's population yet consume 25 % of it resources), but when it comes to Iraq we either blame it on their President Bush, or assure ourselves that our candidate will make it all right somehow so long as we get out fast.
Yet here again Thoreau already awaits us with a mirror held up to our double standards. Referring to the selection of presidential candidates by "editors and politicians by profession" he condemns the sovereign citizenry who wash their hands of true responsibility by "adopt(ing) one of the candidates thus selected as the only available one, thus proving that he is himself available for any purposes…" of that candidate.
"Any purposes" including, not so much wrestling a plank from a drowning Iraq as climbing out of the pool altogether, but nevertheless watching Iraq drown. I believe Henry David Thoreau would not have approved of America's withdrawing from Iraq, because he would have known that once out we will wash our hands of it, and only tsk-tsk at the carnage we see on our televisions.
He would've wanted America to pour its wealth and well-being into that wreckage even if it cost us our existence, because he knew what we have forgotten: Politics is not about policies domestic and foreign, not about sticking it to conservatives or liberals: it is about our own souls, and the soul of our nation.

Who Killed Denis Donaldson?


Published 4/13/06 in the Valley Advocate

Denis Donaldson was a friend of mine. On April 4th he was found tortured and shot-gunned to death in the ratty cottage in Donegal to which he had fled last December after admitting he was a British spy inside the IRA and Sinn Fein for 20 years.

I first met Denis in 1981 as a cub reporter for the Daily Collegian trying to make my bones covering the IRA hunger strike in Northern Ireland’s jails. Ten prisoners starved themselves to death that summer to protest Margaret Thatcher’s revoking their status as political prisoners..

After a long interview at Sinn Fein’s west Belfast headquarters, where he was an awkward but effective press spokesman, he invited me home for dinner and I lived with his family for that heroic, heart-breaking summer as those emaciated wraiths were buried by tens of thousands of mourners (Several of whom had been elected to the Irish and British parliaments while going 60, 63, 68 days without food.)

Denis came from a long republican tradition: his maternal grand parents were with the rebels during the Easter uprising against British rule which created the Irish republic. His father was an IRA man and spent World War II interned by the British without trial. In the early 1970’s, Denis and two of three brothers also were interned by the British as IRA men, and with the police sweating his youngest brother for information on the older ones, his mother packed the youngest off to America -- from which he never returned.

When the news came last December that Denis had outted himself as an informer for the British, I was scandalized – but it was like finding out a favorite uncle had been a commie spy in the Cold War, it’s over. Denis’ war was supposed to be over too.

I followed stories about him in the Irish press. The day before he was killed I read an interview by a reporter who detailed where and how Denis was living – in an old shack without running water nor electricity where he chopped his own wood for heat. I thought then I’d like to find Denis, talk to him. Tell him I do not judge him, but still owe him for his hospitality from years ago.

And now he is dead, and his last seconds were spent trapped in an old shack, raising up a hand to fend off four shotgun blasts. He saw his killers coming, and he probably knew them.

And all I can think now is: What a waste. What an unspeakable waste. In Northern Ireland, South Africa, the former East Germany, all such places where spies, informers and traitors were used by Authority to undermine people’s desires for change, for freedom.

And to what end? The IRA was so infiltrated that, as the Atlantic Monthly noted recently, at one point in the 1980’s the IRA’s top spy catcher was interrogating its top volunteer on suspicion he was really a top British agent – he was, but so was his interrogator!

South Africa’s ANC, too, was thoroughly infiltrated at home a abroad. East Germany had almost literally half the country spying on the rest. And what good did all this spying ultimately do? None, ultimately. It did not, could not, change the political outcome in those countries. All those informers, the ruined families, gruesome executions, and all it did was delay what the world now acknowledges as an inevitable outcome: apartheid was a freakish throwback and had to end; the Berlin Wall was so rotted inside a few thousand citizens tore it down.; and the Irish will live in peace because a 21st century European Union has no place for dirty sectarian wars when a clear path to peace is at hand.

All that spying -- the coercion, blackmail, and bribes -- which creates informers, all it did was delay the day of deliverance which the march of history had scheduled. And when the inevitable new day dawns, it leaves thousands of Denis Donaldsons lurking in the shadows, in a permanent dusk, hated by their old comrades and their old handlers as well. For the police and soldiers despise snitches as much as the rest of us do. As Denis once did

And yet governments still believe that spies and spy masters are an essential part of politics. Is not our national shame over reports from Guantanomo Bay and Abu Gharab a by-product of this faith in the shadowy world of spies and informers? That secret information and secret agents are more powerful than open politics and negotiations?

Being of Irish descent I thought I too had hard and fast beliefs about informers and traitors. Now, like all the Irish everywhere, I’m sorely sick to learn of one more gruesome death from a Troubles which should finally be over. Instead the Orangemen will point fingers and refuse to govern with Sinn Fein, and the Fenians will close ranks and refuse to expose Denis’ killers. And the British and Irish governments will continue to bob around like rubber ducks in a storm-tossed bathtub.

Rest In Peace Denis Donaldson. Thank God your mother Nelly died years ago. The shame of it would’ve pained her to death. As it is, she has already welcomed you home. If only your legacy could be that no one ever need be recruited to inform again. But that day will never come so long as governments truly believe the dark shadowy world of spies and informers is the best place to make, or prevent, political change.
925 words

Joe Gannon, a former freelance journalist in Central America and Northern Ireland, is now a screenwriter living in Western Mass.

Darwin was right: just look in the bible

Darwin was Right. Just look in the Bible.
March 2007
On the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth this month, it is time to put an end to the battle in the "culture war" between the Theory of Evolution and Creationism.
Or it is at least time to call that battle what it is: nothing more than a shell game run by people who like to hear themselves talk, and want to fiddle while America burns in the fires of global warming, increasing inequality, and decreasing educational achievement.
So let's be clear: Darwin was indisputably right about evolution -- but God got there first. Because the Book of Genesis was the first clue to our evolutionary past.
Anyone with a passing familiarity of the Theory of Evolution and Genesis can see right off that the differences between the two, while clear, are nevertheless so small that to fuel a "culture war" over them automatically qualifies one as a nihilist.
And a quick comparison with other culture's creation stories shows how uncannily similar Genesis is to evolution.
The vaunted ancient Greeks believed creation began with a giant black bird, Nyx, who mothered an egg with the wind, which she sat on for ages before giving birth to Eros, and the two halves of that egg created heaven and earth.
The Hindus believed the universe was a dark ocean, upon which floated a giant cobra in whose coils Vishnu was born.
The Chinese believed the universe was a black egg, in which heaven and earth were mixed until the god Pangu split the egg to also create heaven and earth.
The Mayan Popul Vuh comes somewhat close to Darwin as they believed monkeys were an early but failed attempt by the gods to create Man.
Yet there are no other creation "theories" which approach Darwin's like Genesis.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and the darkness was upon the face of the deep."
That is as fine a writerly description of the earth which existed billions of years ago as Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould might have penned.
True, Genesis says God created Heaven and the Earth first, and then said "Let there be light". But that verse always brings to mind the Big Bang -- the light which ended all darknesses.
Genesis then goes on to support what the average citizen (or voter) would agree is the overwhelming logic of evolution: after the stars and planets (heaven and earth); came the land and oceans (firmament and seas); then came the lesser organic life of grass, herbs and fruit trees; then came animals: birds, fish and finally land animals; then on the last day human beings.
Does this square precisely with evolution? No. But for a text written some 3000 years ago, it is a remarkably prescient description of what Darwin saw in nature 150 years ago when he published Origin of the Species.
And that brings us back to the nihilistic "culture war" over Creationism.
That the very broadcast technology Creationists use to spread their views is wholly the product of the Scientific Method which imagined evolutionary theory is a screaming irony lost to them.
But then, ultimately, the televangelists and right-wing leaders who make this a battle in the "culture war" are not remotely interested in creation, God nor godliness. They are interested only in stoking the fires of resentment and alienation which give the Republican Party an electoral edge on "values" issues.
But what these nihilists really make war on is "doubt" itself. Doubt, the very foundation of faith, without which there can be no faith. They want to banish Doubt, the very thing which most stirs the human mind (God given or evolved). For the flip side of Doubt is not Certainty, but Curiosity. And it is curiosity which first got Man to ask "Why?" The answer has evolved over the centuries, but the question remains unchanged.
The partisans of Evolution, too, can learn a valuable political lesson from comparing Darwin and Genesis: This battle can and will NEVER be won by fighting it on the Creationists' terms. For there is no way to do so except to pry Believers-in-the-Book from their faith. And for, say, the white ethnics who vote Republican values over their pocketbooks every four years, their faith is often the most that they have. Not all that they have, but the most.
And there are those Evolutionists for whom this battle is not about ideas, but about forcing people to acknowledge that their faith is a fraud. There is truly a section of the Left which despises Christianity, whatever their reason. And thus they too fuel the nihilistic "culture war".
So on this august anniversary, let us pay tribute to Darwin (who like Galileo and Newton was a believer), let us pay tribute to him by declaring an end to the phony war over Creationism. Darwin was right. Just look in the Bible.
Joe Gannon, writer and teacher, can be reached at