A Green for Philadelphia

A Green for Philadelphia

Monday, September 15, 2014

Philly vs. Comcast

Philadelphians rallied today against a Comcast/Time-Warner merger and to preserve net neutrality.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Update on Mental Health First Aid

Good news. The community outreach coordinator responded to my comments and we have a meeting set up for Friday where I can elaborate on my concerns.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Ask Candidates Where They Stand on a Constitutional Convention

Now is the time, as the campaign season starts, to challenge candidates to take a stand on government's ultimate accountability to the people through the Constitutional amendment process. A good case can be made that Congress has been remiss on this point for over a century, but as this may seem like a rather arcane and technical argument, I have not chosen to focus on that aspect for now. I've started by writing Ruth Damsker, a candidate for the PA state legislature who spoke last week at a meeting of Philadelphia's Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. Copied below is what I wrote.

Dear Ms. Damsker,

I heard you speak at Liberty City's State of the Races meeting. I am pleased that you are running as a supporter of our community.

There is something I like to ask all candidates for the state house or senate. Many people are dissatisfied with the way our government works these days, even if there's no consensus on what the solutions are. People may focus on overturning Citizens United, or Hobby Lobby, or some other Supreme Court decision. They may want to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment, or DC statehood, or to repeal the Second Amendment. The Constitutional process for making amendments one at a time may seem laborious, but there's an alternative, specifically intended for times when most people are dissatisfied even though they're not sure yet what the answers are.

One of the Framers (I think it was Madison) commented that the new Republic's government ruled by the consent of the governed, and that the people can withdraw this consent at any time by petitioning Congress for a Constitutional Convention. This is provided for in Article V, which says that Congress, "on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments." It goes on to stipulate that any amendments so proposed must still be ratified by three-fourths of the states, the same as if they had simply been passed by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

The advantage of this process over the other one is that it creates an open forum in which every aspect of government that might use revision can be looked at with fresh eyes at one time, in a coherent way, instead of piecemeal. The other advantage is that it provides a way for everyone who's dissatisfied with the status quo to work together, instead of at cross purposes, on the common project of "withdrawing our consent" through the Article V process, and then have a collective discussion at the Convention through which we can seek consensus on what kinds of changes we want.

I am strongly in favor of having the PA legislature petition Congress for an Article V convention, and hope that if elected you will introduce a motion for one. If you need more information, visit Friends of the Article V Convention at www.foavc.org, where you will see that this is an issue supported by people from all parts of the political spectrum. I look forward to hearing your opinion on this matter.

Thank you for your attention.

Having sent the above to Ms. Damsker, I will now write my current state representative and senator as well as anyone who may be running to fill their shoes. I encourage others to do likewise, borrowing as much or as little of the above as you like.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quote for the Day

"Taking the second half of the [20th] century as a whole, even allowing for the longer holidays won by the European workers, the reduction in the hours performed annually by a worker varies from almost nothing to, say, 30 percent. During the same period production, depending on the country, climbed by 400 to 500 percent. The contrast is instructive. Free time, though indispensible to allow people to develop their personality, is not an important item for our society, which is more preoccupied with the commercialization of the limited leisure time available." -- Daniel Singer, Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Correcting Mark Segal's Confusion: A Letter to the Philadelphia Gay News

A major confusion appears in Mark Segal's piece "LGBT history, LGBT hypocrisy," where he says, "Some members of our community want to support Hamas and boycott Israel."

I don't know anyone, LGBT or otherwise, who supports Hamas. On the other hand, I know many people who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This has nothing to do with support for political Islam, and everything to do with opposition to a whole panoply of policies -- occupation of the West Bank, economic blockade of Gaza, and discriminatory official practices within "Israel proper" -- that all derive from Israel's character as a colonial-settler state founded on the ideology of ethno-religious nationalism known as Zionism (or "political Judaism" if you will).

A bit of history Segal seems to forget is that Israeli leaders, back in the day, rather openly sought to foster Hamas as a "counterforce" to the socially moderate, secular PLO. So it is to a significant degree a monster of Israel's own making.

In much the same way that Al-Qaeda's atrocity on 9/11 brought out some of the most regressive attitudes among Americans, such as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, so the daily brutalization of Palestinians living under occupation, where the only Israelis they get to meet are military oppressors, inevitably fosters anti-Semitism and helps to make a group like Hamas more attractive to them.

While volunteering in 2002 with the International Solidarity Movement (palsolidarity.org), one of our hosts, a schoolteacher in Middle Gaza, told me he had asked his students, "How do you feel about Jews? Do you love them or hate them?" They answered, "We hate them!" Then he said, "Now, what if I told you that some Jewish people support us? Now how would you feel about them?" Answer: "We would love them!"

The more Palestinians see Americans -- especially us of Jewish descent -- supporting their human rights by boycotting Israel and by pushing Uncle Sam to take his hand off the scale and stop subsidizing the Israeli war machine, the less attractive a group like Hamas will be to them. At the same time it would remove both the material and psychological support that enable Israel to persist in its current colonialist actions and world-view.

The United States repudiated our racist origins a century and a half ago when we adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. It is time for Israel, with the help of some limit-setting from us, to do likewise.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Motion to Amend

This past Saturday, 9 August 2014, the groups Move to Amend and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign co-sponsored a gathering titled People's Movement Assembly: Re-Visioning the Constitution to Serve the People, in Philadelphia to contribute to the US Social Forum process. This seemed a perfect occasion to promote the alternative conception of economic freedom that I've dubbed individualist socialism, so I drafted a motion to amend the Constitution along these lines, which I've published on this page: http://individualistsocialism.blogspot.com/p/motion-to-amend.html.

As it turned out, it seemed most people there were more of a mind to propose a general sort of vision statement rather than a concrete mechanism for implementing rights. Nonetheless many participants seemed interested in it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gaza's Ark Deliberately Targeted by Israel

Gaza's Ark Deliberately Targeted by Israel

It is with sorrow and outrage that we announce that Gaza’s Ark was totally destroyed by a direct hit from the Israeli Occupation Forces at 2:00 AM local time on Friday, July 11th. It caught fire as result of the hit and was damaged beyond repair. In the context of all the death and destruction caused by Israel, the material damage to our project pales in significance.

However, it is now clear that Gaza's Ark was deliberately targeted by Israel (for the second time). Israel is not worried about its security as it claims, what it is worried about and afraid of are peaceful projects like ours that expose its atrocities.

The good news is that no one was killed or injured in this attack as we had decided to pull the guard off the boat two days earlier, for his own safety.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed towards the $300,000 raised for Gaza's Ark, and reassure you that, despite the loss of the boat, your money has not been wasted.

We have employed several Palestinians in the refurbishing of the boat over the last year and a half, providing some employment for boat builders, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. With unemployment at over 40% in Gaza, we were glad to offer some employment, if only to a few people. We have also contributed to the efforts of reviving boat building skills in Gaza and passing experience to new generations of craftsmen. Gaza's Ark also inspired and empowered Palestinians in Gaza - those who worked on it, contributed to it in any way, or supported it. And most important it sent a clear message to Israel: The world is and will continue to stand with the people of Gaza.

So, Gaza’s Ark steering committee and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are currently in intense discussion as to what we will do next. We have many ideas, but on one point we are unanimous: we will continue to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, one way or another. We found it particularly symbolic that, although the boat was badly destroyed, the name and the logo, survived intact.

The minimum we all should do now is make our voices heard. Call, or email, our governments, our members of parliament and also call the Israeli embassy or consulate and protest the attack on Gaza, the killings and the destruction, and the targeting of the peaceful Gaza's Ark, that belongs to all of us.
Our motto is “Building Hope” and we will not give up until Gaza is free, and Palestinian rights are fully restored.

In continued solidarity
Gaza's Ark Steering Committee

Quote of the Week

"You know I have no patience with nonsense," said the Northeast's leading wholesaler of chattering windup mandibles. -- Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay