NEW YORK — On Saturday, August 29, the human face of health care filled Times Square. Over a thousand activists, from a variety of organizations and trade unions, rallied for health care reform — on the same day Senator Ted Kennedy was buried. Lining Seventh Avenue, united in their desire for health care reform, were young and old, doctors and patients, trade unionists and pensioners. Some carried signs supporting Obama, some wore raincoats with “HR 676″ stenciled on the back, many had placards demanding a public option and a number of demonstrators had signs honoring the late Edward Kennedy — and demanding that the government keep Kennedy’s dream of national health care alive.
Doe the First Amendment apply in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal?
On Saturday, August 30, a group of activists assembled in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal prior to taking the boat and the subway to Times Square for the Health Care Reform rally. To help publicize the rally, and the involvement of Staten Islanders, MoveOn organizer Kathleen Kelly had notified the press that the group was available for interviews in the terminal. Time Warner’s NY1 (cable news) agreed to send someone to cover the story.
Mara Montalbano, a borough reporter for NY1, was interviewing 58-year-old college teacher and health care advocate Georgina Ohene inside the terminal waiting room when she was approached by two security guards. The guards told Montalbano that they needed to verify that she was allowed to tape interviews in the terminal before she could proceed. The interview was temporarily halted while one of the guards tried to contact a superior with his cell phone.
The security guards work for a firm called Allied-Barton Security Services, whose website states that in 2009 the firm was selected as “one of Training magazine’s ‘Top 125′ Companies for training excellence.”
Rules about videotaping are posted on the ferry website and allow taping for personal use (the ferry is a tourist attraction). “Commercial use” of video requires an NYC Department Of Transportation permit, however, this generally refers to professional filmmakers — and Ms. Montalbano was wearing a Police Department issued press pass. Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution and passes issued by the NYPD to working press allow journalists to cross police lines when covering a story.
The security guards told the activists that their company had jurisdiction over the Police Department in the ferry terminal and would ultimately decide if taping was permitted. The NYPD maintains a Patrol Borough Staten Island substation at the ferry terminal, however, no officers were present at the time.
The issue was resolved when Ms. Montalbano and the activists stepped out of the terminal waiting room and completed the interview in the hallway. Security, apparently preoccupied with phoning their superiors, did not interfere with the interview, which was conducted inside the ferry terminal — in full view of the guards.
After the incident, NLN e-mailed Javonne Parker, the administrator responsible for issuing DOT permits — to determine whether members of the press could tape interviews in the ferry terminal without a permit.
Ms. Parker, who responded early Monday morning, said that “Yes, members of the press are permitted to do interviews without a permit. We would just need a heads up as to when you would be here and what the interviews are for.”
Although members of the press are rarely interfered with in the ferry terminal — commuters are often interviewed at the terminal during political elections — Saturday’s incident is not the first time that First Amendment protected activity has been challenged by some Staten Island Ferry personnel.
In October of 2006 a ferryboat crew member told a young woman that she could not wear a t-shirt that had Arabic writing on it (the shirt said “We will not be silent” in Arabic) as it was “unsafe to wear that shirt in a high security place”. In filing a complaint about the incident, the woman misidentified the crew member as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Later, the Coast Guard contacted NLN to report that none of their personnel had been involved and that the U.S.C.G. does not condone racial profiling. On October 23, 2006, the young woman and a number of supporters rode the ferry — all wearing the Arabic language t-shirt. They were not approached by any DOT security personnel.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Special to NLN) — On Tuesday, August 25, 2009 health care activists held an effective, well attended, staff meeting and flyering event at Congressman Mike McMahon’s (D – 13th CD) Brooklyn office. The action was organized by Jenny Radtke of MoveOn.org. McMahon was not at the office, but a member of his staff named Jonathan met with activists — who reported that he appeared open to their question and concerns.
Representative McMahon is reported to have concerns with the Health Care Reform Bill — and he hopes to be able to work out the details when Congress resumes session in September.
Activists were told that the sticking points are related to the cost to businesses and health care providers, however McMahon agrees with most of the bill. One of the activists asked if the representative is willing to sign the bill if these issues are not resolved. The staffers could not offer a firm commitment that McMahon would sign the bill. The issue of the Staten Island Conservative base opposing health care reform came up and activists asked McMahon’s staff that the congressman not politicize the health of individuals and the nation.
Activists asked that Representative McMahon sign a bill with a strong public option.
NEW YORK — On Saturday, August 22, 2009, people from “Goodbye Moto”, a group advocating boycotting Motorola, held a boycott event at Washington Square Park, under the park arch. Leaflets were distributed and guitar playing and singing attracted a number of people from the crowded park. The curious, supportive and those disagreeing engaged the boycott group. Although the group was small their message rippled out to those within earshot. Due to several periods of heavy rain the group had a captive audience under the arch.
NEW YORK — At a press conference on August 21st the afternoon began with Jean Andre Sassine telling his personal story. He lost his job and his health insurance at a time that his wife needed surgery. Forced to choose between housing for his family and his wife’s health, he chose to continue paying for his health insurance. A young doctor, Manisha Sharma, MD spoke next. In her early 20’s while studying to become a dancer, she was hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk. For seven years she underwent four major hip surgeries and extensive physical therapy. But her physical problems paled in comparison to the stress of dealing with her health insurance company. She was told that if a third party is involved in a medical issue – like the woman driving the car that hit her – her insurance company had the right not to pay her bills. And this was while she was paying her insurance premiums and needed medical treatment to be able to walk. Since that time she has graduated from medical school and is unemployed because she has not started her residency yet. Because of that she has no insurance and because of her pre-existing condition, the results of the accident, insurance would be unaffordable if she could find a private company that would insure her. She said that she was part of a statistic of almost fifty million people who do not have health insurance and that there must be a public option in any reform plan. She added, “We need a system that puts patients before profits, and does not make money off your illness. The option of a public health insurance will keep the private companies in-check. It will keep them honest.”
The approximately 200 people that had gathered at the Ryan Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center on 10th Avenue in N.Y.C. for a press conference supporting a public option in the health insurance reform plans listened to these speakers with rapt attention. The audience represented many organizations : Health Care for America Now, Citizen Action of N.Y., Acorn, District Council 37, N.Y. Small Business for Health Care, National Physicians Alliance, AFSME N.Y.S., Children’s Defense Fund of N.Y.C., Community Service Society, Committee of Interns and Residents, Communication Workers of America, MoveOn.org, N.Y. Immigration Alliance, N.Y.C. for Change, N.Y.S. AFL-CIO, Raising Women’s Voices, SEIU Local 32 BJ, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and Theatrical Stage Employees Local 1. Their message was to Obama: Stand strong, we are with you, we must have a public option.
Kathy Gruber, Executive Director of the Ryan-Nena Community Health Centers stressed that we mush insist on a public option. Their system treats thousands of patients and 40% have no insurance.
Rebecca Telzac, Project Coordinator, Small Business for Health Care, Make the Road N.Y. represents 600 small businesses. She explained that small business owners who want to cover their employees find the cost prohibitive. They have to pay at a rate that is vastly different from large companies since they are covering a small number of people. One small business owner was charged $700 a month for each employee. He couldn’t sustain the cost. Small businesses need a public option.
Oliver Gray, Associate Director of DC37, AFSME discussed the high cost of drug coverage for the 300,000 people that his union covers. He also pointed out that with the public option people will be less likely to use the very expensive service of hospital emergency rooms as a primary care physician.
One of the most informative speakers was Rep. Jerry Nadler. He said he has supported single payer health insurance for 40 years. The participants cheered very enthusiastically. 47 million Americans have no insurance. 55% of the bankruptcies in this country are because of medical bills – and of these 75% thought they had good insurance coverage but found out their expenses were not fully covered. The bills before the House are similar. They say everyone must have medical insurance. Those that cannot afford it will pay on a sliding scale. Employers must either carry health insurance for their employees or pay into a fund. Insurance companies will not be allowed to have a lifetime limit as to what they will pay the insured. Deductibles cannot exceed $5000 per individual or $10,000 per family. And there must be a government option where people can get a group rate. The public option is essential – it will keep the private insurance companies honest. There can be no cutting corners on treatment and no refusal to cover a person due to a prior condition. He added that 30% of the current budget goes to medical care yet the U.S. is 47th in life expectancy in the world. A bad result for all the money that is being spent. Stock prices on insurance companies go up whenever there is talk of dropping the public option. That should tell us something important. The issues involved in reforming health insurance have been compromised too many times. We have to draw a line in the sand. Nadler said he will absolutely not support a bill without a public option. This drew more cheers from the participants.
Then he explained some of the political dynamics. He said Obama should forget about bipartisanship. It isn’t going to happen. He will get nothing from the Republicans. The bill will pass in the House and only 51, not 60, votes are needed in the Senate for it to pass. The 51 votes are there. Obama should tell the 60 Democrats in the Senate that they don’t all have to vote for the bill, but they must all vote to end a Republican filibuster of the bill. 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster. He concluded, 60 progressive Democrats in the House have said that they will not vote for any bill without a public option. There will be a lot of pressure on them. What the Democrats really need is a spine. With this Rep. Nadler received a standing ovation.
The final speaker was Mark Hannay, Director, Metro N.Y. Health Care for All Campaign. He said, “Today’s press conference is one of several being held across our state over the next few days. Everyday New Yorkers, community advocates, and trade union leaders are standing together to demonstrate strong support for the establishment of a choice of a strong public health insurance option within national health care reform legislation. If you listen to the media this week, you’d think that the public option is already dead and off the table. All of us stand here to say NOTHING COULD BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH.”
A solid core of Representatives and Senators are fighting back, stating that they will not vote for any bill that does not include a public option.”
“THIS FIGHT IS FAR FROM OVER, and there will be many twists and turns as the legislative process moves forward over the coming weeks.”
“…starting right now we – community and labor advocates for health care for all – are redefining the national debate. The next month as Congress returns to work is our opportunity to dig in and really be part of what will someday be viewed as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Someday we will tell our kids and our grandkids how we stood up for what was right in the face of fierce opposition, and helped change the direction and character of our country. New Yorkers voted for change last fall. To echo last fall’s campaign slogan, ‘yes, we can!'”.
Heaven & Hell: Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice, Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi
(Photo: Mark Weiss / heavenandhelllive.com)
Every thirty years I see Black Sabbath live.
Last night the band wasn’t called Black Sabbath but as the DJ who introduced them said, whatever it’s called — it is Black Sabbath. And “Heaven and Hell” was indeed worthy of the name. I saw the original Sabbath in 1978 and they were excellent — but Heaven and Hell does not suffer by comparison to Black Sabbath in its heyday.
The venue was the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. I had mistakenly assumed that my son and I would be seeing Sabbath in the same venue where the Rangers play hockey. Fortunately I was wrong – the WaMu is much smaller, with infinitely better acoustics. The seats are comfortable and the view of the stage is good from almost any vantage point.
The show began promptly at 7 p.m. — the opening act was the prog rock band Coheed and Cambria — and was over by 9:45. This is not unusual but nonetheless always strikes me as odd. When I was my son’s age — he wearies of hearing this — shows never started on time, never ended before midnight at the earliest, were deafening and the venue was always a fog of pot smoke. Times have changed, but luckily, there are some constants.
On November 5, 1978 I saw Black Sabbath live at the Hollywood (Florida) Sportatorium. Van Halen was the opening act and it was a striking contrast: David Lee Roth leaping about while Ozzy could barely stagger to the microphone stand. For Sabbath, this was the ironically titled “Never Say Die” tour – the last tour that included Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy and Sabbath were wonderful. Stoned, drunk, whatever else – Ozzy and company played most of the Paranoid album and a variety of hits from their other recordings. It was a memorable show.
For many years following this show, I didn’t listen to new Black Sabbath recordings as I couldn’t envision the band without Ozzy. And for years Black Sabbath founder Tony Iommi and newcomer Ronnie James Dio, guitar and vocals respectively, struggled with one another. The result was a fractured catalogue of recordings: the well regarded releases “Heaven and Hell” (1980) and “Mob Rules” (1981) — followed by five Sabbath albums without Dio — and then the final Dio-Iommi effort as Black Sabbath: “Dehumanizer” (1992). After only three albums it appeared the so-called “Heaven and Hell lineup” — Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice — was a part of rock history.
Fast forward 15 years…
In April of 2007, Rhino Records released a compilation called Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. The CD featured three new songs recorded by the Heaven and Hell lineup. Pleased with their new material, Iommi and Dio, et al. decided to reunite. As Black Sabbath’s original lineup had also reunited (in 1997), Dio and Iommi opted to call their project “Heaven and Hell”, after the first album they created together — and the title track that has become a Sabbath anthem. The resulting tour produced a CD and DVD entitled “Live from Radio City Music Hall”. This in turn spawned an album of all new material called “The Devil You Know”, released in April of 2009. It was “The Devil You Know” that caught my attention — I bought the disk just to see what Iommi was doing these days and came away very impressed. This ranks as one of the finest Sabbath recordings ever — by any of the lineups.
And so, not surprisingly, the show at the WaMu was very good. The band was in top form and the setlist included three tracks from “The Devil You Know”: “Bible Black”, arguably the best track on the disk (this tour is called the “Bible Black” tour), “Fear” and “Follow The Tears”. The remainder of the songs were pulled from the “Dio Years” body of work and included “Mob Rules”, “I”, “Children Of The Sea”, “Falling Off The Edge Of The World”, “Die Young”, “Heaven and Hell” and the encore, “Neon Knights”.
Iommi, clad in a black leather coat and playing his familiar Gibson SG, was inspired. As was the 67-year-old Dio, small in physical stature but endowed with a truly operatic vocal ability. Geezer Butler was equally impressive on bass and Vinny Appice’s drumming was excellent. Generally I find drum solos rather generic and a good time to check e-mail but Appice’s solo was entertaining and flew by.
Stage props included transparent globe streetlights, a cemetary fence encasing the amplifiers that flanked Appice’s drum riser and a rather elaborate drum kit. Appice had a variety of drums suspended high above the usual array of snare, bass and floor toms. He utilized these drums, which resembled pots and pans hanging above a kitchen stove, infrequently — primarily in his solo. Geezer, also clad in black and playing a Lakland bass, stood stage right (house left). Iommi stood opposite Geezer — as a southpaw the headstock of his guitar pointed towards Appice and Butler, who returned the favor. This minor detail reveals how precise everything about the show was. The music was delivered with obvious attention to detail as well — the diminutive Dio introduced all of the songs, belted out some incredible vocals and thanked the audience profusely. Several of the songs were illustrated by animated video clips that were displayed on a screen above Appice’s drum kit.
Dio mentioned several times during the performance that there were gaps between the recordings by this incarnation of Sabbath due to a lot of “water under the bridge”. He thanked the audience for supporting the band “All of these years, particularly the last three”. You got the feeling that Ronnie had real regrets about the turbulent history of the Heaven and Hell lineup. And that he genuinely appreciated the opportunity to make up for lost time. At one point Dio told the crowd, “Life still sucks but you have us and we have you and together we have the music.”
Introducing Tony Iommi’s guitar solo by referring to Tony as “the greatest guitar player who ever walked the Earth”, Dio walked offstage. Iommi gently patted the back of Dio’s head as he walked by — a gesture that seemed quite genuine and indicated that the Heaven and Hell bandmates have left their troubles in the past and are enjoying themselves as they make some great music.
I bought my first Sabbath album, Master of Reality, at a Maumee, Ohio K-Mart in 1971. I was 14 at the time. And so, when the show ended last night, I asked my 14-year-old son what he thought of Heaven and Hell.
“They were good,” he said.
I’d have to agree.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Former union president Jonathan Tasini is running for the U.S. Senate and he feels that his opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand, has an image problem — the “gun lady” was appointed by an unpopular governor, has strong ties to big tobacco, and is anti-immigrant.
In 2006 Tasini challenged Hillary Clinton in a Democratic Party primary. He is running again — this time against incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand was appointed by Governor David Paterson to fill the vacancy created when Clinton become U.S. Secretary of State. Gillibrand is a conservative Democrat — a member of the Blue Dog Coalition — and, Tasini feels, out of touch with voters in the downstate area.
On Saturday, August 22, Jonathan Tasini spoke at a campaign fundraiser hosted by antiwar activist Elaine Brower.
Although Tasini has been an antiwar activist for some time — he opposed the 1991 Gulf War — he sees himself primarily as a labor organizer. Tasini was president of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the UAW, from 1990 to 2003. During his 13-year reign, NWU membership increased from 2300 to 7000 members.
“I was very very proud of what we did but in general, not just in the union, in my union — my passion, my commitment has been on a daily basis, to build a labor movement that isn’t just the structure of a union but a movement that protects workers and stands up for people, makes sure that we get the benefits of the hard work that we put into this country. And, as I mentioned sort of in a side conversation, I don’t think that’s happened in the last thirty years.”
Tasini feels that the plight of freelance writers — the workers represented by the NWU — is shared by workers everywhere: no healthcare, wages that don’t keep up with inflation, inadequate or nonexistent pensions and lack of job security.
“48 million Americans don’t have healtchare in this country. And tens of millions more have to pay outrageous prices for healthcare coverage and get inadequate healthcare. To me that is entirely immoral and that has got to stop,” Tasini said.
Tasini feels that the cost of inadequate health care has wide-ranging repercussions — and is to blame for many of the problems confronting the United Auto Workers, the parent union of the NWU.
“It is all about health care costs. If we had a single payer system, medicare for all, ten years ago, the auto industry would not have tens of billions of dollars in costs. So when I’m elected as a United States senator I’m not going to be fighting to protect the private insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, they’ve got enough of a caucus, they have enough people protecting them,” he said.
Tasini’s campaign is about “drawing the line”, he said. Tasini, who advocates single payer health care, a “universal pension system” (partnership between government and individuals) and an end to the Afghan War, argues that now is the moment to take on the special interests that he feels are profiting at the expense of the average worker.
“We’re not going to, anymore, allow the powerful interests to prevent us from having decent health care, from having a decent job, from having a decent pension,” he said.
Tasini, who lived through the Vietnam War, watching the weekly body count as a child, is opposed to the Afghan War. Initially enthusiastic about allegedly high body counts (of dead Vietnamese Army regulars and National Liberation Front ‘Viet Cong’), Tasini learned from his father that “People just want their independence, and … it has never been true in history that a foreign conqueror can suppress people.”
Noting that this lesson is “Embedded deep in my consciousness”, Tasini said that “There is no such thing as a good war in Afghanistan.”
But can he win? Tasini feels he can, noting that this campaign is very different from his 2006 challenge to Hillary Clinton:
“We can win this campaign, I’m absolutely sure of that. In 2006, as Elaine mentioned, I ran against Hillary Clinton. I knew every single day that I woke up that I was not going to win that race. Because, it was just impossible, it’s very difficult to run essentially against a superstar.”
What’s different now? According to Tasini, Gillibrand has an image problem that even her corporate backers’ cash will have trouble erasing.
Gillibrand is “Deeply, deeply unpopular, primarily in what I would consider the downstate area, five boroughs and Long Island. And mainly because of her positions that she has taken in the past. She supports the National Rifle Association, in my opinion, one of the most extreme organizations in the country. (She) was very anti-immigrant. When I campaigned in 2006, I would campaign in that district and I was apalled at seeing the fliers that were being circulated by her campaign,” Tasini said.
“The test of who you are as a politician, as a candidate, as a human being, is how you relate to people who are the most vulnerable and the people who have the least defense. And immigrants, undocumented workers, are some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he added.
According to Tasini, Gillibrand “Was very, very aggressively pro-tobacco industry, both as a lawyer — and then took tons of money from the tobacco industry.”
It’s much harder to undo a negative image than to reach people who don’t know who you are, Tasini argues. When he and his staff go into the streets to talk to voters they often ask people what they think of Gillibrand.
“Most people, this fogs comes over them, or they say, ‘oh yeah she’s the gun lady’ — that’s not a good place to be in a Democratic primary,” Tasini said.
Acknowledging that it will take more than Gillibrand’s image problems to push his campaign over the top in the polls, Tasini remains optimistic, seeing “three circles” of much needed support: the network of supporters he built in his previous campaign, the Obama effect — a surge in grassroots activism and organizing that can successfully challenge corporate-backed politicians, and the support of organized labor. When Tasini challenged Clinton, labor declined to support what it regarded as a symbolic effort. But, according to Tasini, Gillibrand is vulnerable and organized labor is now willing to back him in his bid to unseat the incumbent.
The fact remains, however, that Gillibrand will easily outspend Tasini as the pockets of her corporate sponsors are deep and Tasini is running a grassroots campaign. For this reason he is engaged in a vigorous fundraising effort and urges progressives to support him financially as well as politically.
“Certainly money is the most important thing,” he said.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — According to Andy Stern of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, City Councilmember Ken Mitchell has repeatedly refused to disclose his position on women’s health issues. Not so with Debi Rose, who picked up NARAL’s endorsement — along with NOW and Planned Parenthood — this week.
On Thursday, August 20, progressive Democrat Debi Rose picked up the endorsements of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the Brooklyn / Queens chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Planned Parenthood New York City Action Fund. Rose is campaigning for the District 49 (North Shore of Staten Island) New York City Council seat. She is looking to unseat incumbent Ken Mitchell who won a razor-thin victory in a special election last February.
At a press conference at Borough Hall on Thursday, Stern was scathing in his criticism of Mitchell’s refusal to be forthcoming about his position on women’s health issues.
“Ken Mitchell has repeatedly refused to tell us his fundamental positions on women’s health, where he stands on Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, where he stands on birth control and emergency contraception. Where he stands on comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education in our schools,” Stern said.
“We’ve mailed him, we’ve called him, we’ve faxed him, we’ve e-mailed him — over and over and over again — and yet Mr. Mitchell remains silent on women’s heath,” he added.
Mitchell’s voting record is not so silent.
On April 2, 2009, Mitchell voted against the Clinic Access Bill (Intro 826). Mitchell was one of five Democrats who voted with the council’s three Republicans (two of whom, Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, are from Staten Island). The bill passed 43 to 8 and was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on April 20.
According to the Gotham Gazette, the bill “Removes the need for intent to make an arrest, meaning a police officer could arrest protesters who they see harassing patients.”
In a story about the endorsements, the Staten Island Advance’s Tom Wrobleski reported that Mitchell described the clinic access bill as “vague and unenforceable”. Wrobleski did not mention NARAL’s claim that Mitchell failed to respond to repeated requests for his position on women’s health issues.
Julie Kirschner, who represented the Brooklyn / Queens chapter of NOW at the conference, said that Mitchell “Says he’s pro-choice but he voted against the clinic access bill in the city council. Now how pro-choice is that?”
Kirschner gave Rose NOW’s endorsement, describing Rose as “100 percent pro-choice.”
Dana Czuczka also spoke briefly, endorsing Rose on behalf of the Planned Parenthood New York Action Fund.
Describing the endorsements as “one of the highlights of this race for me”, Rose said that “I am not one of the boys — for many reasons. But one of them, which might not be the most obvious, is that my voice and my concern for women and children and families on the North Shore is one that has not been heard.”
Rose will square off with Mitchell in a September 15 Democratic Party primary. Also vying for the Democratic nomination is Rajiv Gowda, a civil engineer. The winner of the primary will face Republican Timothy Kuhn in November.
NO WAR ON THE MOON!
In Defense of the Dark Side of the Moon
“But, for myself, the Earth’s records had taught me to look for widest ruin as the price of highest civilization.”
— Edgar Allan Poe, The Colloquy Of Monos And Una (1850)
Twenty years before a powerful syndicate of military-industrial criminals conspired to plant a US flag on the Moon, a similar clique of fiends plotted to fire a nuclear warhead-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile at the lunar face. Code-named “Project A119,” this plan devised by Cold War-era Air Force and weapons manufacturers called for a massive nuclear explosion that would be clearly visible from anywhere on Earth. Researchers struggled in vain to find any pretext, any shred of legitimate scientific value, to glean from this sickening display of militarist impunity. But the sole objective of Project A119 was to terrorize into submission every human on the planet (especially those who had never heard of Hiroshima or Nagasaki) with a demonstration of how the US ruling class was technologically adept and morally bankrupt enough to commit such an unimaginable poetic atrocity.
And now, once again, there are plans to bomb the Moon. This time the unilateral strike is aimed at the Moon’s South Pole and the payload will be delivered by the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) spacecraft; the excuse given is that this is an effort to find water deep under lunar surface. The craft was launched in late June and is currently orbiting the Earth until it finds its target; if all goes according to plan, the M-Day bombing will be 8 October 2009.
The plan is this: the LCROSS first shoots off its 2,300-pound spent booster-rocket at the lunar target zone. Four minutes later, in a scheme apparently inspired by fanatical terrorist airline hijackers, the rest of the robotic LCROSS craft slams into the same area. Like crazed kamikaze paparazzi, the craft will snap photos and transmit data on the first strike back to NASA’s mad bombers before immolating itself in a second explosion. This violent hi-tech sci-fi spectacle will cost anywhere up to $600 million, a price tag that is an outrageous insult to the millions of working people unable to feed, house, or medically treat their families. (As Gil Scott-Heron lamented in 1974: “How come there ain’t no money here? Hmm! Whitey’s on the Moon…”)
Of course, there is much more behind this attack than casual scientific curiosity on whether or not there is water on the Moon. First of all, since the long-range accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles has never been proven to work, the LCROSS suicide mission serves as a live-fire test exercise for US war strategists with an interest in the precision of orbiting satellite weapons — in other words, the southern hemisphere of the Moon will be turned into a firing range, making this mission one giant leap for the global reach of space warfare. Secondly, LCROSS has been promoted as “the vanguard” for the US military-industrial-entertainment complex’s return to the Moon — according to NASA, finding water is a necessary first step for “building a long-term and sustainable human presence” there. Historically, the purpose of exploration has always been the exploitation of resources and the colonization of territory without regard for ecosystems or indigenous peoples, and clearly the Moon is the next territory coveted by imperialists.
Only people with colonized minds believe these things are positive, or that this type of “progress” can be beneficial to anyone beyond a small circle of exploiter-elites. And, as to be expected, there is no end to the number of those who seek to compensate for their own personal impotence by over-identifying with these grotesque displays of obscene state-corporate power. You can hear them chattering on the Internet: “Flying a rocket booster into the Moon at 5,600 mph to trigger a massive explosion is just flat-out cool,” says one, while another sneers “Public discussion? Why should there be a ‘public discussion’ about a NASA experiment?” Such remarks challenge our contempt. There should be a discussion, not only by the public, but also by oceans, weather patterns, plants, and all sorts of other living things — even the most uninformed know enough about the “butterfly effect” to realize that changing one part of any system is going to have a cascading effect on all those things dependent upon that system.
This so-called “NASA experiment” is a hostile act of aggression and a violent intrusion upon our closest and dearest celestial neighbor. Does any love song or poem or fairy tale worth its salt not mention the Moon? Who can take a walk in the Moonlight with a lover and not feel the romance to your very soul? At night, when the Moon rules, we sleep, and we can visit the Moon in our sleep with ease. The Moon is our night light, our blanket, our grandmother, our mother — it is woman, child, domestic life, tides, bodies of water, liquids, circulation, comfort, nurturing, paintings by Remedios Varo, stories by Jules Verne, and so much more.
Let us assume that ignorance will rule the day and plans go forward. What can we as surrealists or lunatics or astrologers or naturalists or anarcho-primitivists or Greens or werewolves or pagans or psychics or UFO groupies or other concerned members of the general public do? We must soothe the Moon, we bandage her. We implore other celestial bodies and entities to aid her. We will not let her endure this crime or its grim aftermath alone.
We need to communicate to the Moon. Talk to her in our dreams, trances, or meditations, and prepare her for this shock and wound as best we can. Hold her, send out imaginative protection to her, and put our dream bodies out there in front of the bomb. Collectively, we can sabotage the bombing or by imagining all manner of things going wrong, or encouraging the Moon to increase her own magnetic shields. Sing to her. Give her back just a tiny portion of all that she has done for us. We are all created from Moon dust.
We pledge solidarity with the Moon and promise we will do everything that we can to help heal her and to prevent any further such stupid, short-sighted, self-serving, man-made acts of obscene violence against her.
Gale Ahrens, Guy Ducornet, Beth Garon, Paul Garon, Joseph Jablonski, Renay Kerkman, Don Lacoss, David Roediger, Penelope Rosemont, Joel Williams
Surrealist Group in the US.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Tuesday, August 18, I visited the Staten Island Mall with my family. We weren’t planning to buy anything — the purpose of the outting was to take some photographs. Recently I’d noticed that many of the stores on the Island were selling peace-related merchandise: t-shirts, jeans, hand bags, scarves, jewelry and various other items emblazoned with peace signs.
At the Mall many of the workers at the various stores were very good natured about my wandering to and fro, taking photographs. Some smiled and some merely scratched their heads. Some actually flashed peace signs.
In several stores I approached the store manager to explain what I was doing. The overwhelming majority of people with whom I spoke were very supportive. None more so than a young man working at Build-A-Bear. I explained that we were intrigued by the fact that the peace sign was so ubiquitous in the Mall. I told the man that we were involved in the movement for peace and social justice. He said “Those are good things to be promoting.” I gave him my card and he promised to check the NLN site.
We liked this store quite a bit — in the store window they had a royal blue teddy bear covered with neon peace signs. They also stocked a large supply of clothes for their teddy bears — many of the miniature shirts sporting peace signs. I decided I would buy something after all — a birthday present to mark my 51st iteration on the planet. And so my daughter and I got matching peace bears. The manager printed out our “birth certificates”. He laughed when he saw that my bear was named — what else? — NLN. He asked my daughter what her bear’s name was and she answered, “Justice”.
We did run into one person who objected to our unorthodox activities. The manager of a store that sold inexpensive t-shirts told us “No pictures” in a very brusque tone. We obliged, leaving her store. Ironically, the store was named “Justice”. I wrote to customer service asking if they had a policy against photographs and if they’d consider waiving the policy, explaining that I was working on a story about peace — and justice. At press time I still hadn’t heard back.
I have no idea how much of the marketing of the peace-related items is due to war-weariness, how much of the motivation is based on corporations capitalizing on Woodstock’s 40th anniversary — or if there is even a thought given to the meaning of the symbols being marketed. In any case, I am still happy to see store windows full of peace signs. In the hopes that you too might like the idea that peace is somehow in style, at least this week, we offer a photographic record of our trip to the Mall.
Next Left Notes (NLN) is an
independent New Left journal.
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