Saturday, February 26, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls? "Partisan" is A Beautiful Word. From Tripoli to Madison, Reason and Madness Struggle At the Edge of An Abyss

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne, Meditation #17, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”
“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.”
BREAKING: Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol, The Understory, 2-25-11

For Whom the Bell Tolls? "Partisan" is A Beautiful Word. From Tripoli to Madison, Reason and Madness Struggle At the Edge of An Abyss

By Richard Power

I did not go to school as a child, so I taught myself grammar by studying Ernest Hemingway's prose. I also had no father, so I took away vital knowledge about how a man should bear himself in the world, (for better and worse) from Hemingway's novels. Fortunately, before it was too late in my own life's journey, I turned away from alcohol, that curse of great writers, and so I did not end up in the same Cul-de-sac he found himself in at the end. In my youth, The Sun Also Rises was the most important of his books for me, but lately, For Whom The Bell Tolls has been reaching out to me from my memory.

After all, early on in the Aughts, following the SCOTUS installment of the Bush-Cheney regime in 2001, I had immersed myself in the history of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). To explore some lessons learned and unlearned by the progressive movement.

Remember, the Fascist Falange didn't have the majority of the populace behind them; they had the support of only 25% or 30% of the Spanish people. Indeed, the Popular Front (i.e., everyone on the center and the left) won the 1936 election. But the Fascists were ruthless, and very well-financed by the industrialists of Germany and Italy. Sound familiar?

The liberals wimped out at the critical moments of the crisis that led to Spain's fall. Today's Democratic Party leadership (with a few brave exceptions) looks a lot like those liberal Spaniards of the 1930s, and today's Democratic Party makes similarly maddening mistakes; mistakes that seem incomprehensible until you understand how much money it takes to hold on to power in a Plutocracy disguised as a democracy.

The socialists were strong, but unwanted by either the bankers of the West or the Stalinists of the East. Likewise, the anarchists, who were the most organized, the most trustworthy, the most courageous element. But while this numerically superior and ideologically broad-based center-left coalition fought with itself, and languished in geopolitical isolation; the diabolical, smash-mouthed Fascists took it all.

If you want to read the painful record, I recommend George Orwell's poignant Homage to Catalonia and Arturo Barea's remarkable Forging of A Rebel.

In the language of For Whom The Bell Tolls, "partisan" is a beautiful word, it is a red badge of courage worn by those willing to stand up for common humanity and the collective good.

And now, for the news ...


Talking about sanctions is almost obscene at this point; a madman has ordered his own civilian populace gunned down in the streets, a madman that the West has invested considerably in rehabilitating over the last decade or so, in spite of the slaughter of the innocents over Lockerbee. Nothing other than an immediate no fly zone has any meaning, or makes any sense (unless, of course, the Air Force has already abandoned him). But by the time such protection is put in place (if ever), the Libyans will likely have dealt with the tyrant on their own. He is looking more like Jim Jones with every photo-op, but they are not drinking the kool-aid.

It is breathtaking to see long-suffering peoples rise up against their oppressors, in Egypt, in Libya, and across the Arab world. It is inevitable, and necessary, and yes, just. But what will happen now? And what will the world look like even a year or two from now? As soon as the tyrant Mubarak fell, the tyrannical regime in Iran was sailing its war ships through the Suez Canal for the first time in many years. And, of course, there is the tale of CBS correspondent Lara Logan. CBS has said its chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, went through a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating by a frenzied mob in the square during Friday's celebrations of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. AP 2-17-11. Not a lot was made of it, but she was also taunted as a "Jew."

There is something whispering in the sands of Libya, it is a deep primordial vibration, it has whirled there, whispering in exquisite hues, at dawn and dusk, since before Berlusconi and Blair, before the Cold War, before Mussolini, before Islam, before the Greeks and the Romans ... I hope it rises again ...

It is a dangerous time, a time for courage, and vision.

Robert Fisk, the great foreign correspondent, offers vital perspective.

Gaddafi is so odd, his Green Book theories – dispatched by Benghazi demonstrators last week when they pulled down a concrete version of this particular volume – so preposterous, his rule so cruel (and he's been running the place for 42 years) that he is an Ozymandias waiting to fall. His flirtation with Berlusconi – worse still, his cloying love affair with Tony Blair whose foreign secretary, Jack Straw, praised the Libyan lunatic's "statesmanship" – was never going to save him. ... Just because Gaddafi is a nutter does not mean his people are fools.
So it's a sea-change in the Middle East's political, social, cultural world. It will create many tragedies, raise many hopes and shed far too much blood. Better perhaps to ignore all the analysts and the "think tanks" whose silly "experts" dominate the satellite channels. If Czechs could have their freedom, why not the Egyptians? If dictators can be overthrown in Europe – first the fascists, then the Communists – why not in the great Arab Muslim world? And – just for a moment – keep religion out of this.
Robert Fisk, These Are Secular Popular Revolts – Yet Everyone is Blaming Religion, Independent, 2-20-11


Meanwhile, for a long time, in the USA, it has almost all been going in wrong direction.

Underwritten by the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Horrors and other unsavory forces unleashed by the Citizens United decision, the Zombie Cult formerly known as the Republican Party is busy turning some of the fifty states into laboratories of madness.

Consider these recent headlines in the new media.

Missouri Lawmaker Pushes Bill Rolling Back Child Labor Laws, Think Progress, 2-15-11

GA GOP Rep. Would Force Women To Prove Miscarriage Happened Naturally Or Face Felony Charges, Think Progress, 2-23-11

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers, Mother Jones, 2-15-11

The 'pro-life' bill to legalize murder spreads to Iowa and Nebraska, Daily Kos, 2-24-11

Idaho Nullificationists Poised To Kill Medicaid In That State, Think Progress, 2-12-11

Another Patient Dies From Arizona’s Medicaid Cuts As Gov. Brewer Ignores Possible Solutions, Think Progress, 1-7-11

But then came the uprising in Madison.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to convey to people the sense and the breadth of the people that are here. Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke came a few hours before we did yesterday to the State Capitol with John Hamilton, and he spoke to the public employees, the labor activists, the students, who have been filling these hallways for the last 11 days, each night hundreds of people sleeping overnight. During the day, the booming sounds of chants and drums fill the building. So many people are staying here that protesters have begun building impromptu dining areas, a lending library and a medic center ...
HARRIET BLAIR ROWAN: My name is Harriet Rowan, and I’m a senior at UW Madison. I’ve been here since the February 14th rally, and I’ve been here every night of the sleep-in. Yeah, I’m just a student who’s here in solidarity with everyone and also concerned about, you know, the future of our university and for the future for students all over Wisconsin ...
BARBARA CRANE: Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Barbara Crane. I’m the president of the National Federation of Nurses. We want to stand with our brothers and sisters for what we consider the genocide of the middle class of this country, and we’re not going to take it anymore! As a nurse, I know what a code looks like, and a code red is happening at ground zero in Wisconsin, and it’s got to stop now!
Democracy Now!, 2-25-11

NOTE: At the end of this post, I have embedded extraordinary videos of the Wisconsin Police Union joining the protesters, the massive 2/26/11 demonstration and the Democracy Now! guided tour of the mass action. You should also view the videos embedded with Buffalo Beast tricking Wisc. Gov. Walker into taking call from fake ‘David Koch’, and Tempers Explode as Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill Taking Away Union Rights.

Tired of a body politic that vilifies its nurses and teachers, and indulges its war criminals with book tours? You are not alone.

Maybe there is hope, even for us.

Remember, corporations are not people, and money is not free speech.

Remember, universal health care is a fundamental human right, as established by the U.N. in 1948, so is retirement, so is education, so is the right for workers to organize themselves.

Where I Stand

But as rapturous as it is to embrace the romanticism of these uprisings, it is important to remember that even if the EVOLUTION sweeping across the Middle East, and just dawning in the American Midwest, were to succeed beyond the wildest dreams of civil society and human rights activists, we would still be faced with a planetary crisis that threatens everyone everywhere; and to come to grips with it, we must not only invigorate democracy and republicanism, we must profoundly change our economic model, and establish a new relationship with Gaia, or ...

Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival. Stephen Leahy, IPS, 1-17-11

A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference ... Researchers: Earth will be ‘unrecognizable’ by 2050, Agence France Press, 2-21-11

50 million ‘environmental refugees’ by 2020, experts say, Agence France Press, 2-21-11

Rising seas threaten 180 U.S. cities by 2100: study, Reuters, 2-17-11 (More like 2050, I suggest.)

Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis in second half of the century, Climate Progress, 2-24-11 (The food security crisis predicated in this headline has been moved up 50 years, in 2009 it read by 2100.)

Investing two percent of the market value of all the world's goods and services into 10 key sectors can start a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy, the UN Environment Programme said today in a new report. UNEP: $1.3 Trillion a Year Would Turn World Economy Green, ENS, 2-22-11

For whom the bell tolls? It tolls for thee.

Wisconsin Police Union Announces Solidarity with Occupation of State House

Wisconsin’s Uprising: A Guided Tour of the 11-Day Protest Encampment Inside the State Capitol in Madison

100,000 Strong

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power's seventh book, Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself, is now available. Here are links to purchase it from, or from CreateSpace.

You can also visit Richard Power author's page at