Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Print

December 24, 2007

[Note for Tomdispatch readers: For anyone following the recent revelations in baseball’s steroid scandal, it’s definitely the moment to revisit Robert Lipsyte’s all-too-relevant sports-‘n-drugs triple-header: Shooting Up on Jock Culture, How We Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb, and We Know What You Did Last Summer.

By the way, this is where 2007 ends for Tomdispatch — on a booklist of hope. The site will be closed for two weeks. Expect the next Tomgram on January 2, 2008. Tom]

I first met Rebecca Solnit on-line. She sent an essay in to Tomdispatch in 2003, not long after the invasion of Iraq began, just as so many who had demonstrated against the onrushing war were packing their bags and heading home in despair. It was called Acts of Hope: Challenging Empire on the World Stage, and, soon enough, it would expand into a little gem of a book — one that changed the way I looked at the world — Hope in the Dark, Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.

Consider that work the secret thirteenth companion to Solnit’s 12 book choices below — her “secret library of hope” — which offer a reader encouragment not to curl up in despair when faced with a grim world. And here’s a bit of small-scale synergy that brightens my own life. My favorite bookstore on the planet, City Lights in San Francisco, is putting up a “Secret Library of Hope” window display of Solnit’s suggestions, with most of the books specially stickered and available inside (along with this essay).

As someone who regularly wears a “City Lights Books” baseball cap in New York City, I can hardly imagine a more enjoyable response to a Tomdispatch post — except for your e-letters which pour in regularly. I always read them and I try my best to answer, when I’m not swept away. I’ve taken to calling them “the university of my later years.” So let me offer Tomdispatch readers a small thank-you for every one of those letters, for all the support, encouragement, and criticism you’ve offered this year, for the tips on articles or books I might have missed, for the descriptions of lives I’d otherwise never know about and places I’ll never get to, for the just-after-publication catching of mistakes and errors, for passing Tomdispatch posts on to friends, colleagues, and those who disagree, for every small act you’ve taken to mitigate the damage being done on, and to, this planet, for every small space for hope you’ve created in me. Tom

The Secret Library of Hope

12 Books to Stiffen Your Resolve

By Rebecca Solnit

Hope is an orientation, a way of scanning the wall for cracks — or building ladders — rather than staring at its obdurate expanse. It’s a worldview, but one informed by experience and the knowledge that people have power; that the power people possess matters; that change has been made by populist movements and dedicated individuals in the past; and that it will be again.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Greg Grandin, On the Torturable and the Untorturable

December 24, 2007

In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Siobhan Gorman offered a striking little portrait of Jose A. Rodriguez, who, in 2005, as chief of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, ordered the destruction of those “hundreds of hours” of CIA videotapes of the…

Now, what do we want to call it? Gorman refers to “extreme techniques” of interrogation (putting the two words in quotes), then repeats the phrase a second time later in the piece without the quotes: “… [Rodriguez] took a careful approach to controversial practices such as renditions — sending detainees to countries that use more extreme interrogation methods…”). In this mini-portrait of Rodriguez, as painted by his colleagues, and of the disappeared videos, the word “torture” is never used, but don’t blame Gorman. As Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher pointed out recently, she’s hardly alone.

“One Associated Press article referred simply to ‘interrogation’ on the tapes, at one point putting ‘enhanced interrogation’ in quotes. Another AP article called it ‘harsh interrogation.’ Mark Mazzeti in The New York Times used ‘severe interrogation methods.’ Eric Lichtblau in the same paper chose the same phrase. David Johnston, in a Saturday article for [the] paper’s Web site, referred to ‘aggressive interrogations’ and ‘coercive techniques.’ Reuters, in its lead, relied on ‘severe interrogation techniques.’ Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick in The Washington Post on Saturday opted for ‘harsh interrogation tactics.'”

Whatever is on those tapes, we’ve come a long way, baby, since, in Medieval Times in Europe, waterboarding was crudely known as “the water torture.”

In any case, Rodriguez, according to his colleagues, turns out to be for the little guy — or the little torturer, anyway. He supposedly destroyed those videos so that “lower-level officers would[n’t] take the fall” for the high-level ones who dished out the orders. But there’s a slight catch in the text. What if some higher-level ones might have been in danger of taking the fall as well?

Here’s Gorman’s money passage, just dropped into the middle of the piece without further explanation or discussion: “One former official said interrogators’ faces were visible on at least one video, as were those of more senior officers who happened to be visiting.” Happened? Visiting? Keep in mind that we’re talking about CIA officials in a torture chamber, not tourists at a local landmark.

Then again, for background, Gorman offers this on Rodriguez: He is, she writes, “a product of what one former agency colleague called ‘the rough-and-tumble’ Latin American division” of the CIA from the 1980s. “Rough and tumble”? You won’t find out what that means from her column, but just keep reading this post. In our period, men like Rodriguez, under the leadership of George W. Bush, have essentially globalized those “rough and tumble” methods of the CIA’s Latin American division. As Greg Grandin — whose superb book, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, nails those “rough-and-tumble” years — points out, they have turned the “unholy trinity” that the U.S. developed in Latin America into a global operation. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Steve Fraser, Concocting the Perfect Electoral Storm

December 24, 2007

Back in February of this year, writing about the history of turning-point elections, Steve Fraser asked a question, but didn’t answer it: Would campaign 2008, he wondered, turn out to be a rare presidential election of historic proportions? After all, the Democrats had recaptured the House and Senate only months before — and mightn’t that have been “a signal” on the horizon of such an upcoming electoral turning point? Just ten months later, in a new economic moment, he’s ready to answer his question, definitively.

Even in an American culture notorious for its loss of memory, there are certain happenings no one forgets, and the Great Depression of the 1930s is one of those. Yet, in the media, just about no one dares to utter the “D” word because of its terrifying and toxic associations. And yet, Fraser argues, the onrushing economic crisis, now apparent to all, could indeed be hightailing in exactly that direction, while the Bush administration and leading Republican presidential candidates say virtually nothing about the economic storm clouds gathering. At the same time — as the recent headlines about the new National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranian nuclear program indicate — the politics of fear on which this administration has maintained so much of its power, and on which Republican presidential candidates seem to depend so completely, is eroding all around us.

Every week, almost every day, another clue suggests that we may be entering a new political environment. Only last week, for instance, the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center released a new poll, indicating that Republican gains of recent years among Hispanic voters have been more than wiped out. In July 2006, only 49% of such voters favored Democrats, while 28% favored Republicans, a gap of 21%. Less than a year and a half later, that gap is 34% and undoubtedly rising — no small matter in potential swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and even Florida. So consider, with Fraser, who has written a striking history of Wall Street, Every Man a Speculator, just what kinds of political and economic storms may lie ahead in 2008. Tom

The Perfect Storm of Campaign 2008

War, Depression, and Turning-Point Elections

By Steve Fraser

Will the presidential election of 2008 mark a turning point in American political history? Will it terminate with extreme prejudice the conservative ascendancy that has dominated the country for the last generation? No matter the haplessness of the Democratic opposition, the answer is yes.

With Richard Nixon’s victory in the 1968 presidential election, a new political order first triumphed over New Deal liberalism. It was an historic victory that one-time Republican strategist and now political critic Kevin Phillips memorably anointed the “emerging Republican majority.” Now, that Republican “majority” finds itself in a systemic crisis from which there is no escape.

Only at moments of profound shock to the old order of things — the Great Depression of the 1930s or the coming together of imperial war, racial confrontation, and de-industrialization in the late 1960s and 1970s — does this kind of upheaval become possible in a political universe renowned for its stability, banality, and extraordinary capacity to duck things that matter. The trauma must be real and it must be perceived by people as traumatic. Both conditions now apply.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Canada and the Arms Trade Treaty

December 23, 2007

See this new monograph at the link below.


Canada and the Arms Trade Treaty

Ernie Regehr

Behind the Headlines (Canadian Institute for International Affairs)

Volume 64, No. 6


Available in pdf at:


Christmas in the Holy Land

December 23, 2007
As Christmas approaches, the land of Christ’s birth – where, for believers, he walked, preached, encouraged his followers to be ‘fishers of men’, for goodness and justice and where he died at the hands of the greedy and corrupt – is under siege. The residents of Gaza are being collectively punished for supporting a democratically elected government (a process so beloved by the freedom-and- democracy- spreaders- by-slaughter in Washington and Whitehall, but clearly the wrong kind of democrocy.They did not elect a corrupt quisling puppet.)The greedy and corrupt have been exiling and silently crucifying the Palestinian people for sixty years, in defiance of over forty UN resolutions. Aided, abbeted, armed with allegedly illegal weapons and weapons of mass destruction, by the bigest bully on the global block: the ‘land of the free’.Whilst people are jailed for holocaust denial, as the West witch hunts the very old under the banner of hunting Nazi war criminals, this silent sixty year holocaust, displacement, ghettoisation, home demolishing, infanticide, child killing, arrest without trial, disappearances, the dying of the sick at road blocks, the theft and erosion of ancient lands, olives and citrus groves, themdestruction of education, civil society continues unabated as the world watches on. Palestinians and Christians alike are spat at by those from illegal settlements – and spat out by an international community which stands by as all that is essential to life support for sick and civlian alike, is denied.The ‘ only democratic country in the Middle East’, flouting international law with impunity, stealing and squatting on the lands of others, is getting away with mass murder aided by its ‘Christian’ partners in crime on Capitol Hill and in Whitehall. Not even the fox is in charge of the henhouse – that would be a positive improvement.As these ‘Christians’ , go the church at Christmas and sing ‘Away in a manger ..’ and ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem ..’ will they reflect that the ‘little town’ and Manger Square’ is walled off, and as most of Palestine, ghettoised, families divided, tenderly tended agricutural lands, sustenance of generations of families, destroyed or unreachable? The olive leaves and olive branches, that potent, biblical symbol of peace and the receding of the great flood, lie broken,smashed, bulldozed, trampled.A metaphor for successive Israeli government’s morals. An eminent physician once told me that a handful of olives a day have every nutrient needed to sustain a life. Like Palestinian lives, they are trampled and meaningless to the occupiers, the modern day equivalent of the evil and corruption of the money lenders in the Temple, whose tables Christ overturned. Reflect what less than five years of American/Israeli occupation (oh yes it is) has done to Iraq. Consider what sixty years have done to Palestine.Give your biggest present to the people of Gaza this Christmas, remember them in your prayers, but praying is not enough. Organise, protest, marshall the media, contact your representatives and make your only New Year resolution to never rest until this illegal occupation and overt and covert carnage in the Holy Land ceases.

The details of where all can start, tangibly and right now, are below:

Appeal – Appeal – Appeal

We have a very series shortage of diesel in the ministry of Health
the majority of the 11 hospitals of MOH do suffer from a shortage of fuel, the same is for the 52 primary health care clinics and vehicles.
I am not speaking now about the consequences but they are catastrophic and include the transportation defect which will not enable the employees of the Ministry to go to their hospitals.
Please. We urge you to help us by applying any sort of pressure that could let the Israelis change their mind about this fatal action that would threaten the lives of thousands of civilians in the already under siege Gaza.
Dr Medhat Abbas
General Director of
Crisis Management Unit
Ministry of Health, Gaza.


Since Israeli government declared Gaza as “hostile entity” on 19th September 2007,Israel blocks delivery of essential medicines to Gaza Strip and doesn’t allow Palestinian patients to go outside of Gaza for urgent treatment.

The United Nations, The World Health Organisation and Physicians for Human Rights have condemned Israel for this situation, but Israeli government is still continuing its policy and Palestinian patients are slowly dying in front of the world.

All the victims of this humanitarian crisis are innocent civilians, and many of them are children. For example in 14th November 2007, 6 months old Palestinian baby Sina al-Hajj died because Israeli government didn’t allow her to cross Gaza border to get treatment.
Palestinian MP Jamal Al Khudari said now there are more than a thousand Palestinian patients in urgent need of treatment who are not allowed to leave Gaza.

Please sign this petition to call the United Nations and the Israeli government to allow the Palestinian patients having treatment outside of Gaza:
Canadian Arab Federation

Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj Interview on a Ministry ofPeace

December 23, 2007

To link to the interview by Independent MP Garth Turner on his MPtv with Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj advocating a Ministry of Peace go to
MPtv – December 13th Webcasts and scroll down to the second video.

You can also try this link and go to the second video:

For more information on the Department of Peace initiative, go to

Help spread the word about the federal Department of Peace initiative.

And whatever you are celebrating this holiday season (I am celebrating Christmas with my family), my wish for you is that it is happy, healthy, peaceful, safe and blessed.

Gifts of Freedom – Share some good karma this holiday

December 15, 2007

With the countdown on until the holidays, many of us are scrambling to get some last minute gifts. Are you looking for gifts that truly make a difference?

Did you know you can give an Amnesty International Gift of Freedom? It’s an easy and convenient way to give a gift that celebrates and protects human rights around the world.

Please have a look at the selection of human rights gifts in Amnesty International Canada’s Gifts of Freedom catalogue, including this one — Amnesty’s most popular choice:

Click here for Instant Karma CD The Gift of Karma – Spread good karma by sending a loved one the new “Instant Karma” CD in time for the holidays if you order by Dec 17th. Instant Karma is a highly-acclaimed collection of John Lennon songs donated by Yoko Ono to help raise money for Amnesty International’s work in Darfur and around the world. Two of the songs have been nominated for Grammy awards.
** We only have 60 left so act quickly! **

When you buy a Gift of Freedom, you know that you are truly helping to bring peace on earth. Choose a gift that best suits your friend, relative or co-worker and send them a personalized e-card to accompany your gift. You’ll get a tax receipt, and we’ll ensure that your contribution is put to good use, helping to protect human rights around the world.

There’s still time if you click here today. I can’t think of a more meaningful way to celebrate this joyous time of year.

Thank you for your support and I wish you and your family the very best this holiday season.
Alex Neve
Alex Neve
Amnesty International Canada

P.S. The holidays are around the corner and you might be still scrambling for the right gift. Click here to visit our gift catalogue and give a Gift of Freedom this holiday season!