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Jan 13
2010

David Swanson

Posted by Bruce Robinson in war , speaker , rights , politics , peace , media , legislation , journalism , Ideas , history , government , events , Congress , business , author , activism

Bruce Robinson

The founding Fathers saw the U.S. Constitution as a dynamic document that would evolve and change over time. Writer and activist David Swanson believes we’re long overdue in getting to work on that.

In his new book, Daybreak:  Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, Swanson tracks the gradual accretion of political powers in the office of the presidency—something that has been underway for most of our national history, but which accelerated markedly in the past eight years. In his analysis, that is dangerously undemocratic, but its hardly the only place in our national governance where that is a problem. Another is the U.S. Senate, particularly the convoluted procedural practice of the filibuster, which Swanson would like to see ended.

The calls for impeachment of Dick Cheney or George W. Bush or members of their administration have diminished over the past year, but Swanson notes that leaving office does not remove or even lessen their vulnerability to such charges. And he contends that pursuing impeachment against any of the potentially culpable former officials would serve the further purpose of reasserting the strength of the House of Representatives.

The politics of 2009 were sharply different from the years before, Swanson observes, as much of the activism that had mobilized against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan got caught up in the Obama campaign, and has not yet re-established itself. He speculates that the anti-war effort might actually be more effective today if John McCain had been elected instead.

David Swanson will be speaking at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa at 7 pm on Wednesday, Jan. 13, hosted by the Progressive Democrats of Sonoma County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 11
2010

"Marx in Soho"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in politics , Petaluma , media , Ideas , history , events , education , economy , author , arts , activism

Bruce Robinson

Karl Marx was an economic and social theorist, and a self-described communist. But one thing he said he was not, was a Marxist.

Jerry Levy is a college professor, a longtime leftist activist and an actor who has been performing Howard Zinn’s Marx in Soho frequently for the past six years. (He's seen in character at the left.) He notes that the play’s central premise places the 19th Century writer and theorist into the present day, giving Marx a platform to comment on contemporary issues.

Although Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin are often linked in connection with the Russian revolution a century ago, Levy says that Lenin is largely ignored throughout Marx in Soho.

Below are photographs of Howard Zinn (left) and the offstage Jerry Levy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 07
2010

"The Harvard Psychedelic Club"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in students , speaker , research , religion , protest , politics , peace , medicine , media , law enforcement , journalism , jail , history , events , education , drugs , chemicals , author , activism

Bruce Robinson

Much of the social upheaval of the 1960s can be traced back to four men at Harvard University at the beginning of the decade, contends journalist Don Lattin. His new book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club, does exactly that.

Don LattinDon Lattin, the longtime former religion reporter for the San Francisco chronicle, attributes his choice career path to his own informal psychedelic experimentation as a college student in the early 1970s. He says that experience, which was shared by thousands of his contemporaries, also inspired him to research and write The Harvard Psychedelic Club.

Timothy Leary in San Francisco in 1995, a year before his death.In his book, Lattin gives each of the four main figures an iconic title. Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) is “Seeker,” Houston Smith is “Teacher,” and Andrew Weil, “Healer.” And after some extended deliberation, he settled on calling Leary “Trickster.”

Albert Hoffman, inventor of LSDSwiss chemist Albert Hoffman (right) inadvertently synthesized LSD in 1938, and accidentally became the first person to ingest it in 1944. In the United States, clinical research into the properties and effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) did not begin with Leary and Alpert’s Harvard experiments in 1960, Lattn reports, but can be traced back to studies in the previous decade, a project secretly funded by the CIA.

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Dec 31
2009

"Breadline USA"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in poverty , policy , nonprofit orgs , news , Health , food , families , economy , author

Bruce Robinson

  

Hunger—now called “food insecurity” in government-speak, is a growing problem across the United States, but one that conflicts with our national self-image

As he was researching Breadline USA, Sacramento-based investigative journalist Sasha Abramsky decided he should experience for himself exactly the sorts of no-win choices that confront someone on a low and limited income. Drafting a budget for a single person working at a full-time job paying $8.23 per hour, Abramsky found he would have only $50 per week to spend on food, unless something went wrong, as inevitably happens. Ultimately, he concluded, it was simply not possible to survive without outside assistance.

One way the government has deflected attention from the growing numbers of underfed families and children in the country, says Abramsky, is by redefining hunger as “food insecurity.”

Read a sample from Breadline USA here.

The largest source of food assistance in the North Bay is the Redwood Empire Food Bank. Click on the links to find out about what they are doing, and how you can get involved.

 

Last summer, the food bank issued the following press release, citing the dramatically increased demand for food that they have been attempting to serve.

Amount of Food Distributed by REFB Up 32 Percent Since Recession

  SANTA ROSA, July 29 – The amount of food distributed by the Redwood Empire Food Bank has increased more than 32 percent in Sonoma County since the nation’s recession began two years ago.
The increase was even greater in several parts of the county. Food distributions were up 66 percent in Healdsburg, 63 percent in Cloverdale, 43 percent in Rohnert Park/Cotati and 42 percent in Sonoma Valley.

The increase in food distributions is based on year-end calculations made earlier this month at the close of fiscal 2008-09.

The accounting shows that the REFB distributed the equivalent of 8,154,193 meals during fiscal year 2008-09 in Sonoma County, a 32.3 percent increase over the 6,165,415 meals the REFB distributed to people in need during fiscal 2006-07.
 
The increase in need is showing up in all of the hunger relief programs the REFB supports or operates. Two programs for children showed significant increases in just the past year.
 
Gail Atkins, Director of Programs at the REFB, said there was a 21 percent increase in the number of After School Snacks served low-income children throughout the county during fiscal 2008-09. She said the REFB provided 248,050 nutritious snacks – 43,000 more than the year before – to youngsters at Boys and Girls Clubs, recreation centers, schools and other youth centers that criss-cross the county, from Petaluma north to Cloverdale and Sonoma Valley west to Bodega Bay.
 
Atkins also said summer lunches distributed in June through the REFB’s annual Every Child, Every Day – Summer Hunger Initiative jumped 18 percent over the previous June..
 
Economists generally agree the nation slipped into the current recession following the first two quarters of 2007-08.
 
David Goodman, executive director of the REFB, said the numbers don’t come as a big surprise but are nonetheless shocking.
 
“We knew that people needed more help as the economy tanked, jobs were lost, home foreclosures increased,” said Goodman. “So, seeing this huge jump in the numbers was anticipated.”
 
“Nonetheless, we distributed food for almost 2 million more meals than we did two years ago,” he said. “That so many people are under such stress to feed themselves and their families is shocking, but at the same time we’re gratified by the fact that the food bank and other hunger relief programs in the county are able to respond.”
 
Based on annual food distributions, the REFB projected two years ago that the food bank and 133 partner agencies provide food to 60,000 Sonoma County residents each month.
 
“Now, every indication shows that the numbers are significantly larger,” he said. “More people need help.”
 
The REFB is nearing the end of its annual three-month summer food and cash drive.
 
Goodman said the REFB got a big boost in nonperishable food supplies in May when North Bay mail carriers collected more than 150,000 lbs. of canned and packaged food, a third of which went on REFB’s warehouse shelves.
 
“But that food is now gone,” said Goodman. “So, we need all the help the community can give us.”
 
 The REFB is the largest food bank serving the North Coast of California from Sonoma County to Oregon.  
In addition to providing hunger relief in Sonoma County, the REFB is the primary resource for food pantries and other hunger relief agencies in Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
 
 For more information, call David Goodman, 523-7900.