Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Let's talk about what happens AFTER election day.

On November 5, millions of Americans and millions more around the world will be rejoicing, breathing great sighs of relief, and hanging their heads in disappointment. We will experience all of these, because regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama - which would represent an important step forward - many crucial initiatives and propositions on the ballot in various states will profoundly impact people's lives, their marriages, transportation, schools, treatment programs and incarceration, and all the others you have heard about. Progressive forces will likely not all win on all of these.

Regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama, we need to keep working, because no president is ever solely responsible – or even chiefly responsible – for positive social change. The last thing we need now is a re-run of the Clinton era, when many liberals were relived that the twelve years of Reagan and Bush I were finally over, the far right gathered its strength, and we allowed the Clinton Administration to go along with – and even sponsor – reactionary legislation that targeted immigrants, scapegoated families struggling to get by on welfare, accelerated corporate media consolidation, and created NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, for example.

What is the change that Obama speaks of? We have heard some of his policy proposals, but what actually comes out of his office will be determined largely by what is made possible by the work of progressive organizations. The change that is Obama's motto and that we so intensely long for will only come with the committed effort of a society organized, of people personally involved at the workplace, on campus, in the neighborhood, for specific issues and in coalition, within the demographic groups we belong to, and also reaching across the lines that separate us.

I just came from a phone bank against Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. I will volunteer a few hours on election day for "Get Out The Vote" activities with PUEBLO, a local organization that builds power and leadership among low-income people. Please, do what you can in the coming days. Vote, of course. But also talk courageously with friends and family about the key issues. Volunteer – work a phone bank, give someone a ride to the polls. (If you don't know how to get started, check out Or you must know at least one activist. Ask them.) Make another donation, even if you can't afford it.

And the day after election day, please, stay involved. The day after that, keep fighting. And the day after that, and the day after that, and all the days to come. We need you.

reprinted Nov. 3, 2008, in the UCSB
Daily Nexus

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain's Private Visit With Chilean Dictator Pinochet Revealed For First Time

From NACLA's Report on the Americas
John Dinges, Oct. 24 2008

John McCain, who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that. In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile's military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, one of the world's most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.

... To keep reading, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No on Prop 8 phone bank Wednesday!

For folks at UCSB ... Are you doing all you can to stop Prop 8?

No on Prop 8 phone bank, Oct. 29, at UCSB
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
4:00pm - 8:00pm
UCSB Student Resource Bldg, room 1103 (conf. room)

The No on Prop 8 campaign is tracking polls that show CA is in jeopardy of Prop 8 passing. That's why we need your help right away.

"Phone banks" are a simple, effective method to sway voters. We have a list of voters in the 805 area code, and a script you can use to bring people over to our side. It doesn't matter if you have never phone-banked before, we will provide a brief training, and it's not hard to do.

There will be FREE PIZZA -- please RSVP saying what time you will arrive and what kind of pizza you want.

With two weeks to go, the time to impact this campaign is now. Please join us!

And if you use Facebook, you can invite people via

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paying your share.

I would like to send this to the farmer in question, but I don't know his name or address. And I would send it as a letter to the editor, but the S.B. News Press is a ruthlessly anti-union company, and a journalistic embarrassment. So I'll just post it here, instead.

At the Saturday farmers’ market, one stand was selling “McCain tomatoes” at $1.50 per pound, and Obama tomatoes for $3.00. The man behind the table seemed to enjoy riling up the liberal Santa Barbara crowd, calling out, “Spread the wealth! Buy Obama tomatoes!” The woman by his side was engaged in damage control. “They’re all the same tomatoes,” she said, “and they’re all the same price.”

At first I laughed, appreciating the man’s willingness to talk politics with a crowd that was likely to disagree, and his sense of humor.

“So does that mean you make more than $250,000 a year?” I jabbed back.

“No,” he responded, “more like $47,000.” Then he continued yelling, “Spread the wealth!”

As I walked away, my smile faded. His message really bothered me. If he supported McCain because of his stance on abortion, or the Iraq War, I could simply agree to disagree. But the tomato joke was repeating perhaps the biggest lie of this presidential campaign: that Obama wants to raise taxes for people like the farmer and his customers.

The Washington Post, not a liberal paper, tells the truth of the matter: “Obama's plan gives the biggest cuts to those who make the least, while McCain would give the largest cuts to the very wealthy.” (That’s from 6/9/08.)

More specifically, under Obama’s tax plan, the average taxes would be the same or lower in 2009 for anyone making less than $603,000 per year. Anyone making less than $112,000 per year would receive a larger tax cut under Obama’s plan, compared with McCain’s. Only people making more than $603,000 would see an increase in taxes.

Have you seen these details, Mr. Farmer? McCain is twisting the truth, terribly.

In order to pay for essential services, such as schools, Medicare, bridges and roads, we all have to pay taxes. In our tough economic times, I strongly support Obama’s plan to give the majority of us a tax break, and to tax the richest among us a bit more.
It’s called “paying your fair share.”

On second thought, I'll submit this to the Daily Sound and the UCSB Daily Nexus.

Fandango Jarocho

First draft of a prose poem, after last night's fandango at Muddy Waters café

Six standing against the wall, instruments in hand
Skulls smile from over their shoulders, flowers in their hair.

Two men, un chaparrito y un gordito, welcome the crowd
in two languages, and call on everyone to participate.
El chaparrito teaches the rhythm of the dance – the zapateado –
says "café con pan, café con pan,"
two stomps with the left foot, one stomp with the right, one more with the left.
Then switch sides.

Then they begin to play, the harp,
the marimbol, and jaranas –
the big huapanguera and three others
each smaller than the one before.
The man in the white hat, white shirt
plays the smallest jarana, the mosquito,
and has the smallest voice.

They sing, taking turns
starting and ending each verse with the same line.
These songs are stories, funny and sad.
The first starts, Ay Guacamaya, ¿adónde vas?
A los Estados Unidos, a la pisca, a trabajar.

Still playing, the chaparrito calls everyone to come closer.
The band circles 'round the tarima
more people crowd in the door
a brown woman in a huipil
a white man with a ponytail
a little girl on her papa’s shoulders
more jaranas of all shapes and sizes join the circle.

On the tarima, the dancing platform,
two big mamas learn the zapateado
the "café con pan" on their lips,
smiling big.
No one cares they miss a step or two.

The song goes on and on
verse after verse
circling around the rythym,
the call and response
now quieter, now louder
‘til el chaparrito yells “una!”
the musicians play one more round of chords
their hands drop silent to their sides
in the same moment everyone brings theirs together
to clap and cheer ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

quotes from historian Marc Bloch

There is no waste more criminal than that of erudition running ... in neutral gear.

To plumb the consciousness of another person, separate from us by the interval of generations, we must virtually lay aside our own ego, whereas, to say what we think, we need only to remain ourselves. This is a less arduous endeavor.

It is so easy to denounce. We are never sufficiently understanding.

Interestingly, it seems to me that the last two quotes apply not only to the craft of history, as the author intended, but to interpersonal relations.

Taken from The Historian's Craft, Vintage Books, 1953, pages 86, 141, and 143.

PS For whatever it's worth, this guy looks a lot like my grandfather.

Paul Loeb: Volunteer Energy and Political Tipping Points

Volunteer Energy and Political Tipping Points

By Paul Rogat Loeb

On election day four years ago, I was canvassing in home state of Washington, alternately knocking on doors for gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire and breaking to call Ohio and Florida. After three recounts, Gregoire won by 129 votes. I had no idea my state election was so close, but I did get three people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted--one forgot it was election day, one needed a ride to the polls, and a third didn’t know how to turn in her absentee ballot. If you multiply my efforts by those of thousands of other volunteers, we clearly helped make the difference.

The same happened in 2006. During the election’s final weeks, I spent about 30 hours calling through MoveOn’s Call for Change program, contacting voters in Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and other states with key Senate and Congressional races. Grabbing spare moments where I could, I dialed my way across the country, convincing maybe 20 people who wouldn’t have otherwise to back the Democratic challengers. Some initially resisted saying, “They’re all the same. They’re all corrupts.” Or “My vote won’t matter so why bother.” But I convinced them to vote, and added a few with election-day reminders. Later I read that MoveOn had 120,000 volunteers. If each had half the impact of my efforts, that meant over a million votes, in a season when US Senate seats swung on margins as close as Montana’s 3,500 votes, Virginia’s 9,000, Rhode Island’s 29,000, or Missouri’s 48,000. Our common efforts again tipped the balance.

It’s easy to think of our individual election volunteering as insignificant. But when enough of us act even in small ways, we can have a powerful impact. Studies have found that if you talk to a dozen people by going door-to-door, you’ll likely add at least one new voter for your candidate, a ratio that tends to hold true from local to federal elections, so long as you’re working in reasonably receptive neighborhoods. Phone outreach can have a similar impact, though you need to talk with more people for a comparable result. Imagine what a few hundred more volunteers could have done to shift Florida’s 537-vote official margin in 2,000, even with all the Republican machinations.

individual actions can be multiplied on both sides. In 2004 a friend was overseeing a cluster of Florida precincts for John Kerry. He’d exceeded his target for turnout, and was feeling guardedly hopeful. Then a couple hundred people showed up en masse, many holding Bibles. They’d been mobilized by Los Angeles and Omaha phone banks, calling fundamentalist congregations. Those who called had every right to do so, and their efforts, alas, helped reelect George Bush.

So why don’t more of us participate, or participate more? Between now and the election, far too many of us will spend plenty of time reading political articles, blogs and polls, obsessing on the latest twists and turns in the headlines, and rooting for our candidate as if for a favorite sports team—while doing relatively little to change the outcome. We can do more than be passive spectators.

Many of us live in states where the presidential race is largely settled, although the popular vote mandate will matter in terms of political leverage, there are numerous close Senate, Congress and governor’s races, not to mention important state ballot initiatives. Even if you don’t live in Virginia or Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina or Pennsylvania, you can go to the campaign websites and find lists of people to call in key swing states, scripts through which to call them, and step-by-step explanations to walk you through the process. You really can do it from the comfort of your home or apartment--or as part of a group phone bank, if the support makes it easier. Getting involved is more challenging in some states than others, but still an opportunity to affect the long arc of history at a potential key turning point.

Even in the ground-zero battlegrounds, I’ve met people who passionately follow the contest, yet hold back from actively participating. When I was in Cleveland last week, a woman raised her hand and said “I’ve been walking neighborhoods for Obama, but my friends don’t want to join me, even though they care just as much about the election. They say they don’t like rejection.”

I asked if anyone in the audience enjoyed rejection. Surprisingly, no one did. But the woman who had canvassed said the time she spent was actually pretty decent. She got some butterflies at first—it’s always hard approaching strangers. But once she got into the swing, she enjoyed it. She even had some thoughtful conversations, once she left the necessary training wheels of the script.

Many of us also hesitate due to a perfect standard where we feel we need to be totally eloquent or our efforts will be worthless. My retired neighbor considered calling for Obama, then worried that he wasn’t as articulate and persuasive as he used to be, so decided not to. But our efforts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be heartfelt, and we have to keep at them.

With Obama opening up a steadily increasing lead, it’s easy for those of us to support him to get complacent. But this is a volatile electorate—a little over a month ago, McCain led with his Sarah Palin bounce. So while the polls are encouraging, given economic meltdown, attack ads, racial issues, and potential voter intimidation and suppression, we’d be wise to view this as an election where our actions really could determine the outcome.

Most of us reading this essay will vote. And maybe most of our friends will as well. But in a politically divided nation, victory may well go to the side that turns out the greatest numbers of more marginal supporters, including those who are newly registered and uncertain about the process, or who doubt their vote will matter. Particularly when reaching out to those who haven’t traditionally voted, getting people to the polls isn’t something that can be done by just running more ads. We have to make the phone calls, knock on the doors, and remind people as many times as necessary of the differences between the candidates and the impact they could make with their vote. This election may well be won with presence and persistence. It might just be in our hands.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See To receive his articles directly, email with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Respóndele a Obama

Let me repeat: even if Obama wins, the state of the U.S. and the world is precarious, and we can't leave it up to one man to fix things ... but still, I feel hopeful, especially after watching this video!

Monday, October 06, 2008


What follows is a chronicle of an afternoon spent in Ankara last summer,
which I meant to post months ago...

Pazar, 8 Haziran
Sunday, June 8

After lunch, I accompanied cousin İnci to the castle district, where she was to meet some friends. We parted ways and I wandered the steep cobbled streets, stopping for a ring of hot simit, or sesame bread, and stepping into a handicrafts shop called Öykü. A man bounded up the back stairwell, out of breath by the time he reached me. When I asked him how much for a painted ceramic fish on a string of beads, he snapped, “I am so tired from running up the stairs to greet you and all you ask is the price?" Then he burst out laughing. He turned the dangling artwork around and said, "Look, it’s on the back. You could have figured that out!”

He asked where I was from. "American?" He lifted up my arms, pantomimed a security search. “Where is your gun?” He made a gun with his thumb and forefinger, and explained that no American goes unarmed. No, I answered his questions, I am not a soldier, and no, I don’t like war. His smile softened a bit. He shook my hand warmly and called me “dost.” (Close to the word “compañero” in Spanish, this means “friend,” “comrade,” or “lover,” depending.) Then he handed me his business card. His name was İbrahim Ö., Proprietor. "But my friends call me 'İbo.'"

The phone rang, and İbo sprinted to the back of the store. (“Yes, I’m here at the store, yes, it’s going well, I am talking to an American.”) When he returned, He saw me smiling and tapping my foot to the Balkan music on the stereo. “Nice song, isn’t it?” he asked. Now it was my turn to laugh. It was the absurdly macho refrain of "Pit Bull Terrier," from the film Black Cat White Cat. Then he laughed, and we recounted our favorite scenes from the movie and its wild, absurd humor. His rapid-fire speech was punctuated by finger jabs, shoulder pats, squeezes of the arm. He was on the short side, with shoulder-length black hair turning gray, a few days’ whiskers. Blue jeans and long-sleeve black Polo shirt.

He asked if I was married, and I told him about my girlfriend. “Do you have children?” he asked. “No? You must have children, lots of children! You are a good man, I can see that from your smile. There are so many bad people having children, good people must have more children than them!”

After meandering conversations and a bit of haggling, I bought the ceramic fish, asked him to wrap it up safely, a gift for some friends getting married soon. "Fish are very good luck," he told me. "This is a great gift, handmade, hand-painted." I thanked him many times over in my poor Turkish and promised to return.

"Ah," he said, shaking my hand, not letting go. "There's one more thing I want to tell you. This store, I named it after my daughter, eight years old."

Öykü was the name. Meaning Story.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

the magic of Bruce Goldish

After spending another beautiful day indoors, I went for a walk downtown and was amazed to hear beautiful acoustic guitar booming out of a parking garage above the street. Apparently Bruce Goldish is a Sunday evening institution in Santa Barbara, here in one of his "favorite outlaw places to play." His energy verges on maniacal, he has talent and humor to match, and his personable interaction with listeners includes posting every hand-written comment on his website!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

PUEBLO: a great group in my new town.

One of the many reasons I am pleased to now live in Santa Barbara, California, is the existence of this great organization, PUEBLO.

This is how they describe themselves:

PUEBLO is a 501(c)4 non-profit economic and environmental justice organization dedicated to building the political power and leadership of low-income residents throughout Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County is home to one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, yet there is tremendous poverty throughout our County. Santa Barbara County has the highest rate of uninsured children in the State, and the economy is dominated by low-wage jobs in the service, tourist, and agricultural industries.

The high cost of living is forcing working families to hold multiple jobs, commute long distances for low-wage work, and live in crowded apartments. Many working people are frequently forced to make hard choices between paying the rent, feeding their families, or going to the doctor. When working families are unable to meet their basic needs, our whole community suffers.

PUEBLO’s primarily organizes around the following issues: living wage, public transportation, affordable housing, health care, immigrant rights, and child care.

One of my favorite parts about this is that they are organized as a 501(c)(4) organization. This means that donations to the organization are not tax-deductible, as they are with the better known 501(c)(3) organizations. The flip side is that PUEBLO does not have to conform to the legal limits placed on 501(c)(3) organizations, namely that they can't support or oppose candidates for elected office. In other words, they are less hamstrung by the "non-profit/industrial complex." I look forward to learning more about them.