by Michael W. Stowell

October 15, 2001

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I'm sitting, thinking about what to write and where to begin, here on the third and top floor of the Humboldt State University library; in a study booth next to a sunny window, staring at a blank piece of paper. THUMP! There is a sparrow sitting on the ledge outside the window; it is looking up at me. In a moment, with a slight quiver, it falls over. Limp. Dead.

The bombing has resumed in Afghanistan, different bombs and different delivery systems, and I can't imagine the U.S. changing course now. I can't imagine the Al Qaeda network changing course, either; the "head infidel" has been engaged. So I'm reminded by that sparrow, who simply didn't see what it was flying into, of how important is the task at hand, of how much more creative and intent we must be if lessons of universal justice and peace are to be shared and taught and learned.

I'm reminded of those people, around the globe, who believe this war is justified; that it is, in fact, a "war on terrorism;" reminded of the 90% or more of Americans who need an education in the obvious.

There is a debate as to whether the September 11th attacks were actually on America or upon capitalist colonialism and the corporate/military complex which supports it. When I consider where America came from I realize that careful analysis raises questions as to what America is and what Americans are.

Throughout the 1600s more than two-thirds of the colonial immigrants who migrated to this continent were indentured servants who were, in effect, owned by corporations chartered by the Royal Crown in England. After serving out their indentures many applied for and received land grants and resettled on the frontier, the buffer zone between indigenous peoples, many of whom were then refugees, and the "civilized" areas that were becoming colonies. There the seeds of racism were propagated to prevent immigrants from integrating with indigenous people. A harmonious co-existence would have weakened the control that capitalist landholders needed to insure labor resources and "development."

Many believe that our society has evolved beyond the early capitalist plutocracy of pre-Revolutionary War times, but indications are that it has not. Instead, the plutocrats learned early lessons well and developed more elaborate and successful methods of societal manipulation; Noam Chomsky aptly termed the results "manufactured consent."

There must be vital reasons for the plutocrats' consciousness-controlling inventions. Would the American people be a threat if they knew the truth? Apparently the plutocracy believes so. I believe we should carefully consider how to inform the people of this country as to the truth of the past and present and of the options for the future. Thus far, there has been very limited success.

Therefore, we must examine past attempts at disseminating truthful information and consider what methods have and have not been successful; and in what degrees. We have new resources available to us that must be considered. Keep in mind that personal contacts are still important but broader impact must also be realized through other methods.

I do not believe the choreographed demonstrations of the past will be as effective now, the mass media has developed methods that use those activities to the plutocracy's advantage. Unless events begin to precipitate large, spontaneous demonstrations that are focused and clear about the issues, I'll not be in attendance. I'll not give the media an opportunity to spin 30 seconds of coverage and make us look stupid.

I've been actively engaged in an informational campaign for a number of years now; been thinking much about how we can help to educate, motivate and reach out to a wider audience. Here in Arcata, we are having meetings that are high in attendance and the people attending are quite earnest, more so than I have ever witnessed in the past. They are asking the same question that people of like minds are asking all around the world; what do we do now?

As some of my regular readers may already know, I am a videographer who specializes in documentary material, primarily teach-ins and speakers, and I have a reserved timeslot on public access television here in Humboldt county for programs I produce and acquire from other producers. Since I am a City Commissioner, I can place relevant programs on government access time as well. Here is a recent schedule of my submissions:

Arcata Public, Educational and Government Access Television - (APEG)channel 12

• Sunday, Oct. 14th at 9 pm - What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy - video compilation that tracks the CIA's covert operations; produced by Frank Dorrel.

• Tuesday, Oct. 16th at 7 pm - Anti-terrorist Teach-in - panel discussion and public forum; videotaped Oct. 3rd at the Arcata Community Center by Michael Stowell.

• Tuesday, Oct. 16th at 9 pm - Speak Truth To Power - Brian Willson and Frank Dorrel discuss U.S. foreign policy at the Arcata "D" Street Neighborhood Center; videotaped on 10/15/01 by Michael Stowell.

• Sunday, Oct. 21st at 9 pm - Star Wars Returns - National Missile Defense plans and implications; produced by Carl Grossman.

• Sunday, Oct. 21st at 9:30 pm - Arms For The Poor - the corporate/military's proliferation of weapons in third world countries.

• Sunday, Oct. 28th at 9 pm - End The Embargo: HSU Teach-In On Cuba - panel discussion and Q&A concerning 40+ years of a crippling U.S. embargo - another form of mass destruction.

• Tuesday, Oct. 30th at 7 pm - Keep Space For Peace Teach-In/Rally For Peace - teach-in and rally in support of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; videotaped on Oct. 13th at the Arcata Plaza by Michael Stowell.

• Tuesday, Oct. 30th at 9 pm - Speak Truth To Power - Brian Willson and Frank Dorrel discuss U.S. foreign policy at the Arcata "D" Street Neighborhood Center; videotaped on 10/15/01 by Michael Stowell.

• Sunday, Nov. 4th at 9 pm - Fidel - a great documentary production from Cuba.

• Tuesday, Nov. 6th at 7 pm - Dr. Stephen Zunes: Israel and Palestine - U of SF professor and Middle East policy analyst's stunning presentation of the facts; videotaped Sept. 2001 by Michael Stowell.

• Sunday, Nov. 11th at 9 pm - Noam Chomsky: Globalization - Professor Chomsky discusses a timely issue.

Sunday, Nov. 18th at 9 pm - Speak Truth To Power - Brian Willson and Frank Dorrel discuss U.S. foreign policy at the Arcata "D" Street Neighborhood Center; videotaped on 10/15/01 by Michael Stowell.

I am also a member of our local Friends of the Library group and have some influence concerning what materials are provided for the public. I like The Progressive and Z Magazine; and William Blum, Howard Zinn, Molly Ivans, et al. You can find some appropriate books for donation to your public library at commoncouragepress.com.

I'm delighted to have Swans.com as another outlet for my "activism" and look forward to each rendition, whether I am a contributor or not. I like to find great articles on the internet, print them out and make copies, then place the copies in public places like coffee shops and laundromats; a tactic used successfully by religious evangelicals.

Then, of course, there's the political communication that must be monitored and maintained. Recently, the Bush administration has been stealthily planning to get Fast Track Authority for the Free Trade Area of the Americas international agreement passed by both houses of congress.

Republicans in the House are pushing to get their latest version of Fast Track, California 21st District Representative William M. Thomas' HR3005, the "Bipartisan Trade Promotion Act of 2001," out of committee and then push for a vote of the full House. Many Democrats are ready to say yes. Calls from a dozen constituents can make enough difference to encourage a congressperson to vote no. You can even call him or her FREE at 1-800-393-1082 (courtesy of AFL-CIO). This will connect you with the Congress switchboard. Ask for your congressmember, and then for his/her aide. Just ask the aide where the Member stands on Fast Track, and then urge him/her to vote on the side of full debate; in other words, to VOTE NO. Ask for the Member to be sure to send you a written reply.

Some talking points:

-This is no time to bring up a controversial and divisive issue like Fast Track. Congress needs to focus on issues that unites it, as well as the responses to the terrorist attacks.

-Fast Track will set the terms of U.S. trade and investment policies for the next 5-10 years and needs a thoughtful and thorough debate.

-There is nothing bi-partisan about the bill, it does not address in any meaningful way the real negative impacts that trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO have had on jobs, the environment and our family farmers.

After you have called your own Member, call Speaker of the House Hastert and tell him how much you appreciate how he has been working to create a bi-partisan spirit in the House and that you hope that he will oppose this crass attempt by Thomas to break it. You can reach his office in DC at 202-225-2976 (or call the toll-free number and enter the zip-code for Hastert's district: 60510).

If you have any questions about how a particular Member is leaning on Fast Track, please call 202-546-4996 (ask for any member of the Global trade Watch field team) or e-mail mstrand@citizen.org.

For more information about Fast Track, please visit tradewatch.org.

If you want to read the Thomas Fast Track bill go to http://waysandmeans.house.gov/fullcomm/107cong/tpa/tpa.pdf.

In a dramatic departure from the anti-terrorism bill adopted by the House Judiciary Committee last week, Senate leaders have passed the "Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act" (S.1510), a more extreme bill than the House bill that would significantly undermine many of the remaining freedoms in America. Among the bill's most troubling provisions are measures that would give the government the authority to spy on its own people, enable the Attorney General unlimited authority to incarcerate non-citizens, and allow the government to expand its use of secret searches. Contact your congressmember and voice your strong opposition to the direction that the Senate took.

In these times of increasing corporate media-led war frenzy, it's ESSENTIAL that we ALL locate honest and independent news and analysis and stay in touch with it every day. Every weekday, you can now hear Amy Goodman's special 2-hour "War and Peace Report" on Democracy Now, either directly via your local Pacifica affiliate FM-radio station, or on Free Speech TV broadcasting on the Dish Satellite Network twice daily (channel 9415, or freespeech.org), or via their website on real audio (webactive.com).

I'm fortunate to have a couple friends who host a radio call-in program entitled "The Politically Correct Week In Review" on a very progressive, people-powered public radio station, KMUD-FM (kmud.org), and am tickled to get on the air with them twice a month. Check your radio for call-in programs and join the discussion.

If you would like more in-depth analysis of Afghanistan, the National Security Archive is offering the second volume of a series called "The September 11th Sourcebooks." In the latest installment, Archive experts John Prados and Svetlana Savranskaya draw on declassified records and the memoirs of former Soviet officials to examine Soviet policymaking, military operations, and lessons learned from the last war in Afghanistan, a bloody, ten-year conflict that pitted Soviet military forces against CIA-backed Afghan rebels. The collection also includes excerpts from an essay written by analyst Steve Galster as an introduction to the Archive's microfiche collection, "Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1973-1990," published in 1990. The documents are available on the Web at http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/

When your government tells you to do your patriotic duty and shop, shop, shop this Xmas, remember that, according to Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. at the Environment News Service each day Americans,
throw out 200,000 tons of edible food,
use 313 million gallons of fuel - enough to drain 26 tractor-trailer trucks every minute,
take 18 million tons of raw materials from the Earth,
use 6.8 billion gallons of drinking water to flush toilets,
throw 1 million bushels of litter out of car windows,
add 10,000 minks to their closets and coat racks,
spend $200 million on advertising,
saw up to 100 million board feet of wood,
use 250,000 tons of steel and 187,000 tons of paper.
That's each and every day!

If you really want to celebrate Christmas, send a donation to a reliable relief agency for the refugees in Afghanistan. Then send a good book or magazine subscription to your local public library.

Finally, do not despair when all do not see. Many will not; the blood-letting and deceptions will get worse before events awaken more people to the true causes of war and those responsible. In the meantime, remember Dr. King's admonition, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and please do what you can.

I'll remember that sparrow.


       Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of both the City of Arcata, Humboldt County, CA, Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission and the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Arcata Library. He is the producer/editor/videographer of numerous public access television programs; he is a naturalist, a gardener, a bicyclist and a Swans columnist.

[Ed. Note: The City of Arcata, incorporated in 1858, is located in Humboldt County, on California's Redwood Coast, at the juncture of California Highway 101 and 299 West. The city is approximately 289 miles north of San Francisco, 150 miles west of Redding and 760 miles north of Los Angeles. The 1990 census reported Arcata's population as 15,197 and the county population as 119,118.]


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Michael Stowell's Commentaries on Swans

Essays published in 2001

Barbarians of Our Own Dark Ages? Debunking the Myth Behind the Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (December 2000)


Published October 15, 2001
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