Fasting in Solidarity with California Prisoner Hunger Strikers

On Wednesday July 31st, people around the world will fast and take other peaceful, non-violent action in solidarity with the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers. Join family members of hunger strikers along with James Cromwell, Angela Davis, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Chris Hedges, Alice Walker, and Cornel West. We fast knowing the criminalization that killed Trayvon Martin, and the criminalization that justifies the torture of prisoners in solitary confinement are one and the same.

Today is Day 24 of the California Prisoner Hunger Strike. Beth Hastings and I are fasting today. By fasting publicly we hope to broaden awareness of the enormous injustice and the horrific conditions prisoners must endure every day in solitary confinement in the California penal system. Our fast is a personal response to an appalling situation. In California, nearly 12,000 imprisoned people spend 23 of 24 hours living in a concrete cell smaller than a large bathroom. The cells have no windows, no access to fresh air or sunlight. People in solitary confinement exercise an hour a day in a cage the size of a dog run. They are not allowed to make any phone calls to their loved ones. They cannot touch family members who often travel days for a 90 minute visit; their conversation and their mail is monitored by prison guards. They are not allowed to talk to other imprisoned people. They are denied all educational programs, and their reading materials are censored.

How are prisoners put into solitary confinement? The prosecutor, judge and jury is a prison official called an Institutional Gang Investigator. The I.G.I.’s ‘evidence’ may be a book the prisoner has read, a tattoo, or some culturally based art the prisoner has created. But most often, the ‘evidence’ comes from another prisoner, a secret informant. With this ‘evidence,’ the I.G.I can ‘sentence’ the accused to a lifetime in solitary confinement.

The primary demands of the hunger strikers are these:

  1. An end to long term solitary;
  2. An end to the illegal and immoral use of secret informants;
  3. An end to punishing whole racial groups for an individual’s actions;
  4. Improving conditions to meet basic humane standards for physical and mental health; and
  5. Providing educational programs.

What can you do to help?

You can endorse and support today’s “Hunger for Justice” action. Sign on here…

You can join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) and participate in one action per week in response to some emergency facing the hunger strikers, and in resistance to the torture. These actions may include an email, phone call, letter, or a vigil and will be initiated by the Emergency Response Network of PHSS.

You can contact Governor Jerry Brown:
Phone: (916) 445-2841, (510) 289-0336, (510) 628-0202
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Suggested script: I’m calling in support of the prisoners on hunger strike. The governor has the power to stop the torture of solitary confinement. I urge the governor to compel the CDCR to enter into negotiations to end the strike. RIGHT NOW is their chance to enter into clear, honest negotiations with the strikers to end the torture.

Wrist watch shopping

I lost my watch last year. I removed it while I was mowing the lawn, because I didn’t want to risk damaging it. It was  a big lawn, took two or three hours to mow on a lawn tractor. That much vibration and jarring was starting to make me hurt, so I reasoned that it couldn’t be good for my watch. I stuffed the timepiece in my trouser pocket and fired up the mower. Then I mowed around the barn; mowed the lake lawn; mowed the front lawns and the side lawn; mowed what we laughingly called the “formal garden;” mowed the paths out through the field to the orchard, the shrubbery, the quasi-arboretum; mowed around the hazelnuts and around the vegetable garden; and I mowed several hundred feet of road frontage. Then I called it a day. When I dug in my pocket for the watch, it wasn’t there. I had lost it. I hope the people who bought our farm found that watch and like it as much as I did.

citizenWe moved and for many months I got along fine using my cell phone and wall clocks and car clocks to check the time. But, there came a point when I had to admit  that having a wrist watch was a convenience I missed. Maybe it was when I read about some absurdly expensive watch, a watch that was more jewelry than timepiece, but at some point I decided I’d try to replace the watch I lost. I looked for an exact match and could not find one. After a little research, I decided I didn’t need diamonds and gold and such. I didn’t need a Rolex or a Piaget. This expanded the range of affordable options open to me. Anybody who has used Google and Amazon to help them find a product or realize a materialist fantasy doesn’t need me to recapitulate my process. I searched. I compared. I priced. I weighed and considered. And eventually I came up with a product that Amazon could provide that I thought would do the trick. While I hadn’t tried it on, I was comfortable that if I didn’t like it, I could return it, so I ordered it up and what do you know? It’s been everything I hoped it would be.

My new watch is a Citizen Eco-Drive with a perpetual calendar. I’m hoping it’s my forever watch, the last one I’ll need to buy. (Did you know that some people collect watches? They have a watch wardrobe that they swap around and mix and match with their attire like some people swap out cuff links. Did you know that there are some people who wear cuff links?) My new watch has a sapphire crystal that won’t scratch and a titanium case and band that are both tough and lightweight. If I fall off a boat and drown in less than 200 meters of water, the watch will keep running. It’s the only watch I own. I flatter myself that it would look good whether I was wearing a tuxedo or a wetsuit, if I owned a tuxedo. Or a wetsuit.

The watch is solar powered. I’ll never have to change a battery. I could leave it in the dark in a drawer for a couple of months before it would run out of stored solar power. It’s radio controlled. It sets itself to the atomic clock so while it can gain or lose a few seconds every month or two, if it does, then it will correct itself and be synchronized to provide the exact time whenever I look at it. It has a perpetual calendar. I set it once, and I’ll never have to set it again. Unlike all the other calendar watches I have ever owned, this one knows how many days there are in the current month and won’t get confused until the year 2100. It keeps track of daylight savings time for me, and it has an easy adjustment to local time when I’m traveling. In the future, when I have wandered off down the twisted byways of senile dementia, this watch will be the most rational thing about me. I find that oddly pleasing.

 

 

 

Letting Go

Dave Winer sometimes writes about death. His uncle, his father, the recently departed Aaron Swartz… his memorial posts for these people were poignant and honest reflections. I am sure that over the years he has written other remembrances but those are the ones I recall. I also remember Dave musing about what happens to a blogger’s online legacy when s/he dies. Might there not be an archive for the work of those who’ve passed away? Perhaps there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity there, but it seems like a depressing way to make a living.

My link clean-up project provides stark reminders of the passing of people I once admired, people I may have been close to or only knew at a distance. Deleting links seems so final. It’s easier to let go of a link that itself has rotted, an URL that has been returned to ICANN, than it is to delete the link of a person now deceased whose work remains online. But I’m doing it. Michelle “Mandarin Meg” Goodrich is gone and so is her website. Her link has been removed from my list. I think one of the reasons I’m having a hard time letting go of these links is the opportunity for reminiscence they provide–memories of good times and good conversations, deep thoughts or hilarious moments. Here are the names, in no particular order, of bloggers, now deceased, whom I’ve deleted from my list of links:

  • Michael O’Connor Clarke
  • Michelle Goodrich
  • Charlie “Winston Rand” Rhodes
  • Aaron “Uppity Negro” Hawkins
  • Aaron Swartz
  • Anita Rowland
  • Joe Bageant

Now comes the hard part, the knowledge that there are a few friends and acquaintances who have come and gone over the last twelve or thirteen years, and my mind (“like a steel sieve”) has refused to recall them while I made my list. When I hit the button to post this, I’m sure some name will spring to mind and I’ll be totally chagrined. No disrespect for those omissions is intended. As time goes by, more of us will qualify for this post’s sad roll call. And, like the man said, “The world will little note nor long remember” us. It’s likely though, that the world will long remember that at the dawn of the 21st century a new genre of electronic self publishing arose. They called it blogging, and they called the writers who did it bloggers.

Ten Random Links

In the old days there was the blogroll. The blogroll served several purposes. It was a list of links available to a circle of bloggers who read each others work, a navigational convenience for easy clickage from one blog to another. It was a reference list built to recommend sites to people who might not otherwise know about them. It was a search engine optimization (SEO) tool. There was a time when the more sites you linked and the more sites that linked to you, the better your blog appeared in search engine rankings.

Things, as they will, have changed. There might still be an SEO advantage in providing links and counting clicks, I imagine there is but it really doesn’t matter unless you want to get rich blogging. The only people who get rich blogging are… hell, NOBODY ever got rich blogging. So forget the SEO thing.

Those bloggers’ circles of mutual linkage still exist, but I think they represent a rather closed-end approach. Take my friend Ronni Bennett. Ronni writes Time Goes By which to me is the definitive online journal addressing the quotidian issues of aging.  I’m aging. Trust me. I’m aging. And a link to Ronni in the blogroll makes sense because I like her writing, I’m engaged by the topicality of Time Goes By, and she’s my friend. Still, I’m faced with the issue of creating a page layout here at Listics that people will find comprehensible, perhaps even appealing. I don’t have room in my sidebar for all the dozens and dozens of links that I find relevant and I would like to share with everyone.

So I’ve embarked on the process of cleaning up my link list, and sharing ten at a time in the sidebar under the heading “10 Random Links.” My link list is amazingly diverse. It contains techies and artists, journalists and foodies, activists and politicians and lions and tigers and bears. Well, okay. Maybe not so many of the zoo animals, but there are some really interesting people who will show up randomly in that sidebar. If a few dozen people find out that I’m blogging again, and if they visit regularly, I can promise an interesting experience if you click on those links! Now, I’m doing my best to tidy up, discard dead links, update addresses for people who may have blogged elsewhere way-back-when. You can help. If you find a dead link or something awful in that sidebar list, please give me shout and let me know. I’ll fix it.

Joe Bageant

bageantball
“There are no last names on skid row, except on police blotters. Hence, the ragged tramps at the Western Palace Hotel all have vague names like Slim, Red, Shorty, and Boe. These bums are rich as winos go, with the most of them living on small pensions; and the Western is what is called in these circles a solid flop (meaning that most of its residents live here permanently).

Housing about 60 wined-out old men who manage to come up with the $16.20 a week required to call it home. A verifiable address like this is as extravagant as life gets for those drowned in a well of muscatel. Scaley and bruised white ankles of their less fortunate brothers can be seen protruding from under dumpsters or jutting from phone booths up and down Champa Street. February’s nasty and biting winds have no favorites but prey upon the derelicts of the Larimer district with special viciousness.

Torpid life in flop America has remained unchanged since the turn of the century and the smiling women with a cause still glom oatmeal onto tin plates as policemen pick up comatose bodies clad in long overcoats….” — Joe Bageant, 1976

I met Joe Bageant in Minneapolis several years ago at the National Conference on Media reform.  Joe knew me as a fan and an activist and we exchanged a few messages over the Inter-tubes. In 2011 Joe died, but he left us a couple of good books and a hard drive full of essays that are worth re-reading. His website remains. I know of no stronger voice, no better writer on topics of redneck culture and poor and working class white people. Since his death, some of his earlier work has found its way onto the web. It’s mostly worth reading…

In the footsteps of Neal Cassady’s ghost (March, 1976)

Tribute to a white trash saint (September, 1976)

Tim Leary and the Outer Space Connection (February, 1977)

 

Mosaic and Maria Benet

Twenty years ago I loaded a Mosaic browser on my PC and began a new adventure in Internet exploration. A few years later, I took my first baby steps creating and loading content onto the World Wide Web. By 2001, I became part of a web of relationships, interpersonal linkages, that we now call “social networking.”  One of the people I met then was Maria Benet, a woman who blogged and wrote poetry, most definitely not in that order. Today, Maria’s twitter page says she’s an ex-poet. What can that mean? If you write, wrote, or in some cases if you intend to write poetry, you’re a poet. A poet is a poet and there’s no there there in Oakland, I think you must agree.

Today I’m musing about links and personal web presence. I’m not going to talk much about Facebook, Google+, twitter, or any of the other social networks that provide people with opportunities to share their thoughts and their work on the web. Maria is an interesting person, and an interesting study in public web presence. She had a blog called “Alembic.” I think I asked her one time if she’s related to the Alembic electronics family that emerged in Marin in the late sixties and she said she was not, but I appreciated the synchronicity none-the-less. And of course everybody’s only a few degrees of separation from everybody else. Consider Kevin Bacon….

Tidying up links on this blog, I saw that my link to Maria’s blog (Ashladle.org) had rotted. Rather than delete her from the list here, I looked for another public web address where she is active and found her blog (small change blog), and I found her on twitter. Also, I found a project she started last winter, a photographic journal called “A Year of Mount Tamalpais.” I lifted this picture from that location…Photo by Maria Benet

Photo by Maria Benet

The project I lifted the above picture from is over. Maria still blogs at small change blog where she migrated after her ashladle.org domain name expired, and she’s working on a WordPress site called Marin Bytes. She tweets as @Alembic, and her friends can find her in the walled garden that is Facebook. Amazing the number of ramifications a web-head’s personality requires in the new age of social networking….

Time goes by and our virtual back fences get more and more convoluted, sort of cyber-Christo projects that require the participants’ engagement on a different level than we have known before. How many people actually click on the links they find in a tweet or a posting? The author put them there for a reason, but whether pressured by time or only superficially engaged, most readers fly right by the links and miss some of the allusive content that lends value to what they are reading. In the good old days, missing links were something else entirely, an evolutionary thing. “Missing lynx” of course refers to a lost bobcat, but that’s neither here nor there. In the old days, one could listen in on the party line (ask your grandma what a party line was) or a couple of neighbors could gossip over the back fence. People wrote letters and sometimes got replies. People read newspapers and magazines. Kids at camp and vacationers wrote postcards, usually with pictures on them, and no reply was really expected. All of those mediated conversations were well bounded. The same can not be said for conversations on the web.

I sent off a message to Maria letting her know that I was writing a post about her and asking for her permission to use the above photo. She got back to me faster than a letter in a bottle, faster than teh pony express, faster than airmail, faster–in fact–than the US Post Office could possibly manage. She got back to me so quickly you’d have thought we were connected by a series of tubes or something! I like the Internet for that and for the fact that so many talented people can make their work accessible. Thanks Maria, you’re a poet and , well… the conclusion is self evident.

Aaron Swartz Public Memorial Webcast

Today…

4pm to 6pm EST, 1pm to 3pm PST–at this link http://www.democracynow.org/

Saturday, January 19, 2013 Democracy Now! will provide a special livestream as family and friends of Aaron Swartz gather at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City to celebrate his life and remember their beloved friend, sibling, child, and partner.

Speakers include Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, David Segal, Ben Wikler, Roy Singham, Doc Searls, Edward Tufte, David Isenberg, Holden Karnofsky and Tom Chiarella and other friends.  OK Go’s Damian Kush will be performing at the service.

Susan Lindauer

Susan Lindauer, former CIA asset Whistleblower who revealed publicly that she was directed by CIA to tell Iraq in April 2001 the US was expecting Arab hijacked airliners to smash into the World Trade Center towers, tells of her resulting ordeal involving a year’s secret imprisonment at a military base without trial or hearing, her struggle resisting mind altering chemicals the government tried to force on her, and suffering 5 years under indictment until a court finally dismissed with prejudice all charges. She’s authored a book about it, Extreme Prejudice. Introduction by Les Jameison, closing by Frank Craven. Talk given November 10, 2012 in New York City at INN News Report. Camera, sound, Joe Friendly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwITESzeCf4