JWB’s fab titles–in C’ville Saturday, and globally, forever!

For all JWN readers in the Greater Charlottesville area– do come by the VaBook book fair that runs tomorrow, 9am-4pm, at the Omni Hotel. Tell your friends to come, as well! You can see and buy copies of all the fabulous titles published by my company, Just World Books, including the two latest: Miko Peled’s “The General’s Son”, and Jon Randal’s “The Tragedy of Lebanon”.
I know I haven’t blogged much at all this year. But the book publishing has been really exciting– and all-consuming! Our Spring 2012 “list” (inasmuch as we have a “list” as such, which I’ve always resisted doing) is shaping up to be truly great. In addition to those two new titles we’ll have “Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan”, a really important memoir from Matt Zeller, an amazing young man who served eight months in the U.S. military as an embedded combat adviser for the Afghan security forces– and then came back to run for Congress on a strong veterans’ rights platform, in 2010… and “Wrestling in the Daylight” by Rabbi Brant Rosen, author of the “Shalom Rav” blog, which is his own curation of the best of the blog-posts and comments board discussions over at his blog… and which traces his transformation from, as he describes it, “a liberal Zionist to… a Palestinian rights activist.”
(Who knows, maybe Peter Beinart and other present-day liberal Zionists might also make this same journey over the months and years ahead?)
By the way, we’re already taking advance orders for Matt Zeller’s book, over at the webstore… and we’ll hope to take advance orders for Rabbi Rosen’s book soon, too.
Plus, we may well have another couple of fab titles to announce before summer sets in… Stay posted…
For those of you NOT in Charlottesville– a clear majority of JWN readers, I’m sure!– I hope you all know that everyone, all around the world, can now affordably buy JWB’s pathbreaking titles through our new webstore, where you can now get free shipping on all orders greater than $40.
Setting up the webstore, and upgrading JWB’s capabilities in general, has all taken a lot of hard work. But I’m really excited at the team we’ve been building here… and most importantly, at our output!
By the way, I would love to hear from anyone on the U.S. west coast, or in London, who might be interested in doing a bit of publicity and outreach work for us on a part-time contract basis!
This work will include backing up the efforts several of our authors are making to take their books “on the road” with book tours… Miko Peled will be doing a full schedule of speaking events over the months ahead, in many countries, all of which will need a lot of support from us. Check his book-blog here. It has just the first few events listed in the calendar portion there. There will certainly be a lot more, soon! (Also, check out the contest we’re running there. Think of entering it, and tell your friends about it, too.)
Jon Randal will be in Washington DC and NYC in early May. I timed the publication of his book, which gives a LOT of detail about the history and record of the Falangist militias in Lebanon, for this year’s 30th anniversary of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, which were, of course, committed principally by the Falangists, but under the ever-watchful eye (and WP flares) of the area-dominating Israeli military. If you know anyone who wants to do a media event with Jon around his book’s themes, give me a holler.
Matt Zeller will also be doing huge numbers of events around his book, for which we’re hoping to have actual copies in hand at the end of April. He seems to have amazing networks all around the United States, already.
We want to set up a good schedule of speaking events for all our authors, not just these three, at U.S. colleges in the Fall semester. Please let us know if you’re at an institution, or a member of a student group, that has access to some decent program funding and would be interested in inviting one of our authors, so we can start working on the Fall schedules now! Here is the list of all the titles we have on our website so far– and don’t forget Rabbi Brant Rosen, either. (We’ll get his book onto the website very soon. Copies of his book will be available maybe late May?)
So JWN friends, I really hope all of you can help me get the word out about JWB’s authors and their important, discourse-expanding books. If you can help me by doing that, then I promise that in return I will make a lot more effort in the weeks ahead to do some good, cutting-edge blogging here. So many breaking news events to blog about!

Freeman, El-Haddad, Foust in Charlottesville, Saturday

My publishing company’s three great authors Chas Freeman, Laila El-Haddad, and josh Foust will all be in Charlottesville this Saturday, taking part in a panel discussion on developments in the (Greater) Middle East under the auspices of the Virginia Festival of the Book.
The discussion will be moderated by William Quandt.
Details are here.
I hope that all JWN readers who are nearby will come along– and bring your friends!

David Swanson’s ‘War is a Lie’

My neighbor and friend, the antiwar activist David Swanson, recently published a terrific book that takes on, one by one, all the main myths/lies that warmongers use to try to persuade people that wars are effective, moral, and necessary. The book’s title ‘War is a Lie’ is a subtle reference to (and its contents a good complement to) Smedley Butler’s 1935 classic study ‘War is a Racket’.
Here are some of David’s chapter titles:

    Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil
    Wars Are Not Launched in Defense
    Wars Are Not Waged Out of Generosity
    Wars Are Not Prolonged for the Good of Soldiers
    Wars Are Not Fought on Battlefields
    Wars Are Not Won, and Are Not Ended By Enlarging Them

David shares the fruits of some of his wide reading on the subject, packing really informative quotes and arguments into each chapter.
One of the most important chapters is Ch.8, “Wars are not fought on battlefields”. Here, he takes on the notion that many people still somehow have– and that also, I should note, is sustained to some degree by the way the international laws of war are framed– that warfare is something that takes place on a defined “field” that is outside and separate from heavily populated areas like cities… and that therefore the lethal effects of wars can somehow be prevented from inflicting too much damage on noncombatants. Well, that may have been the case back in the mid-19th century when the laws of war were first being framed. But the wars of the 20th century were increasingly fought in the midst of, and against, large concentrations of civilians. (And then, of course, there was Israel’s Gaza War of 2008-2009… ) So the notion that wars can somehow be ‘safely’ fought without harming civilians– or even, in the extreme warmongers’ fantasy, to help to ‘save’ civilians!– is clearly long out-of-date.
In that chapter, David notes further that within the war-planning and operations parts of the U.S. Pentagon and the CIA, the concept of a “battlefield” has been extended even further– to include just about anywhere where the U.S. government agencies feel they want to employ their lethal force, whether that is in (already war-ravaged) Somalia, (already war-ravaged) Yemen, Pakistan, or elsewhere… and also, that the protections that the U.S. Constitution gives to citizens at home in the U.S. are also, these days, frequently suspended in the name of a “war-on-terror”-related state of emergency. The “battlefield” has now become so large and so amorphous that it has swallowed us all up, to some degree.
Chapter 11, “War Does Not Bring Security and Is Not Sustainable” makes the key argument of the book. As I have argued here at Just World News for many years now– and also in my 2008 book “Re-Engage”– throughout the 20th century the instruments of military power were very rapidly losing their utility in real, geostrategic terms, that is, in terms of being able to actually realize and sustain the geopolitical goals their authors claimed for them. Indeed, in many cases, the use of military power rapidly ends up being seriously counter-productive for its user at the geostrategic level. The U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s assaults against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09 all fall into that category.
The reasons for the now actually counter-productive nature of warfare are several. But the three I would focus on are:

    (1) The fact that war wagers have progressively lost the capacity they once had to control the information environment, which throughout the 20th century became increasingly multi-faceted and globalized. That trend has accelerated in recent decades and cannot be reversed– thank G-d! So though the war wagers may continue with their lies and fabrications, they are no able to control what has now become an increasingly globalized, and multi-sourced, “message”.
    (2) The fact that norms of human equality became increasingly institutionalized and internalized throughout the 20th century. In the 19th century, colonial powers fought wars of extermination throughout the global south with only very infrequent references to the fact that the beings they were wiping out were actually just as fully human as themselves. (The one author I wish David had included in his book is Sven Lindqvist, whose “Exterminate All the Brutes” and “A History of Bombing” are really informative classics on this subject.)
    (3) The increasing financial burden that war waging and war preparations impose on countries that rely disproportionately on this instrument of global power. Does this development need explaining any more, today, to the U.S electorate???

Well, here we are in the 21st century of the Common Era, and given the violent history of the past decade, evidently the arguments about the disutility of warfare still need to be made, again and again and again… Depressing, really. But thank goodness David Swanson has taken up the effort. Buy the book!

Virginians standing up to Cantor!

A group of home-state Virginians and I are planning to build a network of in-state activists– including our friends in the 7th congressional district– to stand up for our country’s interests against the near-treasonous positions on Israel being articulated by Rep. Eric Cantor.
Last Wednesday evening, on the eve of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s lengthy and difficult meeting with secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu had an hour-long tete-a-tete in New York with Cantor, who will be the “House Majority leader”, i.e. the second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, as of next January. During the meeting, according to a statement issued afterwards by his office, Cantor,

    stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington… He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.

Even Ron Kampeas, the veteran columnist over at the Jewish Telegraph Agency, was astonished, writing,

    I can’t remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president. Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another — building in Jerusalem, or somesuch — lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations. But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House — that sounds to me extraordinary.

You can find much more on the Cantor Rant, from Glenn Greenwald, here.
My friends and I haven’t decided yet what our new network will be called. Maybe something like “Virginians for Our Country’s Sanity” (VOCS)? If you’re a Virginian and you’d like to help us show Rep. Cantor that he doesn’t speak for us (or, indeed, for American military leaders responsible for the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens serving in very dangerous locations overseas), then drop us a line. Give us your name, email (obviously), street address, congressional district, and we’ll see what we can do to build the network.

C’ville peace vigil has Gaza theme– Today, 5 p.m.

The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice has decided to add the concern about Israel’s murderous actions on the high seas to today’s version of its weekly downtown peace vigil.
The notice is here.
Everyone in Central Virginia who’s able to make it is invited to join us, 5:00-6:00 p.m., outside the federal building, which is at the corner of Ridge/Macintyre and W. Main Streets. Bring signs.
The fact that U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan was among those murdered during the Israeli raid on the high seas Monday should add urgency to our demand that Pres. Obama and the U.S. congress should hold Israel fully accountable for this murderous act of state-sponsored piracy.

Tom Perriello– one of the Valiant 108!

Our local Congressman, Tom Perriello (VA-5) is ramping up for a tough re-election race this fall. He was just elected by a hair’s-breadth in November ’08, beating out the long-serving, party-switching, business-beholden, war-loving Republican, Virgil Goode.
Perriello has already been targeted by a rightwing “Tea Party” blogger who posted what he thought was the Congressman’s home address, inviting fellow rightwingers to “visit him and express their thanks” for the vote he cast in favor of the healthcare reform bill. But they got the address wrong, so it ended up being the house of the Congressman’s brother, who has several small children, that got targeted instead…
Perriello and his people are eager to get the fund-raising ball rolling well. I guess tonight is one of the quarterly deadlines.
One of the things that most impresses me about our great congressman right now is that he was one of the Valiant 108– the members of Congress who resisted AIPAC’s blandishments to sign off on the AIPAC-circulated letter recently delivered by all the other 327 members to Secretary Clinton (PDF here.)
The letter reaffirms the signers’ “commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists
between our country and the State of Israel”, etc etc. It also in effect slaps the administration’s hand for having dared to express public disquiet– oh yes, actually “condemnation”– over PM Netanyahu’s recent arrogance and law-breaking regarding East Jerusalem:

    We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and
    Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small. Our view is that such
    differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding
    strategic allies.

So, huge kudos to Rep. Perriello and the rest of the Valiant 108. The numbers of those Congressmen and Congresswomen resisting the pressures to sign off any old cocktail napkin AIPAC puts in front of them is slowly growing. May their numbers increase even faster!
But I guess for that to happen, we need to make sure that a person of principle like Tom Perriello doesn’t get picked off at the polls this November. Dig deep.

Mourning Jay (and Gene)

This afternoon my beloved friend Jay Worrall died. Jay was a shining, Light-filled elder of our Quaker meeting here in Charlottesville who in an earlier era played a pioneering role in the racial desegregation movement here in town and founded the important, statewide prisoner-aid organization Offender Aid and Restoration.
I am still crying. I happened to be the only non-family member who was present in the hospital room as he passed away. Shortly before he passed, the 15 or so family people in the room, the respiratory therapist, and I all stood in silent worship together with Jay, as he lay on his bed. I had a profound sense of the Divine Spirit/Light bursting out in great pulses from Jay.
When I joined the Charlottesville Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), back in 1997, the meeting (congregation) had several really amazing, inspiring older members. Among them, Chic Moran, who had been a conscientious objector during World War II and had done some really important reconstruction work in Europe right after the war… Elaine Bell, who had worked with her husband Colin for many years for various Quaker service organizations in different places around the world… and Jay Worrall and his luminous wife Carolyn. They all meant so much to me. Chic died three or four years ago. Elaine died about 18 months ago. Now Jay, too, has passed. (Carolyn was at his bedside today, but she is in not in good shape.)
Jay Worrall was, I think, 96 years old. He had served in the U.S. military for many years in the 1940s and 1950s, including doing something in Ethiopia/Eritrea that always meant a lot to him afterwards. Then, fresh out of the military, he and Carolyn brought their five children to Charlottesville, where he got a job heading a pioneering organization called the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA) that worked to extend social-support services to all in the area, regardless of race… That, at a time of continued racial segregation in Virginia and much of the rest of the American south.
In 1956, Harry F. Byrd, Sr., a member of the U.S. Senate from Virginia, announced a policy of “massive resistance” to the federal court’s 1954 order that all the country’s school systems should end racial segregation. His followers in the Virginia General Assembly then enacted a series of laws forbidding any race-integrated schools from receiving state funds, establishing a board to determine which school each pupil should attend (based on her or his race, when this was in question), and offering tuition grants to pupils attending white-only schools.
The federal government ordered a number of school systems in the state, including the one here in Charlottesville, to desegregate their classrooms. Rather than do that, the state Governor ordered the closing of several key schools, including the high school and the premier elementary school here in Charlottesville.
There are still many older African-Americans here in town whose educations were grossly disrupted by the tensions of those years.
This was the racial cauldron in which Jay Worrall and his longtime African-American friend and collaborator Drewary Brown chose to work, building MACAA up into a powerful force for good in the community.
Jay carried on working on racial equality and racial healing issues throughout his life. He also did a lot of work on criminal justice reform and was a stalwart participant in all antiwar efforts. In the early 2000s, when I was participating in the weekly antiwar vigils here in town, he would quite frequently come by– though his legs were a little shaky and he found it hard to walk. And he’d stand with us for most of the hour, to give his public witness.
He was always keenly interested in the Middle East. As recently as last Sunday he was an active member of a group in the Quaker meeting who were discussing what campaigns can be mounted to address the current crisis in Jerusalem.
Oh, and did I mention that along the way there, Jay Worrall researched and wrote a compendious, beautifully written 630-page history of the Quakers in Virginia, an area where there has been a Quaker presence since almost the dawn of Quakerism in the mid-17th century.
So, Friend Jay Worrall has passed from our midst. Last night he had a fall, and he never recovered. I shall miss him so. My warmest sympathies go to Carolyn, their five children, and their many grandchildren.
… Last night, I was planning to write something to mark the recent passing of another man, someone whom I never knew in person, but who was another amazing force for good in our country. Gene Stoltzfuz was a member of another of the historic “peace churches”, the Mennonite church. He was the founding director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams from 1988 until 2004.
After Gene retired he started writing a blog called Peace Probe. His last post there is this quiet but profound reflection on torture and violence.

Charlottesville’s internet-speed glory

Every so often I get back to reading my Google Reader…. Just now I saw this great post by Matthew Yglesias.
So the USA is still not #1 worldwide in average speed of the available internet. We’re, um, #18, as of the third quarter of 2009. Amazingly, too, of all the countries Yglesias lists, the US is the only one that saw a Year-on-year drop in speeds. I suppose one possible explanation for that is that a lot of new users got connected, but at lower speeds. Either that, or someone is, whatever, sitting inside the Intertubes someplace blocking all the traffic as it goes past. (Could that be the NSA?)
But then, look at the city-by-city listing. Charlottesville is right up there among the global leaders, at #8! Go, Charlottesville!
I don’t know why Yglesias has to be sniffy and make a point of noting that, like the other “fast” US city listed there, Charlottesville is, um, pretty darn small by world standards.

Funnel Cakes….

(this is Scott writing…)
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I’d always assumed that a funnel cake was a Mennonite “thing,” something you could only find at a county fair. (I grew up a sheltered “baptist.”)
Alas, nearly every for-profit food stand at this year’s Albemarle County Fair (south of Charlottesville, VA) has its own version of the deep fried summer treat.
I still recommend locals check out the Mennonite funnel cake stand, which has been there for over 20 years. Not just the best, and cheapest, Mennonite funnel cakes are even “good” for you — if you will. All the four food groups are covered; wheat, milk, eggs, sugar, and…. soybeans (oil). :-} They’re “good” too, as they “tickle your tongue.”
If they’re not too busy, you might even find friends who’ve lived a tour or two around Iran and the Middle East.
Reminds me of how various Iranian cities are known for their own wondrous treats, like Esfahani Gaz, Mashhad’s Nabat, Lahijan’s Kulucheh cookies, and one of my favorites anywhere, Sohan from Qom. (Think peanut brittle made with pistachios and saffron. Yum!)
Back to the humble funnel cake: last night, while beating the eggs into the batter, we hazarded to ponder parallels between (Mennonite) funnel cakes and the Middle East — along the lines of delicately woven lattices of hope and promise, threads of sweet human connections, peacemaking tempting fate in holy-charged conflagration — e.g., blistering 400 degree oil.
Get it wrong, soft goo to charred carbon. Cook ‘em just right, so… heavenly.

From Have-not to Have (DSL)

JWN readers might recall my laments from years past about the great digital divide in America, between those who have DSL or some form of real broadband and those who don’t. Even made for a sardonic April Fool’s post two year’s ago.
That was then. Today, I got it at last. After years of being ignored, of watching promises of DSL, BPL (power line), microwave, wireless, or cable broadband alternatives go unfulfilled, at last my soon to be taken-over phone company, Embarq, delivered DSL, albeit the “extended reach version.”

Continue reading “From Have-not to Have (DSL)”