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Colorado State Veterans Home at Fitzsimons – Despite Positive Survey Results, More Problems.

February 11, 2019

Veteran Gerry Muehl

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“They [the government] want us to volunteer and get drafted and go into combat situations where we get screwed up or get killed. We’re told “good job” – but that’s it. They don’t do a thing for us. They’re not going to help us out.

You have to fight the VA continuously to get anything; the politicians don’t want to do anything either.”

Gerry Muehl, Vietnam War Marine Veteran

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1.

Gerry Muehl has a home in a quiet single family neighborhood in Aurora, Colorado just west of Chambers Road, about a mile north of the interstate, I-70. An American flag flies outside of his door, his photo as a young marine hangs in his living room. He wore a Reagan-Bush t-shirt for our interview. When I asked him about the t-shirt he commented: “The only Republican that I know that ever did anything for us was Ronald Reagan. He gave us the biggest pay raise that the military ever saw. I think it was in his first term.” Gerry doesn’t think much of other recent American presidents, Democrat or Republican.

His current, long-term residence is the Colorado State Veterans’ Home at Fitzsimons on the Anschutz Medical Campus; it is a part of a system of Colorado state nursing homes for veterans run by Colorado’s Department of Human Services. The residents, staff and family members refer to the facility simply as “Fitz”. Given his many ailments, Gerry spends a fair amount of time going from one specialist to another in an attempt to manage his conditions. He only returns home to visit with his wife once a week on Saturday mornings. Over the past few months I visited and interviewed Gerry twice, most recently this past Saturday, February 9. Read more…

Quicksand by Henning Mankell

February 2, 2019

Henning Mankell, QuicksandIn January, 2014, Swedish political crime author Henning Mankell was informed he had cancer; he died in October, 2015. In that brief twenty-one month period from the time he was diagnosed to his death, Mankell continued to write. In “Quicksand: What It Means to be a Human Being” (Kvicksand in Swedish) (1) he wrote a series of 67 vignettes, part memoir, part a collection of essays on a variety of subjects, most between three and five pages long. Although he write a little about reacting to his deteriorating health, the book is not so much about dying. It delves into those aspects of life that he is drawn to, that he will miss and those which have meaning to him at this point in his life with the end near. Secular through and through, he has no illusions about what follows.

Quicksand is rich testimonial the author’s humanity.

While Mankell explores many subjects  – growing up in Sweden’s north, an apprenticeship in Paris, a bit about his personal, loves, his parents, other relationships – I was more drawn to a number of recurring themes, both looking back and forward in time, placing himself somewhere in this continuum between what was and what will be. That resonates. I think along similar lines. Mankell places his own life – and that of his contemplates – with the broader context of human evolution, where it’s been, where it’s headed. Read more…

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Wait A Second – They’re Here!

February 2, 2019

Russian scarves, exhibited at the Global Village Museum in Ft. Collins starting February 1, 2019 for several months

An exhibit of Russian cultural items, many of them exquisite handicraft items – along with a series of lectures – opened last night at the Global Village Museum, Colorado’s only international inter-cultural museum, in Ft. Collins. Nancy and I traveled up to Ft. Collins to be their opening night.

What a pleasant, educationally rich surprise.

Tastefully done the collection was gathered from the Russian Community living (mostly) in northern Colorado who donated what were obviously their finest pieces, mementos of the rich culture from which they immigrated, most of them since the collapse of the USSR in December, 1991.

The collection includes traditional holiday peasant clothing, pottery, a lovely series of “podstakanniks” – the metal Russian tea glass holders in which tea is served on Russian trains – tapestries and the like. All in all the collection is a wealth of precious personal items offered for public viewing informing the Colorado public that a Russian community in the state does exist.

There were also a few World War II mementos, several posters celebrating the end of the May 9th end of the war in Europe in which the Soviet Union played such a key role in defeating Nazism – and paid such painful price, the accepted figure of the Soviet casualties being somewhere around 27 million. At a time when U.S.-Russian relations are in a historic free-fall these days, in some ways even worse than U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War – it was a pleasure to see this kind of people-to-people tasteful cultural exchange to cut through all the increasingly shrill and bipartisan rhetoric. Read more…

Michelle Alexander’s NY Times Piece: Bursting the Bubble, Lancing the Boil

January 26, 2019


A Palestinian woman tries to avoid walking in sewage water that flows from the nearby Israeli settlements into the West Bank village of Kafr Thulth, near Qalqilya, December 25, 2012. Local residents said that the sewage water comes from the Wadi Qana settlements, especially the Ma’ale Shomron settlement, and said that this has been an ongoing problem for four years. Despite some friends here not believing such insidious practices do not happen, they do happen and continue now seven years later.

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What two Black intellectuals, Angela Davis and now Michelle Alexander, have done is both simple but profound: They have rejected the idea that criticizing Israel, even harshly, is antisemitism. Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. They have defended and legitimized criticizing Israel. They have given their support and solidarity to the “BDS” (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israel as a legitimate anti-racist tactic to put pressure on Israel to end its oppressive practices against the Palestinian people. The two women compare Zionist practices with South African Apartheid. 

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1.

With very few exceptions – I know one or two – most humans live in a self-contained bubble, reinforced by those around us. It can be a bubble of class, race, religion, ethnicity or some combination thereof. Pretty much everyone has their very own bubble, that they can’t seem to see beyond. For Catholics – at least the Pope and the Cardinals anyway – it’s abortion; for Jews, especially but not uniquely in the US of A, it’s Zionism and has been since the end of World War II. There are so many “I’m progressive on everything but Palestine” people.

Lancing the boil is a precondition for healing a wound; before it is cleansed a fair amount of puss comes to the surface. That is what Michelle Alexander’s piece “Breaking the Silence on Palestine” (NY Times, January 19, 2019) accomplished. It is a kind of political pin prick that bursts the myth of progressive Israel. With its publication a new kind of “dialogue” – one far more frank – about Israel’s “relationship” with the Palestinians has begun.

As Alexander notes:

“… it seems the days when critiques of Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel can be written off as anti-Semitism are coming to an end. There seems to be increased understanding that criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic.

Alexander is building on a discussion of the nature of Zionism and its Palestinian victims which has been going on for some time and has included more recently  Alice Walker, Marc Lamont Hill and Angela Davis. All have a lifetime of fighting against racism in American and for the common good in general. This position build on more than half a century of peace and leftist movement criticism of Israel combined with sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people. Read more…

Thinking About Zionism, AntiSemitism, Human Rights…Publicly (2)

January 23, 2019

(Yesterday at the “Marade” – Denver’s annual march to honor Martin Luther King II’s legacy, now in its 35th year – I took a picture of someone holding a sign “Fox News Lies; Folks Died.” That triggered a discussion with Nancy who was marching with me despite some pain in her hip. We both agreed that it was not only Fox News that lies, but also the NY Times… of course the latter does it far more eloquently and articulately – not quite lies, but what could be called “gray propaganda”.

It is a question of not lying outright but by emphasizing certain aspects of the news while de-emphasizing others. Occasionally, as was the case of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon in the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, actual falsification of the facts did take place, and on Page 1 of that esteemed paper.

The reporting of the NY Times on Israel, on its Occupation of Palestinian Territories, has been, over the past 74 years since the end of World War II, in a word, dismal. Israel could hope for no greater apologist, ….Mondoweiss had a fine analysis of the Times’ sorry history on the subject.

And then three days ago, in an apparent change of direction, the Times published an op-ed by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, recently hired as an editorial writer; it is entitled “Breaking The Silence On Palestine.” This comes after a string of “incidents” nationally in which Israel’s more zealous supporters in this country attacked, undermined or discredited critics of Israeli repression against the Palestinians; more on what I think is going on later. Along with the defense of Angela Davis by the city of Birmingham, Alabama, this article could be a watershed event in US journalism and a shift in the Times shameless covering – or lack thereof of the Israeli Occupation. It is well argued, building on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.; Nothing as clear cut, as humane, has EVER appeared in the pages of the NY Times, nor given such attention, at least not to my knowledge.)

Three cheers for Michelle Alexander. 

We all need to show her the kind of solidarity that her courage and principle demand.

More attention will be given to Alexander’s article in further blog entries. 

1. Zionism, British Settler Colonialism in India, French Settler Colonialism in Algeria
What follows below is Jewish Voice For Peace’s analysis on the nature of Zionism…It is a fine statement that puts the whole issue of Zionism within its historical context – a movement of Eastern European Jewry, faced with extremes of AntiSemitism that saw as its mission the creation of a Jewish state – a kind of settler colonialism – on the model of British colonialism in India. It is well done. After the initial statement there are several questions about Zionism that are addressed, again useful.

Read more…

This evening on KGNU – “Trump’s ‘Plan B’ For Syria” or “We’re Neck Deep In The Big Muddy But The Big Fool (Bolton) Said To Push On” – Tues, January 22, 2019 @6 pm Mountain Time

January 21, 2019
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Syrian government troops liberating Aleppo from ISIS, al Nusra. December 23, 2013. Idlib Province is next…

Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince on KGNU Boulder (88.5 FM, 1390 Am, Streaming at http://www.kgnu.org) on Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues hosted by Jim Nelson, Tues, January 22, 2019 @ 6-7 pm Mountain States Time

The program is available for streaming/downloading tomorrow at KGNU’s achives

Thinking About Zionism, AntiSemitism and Human Rights in Birmingham Alabama … (1)

January 19, 2019

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Yassin Adel Za Aqeeq, age 15. Kidnapped from his home in Beit Ummar, Occupied Palestine, by the Israeli Defense Force in December, 2018. Hundreds of Palestinian youth are in Israeli jails, a full one third of them, from the town of Beit Ummar.

Note: What follows below is a slightly [language tightened up] revised and expanded entry on comments made on Facebook recently.

It concerns what has become the pervasive and underhanded way that Israel’s more zealous organizational supporters work to discredit and intimidate those who publicly criticize Israeli actions and/or support the Palestinian people in the struggle to end the Occupation.

Such methods have existed for decades, but have intensified as the public mood in the United States has shifted away from blind support of Israel and the myth of a halcyon, progressive Israel continues to erode.

To that end, recently Black scholar, human rights organizer, and long-time open American Communist, Angela Davis found herself in the middle of media storm. Again. One could hear a certain weariness in her voice but also a determination to address this new attack on her person head on, with the dignity and careful thought that has marked her life. A human rights award, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, offered to her for a lifetime of human rights work, was rescinded after pressure was exerted on the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Later it was acknowledged publicly – by the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama – that the pressure came from the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the city’s Holocaust Remembrance center. Shortly thereafter, and in response, what amounts to the city of Birmingham, its city council included, issued a counter statement of appreciation of Angela Davis’ work and invited her to “an alternative awards event” to be held on February 16, in Birmingham. I have been informed that there will be two events  on that day, a meeting with human rights organizers in the morning and a dinner in the evening, both, as I understand it, open to the public.  Read more…