My dear friend and comrade in the struggle against torture, Nathaniel Raymond, was interviewed on American Public Media’s The Story today. He discussed the burnout he experienced after a decade of humanitarian relief in some of the world’s most desperate crisis areas: the tsunami, Ethiopia, Iraq, Biloxi MS after Hurricane Katrina. It is one of the most amazing interviews I have ever heard. Extremely intense and heartfelt. You can really feel Nathaniel struggling to figure out who he is and how he can be that person while still doing good in the world. It also is one of the most moving testimonials for the value of psychotherapy in helping one sort out one’s varied and conflicting wishes and desires in the struggle for self and personal responsibility.
Here is the program description:
Whenever disaster strikes — like the earthquake in China or the cyclone in Myanmar — aid workers head to the scene and are lauded for their long hours and unstinting devotion. For more than a decade, Nathaniel Raymond lived that life. But he didn’t realize the high personal cost of doing aid work non-stop. Now he’s trying to deal with the down side of doing good.
Nathaniel talks to Dick Gordon about what the work was like, and why he decided to take a desk job.
The legendary folksinger, activist, and anarchist Bruce “Utah” Phillips, “the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest,” died this week in his sleep. For me this is extremely sad. I first heard Utah in 1970 or 1971. For a number of years I saw him once or twice yearly. I felt like he was a part of the family. It was important for my wife to see him, and my son once had the opportunity. His songs and stories were part of my tradition. They were about ordinary people, loggers and cowboys, and those who needed a little help.The people he talked and sang about came to life, so that, after a few years, I almost believed I personally knew them.
The songs and tales were an amazing mixture of funny and sad, expressing intense longing and the ability to shrug at life and cope. He also emphasized the struggle for a better life and against arbitrary authority. As an anarchist, and IWW [Industrial Workers of the World] member, Utah believed in ecouraging independent thought and personal moral responsibility, combined with social solidarity and community.
In order to remember him, I’ve selected a couple of videos from those on YouTube. These give a sense of his presence and spirit, but, alas, they don’t demonstrate his great guitar playing before arthritis interfered. There are many more there, so, if you too loved him, or if you’ve never heard him before but are enthralled, go check them out.then check out the web site created by friends and listen to his CDs. But, most important, embody his spirit, his love of life, and his call to resist illegitimate authority.
The song of his which has most stuck in my brain. I loved singing it to my son: Daddy What’s A Train?
His funniest story: Moose Turd Pie
And, finally, two parts [#1 & 7] of what appears to be an 8-part full concert performance. The first shows how he started concerts for almost 40 years:
And: Get rid of the bum on the plush! [also includes Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!]
Catch that great boxcar in the sky, Utah. And remember, there’s starlight on the rails!
Robert Shapiro has written an interesting data-driven post from the perspective of “an Obama Supporter” on Talking Points Memo about why he thinks the Florida Democratic primary votes should be officially counted. I’ve summarized here the essence of the argument:
While reading Hillary Clinton’s increasingly outrageous arguments that the Florida and Michigan primary votes should count (e.g., the Zimbabwe analogy), I decided that rather than just getting angry it might be useful to try to take an objective look that isn’t simply based on candidate preference or Democratic Party rules. Did the Democratic voters in these two states make their preferences known in the primaries? Of course, for Michigan the question sounds completely ridiculous because Clinton was the only major candidate on the ballot (Kucinich, Dodd, and Gavel were also listed). However, voters were also able to choose “uncommitted”, which 40% of them did, and there was an exit poll that showed 46% for Clinton, 35% for Obama, and 12% for Edwards.
So, I thought that the best starting point for assessing the primaries was to look at the turnouts. What I was expecting to find was that the turnouts for both primaries were extremely low, well below those for the other primaries. In that case, Clinton’s argument — that the voters in some sense would be disenfranchised by not counting the results — would clearly have no basis.
This is exactly what I found for Michigan. Only 594 thousand voters participated, compared to the 2.5 million who voted for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, i.e. a turnout rate of 24% (I recognize this isn’t the usual way to calculate a turnout, but for the question at hand it doesn’t matter). This was well below the average of 61% (through Feb. 19th; the turnout rates actually became even higher after that date) and was by far the lowest in any state (the next lowest was 40% in NM). The NH primary a week earlier had a turnout that was 84% of the 2004 Kerry vote, and the SC primary immediately following Michigan had a turnout rate that was 80%. In conclusion, there is no reasonable basis for counting the Michigan primary votes, even if one were to somehow use the exit poll results. The Democratic voters of Michigan were indeed disenfranchised, but this was due to the decisions of their state party and the DNC on the primary date, and cannot be remedied by validating the primary votes.
The story for Florida is quite different. Here all of the candidates were on the ballot, but (for the most part) didn’t campaign within the state. The voters actually turned out in fairly high numbers in this case: 1.75 million, compared to 3.6 million who voted for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election (49%). This is lower than the average of 61%, but within a standard deviation (16%), and higher than the turnout rates in NM, CT, NY, LA, and DE (40%, 41%, 43%, 47%, and 48%. respectively). It is also much higher than the turnout in the 2004 Florida primary (752 thousand), although that primary was fairly late (March 9th, just at the time that Kerry accumulated the necessary number of delegates)….
In light of these considerations, it is fair and reasonable to count the Florida primary votes. It is also politically wise, in terms of promoting a Democratic (presumably Obama) victory in November. After watching “Recount” on HBO last Saturday and seeing in graphic detail how the Democratic voters in FL were disenfranchised in 2000, largely due to missteps of the Dems on the national level, I think it is especially important to make sure that the votes of the Florida Democrats count now. How many times can we expect them to get excited and go out to vote when their votes don’t count?