January 31, 2011
The Long March Towards Freedom
I'm a member of an organization that has freedom in its title. Some activists say we should avoid using the rhetoric of freedom, because it has been co-opted by the right. Honey, there's a big difference between libertarian fantasies and the power to act or think without externally imposed restraint.
Emily Greene Balch on choosing a name for the women's peace movement:
freedom, the basic condition of human personality and growth, could not be maintained EXCEPT UNDER PEACE. That, too, was in their minds in making "peace and freedom" their objective. -1935 pamphlet, republished in Fall 2008 Peace and Freedom (pdf)And so, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was born.
Watching the news coverage of the protests in Egypt, reporting biases become more flagrant. There's the people who worry about the Egyptian state's support of Israel. There's the people who remind us that Egypt has been a strong supporter of the US over the past 30 years. There's the people who tell you ad nauseam details of looting, and warn that every day of protest brings the possibility of chaos closer. And then there's the people who actually report what Egyptians are saying.
Let's get this straight: Anderson Cooper was wrong when he said Egyptians hold conflicting views of America. Egyptians like US citizens. They like the way we live here in the US. They dislike our government's support of the Mubarak dictatorship. They dislike our government's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. They dislike the US government's one-sided approach to peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. There is no conflict in these views: Egyptian people like US people. Egyptian people dislike US Empire.
A week ago, Egyptians began their long march towards freedom. They've lived under a military dictatorship for 30 years. Anxious lefties in the US keep wondering when Egypt will happen here. And they're fools. In our rush to see each other as brothers and sisters, some of us forget the depth of our privilege. We have freedom of assembly. We have freedom of speech. We have freedom of religion. Crazy people aren't bombing our churches on Christmas Eve. One guy hasn't been president for 30 years. The government hasn't been propped up by a billion dollars in foreign military aid. When we protest, the police may protect private property, but they don't hurl tear gas at us.
So why aren't more people angry that the US faces the widest income gap since the Great Depression? Because we can max out credit cards, and numb ourselves with entertainment. Because acts of people-powered protest here compete for coverage with a blimp.
I'm grateful to Common Cause for organizing the Uncloak the Kochs rally.
As someone in the media said today, will we walk like an Egyptian?
Let us stand tall in support of democracy for the most populous Arab country. Let us throw off the shackles of fear and say firmly: We trust the Egyptian people to use democracy to create peace and prosperity on their own terms. We welcome the possibility that more Arab citizens could choose freedom in the coming months. We trust that the US and any other democracy in the world will be safer with democratic neighbors than if those states were dictatorships or un-democratic monarchies. And we will be inspired by our Egyptian sisters and brothers. We will continue their long march towards freedom in our own country.
Because we know this isn't a military dictatorship. But we also know the American culture has cancer. Corporate personhood has created a cancer in our body politic, in our economic system, and in our culture. And we are determined to fight that cancer. To create the change we wish to see in the world. To create nonviolent paradigm shifts, to create the social upheaval needed in the US to continue the long march towards freedom.
January 30, 2011
Uncloak the Kochs: Eyewitness Account of the Rally
As an unknown blogger, I find it interesting to watch well-known bloggers treated as members of the media, with everything from priority seating at a panel discussion to multiple quotes in mainstream press.
I also find it interesting that the entire day in Rancho Mirage was created for consciousness raising. Here's one of my tweets from today:
[from @socialupheaval] Feels lacking a real plan beyond today Answers to what action to take lacking @ #UncloakKoch panel
Here's the response I got:
[from @CommonCause] @socialupheaval there is a plan; as @VanJones68 says, 1st step is lifting consciousness. That's today. Tmrw we go forward together.Actually, what Van Jones said was that he was caught off guard being given the microphone to answer the question what action steps are next for the event. He said he didn't plan the event, Common Cause did, but if he had to answer the question, we should connect with our neighbors and increase awareness of the issues.
See here's the thing: 1,000 people show up in Rancho Mirage. Most of them traveled long distances to get to the rally. Did they not know why they were traveling out of their way for a rally?
We who spent 4+ hours traveling to and fro on Common Cause buses; we who were told we are the leaders we are waiting for - we were looking for concrete action we could take to implement the values expressed by the panelists and rally speakers. We could have formed action groups: meeting up with people from our local areas to develop plans. If Common Cause had a plan for grassroots, cross-organization movement building, their staffers who rode the buses with us could have engaged us in that vision, and helped us find a way to contribute to those clear local steps forward. Instead, we're told to enjoy our consciousness raising.
To be clear: I've been involved in progressive activism for 20 years. I still get a thrill from gathering with like-minded activists. I love that I came on a bus to the desert and met up with two different Wellesley sisters (who don't know each other). I was truly inspired by Van Jones.
But, I'm still wondering: what's next? Where do we go from here?
January 22, 2011
Challenging Corporate Personhood
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Los Angeles Branch hosted a teach-in today to explain the roots of corporate personhood. One of our members provided an engaging historical overview, followed by a lively discussion about how to move forward locally, and in the Southern California region.
WILPF Abolish Corporate Personhood Organizing Packet - includes sample resolutions and other actions.
If you're in Southern California, you should attend the Uncloak the Kochs rally in Palms Springs next Sunday. I reserved my seat on the bus - have you?
Sister WILPFers in Santa Cruz, California organized a demonstration to get corporations out of elections and posted this quote to Facebook:
"The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of 'corporate personhood' and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech," says Bill Moyer, the energetic founder and executive director of the Backbone Campaign, the grassroots movement to embolden Americans to push back against corporate power and political corruption.
October 17, 2010
Inside Job: Pieces Explained, Now What?
Fundamentally, I agree with Nora Lee Mandel that for people who have listened to Planet Money or read books about the Great Recession, Inside Job will not provide new information on how the financial meltdown was created.
But since I've been getting most of my news consumption through the radio and podcasts, it was important to add the visual element, to put a face to the names, as it were. It's interesting that most reviews on Rotten Tomato are positive. I appreciate that Kenneth Turan in the LAT explained the director's academic origins:
Neither a film school graduate nor an ideologue, Ferguson is rather a well-connected academic who has a doctorate in political science from MIT, was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and has been a consultant for high-tech firms such as Apple, Intel and Xerox.This explains a lot: from Ferguson's level-headed definitions, to his desire to damn the study of economics, rather than focusing heavily on government's collusion or ways that ordinary citizens can change the system.
To be clear, Ferguson's critique of economics was probably my favorite aspect of the film. It felt like a justification for my inability to "get with the program" in my International Relations courses, why I bristled at the idea that I needed to take economic courses to understand how humans, governments and corporations interact globally. The reality is that pretending that human interactions can be best explained by science is a terrible fallacy. Social sciences should put more emphasis on the social aspect of their disciplines and less faith in mathematical formulas.
For me, this documentary was another piece of evidence in an already over-flowing mountain. The US economy is rigged. Capitalism does not represent a fair playing field any more than any other economic system. Until we figure out a way to use political leagues, labor unions, and our governments to regulate corporations and support human needs, we will continue to be pawns in someone else's game.
It was frustrating to me that in an after movie discussion, a disgruntled union member challenged me to prove her union dues weren't going to election-related expenditures, rather than contacting her union local to explain where her dues are going. The bitterness on the left - the belief that the organizations we have to protect individuals are as corrupt as the rest of the system leaves people staring into their ice cream bowls, blaming the uneducated masses in the middle of the country.
Enough is enough. No organization is perfect, but I'd much rather be a union member than an at-will employee like I am currently. And while I care about the mid-term elections, while I am incredulous that people actually believe the results will be the same regardless of which political party wins, I don't think voting is the only responsibility of citizens. To create real democracy, we must be vigilant every day of the year. We must find ways to gather our voices, to be heard collectively.
That's why I'm a life member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. I know that locally, nationally, and globally my beliefs are shared and that together we can make a difference. While our coffers will never be as filled as those of multi-national corporations, we have the moral and political will to create a world where the needs of all people are met in a fair and equitable manner.
Do I need a Poli Sci Ph.D or Matt Damon to explain to me how to challenge the financial system? No. I'd rather every person who was angered by the documentary to do something about it: to encourage their friends to see the movie, to give money to an organization she believes is fighting the system, to volunteer for such an organization, and ultimately, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. " - Margaret Mead
To read how the other half thinks, check out Kyle Smith's review in the NY Post. Because, you see, morality does not apply to business.
Even the WSJ recommends the movie, though they falsely equate the anger you'll experience from viewing the evidence as a reason to join the Tea Party.
Wesley Morris at the Boston Globe really liked it, though I can't say I share his completely unfettered enthusiasm for the film. There were times I noticed I was watching a two hour movie, but I'm not sure that's entirely the movie's fault since I was sitting next to a woman who kept hitting me with her leg and her date who kept adding unhelpful commentary like "he's an Orthodox Jew."
I like Michael Phillips description of the movie as a funnel in the Tribune.
Predictably, Ebert loved the film. I enjoyed his personal elevator commentary.
August 7, 2010
The Economy, The Poor, and Our Responsibilities
Jack and Jill Politics embedded a fascinating interview with Dr. Cornel West:
I find it incredibly important to think deeply about Dr. West's message. It adds to the conversation that A Mohit began on Technorati recently on the systematic destruction of the middle class in the U.S.
This week's Torah portion, Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), includes the commandment to take care of the needy. Some may say this means a community should provide the poor with the bare minimum of food, shelter, and health care. For me, it is an entry point to question the great disparity between the rich and the poor.
It is not enough to simply ameliorate suffering. Rather, we must determine the root of the problem: is the wealth of the rich created on the backs of the poor?
I believe there are fundamental problems with the U.S. economy, a system that is tilted in favor of the few, with constant bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy, while the middle class disappears and the poor are kept docile through credit cards, mass entertainment, and the delusional myth of "the American dream."
I look forward toward fundamental policy changes that support human growth and allow all citizens equal opportunity.
July 4, 2010
Independence, Nationalism, the American Experience
Plenty of people can't fathom criticizing nationalism. If you don't accept that we live in the greatest country in the world, why not leave? If you can't appreciate your freedom, just leave!
My wariness of nationalism stems from its historical roots. By creating an identity larger than your community, but separate from people beyond a border, Us vs. Them becomes easier to swallow. In a world connected by the interwebs, it can be depressing that more people aren't more closely connected with a global perspective.
Regardless of your feelings about Independence Day, "The Great Rupture," by Peter Goodman in the NYT should be required reading today. The profound disconnect between economic reality and policy is laid bare in vignettes from across the country. The US government provided billions to bail out the "financial system," ensuring bonuses and hefty salaries for the charlatans who got us into this mess, yet "fiscally conservative" politicians refuse to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of people devastated by the economic collapse caused by the geniuses of
Wall Street legal gambling.
It's time to take a stand. Declare your independence from group think. Reach out to your neighbors, next door and across the world. Learn about your history. Learn about your neighbor's history. And let's work together to create the nonviolent paradigm shift desperately needed to convince politicians that Public Works is more effective than Corporate Bailouts. That diplomacy should be led by the State Department, not the DOD.
Social upheaval: it's closer than you think.
September 6, 2009
Israeli Settlement Expansion Creates Turmoil, not Peace
On Friday, the LA Times reported that the Israeli government decided to "slow down" rather than halt the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This surprised the Obama administration, which has called for a settlement freeze. Palestinians believe this proves the Israeli government has no interest in peace negotiations.
This news breaks my heart.
Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post highlighting the destructive nature of Israeli settlement expansion and the glimmer of hope provided by cross-border partnerships.
As a peace activist, I find it difficult to maintain hope for peace in the Middle East. The military and economic power of the Israeli government has been used for the last 61 years to occupy and subjugate Palestine, with the support of the US government. As a Jew, I am torn between my deep love of my religious heritage and ethnicity, and the belligerent political state created in my name.
As a practicing Jew, the actions of the Israeli government often feel other-worldly to me. I cannot understand how a tradition that has created some of the strongest social justice leaders throughout time has also created such belligerence. We've been persecuted throughout history, and we tend to use that persecution as a coat of invulnerability.
I believe East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza should be a sovereign country and that Israelis have no right to that land. I believe the Israeli government has the upper hand in this conflict and that Israel chooses to fight its neighbors rather than make peace.
The justification I hear most often for Israel not coming to the peace table is that Palestinians want to wipe Israel off the face of the map, so how can you negotiate with people who don't share a common world view? I cannot accept this premise: yes, some Palestinians do not want to recognize a Jewish political state; but if Israelis decided to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, chose to allow Palestinians the right of self-determination (including full citizenship for Palestinian Israelis), and chose to create economic partnership with their neighbors rather than security walls, then the militants would have less power on both sides of the conflict.
- Read the Israeli WILPF Statement Joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (pdf)
- Join WILPF: support citizen diplomacy for creating peace in the Middle East. WILPF has sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. (The above link allows you to join the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section. To donate to our international organization, click here.)
- Write to your local paper: call for peace negotiations and question the Israeli government's commitment to peace as they expand settlements in Occupied Palestine
- Review the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation's resources on challenging US policy.
September 19, 2007
To be Clear: Iraqis Don't Want Sectarian Divisions
I want every pundit in the US to read "Future Look of Iraq Complicated by Internal Migration," by James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin in today's NYT. Maybe after reading the article, they'll stop suggesting that Iraq should be split into 3 ethnic states. Such division does not exist in Iraq - it is only happening when people stare down the barrel of a gun.
Apparently, the point of this "war on terror" is to terrorize the people of Iraq and allow militias to rule over them.
Over all, the patterns suggest that despite the ethnic and sectarian animosity that has gripped the country, at least some Iraqis would rather continue to live in mixed communities. ...All together now: people do not naturally divide themselves by ethnicity. They seek the best place to raise a family: the safest neighborhood with the best utilities and schools. Sound familiar? For the life of me, I can't understand why US'ers think Arabs are so different from us. All around the world, people want the same thing: safe neighborhoods, good schools, and modern utilities that operate 24/7.
But the new figures show that the migration is not neatly dividing Baghdad along the Tigris, separating Sunnis who live predominantly on the west bank from Shiites, who live predominantly on the east. Instead, some Sunnis are moving to the predominantly Shiite side of the river, into neighborhoods that are relatively secular, mixed and where services are better, according to Red Crescent staff.
Why is it so difficult for US'ers to understand that it is our government, our corrupt contractors that are screwing up in Iraq? If we had sent the Army Corps of Engineers in to create an eletrical grid, instead of relying on Halliburton and the like, Iraqis might have reliable power now, 4 years into the occupation. Obviously, the army isn't the best at all engineering tasks - you don't have to look further than New Orleans to see how big their mistakes can be. But we could've stopped some of the madness & expense on private security firms if we had handled this occupation as a public-effort rather than a private-profit grab funded by taxpayers.
Here's a novel idea - we could've worked through the UN Dept of Peacekeeping Operations. You know, it's not too late to bring in the DPKO. Throw in some recognition for UNSCR 1325 and the US might actually be able to turn its failed occupation into the beginnings of conflict resolution...
a girl's gotta dream.
NYT article found via UN Wire
September 13, 2007
UN Adopts Rights of Indigenous People
Today the UN General Assembly adopted The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. Interestingly, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States voted against it. Work on this declaration began in 1982, which either shows you how long it takes to write a document in the UN or tells you a lot of thought went into this declaration.
It's non-binding, but is supposed to set a minimum standard for future laws. The Kiwi government rep said they fully support indigenous rights, but that the declaration goes against their constitution, treaties, and laws. I guess they were looking at the broadest possible interpretation, rather than focusing on the symbolic use of a rights declaration. The US'ers complained about being shut out from negotiations on the text of the declaration (perhaps because my country is being represented by people who would rather blow up the UN building than seriously work within multinational organizations). I imagine the Canadians and Aussies are also afraid of rampant reparations demands, since like the Kiwis and US'ers they stole their countries from indigenous people.
On the positive side, 143 countries voted in favor of the declaration.
July 10, 2007
Don't Let More Girls Die Trying to Learn to Read
If you listened to the the current US administration, you'd think Afghanistan is a great place to live if you're female. You'd think the Taliban is a thing of the past and that safety and stability has been flung out over the nation. You'd be sorely mistaken.
How'd you like to be the target of random acts of violence because you dared to be female and a student? How'd you like to watch as thugs murder your sister as you are leaving school with her?
Welcome to the new Afghanistan. Where there's money for roads, but not for schools. Where to decide to learn means accepting the very real possibility that you've made yourself a target.
"Education in Afghanistan: A harrowing choice," by Barry Bearak in today's International Herald Tribune.
Shir Agha, whose neice was murdered on the steps of her school, said the following:
"We have a saying that if you go to school, you can find yourself, and if you can find yourself, you can find God," he said proudly. "But for a child to attend school, there must be security. Who supplies that security?"Where indeed. Perhaps instead of trying to build a client state in Iraq, the US military should be transferred to Afghanistan where there is real need for some plain and simple security...
article found via UN Wire
February 6, 2007
Support the Employee Free Choice Act!
Below is the letter I sent to Senator Boxer (most of it is directly from the AFL-CIO form letter):
As the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US), I urge Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1696 and S. 842) now.
Workers need the Employee Free Choice Act because workers need unions. Union workers typically earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers to support their families and contribute to their communities. Union members are much more likely than nonunion workers to have vital benefits such as health care coverage, disability insurance and retirement security. And no one can put a price tag on the pride of having a union voice at work.
Some 60 million workers would join a union if they could. But, as Human Rights Watch has documented, employers routinely harass, coerce, intimidate and stall to block workers' freedom to choose union representation. In fact, every 23 minutes a worker is fired or penalized for supporting a union.
Senator Boxer, the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 842) is imperative to allowing workers a voice at work. Unions help not only their members, but all citizens. They increase corporate accountability and provide a vital voice for America's workers in the halls of power.
I look forward to your prompt response assuring me that you support S. 842.
Cynthia J. Minster
issue found via my fellow blogger, Erik Love, at the Courage Campaign
January 18, 2007
Personal Thoughts on Healthcare
I'm now a blogger for the Courage Campaign - an organization that focuses on bringing together people for progressive political change here in California.
If you click over there, you'll see my thoughts on the human right to healthcare (told mostly from a personal perspective).
The nutshell version is that Schwarzenegger's plan is a big pile of crap and that the only way forward is universal healthcare.
January 14, 2007
It's Official: I'm a Self-Hating Jew
I sorta obsessively watch who is reading my blogs. Last night, I found that my cultural blog got a hit from masada2000.org. In case you haven't heard of this horrific website, it keep a list of "7000+ Self-Hating Israel Threatening Jews." Some entries include pictures. For the longest time, despite being the Program Chair of a peace group, I wasn't listed. Apparently now I am. And they think I'm 5 years older than I really am. I don't really want you to go to the horrific site. Well, you can if you want. Here's their entry for me:
Minster, C. J. [DOB approx. 1973] This Sunday morning talk show junkie and national board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which calls for an "ending US Military aid to Israel and a US Middle East policy with emphasis on long denied Justice for the Palestinian people" signed a one-sided petition for "U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East"... which was nothing less than a full-fledged "mugging" of Israel!
"How can we expect the Palestinians to give up their right to self defense when the Israeli government continues to meet with them at the point of a gun or a lethal Caterpillar bulldozer? As a Jewish American, I am appalled at all that is done in my name. I don't need Palestinians to starve to death to make myself safe as a Jew."
Her "Angel Headed Hipster" blog site is at http://www.angelheadedhipster.com
The other thing they got wrong in their entry is that the blog they cited has a two word title - angelheaded is one word. But I guess they never read that other Jew who popularized the term - Allen Ginsberg. (Besides, it doesn't have any political commentary. I write about politics on this blog. I write about Cali politics on couragecampaign.org. And sometimes, I write about WILPF stuff on the WILPF blog, wilpf.blogspot.com)
Oh, and I don't know how they came up with the quote they created about WILPF, but WILPF actually calls for an end to all US military aid. We're also seeking a change to US Middle East policy - our campaign is currently working to create an alternative, feminist US policy on Israel / Palestine. Our goal is peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I do stand by the quote I wrote on that online petition. But I've written a lot more than that about the issue.
I wonder what the person thought when they clicked through to my site and saw that I'm dealing with cancer...
Seems fitting that I found out about this yesterday. I spent the afternoon listening to a Holocaust survivor speak about her experience visiting Palestine and being strip searched (and body-cavity searched) at the Tel Aviv airport while attempting to return to the United States.
And today's NY Times Magazine has a feature on Abe Foxman, the meshugenah head of the ADL who sees anti-Semites behind every corner. It's not a particularly good article - the only alternative voices it cites are Mearsheimer and Walt. It would've been better if it really tried to explore the pain and division Foxman and his nut-wing partners have caused the Jewish American community.
December 11, 2006
Women Being Left Behind in LA County
I just wrote a post for the Courage Campaign based on a report from the United Way on how women, especially single mothers, struggle to stay afloat in LA.
Go read it. It includes a link to the transcript of the Larry King show I was on.
November 1, 2006
Taxes: They're a Good Thing
Watching the evening local news is a joke. Chock full of political ads. I still don't know all the propositions on the California ballot, nor do I know all the politicians up for election. I was able to hear about a Tiger fighting for Californians (which I noted sounded a helluva lot like a junior high student council election slogan). And I asked my flatmates their opinion on this proposed cigarette tax hike. I'm so damn sick of politicians balancing budgets on the backs of smokers and drinkers. Everywhere I've lived - from Washington State to Chicago to Cali - seems to think that the answer to skyrocketing healthcare costs is more "sin" taxes. Apparently, drinkers and smokers aren't as well organized as homeowners and the general public, so its easy to just tax the hell out of them. Enough is enough. If we're going to seriously tackle the public health problem caused by our insistence on a for-profit health system; if we're going to really tackle the absolute lack of affordable housing; if we're going to cut the bureaucracy in our schools and increase the funding that actually goes to teachers and classrooms, than we're just going to have to raise taxes. Not just on smokers and drinkers. Let's start by forcing the rich to pay their fair share - once we cut all the corporate loopholes, then we can start on the income tax system. And before we raise income taxes, lets get more auditors out there to go after the rich and powerful and get the money they owe to the system.
You want a society that is fair and just? Then accept taxes as a necessary part of the system.
And if you're a bloody rockstar who made an angelic name for himself championing the poor, you sure as hell better not skirt your tax bill. I am disgusted to report that Bono and U2 have move their publishing headquarters to the Netherlands to avoid taxes in Ireland. This is sad & hypocritical. But what can you expect from men who have everything they've ever wanted?
"Bono, Tax Avoider: The hypocrisy of U2." by Timothy Noah in Slate
October 4, 2006
Workers Unite - Celebrate Your Elevation to "Management"
The National Labor Relations Board has finally cleared up a common misperception. Namely, that the majority of working people are not management. Instead, they've helpful re-classified anyone who is not a lab monkey as a manager, and not eligible for union membership. No need to have the ability to hire and fire - if you use any brain power in your job, you're now a manager.
Apparently, it was too confusing to allow a bastion of independent-minded nurses the right to organize. Now those nurses who do anything remotely in the realm of management - even if they cannot hire / fire employees - are not eligible for union membership. And the ruling could expand outward to all types of employees. So if you use independent judgment in your job, you just might be screwed out of the ability to collectively bargain your working conditions.
Read the gory deets in the LA Times -
"U.S. Ruling Could Eliminate Union Eligibility for Millions," by Molly Selvin
Labor Blog comments by Nathan Newman
September 22, 2006
USG: Still Pro-Torture
The LAT decided to lie to its readers today. It leads with "Bush Bows to Senators on Detainees." Apparently, the headline writers only read press releases. In reality, the military veteran senators acquiesced to the Torturer in Chief.
To be clear: the US is less safe because its government refuses to acknowledge the primacy of the Geneva Conventions. The US is less safe because its political leadership insists on torturing people they label terrorists. The US is less safe because it refuses to join the international community and support the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. Apparently, the rest of the world is only important when they bow to the will of our Torturer in Chief.
But the senators who have fought to rein in the administration's excesses -- led by Sens. McCain, Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) -- failed to break Mr. Bush's commitment to "alternative" methods that virtually every senior officer of the U.S. military regards as unreliable, counterproductive and dangerous for Americans who may be captured by hostile governments.
Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday. Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of torture and bear responsibility for the enormous damage that has caused.
"Our Torturer-in-Chief: Until Bush took office, the U.S. had no problem defining what is cruel and inhuman." Op-Ed by Rosa Brooks in the LAT
August 30, 2006
Gender Equality in the Classroom
Martha Burk wrote a diatribe in Ms. Magazine, lamenting the fact that only history buffs and feminists celebrate Women's Equality Day. She also blasts Albany, NY for setting up charter schools that separate kids by gender - a boys' elementary school and a girls' elementary school. She thinks this is a clear sign that girls aren't being taken seriously.
As a woman who went to co-ed public schools throughout my youth and attended a private women's college, I take extreme issue with her accusations. First of all, I oppose charter schools on simple grounds: they take money away from real public schools and they force teachers and other school employees to work without unions. And while it is a shame that only the boys school got a new building, since I don't know the town - maybe the girls' building wasn't in need of improvement. Further, single gender education can be extremely helpful to both boys and girls.
Trust me, it's not to take away sexual distractions. Hetero kids will always find a way to commingle and queer kids will create enough drama in a single gender environment to make you forget it isn't co-ed. Not that I expect this to be an issue in elementary schools, but I did want to clear the air for everyone re high school and college settings.
The fact is that males and females generally respond better to different forms of teaching. This isn't always true; but just look at how many parents hold their sons back from kindergarten because he's immature and small for his age - they figure by starting a year later, he'll have a leg up on the competition. And they justify this by saying that boys take longer to mature than girls. If parents recognize fundamental differences between their kids, why can't schools accommodate for those differences?
I am a staunch feminist and believe that feminism is the radical idea that women and men are equal. That does not make us the same. I had a high school English teacher who favored the male students in my class. It was partially to avoid such bias that I ultimately chose Wellesley as my college of choice. And while I had many bumps in my educational road, I do not regret giving up the company of men in my classrooms. After all, I saw plenty of them in my off hours.
April 28, 2006
May Day is Almost Here
Below is an email forward I received on the history of May Day, by Chris Mahin of UNITE-HERE:
May Day and the fight for immigrants' rights:amen, brother.
On May 1, 2006, huge demonstrations for immigrants' rights will take place in Chicago and other U.S. cities. May 1 is an especially appropriate occasion for these demonstrations.
May 1st is May Day, celebrated throughout most of the world as International Labor Day. This holiday began in Chicago - and it began in the fight not only for the eight-hour day, but also for immigrants' rights.
On May 1, 1886, workers throughout the United States engaged in a massive strike to demand the eight-hour day. Chicago was the strike's center. At that time, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world. Workers were pouring into the city from all over the United States, and from many different parts of the world. The factories of the city were being filled not only by young people being driven off the farms of the U.S. Midwest, but also by workers from England, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Bohemia, Sweden and many other countries. In those factories, the pay was low, the hours were long, and the conditions were terribly unsafe. (This was true for all workers, but especially true for immigrant workers.)
Just days after that strike -- on May 4, 1886 -- a rally was held at Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest a police attack on a group of strikers. As this peaceful rally was winding to a close, 176 cops moved in to forcibly disperse the crowd. They ordered the rally's last speaker - an English immigrant worker, Samuel Fielden - to stop. Then someone threw a bomb. It killed one police officer instantly and wounded many others. The police opened fire, killing many participants in the rally.
A wave of hysteria followed, directed at working-class organizations, revolutionary groups, and immigrant societies and publications. The police went wild, filling the city's jails with large numbers of immigrants, breaking into private homes, wrecking the printing presses of foreign-language newspapers, and arresting leaders of Chicago's emerging trade union movement (whether those leaders had been present at the rally or not.) Immigrants were accused of being terrorists; suspects were beaten and even tortured.
The extent of the hysteria can be gauged by the comments published in the respectable Albany Law Journal just 11 days after the Haymarket bombing:
"[The recent events in Chicago] have revived very strongly in us several desires long vaguely entertained, such as a check upon immigration, a power of deportation, a better equipment of the police, a prompter and severer dealing with disorder in its first overt act. It is a serious thought that the lives of good and brave men, the safety of innocent women and children, and immunity of property should be, even for one hour, in a great city, at the mercy of a few long-haired, wild-eyed, bad-smelling, atheistic, reckless foreign wretches, who never did an honest hour's work in their lives, but who, driven half crazy with years of oppression and mad with envy of the rich, think to level society and its distinctions with a few bombs. There ought to be some law. ... to enable society to crush such snakes when they raise their heads before they have time to bite. ... This state of things almost justifies the resort to the vigilance committee and lynch law. ... It seems that the penal law of Illinois would warrant treating all these godless fiends as murderers, and we hope they will be so treated and extirpated from the face of the earth."
The authorities in Chicago exploited the Haymarket tragedy to attack the emerging trade union movement in the city. In June 1886, several leaders of the Chicago union movement were put on trial, charged with being accessories to murder at Haymarket Square and with a general conspiracy to murder. Most of the defendants had not even been present when the Haymarket bomb had been thrown, but that didn't matter. They were militant leaders of the workers, and Chicago's capitalists wanted their blood.
Given the composition of Chicago's work force in 1886, it was hardly surprising that most of the accused were immigrants. Of the eight men who eventually stood trial, seven were immigrants. (One defendant - Samuel Fielden - was from Lancashire, England. Six had been raised in Germany: George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, and August Spies.) In the late 1880s, immigrant workers were concentrated in the most exploited section of the industrial work force, so it was natural that the people who emerged as leaders of the working class as a whole were often immigrants.
Only one man among the eight individuals charged in what came to be known as "the Haymarket Affair" had been born and raised in the United States. His name was Albert Parsons. He had managed to slip out of Chicago after the bombing, and escaped to the relative safety of southern Wisconsin. There, he spent a few days on the top of a hill overlooking the peaceful countryside. Then, he decided that he could not live with himself if he let his colleagues stand trial alone. On June 21, 1886 - the first day of the trial - Albert Parsons appeared in court, telling the judge: "I have come to stand trial, your Honor, with my innocent comrades."
Tried before a biased judge and jury, the defendants never had a chance. They were convicted; seven were sentenced to hang. (An eighth was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.) At that point, many people thought the case was closed, but they had not reckoned with Lucy Gonzalez Parsons, the wife of Albert Parsons and a leader of the Chicago labor movement in her own right. While the case was being appealed, Lucy Parsons took her two small children and traveled across the United States, speaking to anyone who would listen. In almost a year, she spoke to about 200,000 people in 16 states about the case. Her heartfelt eloquence helped spark a movement to stop the executions.
Despite worldwide protests, Albert Parsons, George Engel, Adolph Fischer, and August Spies were hanged by the state of Illinois in November 1887. (A fifth defendant, Louis Lingg, died in his cell the day before the executions under very suspicious circumstances.) On the morning of the execution of her husband, Lucy Parsons was arrested and locked in a cell with her children for attempting to see her husband one last time.
On July 14, 1889 - the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Prison -- at the International Labor Congress in Paris, a delegate from the American Federation of Labor proposed that the Congress adopt May 1 as International Labor Day and a day to remember the "Martyrs of Chicago." This was accepted. Ever since, May 1 has been a day for the workers of the entire world to march in unison.
On June 26, 1893, Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld - an immigrant from Germany - pardoned the three living Haymarket defendants: Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab (all immigrants). Altgeld’s decision produced a firestorm of criticism. The Chicago Tribune condemned the decision with these words:
"The anarchists believed that he [Altgeld] was not merely an alien by birth, but an alien by temperament and sympathies, and they were right. He has apparently not a drop of true American blood in his veins. He does not reason like an American, not feel like one, and consequently does not behave like one."
Given all this history, can anyone doubt that the fight for immigrant rights is interwoven throughout the celebration of May Day? This year, let's honor the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs - both immigrant and native-born - by demanding justice for today's immigrant workers. Perhaps the lesson of May Day can be summed up best in the words of Haymarket defendant Oscar Neebe. The last words of his autobiography read simply: "I call on all workingmen or working women of all nationalities and all countries to unite and down with your oppressors."
FYI, I've been looking for this article on the web for awhile now. Couldn't find it anywhere. But here's what I did find:
Chicago Indymedia (scroll down for May Day updates)
Labor Express, "Chicago's only labor news and current affairs radio program"
An anarchist celebration of May Day. This site offers a detailed history of the Haymarket rally and how those prosecuted / murdered by the state were really on trial for being anarchists / socialists. [Aside clarification: I am a feminist social activist who respects anarchists, but am not one myself.]
Chicago Public Library's entry for the "Haymarket Riot." Interesting history of a monument to the dead police included. (And how did I live in Forest Park for four months without knowing there was a monument out there to the Haymarket martyrs?!?)
January 12, 2006
Sometimes I really wonder about all of the hoopla around Supreme Court nominations. I do believe it is an important subject; I just think now is the wrong time to get your feathers riled up. Why? Because somehow - whether fairly or through malfeasance - the US re-elected Bush and a majority Republican Senate and House. That means that the majority of the electorate, or at least the ones who have their votes counted, don't take their right to privacy and the rights of the individual seriously when electing officials. The Democrats aren't always a great option; but I generally believe they are a better option than Republicans. And since the electorate doesn't agree with me, it is possible Roe v. Wade wll be overturned and this imperial presidency will continue unabated.
So what I don't get is how people spend their activist time protesting in the streets against Alito as a Justice. I sure as hell wouldn't vote for him, and I hope my senators feel the same way. And I'm willing to send them an email on the subject. But beyond that, I feel that there are areas of politics more open to change than how my senators vote. Which is why my activist time will be spent understanding the 50th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; US Policy on Israel and Palestine; and growing the US Section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
In case you're still interested in Alito, the NYT has an editorial that neatly sums up the reasons to oppose his nomination.
December 7, 2005
Dr. Al-Arian Not Guilty; Patriot Act Dealt Blow
The Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP) campaign of US WILPF issued an action alert regarding Dr. Al-Arian's case on November 11, 2005. I am pleased to report that Dr. Al-Arian was aquitted on 8 charges, although the jury was deadlocked on 9 other charges.
At this point, Dr. Al-Arian remains in custody. He could be re-tried for the nine charges the jury was deadlocked on. The US government could also try to deport him.
I am very happy to report that none of the defendants in Dr. Al-Arian's trial were convicted of any crimes. I will continue to watch this case closely, since justice will not be served until Dr. Al-Arian can return to his life with his family in Florida.
From "Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.," by Eric Lichtbau with contributions from Lynn Wanddell in the NYT:
"This was a very important case for us in that it tested both the Patriot Act and the right to political activity," [Ahmed Bedier, director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations,] said. "The jury is sending a statement that even in post-9/11 America, the justice system works, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and political association - while it may be unpopular to associate oneself with controversial views - is still not illegal in this country."
From "Fla. Professor Is Acquitted in Case Seen as Patriot Act Test," by Spencer S. Hsu and Dan Eggen with contributions from Caryle Murphy and Julie Tate in WaPo:
"They have long proclaimed this as Exhibit A in the successful use of the Patriot Act and as one of their most important prosecutions in the war on terror," [David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law expert who represented Dr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar] said. Prosecutors proceeded "on a kind of extremely sweeping guilt-by-association theory ... without any showing that he specifically furthered or sought to further any violent act of any kind."
More info: "Al-Arian acquitted on 8 terror counts: Trial tests power of Patriot Act after 9-11," by Pedro Ruz Gutierrez from the Orlando Sentinel, posted by NY Newsday
November 11, 2005
Action Alert from WCUSP Campaign
The leadership team of the Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP) National Campaign of US WILPF, urge you to voice your solidarity with Dr. Sami Al-Arian who is being tried based on "secret evidence" by the federal government in Florida. Background information and suggested actions follow. The defense will resume its closing arguments on Monday.
Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a son of Palestinian refugees who came to the U.S. in 1975 and has been a Professor teaching computer science since 1986 at the University of South Florida, has found himself defending against "secret evidence" on charges of racketeering and fund-raising. The difficulty of refuting charges based on "secret evidence" provided by "unindicted co-conspirators" is generally deemed an insurmountable obstacle to a defense.
For many years, political and human rights activists have been intimidated by such accusations. These tactics are often used by governments to stifle legitimate criticism of policies which those governments wish to carry out. The McCarthy era, currently being re-visited by the movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" which exposes the tactics used by the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC), was a prime example of this type of intimidation. Some of our WILPF sisters were caught up in HUAC's wide net during that frightening era. The case of Sami Al-Arian resembles the cases of that era. It stems from the draconian measures instituted under the U.S.A.
The case is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and is an assault on First Amendment rights. If another nation were engaged in this type of intimidation and was holding a U.S. citizen on "secret evidence," the U.S. government would protest loudly.
It is telling that Professor Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar, was locked up in 1997 and charged under similar laws, but was released in 2000 when a court ruled the procedure unconstitutional. Dr. Al-Najjar taught at the same University. Sami Al-Arian worked hard to get his brother-in-law released, and he himself was arrested a day after the university filed suit in a Florida court against him, seeking "declaratory relief," a judicial determination that the university has the right to fire Dr. Al-Arian and that the firing does not violate the victim's constitutional rights.
The filing took place one day after Dr. Al-Najjar (married to Sami Al-Arian's sister) was expelled from the U.S. (August 22, 2002), having been re-arrested again in November of 2001, still under the onus of proving his innocence against "secret evidence" and unknown accusers. Dr. Al-Najjar is currently staying with relatives in Lebanon, separated from his family, who remain in the U.S.
It is somewhat ironic that Dr. Al-Arian is a co-founder of the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, a local coalition opposed to the unconstitutional use of secret evidence and other civil rights violations, as well as ongoing media attacks against Arabs and Muslims. He is the recipient of three Civil Rights Awards from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the American Muslim Alliance (AMA). In 1990, he co-founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a research and academic institution dedicated to promoting dialogue between the Muslim and Western worlds.
Dr. Al-Arian has been married for 25 years and has five American-born children. It can only be surmised that his arrest is an effort to stifle his work to raise awareness about human rights violations against Palestinians. His trial is currently underway at the federal courthouse in Tampa, Florida. His original arrest took place on February 20, 2003, after nearly eight years of government harassment. Bail was not allowed in his case, despite the testimony of more than 35 witnesses in defense of his character and the fact that the prosecution had no witnesses and no evidence to present at the bail hearing.
Many people in the peace and justice community are following this case closely, as Dr. Al-Arian had become well-known as a frequent speaker and lecturer on college campuses, at churches and conferences, where he has spoken on interfaith dialogue, community development, and civil rights. He is one of the founders of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim grassroots organization in this country. He has served as the imam of the Islamic Community
of Tampa. It appears to be his association with the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), a group that raised awareness about the plight of Palestinians, that is the focus of the case against him, although the exact nature of the charges, as well as the identity of his accusers, is not available to him or to his attorneys.
Dr. Al-Arian was arrested along with three other co-defendants. Two of these co-defendants have been released on bail, while Dr. Al-Arian is currently being detained in a facility with hardcore criminals. The charges against him also include terrorism, which stems from the contention that the money raised for ICP was somehow channeled to terrorists. How this connection is being made, or who has leveled these charges, remains a mystery. Part of the confusion is related to a telephone conversation he had with someone identified as "Abu Ahmad," a common name which simply means "father of Ahmad," but which is also the alias of a Gazan named Abd Al-Aziz Awda, assumed to be someone identified by the U.S. as a terrorist. Dr. Al-Arian says that the man with whom he spoke was a Gaza school principal and the men were discussing contributions to his school. Additionally, although Al-Arian spoke frequently, he was not known as an active fund-raiser for any cause, but mainly a spokesperson.
Another charge leveled against him is that his name appeared on the bank account of an organization with which he was associated many years before, The World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). The government has concluded that WISE was a "racketeering enterprise" and has based part of its case around the fact that another name on the bank account was that of Abdullah Shallah, who several years later became the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Guilt by association and the fact that many people have known someone who later went on to do something with which they do not agree are both reasons for concern that any of us might find ourselves in a similar situation to Sami Al-Arian. There were no laws specifying that WISE was an illegal organization at the time that Dr. Al-Arian worked with the group.
All of us should be concerned about this case, as it brings up the possibility of arrest under secret evidence, inability to face one's accuser (or even know who that person is), guilt by association, an assault on freedom of speech, and on academic freedom. The chilling effects of this case (and of the previous case again Dr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law) could be felt by everyone in the peace and justice community. Although Dr. Al-Arian is a stateless Palestinian, having been born outside Palestine and therefore not able to carry the passport of his homeland, once this type of case becomes rampant, the pursuit of U.S. citizens for similar offenses of being critical of the U.S. government, or calling for peace and justice overseas, can affect everyone involved in this type of work.
To learn more about the case, go to freesamialarian.com .
To hear about it in his own words, read his book, Shackled Dreams: A Palestinian's Struggle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, or his poetry book, Conspiring Against Joseph - Reflections of a Prisoner of Conscience in a Federal Penitentiary.
NPR has profiled Dr. Al-Arian several times. Here is the search page for their material regarding his case.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
To help Dr. Al-Arian, donate to: National Liberty Fund, P.O. Box 3568, Washington, D.C. 20007; attend the trial if you are nearby (seating will be limited); inform others about the case (To put on an event, email tampabayjustice AT yahoo.com); send letters of encouragement to Dr. Sami Al-Arian and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh; write to your congressperson and request that he/she repeal the portions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act which allow for secret evidence. In appeals to Congress, stress that secret evidence is counter to democratic government and that its result is that no one held under secret evidence is capable of mounting a defense, resulting in greater possibility that innocent persons will be convicted. Also remind your Congressperson that this government would be highly critical (and has been highly critical) of any other nation using secret evidence or the testimony of unknown witnesses as a part of their case. Say that you value freedom of speech and that this nation is greater when there is an open debate on crucial issues. Remind him/her that pushing ideas underground is a greater risk than keeping them out in the open.
October 31, 2005
Princeton Ties....SC Nom
Randomly from CQ Midday Update...
Ah, the old school tie. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., informed reporters this morning that he and Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. share an alma mater: Princeton University. Alito graduated in 1972, Frist in 1974. "So very quickly people started sending me e-mails this morning," including one calling attention to the 1972 edition of the yearbook, the Nassau Herald. According to Frist, the final two sentences under Alito’s pic said, "Sam intends to go to law school and eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court." Not so fast. First he has to get safely off the hot seat in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a perch that can burn a nominee.
September 26, 2005
Govt Officials Probably In Collusion with Serial Killings of Women in Ciudad Juarez
It is disturbing to know that more than 350 women and girls have been brutally murdered along the Mexican-U.S. border, including at least 90 who were raped and killed in similar ways.
Worse is the evidence of police collusion either in the murders or at least cover-up of the murders. Torturing suspects into giving false confessions is rampant.
The state prosecutor and state police chief resigned recently. The new state prosecutor, Patricia González, doesn't actually believe the state deliberately messed up the investigations; but at least she's bringing in an Argentine forensics team to help re-evaluate the murders.
More info: "In Mexico's Murders, Fury Is Aimed at Officials," by Ginger Thompson in the LAT
September 24, 2005
Abuse Rampant by US Soldiers in Iraq
Human Rights Watch released a 30 page report based on interviews with three members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, documenting rampant abuse of prisoners in Camp Mercury - a holding place before transfer to Abu Ghraib - and other places. Prisoners were humiliated, beaten, bones broken, for the amusement of bored soldiers and to increase their usefulness during intelligence briefings.
The three soldiers came forward after 17 months trying to get someone within the Army to open an investigation. One soldier, Captain Ian Fishback came forward and spoke with aides to two Republican Senators, chairman of the Armed Services Committe Jack Warner and senior member of that committee John McCain.
In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee's leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. "We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. "This happened every day."From: "3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine," by Eric Schmitt in NYT
I believe that even though these men came forward to shed light on this situation, that should not keep them from being prosecuted by an international court. If a criminal admits a "regular" crime, he does not get off without punsihment, correct?
We must also stop expecting the criminals in charge of this country to uphold the law. They have no respect for international law or human rights; they must be held accountable by the citizens in the U.S. and the world.
More info: "More Iraqis Tortured, Officer Says: The 82nd Airborne is accused of abuses in 2003 and early 2004. A criminal inquiry begins." by Richard A. Serrano in the LAT
September 20, 2005
One Crook Indicted, Many More to Go
The head of the entire USG's procurement system, David H. Safavian, resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday "accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government."
Let me be clear - this crook has been in charge of procurement including disaster relief in the Gulf Region and no one bothered to get rid of him until his egregious actions were brought to light by a task force including the IRS, the Interior Department and the Justice Department's fraud and public integrity units.
Thank goodness there are still some honest public servants working for the USG. Too bad they have to report to a bunch of Thieves and Liars.
"Bush Official Arrested in Corruption Probe," by R. Jeffrey Smith and Susan Schmidt in today's WaPo
September 3, 2005
The Criminal Destruction of New Orleans
Join me in demanding that the federal government lead the effort to supply food, water, and shelter for the survivors of this disaster. I think it is disgusting that with all the billions of money wasted on pointless wars and "homeland security," for some reason Americans cannot act together via our government to fund the relief effort.
I'm also disturbed by all the white celebrities getting on tv to let us know that New Orleans is color blind. Sela Ward just made that statement on CNN. Apparently, she has not been watching CNN and cannot see how the disaster is disproportionately affecting poor, black people. Yes, there are still poor white people waiting to be evacuated from New Orleans and elsewhere. But they are not immediately met with suscipicion by their rescuers. The color of their skin will make it easier for them to rebuild their lives. If my fellow white Americans cannot admit that racism and classism are systemic problems in America, how will we ever dismantle it?
A good friend and sister WILPFer sent me the following two articles.
If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.from "'This is criminal': Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans," by Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party and recent Green Party candidate for the New Orleans City Council; posted on San Francisco Bay View
I can understand the chaos that happened after the tsunami, because they had no warning, but here there was plenty of warning. In the three days before the hurricane hit, we knew it was coming and everyone could have been evacuated.
We have Amtrak here that could have carried everybody out of town. There were enough school buses that could have evacuated 20,000 people easily, but they just let them be flooded. My son watched 40 buses go underwater - they just wouldn't move them, afraid they'd be stolen.
People who could afford to leave were so afraid someone would steal what they own that they just let it all be flooded. They could have let a family without a vehicle borrow their extra car, but instead they left it behind to be destroyed.
There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young Black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, "Stop! You're going to start a riot."
As for the rescue operation, the free-marketeers like to say that relief to the more unfortunate among us should be left to private charity. It was a favorite preachment of President Ronald Reagan that "private charity can do the job." And for the first few days that indeed seemed to be the policy with the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.from "How the Free Market Killed New Orleans," by Michael Parenti on Znet Commentary
The federal government was nowhere in sight but the Red Cross went into action. Its message: "Don't send food or blankets; send money." Meanwhile Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network---taking a moment off from God's work of pushing John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court---called for donations and announced "Operation Blessing" which consisted of a highly-publicized but totally inadequate shipment of canned goods and bibles.
By Day Three even the myopic media began to realize the immense failure of the rescue operation. People were dying because relief had not arrived. The authorities seemed more concerned with the looting than with rescuing people. It was property before people, just like the free marketeers always want.
September 1, 2005
The Deplorable State of Emergency Help for Hurricane Refugees
I am watching PBS News Hour in horror. The people most severely affected by the evacuation of New Orleans are the poorest. FEMA and the Red Cross are not getting aid there as fast enough. They do not have the resources to do it and seem to have more bureaucrats than food, water, and shelter. The Bush administration should be ashamed of gutting FEMA's budget, of gutting the Army Corp of Engineer's buget for modernizing New Orleans' levee system, and of waiting until after the hurricane hit to start getting aid to the disaster area.
"Lost in the Flood - Why no mention of race or class in TV's Katrina coverage?" by Jack Shafer in Slate
"Destroying FEMA," by Eric Holdeman in WaPo
August 30, 2005
Extremist Jewish Israelis Attacked Two Arab Israelis
Not only were two men attacked by a group of forty thugs, but when one managed to escape the police refused to investigate the crime in progress.
Read the whole, disturbing article by Saed BAnnoura on International Middle East Media Center.
August 10, 2005
Army Whistleblower Exists
I've heard it said in many circles that the army procurement system is a joke - a rubber stamp on war profiteering by Halliburton and other Bush admin cronies. I never realized there was a procurement officer in the Army who agreed with me - Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse.
When Gen. Ballard hired her in 1997 she was overqualified — three master's degrees and more than 20 years of contracting experience in private industry, the Army and the Pentagon.By the way, Ballard retired which is part of the reason Ms. Greenhouse is facing such an uphill battle within the Army. She's been demoted for pointing out that many of Halliburton's contracts are illegal because there was no competitive bidding process and because they are bilking American taxpayers for millions of dollars (charging for meals that were never served; serving military personnel rotten food; over-charging for oil).
"She is probably the most professional person I've ever met, " Ballard said. "And she plays it straight. That created problems for her after I left."
Ballard used her, he said, to help him revolutionize the Corps — by ending the old-boys practice of awarding contracts to a favored few, and by imposing private industry standards on a mammoth, 230-year-old government agency with 35,000 workers. He felt the Corps, which had overseen everything from building hydroelectric dams to the Soo Locks to the Manhattan Project, needed a hard boot into the new age of contracting.
"The Corps is a tough organization. And I'll tell you, it's not easy to be a woman in this organization, and a black one at that," said Ballard, who was the first black leader of the Corps.
He is not optimistic about her future.
"I think you can put a fork in it," he said. "Her career is done."
Big Brother is Listening
Turns out, the USG never stopped snooping on U.S. citizens. Apparently, when the truth came out in the 70s, the government set up a commission that barred the USG from snooping on citizens without a warrant. (Before that, the government wasted a lot of time and energy keeping tabs on anti-war protestors and other deviants.)
So, the USG still spies on citizens. We saw that previously when the California National Guard kept tabs on a Mothers Against the War rally. Now, if you have a phone conversation with a foreigner, that conversation could be tapped and in the summary of the convo, your name will be replaced with the words "U.S. citizen." Catch is that if any bureaucrat is interested in knowing the identity of the mentioned citizen, that info is handed over by the snooping agency (except if the bureaucrat happens to work at Congress).
I think all of us aberrant individuals understand that someone is watching and listening (and reading). Is it possible that the mainstream will ever again care about their right to privacy? Or will they just continue to believe the excuse that this so-called war on terror means their rights must be trampled on?
"Big Brother and the Bureaucrats," by Patrick Radden Keefe, Op-Ed in the NYT
July 21, 2005
John Roberts Isn't My Enemy
This might sound strange, but after reading an opinion article in the NYT by Jeffrey Rosen, I've decided that my energy is better spent on other current events rather than following a losing battle to knock down Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court.
First of all, his credentials are too sparkling to really provide a good reason to oppose him. Apparently, everyone in DC and every lawyer in America thinks it is perfectly legitimate to say the statements you make in a brief are the opinions of your client and not your own. And the fact that his wife is actively anti-choice doesn't mean much, considering the fact that Mrs. Laura Bush is pro-choice and that doesn't stop her husband from being a moron on reproductive rights.
I think he seems better than Thomas. I think it would be easier for senators to oppose his nomination if they hadn't already made him a judge. I find it interesting that when the Senate had a Democrat majority he wasn't appointed, but if U.S. citizens can't mount an overwhelming victory at the polls, then perhaps we're reaping what we've sowed.
In any event, I'm going to continue focusing my activism on challenging U.S. policy on Palestine / Israel and trying to shed light on less well-covered events, like the continuing genocide and war on women in Darfur.
July 19, 2005
The Power of Blogging
I might be one lone voice in the wilderness whose only consistent reader is her boyfriend.
But as long as the mainstream media and politicians recognize the collective force of bloggers, I will continue to feel powerful scrawling my opinions online.
"Bloggers, on your mark: Court vacancy is fine fodder," Media Mix by Peter Johnson in today's USAT
No matter whom President Bush nominates to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court or whether Bush must replace her and ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who says he has no plans to step down, nominees are going to be fair game for bloggers.Emphasis added.
This is a first; the Internet was in its infancy and bloggers weren't around the last time there was an opening on the high court. That was in 1994, when Stephen Breyer was nominated by President Clinton and later confirmed to the court.
Gone are the days when it would usually take disparaging information from an insider to derail a judge's nomination. [...]
Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says that it will be up to "traditional media with the largest resources to knock down bad stuff that the bloggers put out" about whomever Bush nominates.
"The media world is almost unrecognizable from what it was 11 years ago. All the rules of the road are different. We were driving 1950s Chevys compared to what governs the road now."
July 10, 2005
Aspiring American Documentary Filmmaker Released by American Government in Iraq
American Cyrus Kar and his Iranian cameraman Farshid Faraji were released today by the United States military, which has been holding them without charge for almost two months in the same prison as Saddam Hussein.
Here's the deal - they got in a cab that was subsequently searched. The cab had a bunch of washing machine timers sometimes used to create explosives in it. They had nothing to do with the contents of the cab. Just as you or I can't possibly know what a cabbie has with him when we hail one in the Loop or Manhattan.
Nevertheless, Kar was held without cause and only allowed to contact his relatives via phone three times - but could never tell them where he was.
Kar is in Iraq to film Babylon, as part of a documentary on the Persian King Cyrus the Great. (Did the NYT really need to tell us he was an ancient Persian king? I think we've all got the fact that there are no modern day Persian kings.)
Over the previous two years...Mr. Kar had already shot more than 40 hours of footage in the United States, Germany, Britain, Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. He was determined to visit Babylon, the fabled city south of Baghdad that Cyrus the Great had conquered in 539 B.C., freeing its Jewish captives in a show of magnanimity.Oh yeah, and did I mention he is a veteran of the US Navy and US Navy reserves? Clearly a man interested in Persian history who served in the US war machine is out to spur the insurgency in Iraq. Clearly.
His family is trying to wire him money so he'll have it when he's released. "According to the embassy consular official, Mr. Kar still did not want to go home until he was able to complete his filming in Babylon." Safe travels, Mr. Kar. May you get all the shots you desire in Babylon and may your documentary have worldwide success.
The boring deets not already recapped and a pic of Kar are at:
"U.S. Says It Will Release American Held in Iraq," by Tim Golden in NYT
Today's Reuters story announcing his release, wherein US officials attempt to justify their barbaric "detainee review process" as being in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1546. (Good to know they use those resolutions as excuses where necessary and ignore them when they aren't useful. See UN Security Council Resolution 1325 for an example of the latter.)
June 23, 2005
Religious Discrimination is A-Okay With the Airforce
Evangelical Christians rule the roost at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They get the best promotions, are looked on most favorably by faculty, and have the least problems fitting in with the "all Evangelical Christian thought process, all the time" mentality of that "academy."
It is disgusting that the Air Force refuses to condemn the academy. Instead, in a mealy-mouth report, they say they're sure everyone involved meant no harm. As a human who believes in the separation of church and state, I am appalled at the state of our union. Further, the fact that a Republican Senator condemned Democrats as haters of Christianity on the Senate floor for daring to question the Air Force on the issue makes me wonder how we can trust any of the so-called leaders of this country. (He eventually withdrew his outrageous comment from the record; but, only after Republicans and Democrats urged him to re-think his statement.)
NYT editorial,"Obfuscating Intolerance"
I heard the Republican inflammatory remark on NPR and can't find an online article about it
June 15, 2005
Quote of the Day
From CQ Midday Update:
“America is at war. It is not a metaphorical war. It is as tangible as the blood, the rubble that littered the streets of Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.” — Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway, in defending practices at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp during a hearing today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.I wonder if Hitler's deputies used the same excuse during the Nuremberg Trials?
June 7, 2005
Keep Your Laws Off Our Bodies
I was reading Heretical Ideas today, which reminded me of the battles we continue to face to keep politics and morals out of personal health decisions. Then I read the Hardball email (not sure why I still read this, since I haven't had cable in four months), and found Thomas Oliphant's op-ed "My journey into darknes."
Oliphant's essay is worth reading from beginning to end. It's a personal story that could be anyone's story. So, I don't think I'm giving anything away by relaying the last graph:
This place where I have been is a dark one. The one thing I know is who belongs there -- your family and the pros. No one else, especially not the government. You want the loving hands and the healing ones to bring you home or let you go.Whether we're talking about creating life, ending life, or anything in between, the decisions should be made by you with help from your family and doctors.
April 13, 2005
No Privacy Left in the United States
William Safire wrote "Goodbye to Privacy," the cover book review in Sunday's New York Times. He reviewed two new books on the subject, No Place to Hide by Robert O'Harrow, Jr. and Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping by Patrick Radden Keefe.
It's a great article and I encourage you to read it. In addition to all the info available in the books and review, today's WaPo features "LexisNexis Data Breach Bigger Than Estimated: 310,000 Consumers May Be Affected, Firm Says," by Jonathan Krim.
Apparently, data collection companies don't have to notify consumers when their personal info has been hacked into. Congresspeople are scrambling to write a bill to create a notification system. The Republicans, of course, are offering one with a major loophole - data companies wouldn't have to notify consumers if they (the companies) think the breach wont create identify theft. The Democrats want consumers notified immediately regardless of what's done with the hack.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on the subject. They had two panels: one full of bureaucrats, the other with three executives from companies that make huge profits selling personal information and two folks who care about personal privacy. Links on the right of the hearing page go to people's testimony.
April 9, 2005
NYT Researcher Held Incommunicado For Seven Months in China
The NYT reports in "China Opens New Inquiry of Times Researcher Held Incommunicado," by Erik Eckholm that researcher Zhao Yan has been held for seven months without access to a lawyer or his family on the suspicion of leaking state secrets. His lawyer was recently informed that the Chinese government is adding a fraud charge to the case, while still refusing to allow Zhao access to his lawyer.
The NYT and senior US officials, including SecState Rice, have protested the bogus incarceration, to no avail.
April 6, 2005
Sudanese War Criminals Will (might) Be Prosecuted by ICC
The International Criminal Court (ICC) accepted sealed names of 51 Sudanese suspected of war crimes. The Sudanese government is refusing to release people to "foreign courts" and the USG's stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction over US citizens buttresses their claim.
From "International War-Crimes Prosecutor Gets List of 51 Sudan Suspects," by Warren Hoge in the NYT:
The confidential list, said to include the names of senior Sudanese government officials, militiamen, army officers and rebel commanders, was compiled by a United Nations commission in January. It reported then that war crimes "no less serious and heinous than genocide" had been committed in Darfur, and it recommended trial by the international court.It is highly disturbing that the only way the US agreed to start proceedings at the Hague against those responsible for genocide was to get American citizens specifically excluded from the inquiry. WHY??? What the hell are they so afraid of? What is up with this double-speak? Apparently the administration is for internationalism when it's convenient and strongly opposed to it when it might keep the USG in check. Ug.
"Sudan Darfur Trials Can Evade Hague Court: Egypt" by Reuters in Yahoo News
April 5, 2005
Shoring Up Social Security: One Undocumented Worker at a Time
"Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions," by Eduardo Porter in today's NYT explains how "other-than-legal" immigrants are shoring up the Social Security System. By being forced to use false SS numbers, these workers contribute billions of dollars a year into Social Security and never receive a dime of that money in benefits. It's a disturbing trend in the US - to rely on undocumented immigrants and turn a blind eye to their falsified documents to exploit their labor and rob them of their earnings through taxes that will never directly benefit them. The question is - when will we truly accept that our economy relies on immigrant labor and stop criminalizing the desire to get live the American dream?
March 22, 2005
Say it Again, New York Times
Mi chavo got annoyed with me this morning when I started screaming at the teevee. I am so angered by the politicization of Terry Schiavo's struggle to die with dignity - and the completely biased reporting in the mainstream media, particularly t.v. news. On the other hand, I completely agree with this commentary from the NYT (which I read in the International Herald Tribune):
Republicans have traditionally championed respect for the delicate balance the founders created. But in the Schiavo case, and in the battle to stop the Democratic filibusters of judicial nominations, President Bush and his Congressional allies have begun to enunciate a new principle: the rules of government are worth respecting only if they produce the result we want. It may be a formula for short-term political success, but it is no way to preserve and protect a great republic.I completely agree with the political points the NYT makes. I also recognize that for most people, this is more of an emotional issue than a rational one.
I guess I'm particularly sensitive to this case because I've lived through watching a loved one struggling to let go of her earthly coil. My grandmother died after a long and excruciating battle with lung cancer. She knew the end was near and she wanted to go, but doctors were not allowed to give her lethal doses of medication, which would have allowed her to die with dignity. Clearly, every human should be allowed to accept the inevitable and end his or her own life. I find it strange that the same society that awarded "The Sea Inside" the Best Foreign Film Academy Award is the same society whose Congressmen and President created these extraordinary circumstances.
Redaction Used by Justice Dept to Cover Their Ass
In a high level case of CYA (cover your ass), the Justice Department redacted (blacked out) a memo on the treatment of Gitmo detainees for the sole purpose of covering up the conclusions of the memo. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) was quoted in WaPo:
Levin, who had pushed the Justice Department to release a version of the memo that included the new disclosures, yesterday sharply criticized the department's initial handling of it. "As I suspected, the previously withheld information had nothing to do with protecting intelligence sources and methods, and everything to do with protecting the DOD from embarrassment," Levin said.from "Justice Redacted Memo on Detainees: FBI Criticism of Interrogations Was Deleted." by R. Jeffrey Smith in WaPo
March 18, 2005
Professional Interrogation is the New Torture
Director of the Central Intelligance Agency Porter Goss appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday and happily said that the CIA doesn't torture people now. When asked about previous methods, he declined to answer the question in a public hearing. Apparently, the fact that our government has tortured people is too important to national security for the public to hear. (That, by the way, is the justification for classifying information.)
Right. If you believe that professional interrogation techniques have nothing to do with torture; if you believe rendition (throwing people into foreign jails where there are no anti-torture laws) has nothing to do with torture, then I've got some great swampland to sell you.
"Questions Are Left by C.I.A. Chief on the Use of Torture," by Douglas Jehl in the NYT
March 10, 2005
Must Read: NYT article on the Corporate Corruption of Congress
"A New Mood in Congress to Relax Corporate Scrutiny," by Stephen Labaton
From bankruptcy law to gutting the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, corporations and their fully-owned subsidiary Congressmen are stickin it to the little guy.
I urge you to read the article. Without histrionics, without bias, it details how and why corporations have taken control of Congress. Just to clue you in - its because no one holds politicians accountable. It's because corporations are better at securing financial contributions for candidates from their employees than unions are from their members; its because the rich vote in larger numbers than the poor; because the poor are systemically disenfranchised and losing hope. ...getting off my soap box now....
February 25, 2005
Kansas AG "Protecting" Women By Denying Them Privacy
The horrific AG Phill Kline, who in my opinion should have his law license revoked, is demanding the personal medical files of hundreds of women because they committed the "crime" of having an abortion.
Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican who has made fighting abortion a staple of his two years in the post, is demanding the complete medical files of scores of women and girls who had late-term abortions, saying on Thursday that he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases. ...P.J. Huffstutter writes about the situation in the LAT:
Noting that personal details like marital status, race, employment history and emergency contacts are in the records, lawyers for the clinics asked, "How can a woman's method of birth control or prior history of abortions or use of drugs and medications be relevant?"
The brief, which provided the first glimpse into a yearlong battle whose records have been sealed, said the laws cited as the basis for the subpoenas are one that restricts abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy and another that requires health professionals to report suspected child abuse.
When Mr. Kline was in the legislature, he helped write the 22-week limit.
Although Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape in his news conference, many here on both sides of the abortion debate said they suspected that his real target was doctors who provide late-term abortions. ...
Despite that law passed in 1998, Kansas has become a national magnet for late-term abortions because of a doctor in Wichita who performs hundreds of them each year. The doctor, George Tiller, funneled at least $150,000 through political action committees to Mr. Kline's opponent in the attorney general's race in 2002, and his clinic, Women's Health Care Services, is one of the two whose records are being subpoenaed.
Lawyers for the clinics said a gag order, issued by Anderson, prevented them from discussing the case.Emphasis added.
The order also blocked the clinics from letting patients know that their records would be released, said Elizabeth Herbert, a lawyer for one of the clinics.
"That's an outrageous violation of privacy," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.
February 17, 2005
Shrub to Leave Every Child Behind in Cali
Duke Helfand, with contributions from Joel Rubin, reports in the LAT that the USG is demanding California place more school districts on the "failing" list because their students' test scores haven't improved enough in the last two years. Get this - if you're a problem district, you can offer after-school tutoring to your students. If you're a failing district, you're S.O.L. and your students get zip. I haven't even started on how unfair standardized tests are and how they've turned schools into memorization centers instead of learning zones.
Everyone from the mostly-rich Santa Monica / Malibu district to the behomoth LAUSD will be deemed failures. No word yet how Shrub expects new immigrants to become proficient enough in English in two years to make up for poor education in their home country and the English-only requirement of the tests. Also no money given by the Feds for school construction and maintenance, nor are they offering more funds for the teacher payroll or supplies. But there's been plenty of mandate to break up LAUSD into "mini-districts," allowing the district to spend money leasing new office space and hiring new middle managers to direct principals and teachers on the proper way to teach in over-crowded schools.
More on the state of education in Cali:
In the spirit of progressive action, students, parents, and teachers in Los Angeles formed the Coalition for Educational Justice to end mandatory high school exit exams (and were a critical voice leading to those tests being set aside while the state studies their efficacy). CEJ currently works to end racism in public education and to de-militarize public schools. (Full disclosure, my sister - a teacher in LA - is a founding member of CEJ.)
Two CEJ leaders, Alex Caputo-Pearl and Kirti Baranwal, wrote an article about Brown V. Board of Education and LA Schools in an online journal from UCLA.
February 16, 2005
CIA No Longer Wants to Imprison the Elderly
So the CIA agreed to be in charge of detaining terrorist leaders after 9-11, when they thought everyone in DC would expand their mission and pull weight on the "war" against terrorism. The CIA pushed for explicit support of their torture techniques, which they got in 2002. They're frustrated that the administration is withdrawing support for the chaos and leaving them "holding the bag."
The C.I.A.'s current leadership is concerned, the officials said, that the legal authority for interrogations and detentions is eroding, and that there is no clear plan for how the agency can extricate itself from what could be a lengthy task of holding and caring for a small population of aging terrorists whose intelligence value is steadily evaporating and who are unlikely ever to be released or brought to trial.Poor, blameless spooks. I feel so sorry for their predicament. [/dripping sarcasm]
From "C.I.A. is Seen as Seeking New Role on Detainees," by Douglas Jehl with reporting by Jehl, David Johnston, and Neil Lewis in WaPo
February 14, 2005
White Supremacist Groups Are Using Mainstream Ads to Garner New Members
Stephanie Simon writes in the LAT about the growth of mainstream advertising by white supremacist groups. A billboard in Vegas said "Stop Immigration." In Salt Lake City a billboard said "Securing The Future for European Americans." The National Alliance paid for both of those ads.
Civil rights monitors consider the National Alliance one of the most virulent neo-Nazi organizations in the country. It was founded in the 1970s by the late William Pierce, who called for herding Jews, homosexuals and "racemixers" into cattle cars and sending them to abandoned coal mines.Articles like this remind me why many people don't consider Jews "white." I also wonder about public agencies that take ad money from this trash - they had signs in St. Louis commuter trains for a week before they were pulled because of complaints. Shouldn't someone who works for the city of St. Louis have checked out the group before accepting their money and plastering all of the commuter trains with their ads?
Although the group's website says it "does not advocate any illegal activity," National Alliance members have been convicted of violent acts over the last two decades, including armed robberies, bombings and murders. The FBI's senior counterterrorism expert told Congress in 2002 that the National Alliance represented a "terrorist threat."
February 9, 2005
More Discrimination in Reproductive Healthcare
Here's the deal: Most people don't live in a city where a doctor preforms an abortion. Women seeking an abortion from places where there is no provider often must stay overnight in a hotel either before or after the procedure. In Wichita, Kansas a provider listed La Quinta Inn as a convenient hotel to his office in his promotional materials. Sometimes, nurses would check in with post-op women at the hotel.
"Operation Rescue" - an extremely active anti-choice group - called for a nationwide boycott of La Quinta Inn because they thought the inn had a business relationship with the Wichita doctor.
In response, La Quinta Inn issued a statement that their facilities cannot be used for medical procedures (meaning nurses wont be allowed in to visit guests), asked the doctor to remove the hotel's name from his marketing material, and said "oh, but we wont kick out a guest simply because she's having an abortion."
January 14, 2005
WSJ Sucks, Bloggers Rule
It took the Wall Street Journal three paid reporters to come up with a short article that has zero news value, but still managed to make its World Wide News Box. The title is "Dean Campaign Made Payments to Two Bloggers." It's writers were William Bulkeley and James Bandler with contributions from Jeanne Cummings.
Amongst the lies in the article is this gem: the blogosphere is up in arms about the "recent" revelation that Dean paid bloggers to be consultants to his campaign. I'm also highly amused by the definition given of the blogosphere: "as many bloggers like to call the online community." It's all rather messed up and a really just a right-wing nut job rewording of a Zonkette post.
Zonkette, who presumably lifted her name from Wonkette, was apparently just trying to write a small blog in advance of a conference on blogger ethics. Her real question is how much transparency is needed when bloggers become political consultants. She thinks bloggers should list every single person/campaign that pay them for anything. It's a rather stupid position. First of all, there's no reason a blogger has to admit her real name. Second, if you don't have to admit your real name, that means you don't have to post under your true identity, which means your source of income is completely beside the point. Furthermore, it's been a helluva long time since I was last paid for anything remotely to do with my activism / blogging. At the same time, I think it's important for you to know that I'm an active member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In fact, I'm the At Large Membership Representative on the national board (and am running for a different position in the elections happening this Spring). So, that'd be why I try to point you to WILPF's many websites.
And hey, if you're qualified, apply to be the next UNO Director.
Anyway, the point is that biases come in many shapes and forms, not just a paycheck. I'm certainly biased about unions and labor issues in general because of my experience working as a union organizer and being the daughter and grand daughter of union members. Should all those things be listed on a "source of bias" page? Hell, I don't even know how to add pictures to this site, how am I supposed to add a bias page?
This blog - and most blogs - are not about static points of view. That's why people enjoy blogging. It's a chance to explore the world, write down opinions, and draw people into discussion about the world without ever having to leave the comfort of your bed. I don't think it's necessary to be fully transparent in order to be successful, or even honest, when blogging.
Hell, if I knew the secret behind a bunch of MALE bloggers making buckets of money off their random words on the web, I would jump on that bandwagon and topple it grabbing for the reins. Alas, I have two faults against me: I'm female and I have other things on my mind besides establishment politics.
January 12, 2005
Shrub's Plan to Leave Every Child Behind
Shrub wants to expand his system of high stakes federal testing to high schools, because multiple choice bubbles are the way of the future! From CQ Midday Update:
Despite skepticism in Congress, President Bush today said he will seek $1.5 billion in his fiscal 2006 budget to expand the testing and standards required under the No Child Left Behind Act into high schools.Bubbles, bubbles everywhere and not a drop of common sense or learning to spare.
In a speech at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., Bush noted that American high school students lag their peers in other countries. "Testing is important," he said. "Testing at high school levels will help us become more competitive as the years go by. Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century." Bush is likely to meet some resistance, not only from Democrats who say the administration has not sought sufficient funding for No Child Left Behind, but also from some GOP skeptics who want to see problems with the law resolved before it is expanded.
January 7, 2005
Read My Lips: Torture Is Legit
"Geneva Convention Overhaul Considered," Peter Wallsten, LAT
I've watched Republican lackeys for the last two nights on Hardball spew lies about what the Geneva Convention is and what rights it affords prisoners.
Take a look at the treaties yourself to see how humane and just they are: Reference Guide to the Geneva Conventions
This nation is in a time of terrible crisis when a man as despicable as Alberto Gonzalez can fly through confirmation proceedings and become the Attorney General.
January 6, 2005
Some Disaster Victims Are More Important Than Others
Folks affected by floods in Mozambique got pledges of forty cents per person. Chechyns in 2003 got forty dollars per person. And those affected by the tsunami have been pledged six hundred dollars per person.
Actually, they don't even get that much. Most donor nations don't bother fulfilling their pledges, and a lot of the "money" they do give is in the form of loans. (I don't consider a loan - regardless of the interest rate - to be a true contribution, do you?)
The silver lining to all this is that private donations actually do arrive. As of Wednesday, $700 million was pledged by individuals and private firms.
While I agree that tsunami relief efforts are important and worthwhile, it's frustrating that the coffers of the world aren't open year round. People don't seem to mind that victims of ethnic cleansing in Darfur are dying of starvation; or any of the other dozens of problems across the world.
The Note's Anti-Semitism
Look, I'm not one to cry injustice just because some people don't like my tribe. I've mentioned before on my blogs that I've only experienced anti-semitism once in my lifetime, and that was when I was on a Jewish youth group bus trip in Cody, Wyoming. And really, how many Jews frequent Cody? At any rate, I was appalled at reading this in The Note:
Which reminds us: have you heard the one about the political party that engaged in oodles of post-election bellyaching about values voters, rural voters, and the potential electoral power of evangelical Christians, and then decides to tap two big-city Jewish guys to head up its efforts to win back control of the House and the Senate?WTF?!?! Clearly, anyone involved in politics knows people with money. But wtf is up with the emphasis on their Jewishness and bankers? This is ridiculous. Disgusting. Enough already. And just for those in cheap seats, let me repeat: "Jew" is not a verb. "Jewing down" is never an appropriate phrase to use. And "Jew Town" is a derogatory name. You ever heard of Black City? Didn't think so. So please, stop using these terms. [/leaving soap box]
It's pretty funny.
But don't underestimate how aggressive and smart these guys are. And, as Pat Buchanan might say, they both know a lot of New York bankers.
The Governator Thinks Education Isn't Important
Check this out: in my great home state of California, Arnold is proposing a $2.2 billion cut in education spending, despite previously promising not to make the cut. The cuts is for K-12 and community colleges. Interesting that he's not planning on bleeding the Cal State and UC systems. The deets are at the LAT.
In related news, the dean of UC Berkeley's law school wants to privatize it.
January 5, 2005
Leahy to Grill Gonzales
Apparently, if you use big legal words to promote torture and illegal, never-ending detention you are well qualified to be the Attorney General of the United States. Well, you'll have to sit through some tough questions from an onery Dem, but no worries: in due time, you, the torture promoter, will become the supreme law enforcer of the land. From CQ Midday Update:
Although he is expected to win confirmation, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales faces a rough ride before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing Thursday on his nomination to serve as attorney general. Ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont plans to grill Gonzales about his role in formulating administration policy regarding treatment of prisoners overseas, a policy critics say permitted torture. "There are lingering questions. There is unresolved accountability," Leahy said. The liberal group People For the American Way today sent senators a statement strongly opposing Gonzales. Ralph G. Neas, the group's president, said, "The public record makes it clear that Alberto Gonzales has far too frequently allowed his legal judgment to be driven by his close relationship with the president rather than adherence to the law or the Constitution." The first Bush Cabinet nominee to advance is likely to be Carlos M. Gutierrez, the Kellogg Corp. CEO picked to lead the Commerce Department. The Senate Commerce Committee plans to vote on his nomination tomorrow right after a confirmation hearing.
December 28, 2004
Supermarkets Make Farmers Poorer
"Supermarket Giants Crush Central American Farmers," by Celia W. Dugger, NYT
Sigh. Could you imagine leaving your farm, your country, and your family to work the graveyard shift at a golf course for 6 bucks an hour to try to keep your creditors from taking your farm?
December 27, 2004
The Skies Are a Lot Less Friendly These Days
Union members who work for airlines are being forced to take serious pay and benefit cuts, sometimes more than once. New flight attendants can make as little as $12,000 a year, less than what they could make at Wal-Mart. Oh, and bankruptcy judges force unions to accept pay cuts whilst leaving CEO pay in tact.
No wonder US Airways suffered an unorganized sick out this Xmas. It's based in Pittsburgh - a town that knows about dying industries (see steel) and whose residents are tough and don't lose their livelihoods lying down.
Beware, United is trying to force cuts on its employees. And apparently every big airline (American, Delta, Continental, Northwest, US Airways, and United) is in line for cuts and could bear the brunt of a sick out.
More depressing deets at "Airlines' Woes May Be Worse in the Coming Year," by Micheline Maynard in NYT with additional reporting from Eric L. Dash and Jeremy W. Peters
The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire
The difference between categorizing a post as Justice or US News is strictly arbitrary and strictly decided by me (obviously). This story is clearly one about justice. Shrub wants to balance the budget on the backs of the old and poor, especially those who are sick. He wants to slash funding for Medicaid and Medicare. I say it's time for Universal Healthcare. Socialized Medicine. Let's stop wasting billions making drug companies and HMO administrators rich. Let's spend it getting people well and securing jobs for doctors to the poor. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
"Bush Team Prepares to Swing Budget Ax", by Joel Havemann with contributions from Janet Hook, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Maura Reynolds in the LAT
"Governors Unit in Fight Against Medicaid Cuts," by Pam Belluck in the NYT
Governor Huckabee of Arkansas, where nearly a quarter of the population is on Medicaid, said the governors' objective in the coming months would be to ask the federal government to "first do no harm."From the NYT article
He said the soaring federal budget deficit had made federal officials realize "their house is on fire, and they're probably so consumed with the flames around them that they're unaware as they look to us for water that our tanks are empty.
"Folks, our house is on fire too," Mr. Huckabee added, "and asking us to put out your fire is probably not the solution."
December 23, 2004
More College Students Will Be Broke Like Me When They Graduate
More fabulous news from the Shrub administration. "Students Bear More of the Cost of College," by Greg Winter in the NYT:
College students in virtually every state will be required to shoulder more of the cost of their education under new federal rules that govern most of the nation's financial aid.You see even when your rents make loads of money on paper, you could still struggle to make ends meet with your tuition bill. Personally, it was a struggle every year to get Swellesley to guarantee my folks' education loans (because of a past bankruptcy) and to add insult to injury, a "helpful" woman in the Financial Aid office called me in during my senior year to point out that my personal contribution to my tuition bill was much higher than most students and asked if I was sure my folks were paying as much as they possibly could. Sigh. The end result is that I'm stuck with a bill that's too much for my meager paycheck to afford on top of my car loan, car insurance, credit card bills from a year of unemployment, rent, and utilities.
Because of the changes, which take effect next fall and are expected to save the government $300 million in the 2005-6 academic year, at least 1.3 million students will receive smaller Pell Grants, the nation's primary scholarship for those of low income, according to two analyses of the new rules. ...
The enormous University of California, with campuses scattered across the state, estimates that at least half of its 46,000 Pell Grant recipients will face some sort of reduction as a result of the changes. At the other end of the spectrum, Knox College, a small liberal arts institution in Illinois, says the changes will most likely reach upward to affect the middle class as well.
"Of course we focus on the students who have the greatest need, but these families are needy, too," said Teresa Jackson, Knox's director of financial aid. "They can't just sit down and write a check for $30,000 a year. I can appreciate the difficulty with the budget, but my gosh, to cut back on financial aid given the times doesn't make a lot of sense."
I remember when English students took to the streets last year when Prime Minister Tony Blair forced them to contribute towards the cost of their college education. Their yearly bill is now about thirty bucks. Would that I was an English woman.
Public Land No Longer for Public Use
Shockingly, Shrub cares more about the timber industry than he does about rapidly dying species and public use of public land. Yesterday he issued new rules for the use of national forests that basically makes it easier for the timber industry to rape and pillage our property. From the WaPo article by Juliet Eilperin:
The new rules give economic activity equal priority with preserving the ecological health of the forests in making management decisions and in potentially liberalizing caps on how much timber can be taken from a forest. ...Just more Christmas cheer from the folks in DC...
One-quarter of U.S. species at risk of extinction -- including more than 25 species of trout and salmon -- live in national forests, according to the conservation group NatureServe. Large animals such as grizzly bears, wolves and elk depend on the forests' large, undisturbed swaths of land for habitat.
"The end result of all this is there will be more logging and less conservation of wildlife," said Mike Leahy, natural resources counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. "They're not going to provide enough land for these species to hang on."
December 18, 2004
If You've Given the ACLU $20 Bucks Recently, This is Old News
Last year, when I was unemployed and desperately looking for work, I applied for a job at the Southern California office of the ACLU. I figured it would be helpful if I was a member, so I also plunked down 20 bucks for membership (and received a free t-shirt in the mail for my effort). I also was deluged with pleas for money from every Tom, Dick, and Harry nonprofit in the country. It was the most ridiculous waste of mail I have ever witnessed. Turns out, someone is finally noticing the hypocrisy of ACLU mining my personal data and giving away my contact info to the highest bidder.
The NYT reports that the ACLU Board of Directors is in turmoil over this practice and the NY attorney general is looking into whether the ACLU's actions violates its own privacy guarantees.
San Quentin to Expand (Probably)
The NYT reports that California is about to spend $220 million to build a bigger death row adjacent to the current one at San Quentin. There are 641 condemned inmates currently there, and only 10 people have been killed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.
The expansion of death row is being met by opposition from folks in Marin County who point out that moving the prison to cheaper land would free up a beautiful piece of San Francisco Bay real estate, worth as much as $750 million.
For further information on why the death penalty is inhumane, please see Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's comprehensive issue page.
The LAT reports that conservative Christians think it is tyranny of the minority for store keepers to say "Happy Holidays" in December rather than "Merry Christmas." Lemme 'splain; no, there is to much; lemme sum up: your festive season is rammed down the throats of every non-Christian in this country. Frankly, the only thing poor non-Christians like about December is (a)decreased workload and (b)end of the year bonuses. Making plans for Dec 25 is not high on our to-do list. If you cared about the "peace to all" aspect of your holiday, I'd have a lil more sympathy. But quite frankly, I appreciate not being wished a merry Christmas.
Now, does that mean I don't think you should celebrate your religious holiday? Of course not. I bought mi chavo Christmas presents and even bought Christmas wrapping paper to wrap them in. But give me a break. A few retailers recognizing diversity of beliefs should not be boycotted, they should be celebrated.
Here are some quality quotes from the nutcase wing of Christianity:
Our position is: If they want the gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child," said Wooden, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.Let me be clear: I don't mind getting a seasonal card that says "Merry Christmas" if you include a "Happy Hanukah" for me. And if you don't know me well enough to know to write a nod to my beliefs, you prolly shouldn't be giving me a card. I also don't mind the fact that Christians are truly excited about their holiday and it's a big deal for them and they like to decorate their homes, etc. Feel free to practice your religion. Just recognize that saying "Happy Holidays" still excludes nonreligious folks and doesn't in any way diminish your ability to celebrate the birth of Christ. Personally, I hope more Christians go back to their Bibles and read about the prophet I respect, who is also know as the Prince of Peace. Building a culture of peace instead of feeding the military industrial complex would be a great way to celebrate Christmas.
Conservative Americans feel ready to push back against "the secularists or the humanists or the elitists" who dominate popular culture, said the Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which is based in Raleigh.
"It's a cultural war. We are in the thick of it," Creech said. "It's not so much an attack on us. It's an attack on Christ." ...
"I think the Christians are out of the closet," Coggins said.
Ed Jones, president of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Assn., agreed. This Christmas, he is more conscious than ever of "a conspiracy of leftist-leaning people that want to bring down traditional values in our country," he said.
December 15, 2004
Inuit to Sue US For Killing Them Via Global Warming
Here's the deal: Inuits, people who live on islands, and people who live in high altitudes like the Himalayas realize that global warming is threatening their existence. It will cause small islands to be sumberged in water from melting polar ice caps; it will drown the seals Inuits depend on for their way of life; and it will alter the geography of mountains throughout the world.
In a desperate attempt to force the USG to recognize its obligation to the human race, the Inuit will file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the US for threatening their existence by doing nothing to stop global warming.
December 14, 2004
The Death Penalty
The Today Show was all aflutter this mornin re the death penalty recommendation for Scott Peterson. I've got political issues with the way the case has played out - I believe pregnant women are people whose deaths deserve justice. I do not believe in charging people with the murder of "unborn children." To me, that's the first step towards making abortion illegal.
At any rate, it's difficult for me to form an opinion on the sentence. I am opposed to the death penalty for moral reasons: I do not believe human beings have the right to kill other human beings, period. On the other hand, I have no sympathy for Peterson. I think he's guilty as sin. It's difficult for me to consider going into full activist mode for a convicted killer. Know what I mean?