October 7, 2011
Meeting the Leader of the Tunisian Resistance @ Occupy DC
I went to DC three weeks before my wedding because there are two things that matter to me right now: marrying the love of my life and ending the Afghanistan War. In her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, Parliamentarian Malalai Joya reminds us that on July 6, 2008 the U.S. military bombed a wedding party in Nangarhar Province killing forty-seven civilians including the bride. As my wedding approaches, it is more important for me to ensure that no more Afghan brides are murdered by the U.S. military than it is for me to write a dj set list.
Last weekend, I attended an organizing meeting of the New Priorities Network, which is working to build deep connections locally and nationally between labor, economic justice, racial justice, religious, and peace organizations. We know our work will last longer than any election cycle or war, and we are committed to breaking down the barriers between our movements for justice and peace. Right now, we're focused on four core priorities: end the wars / cut the military budget, tax the rich & corporations, create jobs, and save social services (education, housing, the Women, Infant, Child (WIC) program that provides vital maternal health and food subsidies to low-income families, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of other domestic programs that are the social safety net here in the U.S.). These four priorities are not our only concerns, and we know they can only be sustained by building a new economy based on renewable energy.
Earlier this week, I observed the Rebuild the Dream Conference. In the past, CODEPINK has disrupted this annual event hosted by the Campaign for America's Future because of their refusal to acknowledge that ending the wars is a vital part of building a secure America. This year, the conference included ending the wars as part of their platform for change and provided space for Nelini Stamp, an organizer with the Working Families Party, who has participated in Occupy Wall Street since Sept 17, to address the plenary about the Occupy Together movement. Our Make Out Not War stickers were the most sought after and people were really receptive to receiving information about Occupy DC at Freedom Plaza, which began yesterday.
My week in DC culminated on the first day of Occupy DC. Preparing for the day, I met Ann Wright, one of the courageous foreign service officers who resigned when the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Ann's story is particularly inspiring to me, as I left college with the goal of becoming a career diplomat. I am so grateful I never got off the list of eligible hires, since my true calling is to be a citizen diplomat.
First I helped give away over one thousand CODEPINK stickers, including the highly sought after Make Out Not War stickers. Then, a thousand of us created a human 99% which was photographed from the top of a nearby hotel with the Washington Monument in the background. (I'm in the lower left corner of the nine near the percent sign.) We marched in the streets of DC, stopping at the Chamber of Commerce to hand in resumes from the jobless and under-employed among us, since they claim to be job creators.
Our day was capped off with a concert and a Skype call with our brothers and sisters in the Afghan Youth Peace Movement in Afghanistan. While I listened from the side of Freedom Plaza, a gentleman approached and asked if I spoke Arabic. Unfortunately, I do not. Thankfully he is multi-lingual and we were able to chat in English.
Jamel Bettaieb is one of the leaders of the Tunisian uprising and is the head of the largest trade union in Tunisian. He is in DC to share the story of his people with our leaders - from the White House to Freedom Plaza. Jamel reminded me that we Arabs and Jews are cousins. For centuries, we have lived peacefully side-by-side in the Middle East with our Christian cousins. It is the political class that creates conflict, not our ethnic or our religious differences. Regardless of country, there is something about the power of ruling that corrupts people. Some pundits say the American Autumn is nothing like the Arab Spring, since we have no dictator to overthrow. But when Jamel spoke about the high rate of unemployment among college-educated Tunisians, and the continuing lack of economic growth in his country, I knew I had made a friend fighting the same global system of injustice. Whether the 1% calls themselves democratic representatives, corporate overlords, or dictators the effect is the same on the 99%. Jamel is staying in DC for a two-month fellowship and he let me know that he's got a real hankering for a good Kosher meal. Did you know that the Muslim and Jewish dietary laws are basically identical? Unfortunately, I'm on my way home to celebrate Yom Kippur with my fiancé, but I'm sure my sister CODEPINKers will find him a Kosher meal real soon.
July 18, 2010
Digital Activism, Digital Diplomacy, Digital Chasms
I just finished readin the amazing NYT article, "Digital Diplomacy," by Jesse Lichtenstein. This article is important, not just because it shows the frontier of digital statecraft, but because it proves the importance of integrating social media into policy activism.
Perhaps this point is obvious to you. If you want to influence policy, you need to engage in debate on the interwebs, not just in face-to-face meetings with diplomats or in coalition meetings with like-minded organizations.
Lichtenstein does a great job of showing how State isn't fully equipped to handle the type of engagement created by Jared Cohen and Alec Ross. While she's quick to point out the ways digital media can enhance grassroots activism, and get the USG's positions out to the masses, she overlooks a key problem: like governments, most NGOs are not equipped to handle digital activism. If you've been involved in an organization that allows social media policy and practice to be handled solely by interns, then you understand what I mean.
I'm not trying to disparage interns. Indeed, they are essential to most nonprofits. But we've got to figure out a way to integrate these new communication channels into the lifeblood of our organizations.
I'm looking forward to working with others to fill the digital chasm that exists in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. If you've got ideas, please let me know. Because we're leaders in international peace and justice movement; and we provide the best reporting on gender and conflict and disarmament at the UN. But our social media strategy is in its infancy and our membership organization lacks a unified approached to digital activism.
March 27, 2009
US Policy on Afghanistan
As you know, Obama announced a new policy on Afghanistan today. Newspapers previewed this in Today's Papers, and their work was summarized by Slate.
It takes a lot more work to fully understand the Obama administration and effectively criticize their policy than say, the W admin. But still, where are the women? What about UN Security Council Resolution 1325? What about creating a sustainable model that can be supported by the local GDP rather than relying until the end of time on financial aid? Why has RAWA not updated their site since 2008?
How can we hear authentic voices of the people of Afghanistan, particularly women, as part of developing a critique of the US government's policy?
September 28, 2008
Tales of Corporate Greed
Gretchen Morgenson in the NY Times explains the details of how the world's largest insurance company was brought down by rampant greed in its London derivatives office.
Politicians love to talk about how inter-connected Wall Street is with Main Street, how the taxpayer bailout of A.I.G. was as unavoidable as the pending bailout of many other greedy billionaires.
They talk about this being the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But none of them mention that the way out of that stock market crash was a massive injection of capital directly into Main Street. The government created jobs across all industries, fed the hungry, and expanded the nation's infrastructure. Apparently, mere humans are no longer important to the economy. Only corporations matter.
The WILPF US Section issued a statement yesterday responding to the collapse of the financial system.
September 21, 2008
Crony Capitalism, brought to you by King Henry Paulson
Let's get this straight: bailing out unbridled Wall Street greed is the only way to maintain the stability of the global economy. Only billion dollar banks deserve to be bailed out by the US taxpayers. Common home-owners, who cannot afford their mortgages are shit out of luck because they must take personal responsibility for accepting loans they could not afford.
CNBC reporters blithely called this bailout the creation of the socialist nation of America and their assertions went unchecked by the moderator. Let's be clear: socialist democracies place human needs at the center of government's responsibility. A treasury czar who dismisses the economic crisis of individual citizens out of hand is not acting in the interests of humanity, he is acting in the interest of corporate greed. His actions and the Congress' acquiescence to immediately agree to bail out Wall Street is the essence of crony capitalism.
Naomi Klein's shock doctrine theory is being played out. Congress is apparently willing to fall over itself to increase the imperial power of the executive branch. And Americans should accept a government bailout of billionaires because otherwise our lives will be irreversibly harmed. Don't worry about the guy next door getting kicked out of his home; that's his fault. Care deeply about maintaining corporate earnings for the top 1% of this country.
Crony capitalism and imperial reign. It's time to shout that the emperor has no clothes and that King Henry has to go.
$700 Billion Blank Check
The Imperial Presidency continues its quest to unfetter the executive branch from the undesirable checks and balances of the legislative and judiciary branches.
In 2.5 pages, the Treasury Secretary laid out a simple ultimatum to the US Congress: give me the ability to spend up to $700 billion to buy undefined mortgage-related junk from Wall Street. I will not tell you how I will use the money, nor will I give you an oversight of the project. But you can take away this authority in 2 years if you have the (never used) balls to do so.
This is the grand plan of the imperial presidency. Absolutely zero help for cash-strapped American citizens, zero pressure on banks to rewrite mortgage terms to keep more citizens in their houses, and did I mention zero oversight on the biggest corporate bailout in American history?
Crony capitalism writ large.
Read all about it in the LA Times.
December 31, 2007
Social Upheaval in 2008
A lot has happened in the world in 2007. I didn't keep up with the news in the past year the way I did in previous years - you can read about some of what I was up to on angelheaded hipster, my other blog. I even forgot that Time named "You" person of the year.
The mainstream media has been focused on the 08 presidential race horse race since at least January 07. More air time was spent on Sunday morning talk shows discussing candidates' relative viability in Iowa and New Hampshire than was spent discussing the substantial policy positions that differentiate them. Scariest statistic learned from this over-flow of information: only 5.7% of eligible voters participate in the 2004 Iowa caucuses. Tell me again why Angelenos live in too big of a city to have our votes count equally with those in rural states.
Elections haven't been going well around the world - among corruption charges, Kenya's elections are bloodier than normal (yes, sadly, violence is a regular aspect of national elections there). They aren't going well in Pakistan either, where Benazir Bhutto lost her life attempting to bring democracy back to a country plagued by military dictatorship buttressed by US foreign aid. Many in the US think democracy is duking it out with socialism in Venezuela, but personally I think the story is more complicated than that.
I'm looking forward to a New Year when people's movements for change encourage more people to get involved in social change. I look forward to more people believing they can make a difference - when more people delve deeply into the issues that intertwine us all, make their voices heard, and start building the nonviolent movements for change that will create the social upheaval needed to build a more just, peaceful world.
I believe we will be the change we wish to see in 2008. I believe together we will change the world. I believe 2008 will be more peaceful and just. I look forward to the New Year.
Want to support women's advocacy for peace & justice both in the US and throughout the world? Then give a tax deductible contribution to the Jane Addams Peace Association.
October 7, 2007
We'll Be Paying for Empire Expansion Till the End of Time
This Just In: Paying for war when it occurs is fiscally irresponsible. That is, if you believe the mouthpiece of the administration, the White House press secretary. If the war hawks have their way, we'll be paying for this empire expansion till the end of time.
But that's okay, because the surge is making Iraqis safer. The Public Editor of the NYT makes the case that maybe there's been a decrease in the number of civilian casualties since the surge began. Then again, he ends the column by reminding us that it is still unsafe to live in Baghdad, according to an article written by 15 NYT reporters (never mind what's happening elsewhere in Iraq - it's too unsafe for US writers to venture beyond Baghdad).
Let's not get bogged down in details. It's important to remember the frame through which the occupation of foreign countries became acceptable to the US public: by creating a culture of fear that blames the ills of the world on so-called "Islamofascists." Nevermind that the word is meaningless. Pay no attention to reality: fascism is alive and well in the Western world. Even university courses on political science in the US have a difficult time defining fascism. Perhaps because the core of fascism is simple: the military & corporations taking control of the levers of political power. Instead of allowing this simple definition of fascism to be understood, Western leaders propel a a blurry, fearful understanding of a combination of racism and authoritarianism as the only "true" definition of fascism. Furthermore, instead of debating people who recognize the full scope of power held by the military industrial complex, Western political and intellectual "leaders" dismiss us as crazy left-wing nut cases.
Military force must always be the last resort of states and the international community. As Albert Camus said:
Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.Do not be persuaded by the rhetorical flourish of individuals who believe democracy and freedom can be created through bloodshed and military occupation. The monolingual, jingoist armed forces of the US are even less capable of building peace in the Middle East than the biased State Department.
The safety of the world relies on more individuals becoming engaged in the political process, supporting international institutions, creating dialog with people in other countries, and demanding that the international political and economic structures be based on human security and human needs rather than on corporate greed.
Camus quote from this Op-Ed piece in today's NYT.
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.
September 11, 2007
Support the UN Human Rights Council
It is a shame that the UN Human Rights Council has been unable to take strong stances on more issues in the world. I am not an expert on UN reform, so I cannot speak to what is holding it back from completely denouncing the genocide in Darfur. I do know that the US government looks like morons for trying to cut off funding to the organization. The US Congress claims that the council is bias against Israel - biased because it has denounced Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and Israel's illegal war on Lebanon. It is a testamount to the Israel Lobby (both Jewish and Gentile), that cutting off funding to the Council has bipartisan support in the US.
Please tell your Congressional representatives that the only way to further human rights is to support the international organization created to enforce them. Human Rights for All People - not just those who look like us.
September 9, 2007
The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself
If you listen to Republican presidential candidates and Sunday morning pundits, you'd assume that the only way to project power and create security is to be the biggest bully in the world, with the most active military. Political discussion in the US media allows the following fascinating range of discussion on security: those who only understand US culture and think everyone hates our freedom and we therefore have to teach them democracy through the barrel of a gun and those who only understand US culture and think we can teach the world freedom through a combination of military force and free-market capitalism.
Do you ever hear a peace expert asked for their opinion? I'm not talking about those folks who organize marches on the mall, I mean people who study the root causes of war and can explain what happens in the world based on a nuanced understanding of history. Not only do US legislators, military, and pundits not understand Iraq, they don't understand the basic reasons that ethnic conflict becomes ethnic violence.
The answer to the chaos in Iraq is not splitting the country up by "ethnic regions." First, people don't live in schtetls. It's not like the entire populace hates each other b/c of ethnic differences. Differences are being exploited by strong men seeking power; the Other is a powerful tool in rallying support for a leader. Forcing the populace to follow these bullies into separate states is a white man's way of dealing with racial violence. The US has never understood the basics of racial justice, so how can we possibly lead another country into an ethnically diverse, working democracy?
Second, why does no one say "hey idiots - perhaps we should turn this operation over to the UN Peacekeeping?" Take a look at the official site of the DPKO. I fundamentally believe that the only way to move forward in creating peace is to work through the UN. Many things have gone wrong in past and current missions, but if we honestly supported the UN, and implemented Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, I believe we would be closer to achieving real security for Iraq and the world.
Security means more than having the biggest gun. Human security is dependent on a continuous food supply, access to healthcare, a place to sleep, and peace with neighbors.
I'm constantly fascinated by the lack of real discussion on the Sunday gab fests. I'm watching last week's Real Time with Bill Maher show and Barbara Bodine is offering more insight on Iraq "reconstruction" than 2 hrs of male talking heads on ABC and NBC. Slate tells me I must read the NYT and WaPo stories on Iraq as background to the coming week's announcements. Quite honestly, I'm done wasting my time on such articles. Until SCR 1325 and human security become part of the dialog, what's the point of me reading mainstream news accounts of the US imperialistic occupation of the 2nd largest oil reserve in the world?
March 26, 2007
Death, Harrassment, & Possible Peace
UN officials would like to remind you that there is a genocide in Darfur. It's getting worse, not better. All those Nicolas Kristof columns haven't saved very many people from murder, rape, and pillaging on the basis of ethnicity. So read another article on the genocide, by Reuters / AP via Intl Herald Tribune. Or go to Save Darfur to get active on the issue.
If you're Nigerian and female, you must be willing to be raped to get a college diploma. Read the horrific details in "Lecturers Prey on Nigerian Women, Girls," by Katharine Houreld of the AP in WaPo. To stand up for a woman's right to education without forced rape, join Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
SecState and SecGen UN are trying to renew peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Or at least that's what they're telling the press. But, see, they continue the lie that there's equity between Israel and the Palestinians. That somehow, a stateless people, whose elected leaders are barred from the negotiations should be held to the same standards as occupiers who continue to appropriate land, water, and other resources. Instead of pressuring Israel to get the hell out of the West Bank and to allow Gaza to trade with its Egyptian neighbors, the US entourage continues the facade that the most useful thing for Israel to do is talk through the US to all Palestinian representatives and pretend to be open to Saudia Arabia's 2002 peace plan (that called for Israel to fully withdraw from the West Bank, not expand its illegal settlements). Read the watered down version of this news from Reuters. To voice your opposition to the status quo US policy on the Middle East, join WILPF's campaign - Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East.
November 23, 2006
Taking the Foreign Service Exam
Editor's Note: This was originally posted on July 26, 2004 on my old blog. That blog gets a huge amount of traffic based on this one post. I decided to move it to this site to try to entice people to read my more recent ramblings.
Recently, many people have found my blog by searching for info on the FSWE and the FSOA. Lemme just say this as a previous test taker (took the FSWE four times, passed the first three times; took the FSOA three times, got on the passing list once). To be clear - I am *not* an FSO. I was on the list of eligible hires for 18 months, but never got into an A-100 class. If these terms make no sense, then send me an email or post a comment and I'll answer your question as best I can. I got a lot of help preparing for the FSWE and FSOA. My profs at Wellesley prepped us during seminars about the oral exam (even before we'd taken the written). My class dean's jaw dropped when I announced I had passed the written exam during my senior year of college (proving that yes, even those without straight As can get ahead in life). If you follow foreign affairs regularly and did well on the AP U.S. History exam, you'll probably pass the written exam. (check and check; I got a 5 on that exam.) To be honest, I passed the oral exam because I took it after spending a week learning how to be a union organizer. Sound strange? Here's why it's not: I had to explain my position, discuss sensitive issues, and reach compromises with people during that week of training. Those are the same things you have to do at the orals. I've also spoken to a few FSOs, one of whom worked as an oral examiner.
[For Google's Eyes Only. Update: For some reason, people are finding other posts about these topics but not this all inclusive one. So here's my attempt to teach google to find this post. Keywords: FSWE, FSOA, foreign service, foreign service exam, foreign service oral assessment, foreign service written exam, passing the foreign service exam, State Department, diplomat, blog.]
How to Study for the Foreign Service Exam
1. Don't look to Amazon for a good list of books before taking the written exam. Read the newspaper and weekly news magazines, especially The Economist. Read a book on management theory and one on economics. Read the Constitution. Play games about geography and learn as much world geography as possible. Learn how to write an essay. If you don't know any American cultural history, especially famous books about politics, read about that as well. (I think one of those big books of American culture would suffice.) Don't bother learning any more about the foreign service or diplomacy before taking the written exam. It's not worthwhile.
2. If you get to the orals, join the Yahoo groups on the subject. Also search the web for sites written by diplomats and expats for an idea of what you're getting into. Know the game before you get there: you'll have a group exercise to start the day. The point isn't to win (getting your project funded). All the projects are worthwhile. The point is to be a leader who brings your group to a consensus within the time period. Also pay attention to what the directions ask you to talk about during your presentation, and talk about those points. Introduce yourself before speaking. Stop taking notes on your project before the presentations start. Take notes on what your colleagues say.
3. Learn more management theory. It's really important. Learn how to read a budget and analyze a budget and manage idiotic underlings.
4. The point of hypothetical questions isn't to test your knowledge of diplomatic procedure. You can learn about the consular and administrative rules for embassies, but past that who cares? Always start by asking your supervisor for advice. Defer to them often. When asked why you want to be a diplomat, have an answer besides wanting to be an ambassador. Most FSOs never get to that point on the career ladder cause they haven't given money to a presidential campaign. (It's important to leave the really important jobs to diplomatic novices.) It doesn't matter if you know five languages or one, if you have five degrees or none. It's important to have a realistic career goal for going into the service. For me, I wanted to get into the Naval War College (the oldest war college in the country) and get paid to get a Masters degree in Security Studies. I thought that would look good on a resume above my Peace and Justice Studies degree.
5. Think hard about what you want to do in the Service and afterwards. If you want to get to know people in your host country, you should choose the Public Affairs or Consular cones. Those are the only cones that actually interact with the natives. The Economic and Political cones don't even chat with the foreign nationals who work at our embassies and consulates. There also isn't much power left in the Economic and Political cones. Economics is done by the Commerce Dept and politics are handled by Congress and every Administrative dept not labeled State. The public affairs officers create cultural exchange programs and teach host country citizens about American values and educational opportunities. Alternatively, you could join the Administrative cone since administrative job skills are the most easily transferable in the outside world. Consular officers do a thankless job and there aren't enough of them, so people in every other cone have to spend at least two years on a consular post. You stamp passports and deny entry to suspicious people. Least exciting work, but also the easiest way into the service b/c it has the lowest passing grade on the oral exam. You can't change your cone once you enter the service, so stop thinking the administrative and/or consular cones will offer a back door into politics or economics. If you're really interested in a meaty foreign policy job, go work at the Commerce department or at the House or Senate foreign relations committees. State does not make any policy, it only enforces it. You aren't going to change the world in a hugely significant way by being in the service, and if you agree with any other post on this site, you'll be a miserable and lonely person in the service.
6. Don't lie on any form you fill out. If you've done drugs, admit it. If it was at least two years ago, they wont care too much especially if it wasn't a "hard" drug. They'll throw you out of the running if they catch you in a lie. If you do lie on a form, fess up as soon as you have your first interview w. the FBI (or whoever it is that runs the background check). They're going to talk to your elementary schoolmates and your mamma's best friend and that chick who lived down the hall from you in college who hated your guts. They're also going to follow you and ask you why you went to a particular movie during your period of review and who that same-sex date was. Also, you wont get clearance to work anywhere in the world if you've got serious medical problems, so don't bother with these tests if you couldn't hack it in a third world country with minimal medical attention.
7. You'll live like royalty in a foreign land. That land will probably be a poor, newly independent state your friends have never heard of and probably have no intention of visiting you in. It will be a lonely and thankless life, offering little reward. There are much easier ways to work abroad. Teach English. Be part of the capitalist beast and go into international finance. Marry a foreigner. But don't marry a foreigner if you eventually want to be an FSO. It'll be harder to pass the background check if you do.
11/21/04 Update: I received an email from a retired FSO who pointed out that I discussed a lot of things you could do via the Public Affairs cone as responsibilities of the Administrative cone. My apologies for the confusion. When I first started taking the exam, the Public Affairs cone didn't exist (because it was still part of the U.S. Information Agency and just getting merged with State).
And just to reiterate: I'm not in any way affiliated with the USG. I've given up on my dream of being an FSO. Mostly because I love expressing my own opinion on world affairs and so instead am trying to eventually be a professional writer. For now, I work in the Midwest Advertising Office of a major national magazine that maybe you've never heard of.
Editor's coda: I currently live in Los Angeles. After five years as an account strategist in the advertising world, I now have a full-time activist gig: I'm the Bring Our War Dollars Home organizer for CODEPINK: Women for Peace. And I no longer want to give out advice over email. If you're curious for more info, just drop a comment.
October 9, 2006
All Nine Nuclear Powers Are Violating Non-Proliferation Treaty
North Korea has perhaps, probably joined the "prestigious" club of out and proud nuke owning countries. That makes eight official world-annihilators and one in the closet. (The closeted annihilator is, of course, Israel. Can't have a gendarmerie in the Middle East without giving it teeth.)
Missing from mainstream news coverage of this auspicious moment in world history is the fact that all nuclear powers - including the US - are violating the NPT.
More deets by Scott Galindez, managing editor of Truthout.
article found via portside.
More info on the NPT via Reaching Critical Will, a project of WILPF at the UN.
Cross-posted from the WILPF US blog.
June 12, 2006
Gleanings from the Sunday NYT
Israel fires shells into Gaza Strip continuously to deter extremist Palestinians from launching much more primitive weapons into Israel. On Friday, the Israeli military managed to murder eight Palestinians with an errant shell, including the many members of the Ghaliya family. In retaliation, Hamas fired rockets into Israel on Saturday. According to the mainstream press, the actions of Hamas ended the 16 month truce between Israel and Palestine. Apparently, Israel is allowed to launch weapons at its neighbors and still be seen as upholding its end of a truce, whereas Palestinian leadership is held to a higher standard. Intriguingly, the article that ran in the paper gave erroneous information. The article, "Errant Shell Turns Girl Into Palestinian Icon," by George Azar is a much clearer explanation of the tragedy and its politicization.
In other news, Venezuela is paying $7/day for its citizens to join the reserves. Chavez says he's doing it to ensure resistance to any future American invasion. It's also a good unifying tactic around his government and himself. And oh yeah, since the USG approved and celebrated the 2002 coup attempt, Chavez has a legitimate reason to worry about his belligerent neighbor.
The assassination of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, was probably the work of a suicide bombing. The UN International Investigation Commission released its fourth report on Saturday. The commission is requesting that the Security Council extend its investigation for another year. The Daily Star of Lebanon has what appears to be the actual text of the report.
And finally, watch your online persona. It could be the reason I'm not getting job interviews.
May 16, 2006
Madam Secretary Albright's Speech
Former SecState Madeleine Albright spoke today at the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs. Many shout outs were given to Swellesley, a group photo of alums was taken (who knows if I'll be seen since a very tall woman decided to stand in front), and I purchased her new book and it was signed. The following is a transcription of my notes from the speech and Q&A:
Shout out to Wellesley alums. Albright realized post 9-11 that religion can't be separated from International Relations (IR). Major themes of her speech include morality and diplomacy; and liberals v. conservatives. She was SecState 1997-2001; received BA from Wellesley College, MA and Ph.D from Columbia. Currently heads the Global Strategy Group, part of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a professor at Georgetown, and recently publishes The Mighty and the Almighty.
Will discuss themes from my book; different from writing a memoir: I'm the foremost authority on myself, but there are many people more knowledgeable on religion. Writing this book was a genuine learning experience. I'm not a theologian nor a mystic; I continue to be a problem solver.
It is evident that religion is a major part of international affairs. For example, Jerusalem: if it was just a real estate issue, it could have been solved by now. I enjoy giving this book tour b/c it allows me to explain my views better than the sound bites expected from television interviews.
My book has four themes.
1. US has to have a moral foreign policy.
State what our values are
Use vast power.
Not a moralistic - i.e. lecturing
There is an artificial division between realists and idealists in IR theory. I'm a realistic idealist or an idealistic realist.
2. DC is toxic.
People don't talk to one another.
There are subject that the right and left can agree on.
For example, I've been working with Senator Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican from Kansas. We created a conference at Georgetown that look at four main themes:
1. stopping genocide
2. stopping human trafficking
4. religious tolerance
3. I don't like the concept of clash of civilizations.
We are involved in a battle of ideas.
There are major differences between the rich and the poor.
State v. non-state actors.
Iranian President's letter
basic questions were raised
it is important for someone at a high level to lay out what we're for.
Questions raised resonate with people and we must respond.
4. What the role of the individual is
For example myself: I was raised Catholic, married an Episcopalian, and found out I'm Jewish. I was also raised in the US instead of Czechoslovakia, giving me the opportunity to become SecState instead of having a career as a college professor.
The concept of the individual should be understood better.
It is part of all the Abrahamic religions.
We need to look at religion as a way to solve problems, rather than dividing people.
What really is the role of the US? From my book:
Have reponsibility to lead.
Liberty is G'd's gift, which makes it morally neutral.
Democracy is a human creation.
US should help others who desire help.
Promoting democracy is a policy, not a moral position.
We are not above the law.
Not a divine act: we can ask for G'd to bless America, but we should never assume that G'd blesses America.
Questions & Answers
"I loved being SecState; but one of the advantages of not being SecState is that I can actually answer your questions."
(1) Supporting religious charities?
We're dependent on charities / NGOs. How much are they accountable? It's good to support these NGOs. American missionary movements knew more about IR and other languages than other Americans. We must insure that those we work with have free access / tolerance instead of proselytizing.
For example, Palestinians.
Our official policy is that we don't deal with Hamas.
We're expecting NGOs to pick up the slack.
What is the end that happens with the money given? That is the question to be asked. Compare this to Saudi support of religious charities.
(2)First time a moral foreign policy is being suggested?
There are various periods in history where moral policy was emphasized (eg Wilson) then swing to realpolitik, personified by Henry Kissinger. Carter modernized moral FP with an emphasis on human rights. It's not that we're convinced we're right about everything. It is difficult to have a totally consistent FP b/c pragmatic steps are needed, therefore take cognicense. We need to stop lecturing.
The division between good and evil emphasized by Bush is difficult to accept because the definition of "good" is hard.
(3)I do think the US is an exceptional country, as an immigrant (legal)
The US is an indispensable nation. President Clinton originally said that, although it has been ascribed to me. I said that originally to get Americans hooked in to have interests internationally. Why do I believe this?
Things don't happen if we're not a part of them.
That doesn't mean we're above the law.
Whether you read the New Testament or Spider-man, "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Morality is not necessarily national.
For the foreseeable future, US will be a managing partner in world affairs; emphasis on partner. Therefore, building bridges is important.
The US gains from international support.
We can't be treaty allergic.
(4)Why do you think Democrats have such a difficult time stating what they're for?
1. We don't have control of anything.
2. The thing that makes us so charming - that we have a lot of different opinions - makes it difficult to articulate.
3. We have no leader.
4. We aren't disciplined. "I don't belong to any organized group; I'm a member of the Democratic Party." -- Will Rogers
5. Republicans have think tanks that stick around when Republicans are in power.
6. I'm involved in the Center for American Progress.
7. During the 2008 Presidential primary process, I hope we don't create a firing line in a circle.
8. US government has to function in checks and balances.
(5)[Oddball question re the power of 12 step programs]
It is necessary to recognize the power of people's individual faith. We still believe in the separation of church and state. That was originally conceived as keeping the state out of the church, not the other way around. We need to respect how people practice their religion.
(6) What brought on the toxicity in Washington?
"I'm going to try so hard to be good."
What happens when there's a complete shift in power: You try to explain national security policy of the S to people you don't like and you have to hand it over to. When I was gaining the seat of power, I listened carefully to the other side. We need a sense of continuity between presidents. The Bush admin had a complete disregard for Clinton's domestic and foreign policy. Bush said his national security team is the best the US has ever had. Maybe, but for the wrong decade. They really did have an ABC policy: Anything But Clinton. For example, re North Korea: I still have the dubious distinction of being the highest ranking US official to ever meet with Kim Jong Il. Even Congress feels it is not allowed to set the agenda.
We tried to have a bi-partisan foreign policy. For example, I worked with Jesse Helms, who at the time was the head of the Senate foreign relations committees.
Bush has convened former top level officials: in January he met with 13 of us, 7 former SecDefs and 6 former Sec States.
But there is a fundamental lack of respect for the other side's point of view and this is self-perpetuating.
(7)Wellesley Alumnae Club President's Question: What can we as individual micro-powers do to help achieve a moral foreign policy?
*We have a tendency to take the US for granted because we feel powerless because "they're taking care of it in Washington." (I assure you, they're not.)
*We in Washington want to hear from people.
*We need to take our duty as citizens much more seriously.
*Asking questions is important.
*Keep asking questions out loud: e.g. Are we really fighting terrorists in the right way?
(8)How do we reconcile the US' bloody history with working with others?
*American model isn't the only model of democracy.
*I believe we are all the same and want to make decisions for ourselves.
*As I tell my students at Georgetown, foreign policy is trying to get another country to do what you want.
*For example with Iran: Carter was forward leaning on human rights, but he did deal with the Shaw.
*We need to favor working with the N.
*But for example on Kosovo, we weren't able to get force approval from the UN. So sometimes you have to take a difficult approach.
*We'll never get complete approval for everything we do.
(9)Chavez is calling us a paper tiger and seems to want to take the mantle of Castro when he dies.
The Bush administration is not as unilateral as they are uni-dimensional. They only understand military power and only in the Middle East. I told Bush, you act as if you created democracy, whereas in truth I did. I created a community of democracies. I used to carry around this map of the evolution of Latin America from authoritarian to democracy. But democracies have to deliver. I don't mean to sound Marxist, but people prefer to eat rather than to vote. Land reform is needed throughout Latin America. When a populist becomes elected, he often becomes authoritarian. Free trade needs to move forward through bilateral agreements.
Countries are beginning to group in opposition to the US. Things happening aren't being paid attention to. Policy is about framing the choice. When the choice is between being for the Iraq War, Guanatanamo Bay, etc vs. other, people are going to choose the other. Then more people are against us. We can't have certainty that we're always right.
March 16, 2006
Still Here, barely...
News That Concerns Me:
Israel staking out a prison in Jericho with the tacit collusion of the US and British forces that coincidentally left the prison after securing it for four years on the day of the invasion.
SecState and SecDef telling Congress / the world that Iran is "the biggest threat out there."
Milosevic dying before he could be convicted of crimes against humanity.
Sectarian violence. Ethnic tension.
People allowing their differences to divide them instead of uniting them.
POTUS shredding the NPT by signing an illegal side-deal with India.
Rampant Islamaphobia in the US and Western Europe.
Not enough mainstream news coverage of Latin America.
Lack of updates on my blogs.
January 1, 2006
The Year in Review
When I was younger, I thought the best way of understanding the world was by going from the macro to the micro level. I am still most fascinated by macro-level theories; but now I recognize the importance of beginning on the micro-level to fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the world.
As I look back on 2005, it was a time of chaos and turmoil, hope and rebirth. My micro viewpoint starts with my own life. I learned how to love and share life, how to be whole in tandem, how to accept heart break and move forward in my own individual life. I leave behind every single shared dream I started 2005 with; although I hold out a faint glimmer of hope to eventually find the person who will truly support me and share my life in a mutually beneficial way.
Because of the abrupt changes in my social circle this year, I don't have a firm grasp on what's happened to my community this year. I can say that my family and friends (the true friends; who were there before 2004 and will remain long after 2006) have grown and prospered and deeply lived in ways I never imagined. I'm proud of all of them, especially those whom I lost touch with and am just reaching again.
I've now lived in Chicago 1.5 years. One of the best aspects of this town is Chicago Tonight, the PBS weekday news broadcast. It is by far the best local news broadcast I have ever seen. While I'm never really interested in the long sports roundtables, what other program would give time to two music critics chatting about U2's concerts and the politics / economics of music venues? I chat with my coworkers about the monarchy of Mayor Daley; none of them seem to care that there is no democracy in city politics (as long as the trash is picked up, the streets are relatively safe, and the trains/buses continue to run). Outside of political writers, it seems that no one in Chicago cares that Daley's administration was plagued by scandals; seems to them like Republicans trying to make politics illegal. I'm struck by the complete lack of imagination when it comes to politics in this town. Sure, we got to help elect Barack Obama in 2004; but in reality, Chicago is cut up into ethnic enclaves that few people cross and even fewer try to bridge. Radical democracy is an utterly foreign concept in this town. Geographic divisions remain even stronger than ethnic ones: many die-hard Cubs fans refused to rejoice for the White Sox's epic World Series win. It is difficult to express how divided Chicago is between the North and South sides. Most of the media - print, tv, radio - either also owns the Cubs or is produced for the North side audience. Of course, mainstream media is usually produced for the more affluent members of a community; but the confluence of ownership by the Tribune corporation of the Cubs, the Trib newspaper, WGN tv and radio, along with their many companies in other major markets (from tv to radio to newspapers, including the LA Times) is simply astounding. To me, it says more about class culture that the equally numerous Sox fans rarely sold out their stadium during the regular season, than it does about the Trib company. Then again, South-siders are quick to point out that Cellular Field holds about twice as many ppl as Wrigley Stadium, and that their attendance was roughly on par with the Cubs all season. But seriously, the Cubs are everyone's favorite losers; shouldn't winners be able to sell out a stadium?
National news was depressing and more depressing. Bush's second term continued the failed policies of his first term: destructive hegemonic foreign policy, imperial occupation of foreign countries, complete disregard for the environment, civil liberties, and human life, all coming into stark relief when he praised his incompetent lackey FEMA Administrator Brown during the initial aftermath of the man-made disaster following Hurricane Katrina. Anderson Cooper and CNN provided the absolute best media coverage of that terrible catastrophe which we still haven't recovered from; nor have we begun to change the problems that created it. Territorial in-fighting caused a lack of serious upkeep of the dams surrounding New Orleans; passing the buck attitude kept the majority of New Orleans mired in poverty; failure to recognize the lack of resources available to most of the population left hundreds of thousands of people in the Gulf Region stranded; failure to create real communication links between local, state, federal emergency authorities since the great warning of 2001 greatly expanded the level of destruction; and the national public and national leaders have left the Gulf Region behind because our worst problems as a society seem insurmountable, or at least unable to be solved within the span of a news or election cycle and therefore untouchable.
The greatest hope in 2005 came from social movements outside of the US. Protests in Lebanon forced the removal of many of Syria's overt forms of occupation, unfortunately also leading to the assassination of two leaders of the reform movement. Women continue to be left out of the state-formation process in Iraq, but at least they were guaranteed a small percentage of seats in the Afghani parliament. Egypt had another sham election, praised by the USG; but recognized as a farce by most people. Israel withdrew from Gaza while increasing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and continuing to build a "security" wall, that was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.
Darfur, Sudan continues to suffer from a state-sponsored genocide, while world leaders stand around wringing their hands. Rape as an act of war continued unabated in many African conflicts; and rape survivors and their children continued to be shunned by societies so ensconced in backward morality that their religious leaders often refuse to accept condoms as a necessary weapon in the fight against AIDS. I have to admit, I do not follow African news as closely as I do other parts of the world, so it is difficult for me to name specific countries and what's happening. Interesting to note that Zimbabwe continues to be ruled by the wretched Mugabe, who threw out Western journalists and kicked poor people out of their homes, continuing his reign of terror which began with an interesting desire to re-distribute land to the black majority population and is currently a dictatorship of disastrous proportions.
In Asia, North Korea and China continue to top the world headlines. First, there's the Bush administration's muddled actions towards stopping North Korea's nuclear program. Kim Jong Il recently kicked out international aid agencies, saying I guess that the famine that is killing many of his constituents is bad for his country's image, so better to cut off aid than remind ppl that it exists. China continues to be the "sleeping dragon," or perhaps really has already resumed its position as a super-power, but Westerners are too myopic to see that. It mediates six-nation anti-nuke talks with North Korea; it holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and has strong links to Iran; and it produces tons of manufactured goods. It undercuts the US around the world, buying up oil and other resources from regimes disliked by the US.
Speaking of resource-rich countries currently standing tall against US hegemony, Latin America is by far the best success story of 2005. Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led a grassroots protest against US economic abuse at the Fourth Summit of the Americas in November in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The second female to be democratically elected head of state in Latin America, Michelle Bachelet, is on her way to power, leading the polls during the first round of elections in Chile and fighting for her position against a billionaire in a run-off later this month. Alas, not all news from Latin America was positive this year. The people of Guatemala protested loudly against ratification of CAFTA, but after the military tear-gassed them out of the capitol, the Guatemalan parliament accepted CAFTA. Nevertheless, the power of Mercosur, and the power of the people of Latin America provides a powerful check on the expansion of corporate globalization in this hemisphere.
In other global news, South Asia continues to rebuild itself after being hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami. It is yet another example of human inability to create sustainable development in a short period of time after a natural catastrophe. In some places, civil strife was tempered by a shared desire to rebuild, while elsewhere civil war has re-kindled. North Americans thought they understood The March of the Penguins of Antarctica, but really only saw a Disney-fied glimpse of a species threatened by global warming. There was a terrorist attack in London on the heels of the 2012 Summer Olympics host announcement, and on the first day of the G8 summit. Speaking of G8, it produced a global free concert series, Live 8, an attempt to help Make Poverty History through music. Much more happened in Europe and Russia, but I don't follow those areas very closely. In Southeast Asia, a horrific earthquake rocked Kashmir. The subsequent aid from Westerners did more to boost Pakistani opinion of us than any other interaction in recent years.
Despite catastrophic natural and man-made disasters, I continue to believe 2005 will lead to an even brighter 2006. Time recognized philanthropists and a crusader as Persons of the Year; Latin Americans pushed back against neo-liberal economics; young Westerners were enlightened that their governments' foreign policy exacerbates Africa's problems; and women continue to take a stand for their equal participation in government and economics around the world. On the whole, I think it's been a very good year; although the details are not all so rose-colored.
December 21, 2005
UN Creates Peacebuilding Commission
The UN General Assembly and Security Council passed resolutions creating a Peacebuilding Commission to help insure that post-conflict societies do not slide back into conflict. Apparently, over half of the conflicts in the past 20 years have reignited after their initial cease-fires. From the GA resolution that created the commission:
Emphasizing the need for a coordinated, coherent and integrated approach to post-conflict peacebuilding and reconciliation with a view to achieving sustainable peace [...]From the UN website (pdf)
Reaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution and peacebuilding
Apparently, there is some concern among developing countries that the Security Council has too large a role in the commission. On the other hand, the SC correctly pointed out that their purview is international peace and security and peacekeeping. So it sorta makes sense to check with the SC regarding peacebuilding. Yet, we all know that the SC can be used as a tool of the five permanent members with veto power, so it does seem to continue an anti-democratic vein to allow the SC oversight of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Regardless of the above dispute, the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission is a momentous occasion. I look forward to it being part of the process to fully implement SC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
"UN creates new body to help states out of war," by Evelyn Leopold for Reuters on AlertNet
"UN acts to help peace processes," by Susannah Price of BBC News
"U.N. Creates Commission to Assist Nations Recovering From Wars," by Warren Hoge in the NYT
Alerted to the news by UN Wire, a free email publication of the UN Foundation
November 20, 2005
Bolivia: The New Frontier
I am fascinated by all areas of the world. Recently, I've been intrigued by the conundrum of Latin America - why have most countries remained extremely poor and poorly developed despite having natural resources? According to one informed friend, it is a 50/50 combination of corrupt, European-descendant leaders within the region and corrupt, Western corporations and governments. It seems to me that deeply ingrained racism is a serious pillar of the poverty experienced by the majority of Latin Americans. My friend told me there are areas of Argentina that are large, gated communities where you must prove German ancestry to gain residency (and outsiders are not allowed in). This is another problem Latin America faces - many Nazis took refuge there at the end of WWII. And they were, for the most part, welcomed with open arms.
Don't get me wrong, there is hope both for Latin America and the world through the influence of new Latin American leaders. Evo Morales is the first full-blooded indigenous Bolivian to run for president, and as the leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), he has a really good chance of winning. The David Rieff in the NYT magazine refers to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a "leftist populist military strongman" several times, but from my previous reading of current events, he also seems to be leading the charge against corruption and undo influence of corporate greed on national economic development plans. The article says that the USG is tone-deaf to the new movements for change in Latin America; clearly the USG leadership is worse than tone-deaf. There are very few Evil Men in the world, and equating Morales with Osama bin Laden, as several high ranking USG officials have, only proves that ignorant, reactionary, isolationists are in charge of the USG (partially because The Left in this country has never had a truly effective political arm).
I am surprised that Rieff never mentioned the amazing uprising of ordinary Bolivians against Bechtel's attempt to privatize all water in the country (including rainfall). Perhaps I will find a more complete article on Morales and Bolivia in the future. I think using Che as the frame for his article led Rieff to omit more important, more recent events in Bolivia.
"Che's Second Coming?" by David Rieff in today's NYT Magazine
October 18, 2005
Rise in Violence in Darfu
[apologies for the break in posting - I have been ill.]
There are more militia factions in Darfur, Sudan now then previously. The janjaweed are now fighting the government, other militias, and terrorizing and murdering the people of Darfur. The situation is so bad the UN has pulled out most of its personnel.
The "silver lining" is that, according to the NYT, conflicts tend to intensify as peace becomes imminent. Supposedly the new groups want a seat at the table and/or some of the spoils of war.
More info: "Chaos Grows in Darfur Conflict as Militias Turn on Government," by Marc Lacey in the NYT
September 28, 2005
More on Ian Fishback and Systemic Use of Torture by US Military
The NYT wrote an article about Captain Fishback, including the not surprising news that the Army is more interested in hunting down the two anonymous sources for the Human Rights Watch report than in changing its abhorrent practices.
"Officer Criticizes Detainee Abuse Inquiry," by Eric Schmitt in the NYT
The Human Rights Watch Report on Torture in Iraq that started this mainstream media blip.
WaPo published Fishback's letter to John McCain, which they say they obtained by neither Fishback nor McCain. (Note to self: all correspondence is apparently fair game for newspapers to reprint.)
"Mr. Flanigan's Answers," the WaPo editorial re Fishback's revelations and the larger problem of rampant abuse by the US military and elected officials. Note that Congress could have held the administration accountable when the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, but chose instead to accept this so-called war on terror as an excuse to torture prisoners and disregard the Geneva Conventions and morality in general. They already confirmed Gonzales as attorney general, despite the fact that as chief White House counsel, he is primarily responsible for this administration's b.s. waffling on the definition of torture. Now, his former deputy is about to be confirmed as his new deputy - Timothy Flanigan is Shrub's nominee for deputy attorney general, having first served as Gonzales's deputy White House counsel.
September 19, 2005
Bono and Debt Relief
We all know Bono is the rock star with a cause; the best of the many rock stars with causes. He got Jesse Helms to cry and corralled a bunch of conservative Republicans to promise debt relief which really hasn't happened, and an AIDS project, which actually does more harm than good. But at least he's using his fame for a good cause, right?
Well...I suppose. But what does that say about the state of the world? We live in the era of global capitalism. So why do we leave the most important jobs in developed countries to volunteers? Why do we say "we don't have enough teachers, let's get volunteers to do two year stints"? Why do we say "we want to teach American values and the American way of life to the world, let's send volunteers through a program created by Kennedy called Peace Corps"? When we send volunteers to kill foreigners, they get paid. When we send them to build a well, they get close to nothing.
I am sick of living in this pseudo-volunteer culture. The only people who have enough time and resources to do this volunteering are mega-rich actors and singers and children of the upper middle class. Enough already! I went to school with plenty of investment bankers and management consultants. What I want to do with my life is no less important than what they're doing - and I expect to get paid for it. Not popcorn salary and not "volunteer some more so we know you're really committed to the cause" but real greenbacks to pay off all the debt I've accumulated trying to survive in this capitalist society.
I'm not calling for an overthrow of the economic system - I still think that is a fantasy. But until people get real and face the fact that in a capitalist society work should be honored and PAID, we will never live in the world we wish to see.
That doesn't mean I'm going to stop all of my volunteer work for WILPF. It just means that sooner, rather than later, I need to find paid work in "the movement." Otherwise, I might as well turn my little black box back on and find another escapist fantasy to keep me numb from reality.
More on that Irish bloke: "The Statesman," by James Traub in Sunday's NYT Magazine
September 3, 2005
Castro Offered Medical Personnel and Supplies to Aid Hurricane Victims
From a member of WILPF, I received this statement of Fidel Castro, President of Cuba:
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO REITERATES MEDICAL CARE OFFER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN HIS REMARKS DURING THE TV ROUND TABLE.A Google News Search only gave one news sources confirming the above information:
Our country is ready to send, in the small hours of morning, 100
clinicians and specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, who at
dawn tomorrow, Saturday, could be in Houston International Airport,
Texas, the closest to the region struck by the tragedy, in order to be
transferred by air, sea or river to the isolated shelters, facilities
and neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans, where the population and
families are that require emergency medical care or first aid.
These Cuban personnel would be carrying backpacks with 24 kilograms of
medications, known to be essential in such situations to save lives, as
well as basic diagnosis kits. They would be prepared to work alone or in
groups of two or more, depending on the circumstances, for as long as
Likewise, Cuba is ready to send via Houston, or any other airport of
your choosing, 500 additional specialists in Comprehensive General
Medicine, with the same equipment, who could be at their destination
point at noon or in the afternoon of tomorrow, Saturday, September 3.
A third group of 500 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine could
be arriving in the morning of Sunday, September 4. Thus, the 1100 said
medical doctors, with the resources described tantamount to 26.4 tons of
medications and diagnosis kits, would be caring for the neediest persons
in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and
elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to
communicate with the patients.
We stand ready waiting for the US authorities' response.
September 2, 2005
"Cuba Willing to Send Immediate Medical Help to US, Says Fidel Castro," in Prensa Latina, the Latin American News Agency
I do not know the origins of the above press release, only that it was emailed to me by a trusted source.
August 27, 2005
Newly Discovered News Source: IMEMC
The International Middle East Media Center is located at http://www.imemc.org. This is an online English-language daily with non-partisan up-to-date accounts and analysis from Israel/Palestine.
Interesting news from IMEMC:
Abbas: "Israel should evacuate W. Bank settlements"
"This withdrawal is not a Palestinian or Israeli victory", Abbas said, "It is a victory of peace for everyone". [...]
"The Palestinian and the Israelis should start talking about the future of the West Bank, Israel should freeze all of its settlement activities, Europe should practice more pressure regarding this issue".
As many as 54 percent of the Israelis said they believe the Israeli government should withdraw from more territories in the West Bank and to reach peace with the Palestinians, while a bigger majority believed that the unauthorized outposts in the West Bank must be dismantled, a poll conducted by the Israeli Newspaper Yedioth Ahronot showed.It is hopeful that both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli people support more withdrawals from the West Bank.
In related news, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice last Wednesday. He spoke to her about several things, including Israel's $2.2 billion additional aid request. More details at "Olmert calls on Palestinian Authority to disarm militants," in Haartez, an independent Israeli daily newspaper.
My thanks to my fellow WCUSP leadership team members for directing me to the above websites. WCUSP = Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, a national campaign of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
August 23, 2005
Philadelphia 1787 v. Baghdad 2005
Fred Kaplan wrote an engaging article in Slate on "Bush's lousy analogy."
He puts forth many succint differences between the founding of the U.S.A. and the current situation in Iraq. Unfortunately, as is the perogative of a white male, he fails to recognize the depth of failure in Philadelphia in 1787. The constitution didn't just punt a difficult issue - it legalized the fiction of people as property and maintained women as property. It is not acceptable for a new government in 2005 to merely meet the standards set in 1787. Any constitution created today, to be truly democratic, must unflinchingly declare the rights of all people - regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or any other differentiating aspect - to complete freedom and inclusion in the political process.
I am sick of listening to people give excuses for discrimination. If the U.S. is truly a country spreading freedom and democracy around the world, it must be firm in its committment to the freedom of all people, not just those willing to work with U.S.-based multinational corporations.
August 21, 2005
Jewish Americans Buying "Property" on Confiscated Palestinian Land
An article was forwarded to the International WILPF listserv yesterday regarding Nof Zion, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, half of which is on land owned by Palestinians in the East Jerusalem village Jabel Mukhaber. The Palestinian land was confiscated for "public services." The new real estate will be a gated community and many of the units are being sold to Jewish Americans who will probably never reside in the West Bank full time.
"Settlements go down, settlements go up: New Settlement Puts Pressure on Jerusalem Palestinians," by Jon Elmer in the New Standard, available on Znet
To subscribe to WILPF listservs:
First, please join WILPF.
The International WILPF listserv:
send a blank email to wilpf-news-subscribe AT igc DOT topica DOT com
Replace AT with @ and DOT with . (address written that way to prevent spammers from emailing it)
The US WILPF listserv:
send a blank email to wilpf-us-news-subscribe AT igc DOT topica DOT com
Cross-posted from the US WILPF Members blog.
August 18, 2005
Damn Fine Reads
I found some great blogs and articles tonight. While I'm at the end of my ability to write coherently, and therefore wont be commenting on my reading, I thought I'd share the URLs -
Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation, from a Palestinian journalist in Gaza City
Rafah Notes, a blog by a woman in the U.S.
"Ten Movies That Get Women Right, by Sheerly Avni on AlterNet
"Can White Hollywood Get Race Right?" by Jeff Chang and Sylvia Chan on AlterNet
August 8, 2005
War Criminal, Perpetrator of Genocide, Captured in Argentina
Bosnian Serb Milan Lukic was captured today in Argentina. He was sentenced in absentia by the Hague to twenty years in prison for his crimes against humanity and is currently being processed for extradition.
"Bosnian Serb Suspect Caught in Argentina," by Bill Cormier, AP at Yahoo News
July 22, 2005
Labor for Palestine Conference
Tomorrow, I'll be going to the Labor For Palestine Conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
It's an all day event, so I look forward to plenty of information and hopefully some time to get to know some local activists.
I'm going as a representative of WILPF's campaign, Women Challenging U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East.
It's interesting that they're holding the conference ahead of the AFL-CIO convention here in Chi-town next week. I wonder if I'll see anyone from my union days at the conference...
July 19, 2005
Iraq's War on Women
Abdela describes the way Iraq has become an increasing hostile place for its female citizens. Women are 60% of the population, yet must deal with death threats from religious extremists who murder with impunity.
Iraqi women want us to know about their situaton - why wearing makeup is an act of defiance that can get you raped and killed; why a successful beauty shop was closed; why female university students are being targetted for rape and murder.
And they need action - from the U.S. occupying force, from other Western countries and the United Nations, from the Iraqi government.
Please send an email to your representatives in Congress, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President urging them to read this article and take significant actions to stop the violence against Iraqi women.
cross-posted from US WILPF's blog.
July 10, 2005
News Recap from the Last 24 Hrs
2. North Korea agreed to resume 6 party nuclear talks during the week of July 25. China announced it will host the talks. NYT article online version updated today to include SecState Rice's approval of diplomacy. My Nation Edition paper version quotes an unidentified "senior administration official traveling with Ms. Rice, who did not want to be identified because Ms. Rice had not yet made a formal announcement." That phrase appears on page 1 of the NYT. Isn't that a good use of space?
3. Meet the Press is slipping behind This Week. For the past several weeks, they've shared the major guest and here in Chicago, This Week comes on a half hour earlier than Meet the Press. How long can one person listen to Chertoff? Why finish MtP when ABC shows Ebert & Roepert at 10:30 and they're reviewing the new version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?"
4. NASA is sending a human-driven shuttle back to space. Its scheduled for a Wednesday launch, if the weather permits. Not clear what the astronauts will be doing, but the widows of the astronauts who died in the Columbia tragedy get page 1 coverage of how difficult it is to be in the media spotlight.
5. More ink on the Supreme Court vacancy. Maybe that's why the anti-choice activists were out in force last week in downtown Chicago. More talk show chatter (but left till the absolute end of the shows). Wishing that Jerry Springer VH1 special was on....
July 7, 2005
Wikipedia Entry for London bombings
Via Daniel Drezner, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Guardian blog, I found the Wikipedia Entry for the London bombings. This online collaborative encyclopedia has given me the information I've been trying to understand by watching network and cable news for the last three hours.
All times are in British Summer Time (BST) which is 1 hour ahead of UTC.
- 08:51: Initial reports of an incident between Liverpool Street and Aldgate East tube stations, either an explosion or a collision between trains. The reports from the two stations were initially thought to relate to two separate incidents.
- 08:56: Explosion on train between Kings' Cross and Russell Square. Eyewitnesses report explosion appeared to come from outside the train.
- 09:17: Explosion on train at Edgware Road station.
- 09:28: Tube operator Metronet says the incident was caused by some sort of power surge.
- 09:33: Reports of an incident at Edgware Road tube station. Reports that passengers on a train hit by an explosion attempted to break windows with umbrellas in order to escape.
- 09:46: British Transport Police announce there had been more explosions at Kings' Cross, Old Street, Moorgate, and Russell Square.
- 09:47: Explosion on bus at Upper Woburn Place/Tavistock Square. Fatalities, but number not yet known.
- 09:49: Whole London Underground system shut down.
- 10:00: National Grid announce there had been no problem with power surges.
- 10:40: First report of fatalities, government source speaks of 20 dead.
- 11:08: Bus services suspended across central London.
- 11:10: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair confirms fears that it is a co-ordinated terror attack, but appeals for calm, asking people not to travel to London or make unnecessary calls to the emergency services.
- 12:00: Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks out on the incident, calling the attacks a coordinated series of "barbaric" terrorist attacks.
(From ITV News and Metropolitan Police press conference)
Why would terrorists strike in anger at a G8 meeting? Is it related or is it only a response to military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq? There is absolutely no excuse for terrorism, and the continued attacks on mass transit frightens me personally since I use it and enjoy using it to get to work.
The best coverage is from the BBC.
I'm still trying to figure out what time the attacks occurred at. I understand it was during the morning commute, but at what time? And they're several hours ahead of us, so how long have they been dealing with this? Guess I should start checking blog sources...
Update: It started around 8:47am local London time and the last of the four explosions (on the bus) happened around 9:40am. Is that really when the majority of Londoners are on mass transit? Doesn't their workday start at 9am? I mean, thank goodness if the time helped alleviate the severity of the casualties, but I do wonder...And yes, I recognize that an estimated 40 deaths is 40 too many.
June 30, 2005
Small Glimmer of Reason in Congress
Quote of the Day from CQ Midday Update:
"Supporters have had a hard time selling this agreement. Its supposed benefits are murky, in the distance, while its flaws are all too obvious.... Late last evening I finally had to come to the conclusion that the problems with CAFTA as we have it before us clearly outweigh the very small benefits." — Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.Say it again, brother. Say it again.
June 20, 2005
Demolishing Houses to Build Peace
SecState Rice brokered an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians over the weekend. They agreed that the Israeli army should destroy homes built by Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and Palestinians should be paid to clear the rubble after the Israeli army and settlers leave. Apparently, the middle class homes barricaded on the most fertile land in the area were deemed a waste of space by Palestinian Authority officials. They want to build multi-family homes, schools, and other buildings on the land. The Gaza Strip is one of the most over-populated areas in the world - 1.3 million Palestinians live there without adequate housing, so the fertile land being given back by Israelis should help.
The Israelis, by the way, didn't want to see "militants" taking over their former homes and Israeli politicians thought the site of Palestinians raising Palestinian flags in the abandoned homes on national television would spur the ultra-right wing.
I'm not convinced all the settlers will leave. I watched "Israel's Next War?" - an extremely disturbing Frontline program on the racist right-wing radicals who are determined to use their guns to stay in Gaza. To be clear: my fervent hope is for Israel and Palestine to exist as fully recognized countries, living as peaceful neighbors. I harbor no ill-will towards Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, or any particular ethnic or national group. I detest violence, I detest violent people, and I detest people who sully the beliefs of good people by saying "G'd wants me to be a racist killer."
In related news, Israel agreed to not sell updates to unmanned aircraft it sold to China. From WaPo:
The United States has expressed concern over Israeli weapons sales to China for the past 15 years. But the issue came to a head five years ago when U.S. pressure scuttled Israeli plans to sell Phalcon reconnaissance aircraft to China, a deal valued at between $250 million and $1 billion.Good to know the weapons the USG subsidizes for Israel are being put to good use in China.
The most recent dispute arose last year over Israel's plans to provide spare parts for a fleet of Harpy armed drone aircraft it originally sold to China in the late 1990s with U.S. approval. U.S. defense officials complained that the spare parts constituted a significant upgrade of the aircraft, possibly including the addition of sensors able to detect radar sites even when turned off. In protest, the Pentagon froze cooperation with Israel on several joint weapons projects.
"Settlers' Homes on Gaza Strip Will Come Down, Rice Says," by Glenn Kessler and Scott Wilson in WaPo
"Israelis and Palestinians Agree On Demolishing Houses in Gaza," by Steven Weisman and Greg Myre in NYT
"Israel, Palestinians Agree That Settlers' Homes Will Be Razed: Secretary of State Rice announces the decision in Jerusalem, erasing one issue in the Gaza withdrawal. It is unclear who will foot the bill." by Ken Ellingwood and Tyler Marshall in LAT
June 15, 2005
USG Helps Ethnic Cleansing in Kirkuk
It is almost impossible to believe today's lead story in the Washington Post. "Kurdish Officials Sanction Abductions in Kirkuk: U.S. Memo Says Arabs, Turkmens Secretly Sent to the North," by Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid explains the contents of a confidential State Department memo regarding the abduction of Arabs and Turkmens and their secret transfer to other cities.
While you might expect that without international help, an ethnic minority would seek retribution from their neighbors for Saddam Hussein's actions, it is amazing that the USG has done absolutely nothing to prevent the wide scale abuse of human rights. Indeed, the DOD is complicit in the kidnappings, since the US military aids the politically controlled Kurdish military in these abductions. Further, despite all of the evidence that these Kurdish military groups are corrupt, American commanders continue to call them extremely reliable allies.
Background info from the article: Hussein practiced ethnic cleansing during the 80s, and moved Arabs and Turkmens north into Kurdish cities.
Kurds, who are just shy of a majority in the city and are growing in number, hope to make Kirkuk and the vast oil reserves beneath it part of an autonomous Kurdistan.
You wonder why people distrust the USG? It's because of statements like this:
Blagburn, the intelligence officer, said that even though the Emergency Services Unit is largely responsible for the secret transfers, it continues to provide valuable assistance in the counterinsurgency. Blagburn termed the unit "a very cooperative, coalition-friendly system."Good to know torturers are willing to help out the US Occupation forces when they're needed.
"We know we can drop a guy in there and he'd be taken care of and he's safe," Blagburn said. "That's the reason why the ESU is used most of the time. That's basically the unit we can trust the most."
I am thoroughly disgusted by this administration and their horrible abuse of power and mockery of democracy. I am grateful someone at State leaked the memo to WaPo and hope that it will soon be available to the public in its entirety.
June 14, 2005
This Just In: Airports Are More Important Than Human Life
The Department of Defense (DOD) has determined that airplane traffic supercedes concern regarding a dictator massacring unarmed political demonstrators. The State Department (State) believes in standing firm in opposition of flagrant violations of human rights, but since State has so little actual influence in this administration, DOD's choices remain the de facto official U.S. government (USG) policy.
Here's the deal: Europeans wanted to include a call for an independent inquiry into the massacre of citizens in Uzbekistan in a communique from NATO. Russia disapproved, but was willing to be persuaded to allow the language. DOD decided to block the language, offering the b.s. excuse that it shouldn't be part of a military alliance's policy statements.
Human beings everywhere should be outraged.
"U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO for Probe of Uzbek Killings: Officials Feared Losing Air Base Access," By R. Jeffrey Smith and Glenn Kessler with contributions by Ann Scott Tyson and Robin Wright in WaPo
From the aforementioned article:
There are stirrings of dissent on Capitol Hill about placing access to the air base at the center of U.S. policy, however. Six senators warned Rumsfeld and Rice in a letter last week that "in the aftermath of the Andijan massacre, America's relationship with Uzbekistan cannot remain unchanged."When even the Republicans in Congress think human rights are more important than a military base, you know DOD's gone too far in their "war on terror." It disgusts me that we even need the debate.
The senators -- Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), John McCain (R-Ariz.), John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) -- added that "we believe that the United States must be careful about being too closely associated with a government that has killed hundreds of demonstrators and refused international calls for a transparent investigation." They suggested that the administration explore alternative basing arrangements "in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and elsewhere in the region" to give Washington more flexibility.
Yesterday's LAT also had an article on Uzbekistan which gives easy to read background info: "Uzbekistan Tests U.S. Policy Goals: Bush's aim of spreading democracy appears to clash with need to keep strategic military bases." by Sonni Efron
articles found via Today's Papers by Eric Umansky in Slate
June 8, 2005
Even Contractors are Being Treated Inhumanely by American Troops in Iraq
From Slate's Today's Papers, by Eric Umansky:
The LAT for some reason only teases a fascinating but murky incident in Iraq during which some American security contractors appear to have mistakenly fired on Marines, who then tossed the roughly two dozen contractors in jail for a few days, where apparently they didn't get the best treatment. The contractors' lawyer said they were stripped and "slammed around." As they were being tossed about, one of the Marines reportedly shouted, "How does it feel to be a big rich contractor now?" The contractors say they never fired on the Marines, who in turn say they never abused the contractors. (Last year, Slate's Phil Carter looked at the "legal murkiness" that contractors operate in.) It's clear that the LAT has independent reporting on the story, but FYI, a site called CorpWatch had a more detailed piece yesterday.Turns out, mercenaries make a helluva lot more money than enlisted men. Shocking, eh? According to a sidebar on the CorpWatch article, Zapata mercenaries make between $520,000 and $700,000 a year. Which rankles the feathers of enlisted folks, who eke out a living and get hassled by the government for filing health insurance claims for the many mental and physical injuries they incur while on duty.
I'm not condoning what the Marines did. I'm simply pointing out that the vast difference in pay makes enlisted soldiers wary of mercenaries. All humans should be wary of mercenaries - they operate outside the control of national and international law and waste a lot of taxpayer money that would be better used to increase social services (education, healthcare, etc.) at home and abroad.
FYI, the CorpWatch article is part of their War Profiteers microsite. CorpWatch works to hold corporations accountable in a variety of fields - from education to labor issues to war. The original War Profiteers website was created by the Ruckus Society.
June 6, 2005
Courageous Iraqis Leading the Way to Change
Despite the many setbacks, courageous Iraqis are re-building and maintaining a national oil pipeline while others report on current events despite repeated death threats.
Of course, the USG doesn't want you to know about these people. Particularly the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE), whose members outperform private sector employees and maintain their refineries to a far better degree than the private corporations preferred by the Bush administration/coalition forces/"Iraqi government." Details in "Iraq's other resistance: Oil workers in Basra are ready to fight privatisation," a commentary by Greg Muttitt in The Guardian.
And if you listened to the Shrub administration, you'd think all independent Iraqi journalists were working for the insurgency. "Press in Iraq Gains Rights But No Refuge: 85 Workers Killed in 2 Years," by Jonathan Finer with contributions from Omar Fekeiki and Bassam Sebti in today's WaPo explains how important Iraqi journalists are to creating a truly democratic society in Iraq, and how dangerous the work is.
June 3, 2005
What Could Be More Pressing Than Genocide?
A fellow Chicago WILPFer pointed me to this Open Letter to President Bush on Darfur: Specific Actions to Stop the Ongoing Genocide, on the Black Commentator website.
The Open Letter to the President on Darfur asserts the need for an urgent international intervention to support the African Union’s mission in Darfur, in order to:It is vitally important that we demand more action from the U.S. Government and the international community to stop the genocide in Darfur.
- stop the killing and provide security for millions of internally displaced people (IDPs);
- facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance;
- enforce the cease fire and provide a stable environment for meaningful peace talks to proceed; and
- facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs to their land and the reconstruction of their homes by providing a secure environment.
The letter calls on the Bush Administration to:
- work through the United Nations (UN) to achieve a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union mission and for a broader international force, and
- encourage the UN to quickly approve and assemble a robust international force to integrate or co-deploy with the African Union and reinforce its efforts.
Nikolas Kristof of the NYT
Responding to readers - ways to help and more info on his current work in Darfur
"Day 141 of Bush's Silence," op-ed (with online multimedia presentation) from Sunday's NYT
Sudan: The Passion of the Present" blog recommended by Kristof for daily updates on the genocide
May 26, 2005
Protestors - Esp Women - Attacked in Cairo
Horrific things are happening in Egypt, with USG approval and support. Shame on our elected and unelected officials, especially Laura Bush.
CAIRO, May 25 -- A nationwide referendum on multi-party elections in Egypt turned violent Wednesday as pro-government mobs attacked and beat demonstrators on the streets of the capital.Emphasis added.
Officials of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party, or NDP, led hundreds of young men who attacked anti-government demonstrators. Journalists and witnesses at the scene of several incidents, including this correspondent, saw riot police create corridors for stick-wielding men to freely charge the demonstrators. Women were particular targets, with at least five pulled from the mass of mostly male demonstrators on the steps of the Journalists' Syndicate in central Cairo and subjected to slaps, punches, kicks and groping. The blouses of at least two were ripped.
More info (including specifics on the attacks against women) at:"Protesters Attacked in Cairo: On Voting Day, Pro-Mubarak Mobs Beat Dissenters," by Daniel Williams in WaPo
Last graph from the LAT:
A British employee of the Los Angeles Times was among the journalists who were assaulted. She was groped and harassed by a crowd of pro-Mubarak supporters, then forced to the ground and kicked in the stomach and back. She escaped with bruises."Anti-Mubarak Protesters Beaten in Cairo," by Megan K. Stack with contributions by Jailan Zayan and Hossam Hamalawy in LAT
May 25, 2005
Official US Relations with Egypt and the Middle East
I don't know how many of you have been following the news about
"changes" in Egypt's election laws. I've been reading about it in the
Washington Post and saw the Prime Minister on Meet the Press two
Sundays ago. It's very frustrating that there isn't more outcry
against the Mubarak regime's pretend reform of election law. What's
particularly irritating (though not surprising) is that the First Lady
defended their "steps towards democracy" on Sunday and reiterated her
support yesterday. She also endorsed the creation of the Apartheid
Wall in Palestine / Israel.
"First Lady Says Mideast Change Will Be Slow: Diplomatic Mission Ends With a Nod to Differences," by Jim VandeHei, WaPo
"In Egypt, Opposition Stymied by the State," by Daniel Williams, WaPo
May 5, 2005
Simple Explanation of US Nuclear Weapons
True Majority created a 90 second video to explain what's at stake at the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference. They'll also email your Congresspeople about the issue on your behalf.
May 4, 2005
Brazil Spurns US Terms for AIDS Help
Via Blind Boy Grunt, Sarah Boseley and Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian report that Brazil rejected the USG's demand that Brazil agree to a declaration condemning prostitution in order to receive $40 million in AIDS funding.
Brazil, like most of the global public health community, believes in treating health crises without discriminating. Since Brazil is interested in protecting prostitutes and their clients from HIV and AIDS, it is refusing the USG's money.
I do not believe Brazil's decision makes a blanket statement in support of prostitution. Clearly, you could still be opposed to prostitution and work for the health of those affected by it. To me, this is similar to the idea of making condoms available in high schools. I hope high school students think long and hard before having sex, but recognize that some of them are going to continue to have sex regardless of what I want them to do.
May 3, 2005
Blaming Young Enlisted People for Systemic Prison Abuse Problems
Army Pfc. Lynndie R. England plead guilty yesterday for her part in the Abu Graib prison abuse scandal. The judge almost rejected her plea, because she initially told him that she received an order from a superior who was a trained military police officer and assumed it was a legal order.
By the way, the superior officer was Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. who is believed to be the father of England's infant son.
The court took a recess so England could be taught by her lawyers to declare her personal culpability in the crime.
"Army Private Pleads Guilty to Prison Abuse: Jury to Decide Her Sentence This Week," by T.R. Reid with contributions from Josh White in WaPo
Local Journalists Receiving Death Threats From Iraqi Officials
Add this to the growing list of examples of how the USG is funding an anti-democratic state in Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A photographer for a Baghdad newspaper says Iraqi police beat and detained him for snapping pictures of long lines at gas stations. A reporter for another local paper received an invitation from Iraqi police to cover their graduation ceremony and ended up receiving death threats from the recruits. A local TV reporter says she's lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.From "Iraqi press under attack from authorities in Iraq," By Mohammed al Dulaimy with contributions by Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Ain't it great to know we're fostering a culture of freedom in Iraq?
And in case you missed the NYT Magazine cover story on Sunday, you must check it out. It explains how American advisors to the counter-insurgency in Iraq are the same war criminals who worked in El Salvador. Here's a link - "The Way of the Commandos" by Peter Maas
May 2, 2005
Nuclear NonProliferation Op-Eds and Articles
"What Does Not Exist Cannot Proliferate" by Celso Amorim, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Dermot Ahern, Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, Phil Goff, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Laila Freivalds in the International Herald Tribune
"Jimmy Carter: Erosion of the Nonproliferation Treaty,"by Jimmy Carter in the International Herald Tribune
"Threats by Iran and North Korea Shadow Talks on Nuclear Arms," by David Sanger in Sunday's NYT
News In Review, a daily publication during the NPT Review Conference by the Reaching Critical Will project of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
April 29, 2005
WILPFer on Democracy Now! Today
Rhianna Tyson, the Project Manager of the Reaching Critical Will project, of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom will be on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman today. Rhianna will be discussing the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty review conference and WILPF's activities around the conference.
April 28, 2005
Announcing the new WILPF Blogs
I'd like to let y'all know that the U.S. Section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom now has two blogs!
The WILPF Membership Blog at wilpf.blogspot.com is a project of the National Membership Committee. In WILPF's 90th year, we'd like to expand our visibility and encourage the blogosphere, regardless of gender, to join WILPF.
The staff in our Philadelphia national office are writing at Peace Rave. Since working for our national section takes up so much time, they aren't able to update as frequently as some bloggers. Nevertheless, you should read their thoughts because they provide insight from experienced peace and justice activists.
April 13, 2005
That Deadly Flu Virus
I heard on the radio and t.v. this morning about a deadly flu virus having been shipped accidentally to laboratories around the world. Of course, my morning news sources being NPR and a local t.v. news program, neither one explained how the virus got shipped, only that the World Health Organization and the CDC wanted the labs to immediately destroy the samples. According to "Deadly Flu Strain Shipped Worldwide: Officials Race to Destroy Samples," by Rob Stein and Shankar Vedantam with contributions from David Brown and Lucy Shackelford in WaPo, the strains were mislabelled at Meridian Bioscience.
The problem arose when a private company, Meridian Bioscience Inc. of Cincinnati, sent a panel of virus samples to about 3,700 laboratories, some in doctors' offices, to be tested as part of routine quality-control certification conducted by the College of American Pathologists. An additional 2,750 laboratories, all in the United States, received the samples as part of other certification processes and were asked to destroy them, CDC spokesman Dan Rutz said.It is not clear whether the label mistake was made at Meridian or at another company from whom the samples were bought.
Thanks goes to Canadians at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba who identified the deadly strain on March 25. Canadian officials notified WHO and the CDC last Friday. I'm unclear why it took them two weeks to get WHO involved, but there you go.
April 4, 2005
Corrupt Krgyz President Officially Resigning
After lengthy discussions over the weekend with a Krgyz delegation led by parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev, Askar Akayev formerly resigned as President of Krgyzstan. If you recall, Akayev was the corrupt leader who fled the country like a rat leaving a drowning ship when democratic protestors took over the presidential building on March 24. This will help solidify the legitimacy of the presidential election scheduled for June 26.
"President of Kygyzstan Signs Resignation Deal," by the Associated Press in the NYT
"Kyrgyz President To Resign: Interim Leaders, Akayev Set Deal," by Henry Meyer, Associate Press in WaPo
March 24, 2005
The Tulip Revolution in Krygyzstan
Protestors took over the southern district capital, Batken, on Tuesday. They took over the main government building in the capital, Bishkek, today. The crooked president, Askar Akaev, fled in a helicopter this morning with his family, and is in Kazakhstan.
Interfax Russian News Service re the Fleeing Prez
"Kyrgyz Opposition in Charge, Akayev Vanishes," by Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters, in ABC News Online
Economist Commentary: "A Tulip Revolution"
WaPo Commentary: "Another Post-Soviet Revolt"
March 22, 2005
Happy World Water Day and "Water for Life" Decade
Today is the annual World Water Day and also begins the UN "Water for Life" Decade.
"People who can turn on a tap and have safe and clean water to drink, to cook with and to bathe in often take it for granted, and yet more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice but to use potentially harmful sources of water," said Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, head of the World Health Organization.from "United Nations Marks World Water Day," by Erica Bulman, Associated Press Writer in the Guardian
also of interest:
UN Water for Life Decade Website
in People's Daily Online (a service of the Chinese Xinhua news
organization), word that 40 Nepali children die everyday from water borne diseases
articles found via UN Wire
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Revolution...
Krgyzstan is still embroiled in a messy fight to oust corrupt politicians and create a true, open democracy.
"It looks more and more like a revolution," said Edil Baisalov, the president of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, the largest election-monitoring organization in the country, in a telephone interview from Bishkek, the capital.From "Demonstrators Gain Ground in Kyrgyzstan" by Christopher Pala in the NYT
March 21, 2005
Democratic Reform Demanded in Kyrgyzstan
According to the LAT and WaPo, protestors are demanding that President Askar Akayev resign in Krgyzstan. The protestors took over a goverment building in Jalal-Abad in early March, lost control of the building on Sunday, re-occupied the building and then took over a police station - freeing political prisoners and setting it on fire.
This poses a slight problem for the USG, since Krgyzstan is one of the many re-fueling stops for the United States' Imperial Army.
"Kyrgyz Protesters Burn a Police Building: Demonstrators venting anger over the results of recent elections, which they call fraudulent, attack the headquarters in a southern city." by David Holley in the LAT
"Protesters in Kyrgyzstan Denounce Ballot Fraud: Police Station Burned; Offices Overrun" by Kadyr Toktogulov, Associated Press in WaPo
found via Today's Papers
March 20, 2005
War Protests - What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!
Forgive me for riffing on a classic anti-war song in my title.
Consider this quote from Robert McFadden's article in the NYT on yesterday's protests:
President Bush did not comment on the protests, which seemed unlikely to have any significant effect on national policy or on the glacial movement of public opinion in America.Charles Duhigg in the LAT was slightly more positive about the protests' effect, while Aamer Madhani with contributions from freelance reporters Gary Gibula, Jody Paige and Sean D. Hamill in the Chicago Tribune echoed the NYT's dismissive viewpoint.
Personally, I am frustrated and desperate. Desperate to participate in strategic action that changes the world. Desperate to get American troops out of Iraq and allow Iraqis - including and especially women - to engage in the process of rebuilding their country. I'd like American military leaders to stop lying on Sunday morning talk shows; stop saying that the only major problem in Afghanistan is poppy production and recognize that the war lords we support are the primary problem. Progressive voices must be taken seriously and we must be part of the decision-making process in the government, in nonprofits, and in corporations around the world. Simply gathering and holding signs and marching clearly aint getting us anywhere.
So what should we do? I don't think Common Cause or MoveOn is the answer. Internet activism is important - up to a point. Personally, I am not interested in holding a house party to support the work of professional activists; I'd rather work through an international, grassroots organization designed to give individual members a voice in local, national, and international action. That's why I joined Women's International League for Peace and Freedom while I was in college; that's why I'm on WILPF's national board as the At Large Membership Represenative, and that's why I'm running for Program Chair on the next national board. In my many years as an activist - I've been involved in the movement at least fifteen years - I have found no other organization that places so much emphasis on understanding the root causes of injustice and working on many levels: from the streets, to city hall, to the US Congress, to the UN to create the world we want to see.
Like most of the progressive world, WILPF suffers from lack of recognition. Not many people realize that the Hague Conference for Peace written about in many history books as an example of first wave feminism created WILPF. Nor do they understand that WILPF is still alive and active in the US and around the world. Some people who know this don't think we're interested in new members. Here's the deal: WILPF, like the world, is not perfect. We've had a lot of success in our 90 year history and we've sparked a lot of feminist, social justice, and anti-war work. The International WILPF's UN office does amazing work to hasten the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security and creating a space for citizen action on nuclear disarmament. The US Section currently has four national campaigns and just voted in two new campaigns for our next three year cycle. We're eager for new members and we love involving people in progressive activism. I urge you to join WILPF, regardless of your gender, because frankly how long do you want to continue to be dismissed by the mainstream news and government as a fringe actor whose political voice can be drowned by grandstanding by Congressmen who believe "a culture of life" has nothing to do with international cooperation and shifting our budgetary priorities from war to societal health and everything to do with denying a person's choice when she chooses death with dignity?
March 17, 2005
Slavery Exists and Its Not Ending Anytime Soon
According to Anti-Slavery International and the Christian Science Monitor, "slavery is widespread across the Sahel Desert region, in countries that include Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Sudan....there are at least 43,000 slaves still in Niger."
A Tuareg tribal chief, Arissal Ag Amdague, was supposed to release more than 7,000 slaves last Saturday. Apparently, he was harrassed by the government into rescinding his promise.
The Niger government declared that slavery no longer exists in Niger. Reaction from an Anti-Slavery International employee:
Romana Cacchioli, Africa program officer for Anti-Slavery International, wishes the public was invited to Saturday's event so they could hear the declaration that Niger is slave free. She calls the announcement "a de facto release of all Nigerien slaves. Now they are equal citizens," she says. "Now we will redouble efforts on the ground for civic education, for human rights education, about what it means to be a citizen, what it means to be free."from "On the way to freedom, Niger's slaves stuck in limbo: 7,000 slaves in Niger were set to be freed last Saturday - until the government denied slavery even existed there." by Mike Pflanz and Georgina Cranston
March 15, 2005
Interested in international disarmament? Read the Conference on Disarmament Report from Reaching Critical Will, a project of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
The Council on Disarmament is the only international forum for negotiating arms control and disarmament treaties. It has struggled and not agreed upon a program of work in the past eight years. Please see the above link for more details.
Huge Anti-Syria Rally - Momentum for Reform Back in Lebanon
The LAT reports that the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation estimated that one million people attended the anti-Syria rally yesterday in Matry's Square, Beirut. These rallies have occurred every Monday since former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, a Monday, according to the NYT. The organizers pushed for this huge turnout in response to last Tuesday's pro-Syria rally.
WaPo reports that the Lebanese government has not conducted a census since 1956, due to fear of stirring sectarian violence. Its estimated that the entire population of Lebanon is about four million, so a rally that attracts a quarter of the population is of enormous significance.
The NYT reports that Mr. Hairiri and his bodyguards are buried in the former parking lot of a Virgin Megastore that overlooks Martyr's Square.
Fabulous Photograph from the Rally, by Hussein Malla of the AP, at the LAT
"Anti-Syria Rally Draws Huge Crowd: Hundreds of thousands gather to again demand Damascus' pullout from Lebanon. One estimate puts the protest at twice the size of Hezbollah's. by Ken Ellingwood with contributions from Rania Abouzeid in the LAT
"Huge Demonstration in Lebanon Demands End to Syrian Control," by Neil MacFarquhar in the NYT
"Rallies Highlight Rifts in Lebanon: Lebanese Opposition Answers Hezbollah With a Huge Anti-Syrian Demonstration," by Scott Wilson in WaPo
March 13, 2005
Learning New Words w the NYT
I admit that since I moved in with mi chavo, I haven't been reading as much of the Sunday NYT as I used to. (He graciously gave me a subscription for Hanukah.) This week is different, primarily because we chose to relax and hang out at home more. So there I was, reading the entire "The Two Faces of Rising China," by Joseph Kahn in the Week in Review section (one of the great sections I skip in my rush to the Weddings column in Sunday Styles b/c I'm a sucker for love stories) and I got through the entire article without learning much (Sino-American relations haven't changed much since I was in poli-sci courses in the late 90s), until the last sentence. Then I felt like a dumb high schooler desperately studying for the SATs (like the obnoxious private school 16 year-old with my old accent offering an editorial on CBS's Sunday morning news program). Right, well, here's the sentence:
The anti-secession bill looks like a victory for the atavists.I vaguely remember that word, perhaps from those aforementioned poli-sci courses. According to my fav online dictionary, m-w.com, the word is only definable if you pay for access to the unabridged Merriam Webster dictionary. Which sounds ridiculous to me, so I went to dictionary.com and found out that atavist has two meanings. The definition related to the above sentence is:
1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence, usually caused by the chance recombination of genes.At first I thought the corresponding definition was decribing the trait itself, but upon re-reading the sentence I realized the atavists in question are actually the people who are throwbacks to a bygone, machismo-driven era.
2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback.
3. The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.
March 10, 2005
A Trifecta Re Shrub's Snub of International Human Rights
The NYT, WaPo, and the LAT have articles regarding Shrub's decision to withdraw from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. WaPo, as usual, summarizes the history of the law best.
Here's the thing: WE WROTE IT. That's right, folks. The USG proposed the Optional Protocol in 1963 and it was ratified in 1969. It gets better - we were the first to use it, in relation to the U.S. hostages in Iran in 1979.
The protocol provides protection of foreign nationals from unjust detention and allows said nationals to appeal to a court outside of the detaining state for help. The protocol is the teeth of the convention, something the USG clearly understood when it wrote and proposed the damn thing. But now that its being used to question death sentences in Texas, California, and elsewhere, it must go.
"U.S. Quits Pact Used in Capital Cases: Foes of Death Penalty Cite Access to Envoys," by Charles Lane in WaPo
"U.S. Says It Has Withdrawn From World Judicial Body," by Adam Liptak in the NYT
February 23, 2005
The Genocide in Darfur Continues
Nicholas Kristoff wrote an Op Ed in the NYT complete with horrifying pictures of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. He received the photos from a source in the African Union - they are part of a large, classified cache of documentation of the genocide in Sudan.
I urge you to write to your Congressperson and Senator to demand US action on this horrifying, preventable massacre. It's estimated that every month, 10,000 more innocent people die.
Here's what I just wrote to Congressman Danny Davis:
I am writing to urge you to work with your Congressional colleagues to immediately begin an American response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
I am sure you are aware of the situation and how horrific it is that the United States continues to do nothing to stop the murder of 10,000 innocent people every month.
Today, Nicholas Kristof published photographs and an op-ed in the New York Times clarifying the depth of the atrocities. Please take a look at the photographs to see the horrors caused by the Sudanese government and their janjaweed militias.
As a resident of Forest Park and a national board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, I beg you to help stop the torture, starvation, and killings of thousands of innocent people in Sudan.
Thank you for your help in this humanitarian crisis.
February 17, 2005
Another Nail in the Coffin of Democracy: Negroponte is Intellegence Czar Designate
Perhaps you don't remember that in addition to being UN Ambassador during the lead-up to the current Iraq war and the current Ambassador to Iraq, Negroponte was a key player in the Iran-Contra Affair. If you're reading this, you probably agree that he's the last person we need in charge of intelligence. I am disturbed beyond words. The man should be in jail, not Chief Spy of the USA. From the Associated Press via the LAT:
Negroponte's confirmation to the United Nations post was delayed a half-year mostly because of criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. In Honduras, he played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government.Good to see the Dems stickin up for human rights. How the hell can anyone like the guy?!? How do you vote for a candidate who puts his trust in scum like Negroponte? I am deeply saddened by the state of the nation. Saddened, but unfortunately, not surprised.
Human rights groups alleged that Negroponte acquiesced in human rights abuses by Honduran death squads funded and partly trained by the CIA. Negroponte testified during the hearings for the U.N. post that he did not believe death squads were operating in Honduras.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., reacting to the news, said, "The number one problem that has plagued our domestic war on terror is that the individual agencies responsible for intelligence gathering still don't share. It is my hope that the president will give the resources and authority to Ambassador Negroponte to turn things around in our disconnected intelligence community."
February 16, 2005
The Journal details the latest craze in Iraqi security forces: ad-hoc forces "commanded by friends and relatives of cabinet officers and tribal sheiks," which usually operate with government funding. A U.S. major explained, "We don't call them militias. Militias are ... illegal. I've begun calling them 'Irregular Iraqi ministry-directed brigades.' " There are an estimated 15,000 of these guys, and though there's obviously the potential problem of command-and-control, they're apparently pretty motivated. "Pound for pound, the toughest force we've got," said an American officer about one unit. Asked about the advisability of keeping them around, top training Gen. David Petraeus said, "To be candid, I would err on the side of fostering initiative. I want to get the hell out of here."Emphasis added. I'd like for the American military to get the hell out of Iraq too...I'm not sure if allowing national art treasures to be stolen and paying independent militias is the lasting impression I'd want to leave on a country, but that's just me...
February 15, 2005
New American Priorities: Make War Not Peace
Shrub unveiled his "emergency" spending request for his imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday. As WaPo points out, a signficant amount of annual DoD spending needs were rolled up into this request. It appears Shrub and his cronies want to hide the cost of their Make War, Not Peace Plan for the USA. They also want to stop pesky Congressional oversight.
A large part of the request, $36.3 billion, would go to the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another $5 billion would be used to help the Army break down its huge divisions into smaller, more mobile "modular" brigades as part of a major reorganization.From "President Requests More War Funding: Money for Iraqi Forces Rises Sharply," by Jonathan Weisman with contributions from Ann Scott Tyson.
Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank, which has research contracts with the Pentagon, said such "modularity" costs -- while necessary -- hardly constitute an emergency and should have been included in the president's base budget unveiled last week. Much of the costs of replacing equipment will probably turn out to be regular weapons-procurement costs not related to Iraq emergencies, Thompson suggested.
"Why this funding is in an emergency supplemental [request] is hard to explain. It looks as though they want a bigger defense budget without admitting it," he said.
On Capitol Hill, some Republicans and Democrats have criticized the Pentagon's reliance on the supplemental request, saying it curtails congressional oversight and distorts understanding of defense spending. "It removes from our oversight responsibilities the scrutiny that these programs deserve," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told military service chiefs at a hearing Thursday.
Dirty Assassination in Lebanon
I heard about former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri being killed in a car bomb on NPR this morning. I even heard that people were blaming Syria. What I didn't hear is that Hariri was the vocal leader of a political movement that opposes the current Syrian occupation of Lebanon. He was also a billionaire with close ties to the Saudi royal family.
February 14, 2005
Where Asking A Question Can Lead to Criminal Charges...
Blind Boy Grunt pointed me to this press release from the United States Helsinki Commission. Apparently, a journalist could face up to one year in prison for "insulting" a public official. The journalist asked a police officer if his refusal to shake her hand was related to the fact that she is Romani.
What is the Commission? According to the press release,
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.A further explanation is on their website.
Palestine and Israel Are Inching Towards Peace
Steven Erlanger writes in the NYT about his 40 minute interview with Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas. Highlights from the article:
1. Abbas will be 70 on March 26 and plans to retire after one, five-year term.
2. Abbas wants to negotiate permanent borders and not declare a sovereign state under temporary borders.
3. A refugee himself, Abbas cares about upholding UN Resolution 194 which declared all Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland or be compensated.
4. Abbas on Palestinians: "They want job creation, they want to eat, and they want security."
5. He encourages Hamas and Islamic Jihad to put up candidates for local elections, because he sees it as part of the process of turning the groups into political parties. He believes that democracy will grow in Palestine and doesn't want to deny any Palestinians the right to participate in the democratic process.
February 9, 2005
Bush Is Killing the World's Poor in the Name of Morality
Barbara Crosette, former chief correspondant for the NYT in Asia and the United Nations, wrote a powerful condemnation of Shrub's foreign policy in the Winter issue of World Policy Journal. The article is six, extremely lucid pages long. I highly encourage you to read the whole thing. As an appetizer to the real deal, I offer these highlights:
1. Shrub and the ultra-right wingnuts have aligned the US with ultra-Catholic and Muslim nations. The USG and its right wing allies refuse to listen to scientific experts on family planning because most of them believe a women should have total control over her own body, which includes access to birth control and abortions. Shrub and his cronies believe in only teaching abstinence (in the face of rape being used as a tool of war) and denying people access to condoms and any organization that gives information about abortion.
2. The right wing nutjobs have stopped all US funding for the UN Population Fund, despite the fact that it began as a US initiative.
3. Women's rights and women's involvement in the political process is being denied in International Treaties and Statements.
In addition to everything Cossette says, think about this: SecDef Rumsfeld couldn't even utter the words women's rights or women's political involvement when asked point blank by Tim Russert on Meet the Press last Sunday. He deferred to the moral opinions of the Iraqis in their own affairs. When exactly did the USG concede human rights to the religious opinions of other nations?
Women's rights are human rights. Reproductive rights are human rights. Reproductive freedom affects every single human being regardless of gender.
January 23, 2005
Your Tax Dollars Fund Rummy's Spy Network
WaPo ledes today with investigative journalist Barton Gellman's article, "Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain: New Espionage Branch Delving Into CIA Territory".
Some basic reasons for opening up a secret spy shop:
1. Less Congressional oversight of DOD than the CIA.
2. Rummy has personal control instead of relying on the CIA or DNI (Director of National Intelligence, the guy who is supposed to eventually control "all" US intel work.)
3. DOD is "less risk averse" than the CIA. (Meaning they're okay with having their people killed in the line of duty.)
4. Keeping it secret reduces public scrutiny and could avoid the government being attached to embarrasing and notorious sources. (AKA criminals willing to spy for the USG.)
Scariest quote, from Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O'Connell, who oversees special operations policy:
One scenario in which Pentagon operatives might play a role, O'Connell said, is this: "A hostile country close to our borders suddenly changes leadership. . . . We would want to make sure the successor is not hostile."Let's take a wild guess, shall we? Raise your hand if you think O'Connell is referring to Cuba.
Okay, everyone can put their hands down now.
Bonus points for naming other Latin American countries that could be described in these terms.
Venezuelan Government Now Owns a Paper Mill
I was first tipped off to this story from a Marxist article that was forwarded to the WILPF listserv. (Most of our listservs are open to the public, by the way.) I attempted to decipher to the news from the rhetoric in this article. Frankly, it's early and I haven't had any coffee so I simply went to Google news and typed in "Chavez Venepal." That led me to this article, which offers historical context and a more balanced view of the events.
Nevertheless, Jorge Martin (the Marxist) was able to include the most intriguing quotes. Apparently, these are the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:
Capitalism wants to annihilate the workers... here we are carrying out a process of liberation of the workers, and this is why they are annoyed in Washington. [...]I'm intrigued by the quote because I'm usually turned off by Marxist rhetoric. Their view of history is tinged by their Hatred of Capitalism and their belief in the working class seems ridiculously simplistic to me. (If factory owners can be corrupted, why can't factory workers have the same human flaw?)
In Venezuela we are at war, but not invading other countries or violating other countries’ sovereignty... here we are at war against misery and poverty.
Nevertheless, I too sometimes want to wage war against misery and poverty. Usually, I don't want to uphold the culture of violence by using such a violent metaphor, but ultimately I wish more time and energy was spent decreasing misery and poverty. After all, universal healthcare will not come if we all continue to accept that our health should be the basis for profit. We must accept a small amount of socialism into our great "ownership society" if we're truly going to fix the problems fo Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the uninsured.
I'm not sure if my belief in basic human rights turns me red, but this post could put me on a government watch list (if my past activist experience hasn't already).
January 22, 2005
Evangelical Relief Workers: Not Just for Hungry Africans Anymore
Anyone who read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell understands why mixing Christian evangelism with relief work is dishonorable. Turns out, some people see the aftermath of the tsunami as a perfect time to increase their conversion efforts.
David Rohde, with contributions from Neela Banerjee, writes about this problem in the NYT. Here's a classic example of why evangelism and humanitarian relief don't mix:
W. L. P. Wilson, 38, a disabled fisherman with a sixth-grade education, said he allowed the Americans to pray three times for the healing of his paralyzed lower leg because he was desperate to provide for his wife and three children again. Mr. Wilson, a Buddhist, said that he believed that the Americans were trying to convert him to Christianity but that he was in "a helpless situation now" and needed aid.Now perhaps I am biased because my religion doesn't believe in evangelism. But seriously folks. Even the major Christian relief agencies agree that relief and religion shouldn't be mixed. Alas, it's not just a random small church from Waco, Texas that refuses to recognize this crucial separation. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University plans to send evangelicals to South Asia armed with food, medical supplies, and scriptures.
"They told me to always think about God and about Jesus and you will be healed," he said. "Whenever I ask for help they always mention God, but they do not give any money for treatment."
How long before people learn that their religious beliefs might be a panacea for their own problems; but the world would be a helluva lot better if people stopped trying to shove their beliefs down the throats of others? Don't get me wrong - I respect religious people and I respect their right to practice their religions. I just wish everyone could do that without prostelytizing.
January 18, 2005
Rich Countries Should Pony Up Cash Money to Cut Poverty
The United Nations Millenium Project released a report yesterday entitled "Investing in Devlopment: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millenium Development Goals." It is 3,000 pages and based on the research of 265 pointy heads. Guess what their combined brain power figured out? More money would create more opportunity for the world's poorest people. I know you wish you were paid the big bucks to state the obvious, but you weren't smart enough to go into the business of telling poor people how to get less poor.
Some amusing bits from WaPo and NYT's reports:
1. Only 30 cents of every aid dollar reaches the poor.
2. The U.S. is the world's richest country and spends the lowest percentage of GDP on development aid - 0.15 percent
3. As many children die every month of malarie as died in the recent tsunami - 150,000 or more. Malaria is a preventable and completely treatable disease.
4. Oh yeah, eliminating crushing debt repayment (for the previous loans for the bogus free market approaches to poverty elimination sponsored by rich countries and Bretton Woods insitutions) would be helpful in achieving the current "goal" of halving extreme poverty in the world by 2015.
January 17, 2005
"Free" Trade Screwing Countries, Esp Their Female Breadwinners
Economists will tell you that the free market is the panacea needed for all the world's problems. They try to sweep under the rug the negative effects of their free markets. They call it "transitional costs" instead of massive unemployment and social upheaval.
This article in the LA Times by Evelyn Iritani, Marla Dickerson and Tyler Marshall details the problems caused by the end of apparel import quotas. I knew that these "structural changes" in the world economy were hurting Bangladesh, but I had no idea how far reaching the problem is.
See, men can't handle the reality of working in garment factories: the long hours, monotonous work, and constant pressure to produce more finished product in less time. So, the majority of the workers are female, and the economic freedom they gain from working allows them to expand their freedom in general. Also, studies keep showing that when you put money in the hands of the women of the developing world, more money is spent on food and education and less on cigarettes and alcohol.
Women make rational choices based on a desire to strengthen families and society, whether they live in Cambodia or the United States. It's a shame that the vast majority of voters here in the U.S. can't recognize the simple truth that women have the strength and ability needed to lead society towards a better future. We must continue to fight for equal rights and equal access. Until women are fully represented in board rooms, legislative, judicial, and executive public offices we will continue to be forced into pointless wars and filled with lies about an "ownership" society, where every individual must fend for herself.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. May this and every day fill you with a burning desire to work towards economic and social justice.
January 6, 2005
Disturbing News About Tsunami Survivors
NYT has deets on tsunami survivors: how they have to have their limbs hack-sawed off and doctors riding to work in the back of garbarge trucks.
"For Many Tsunami Survivors, Battered Bodies, Grim Choices", by Jane Perlez
January 4, 2005
Terrible News Roundup
Here are links to articles about the tsunami from Sunday through today. They offer more insight than the evening news (shocking, I know).
"Disorganization, Shortage of Gear Complicate Task," by Peter Goodman, WaPo, Sunday Jan 2
"A Tremor, Then a Sigh of Relief, Before the Cataclysm Rushed In: After southern Asia's massive quake, experts initially were blind to the threat of a tsunami. Others were unable or unwilling to act." by Paul Watson, Barbara Demick, and Richard Fausset, LAT, Sunday Jan 2 with reporting by Richard Paddock, Bruce Wallace, Mark Magnier, Elizabeth Shogren, Sonni Efron, Thomas Maugh II, and Monte Morin.
"Amid Good Intentions, Aid Workers Try to Bring Order to the Genorosity," by Stephanie Strom, NYT, Monday Jan 3. With reporting by Wayne Arnold, Ian Fisher, and David Rohde
"Aid Groups Await Island Access: Government Delay Said to Ignore Urgency of Tribes' Needs," by Rama Lakshmi, WaPo, Monday Jan 3
"Many Thousands Cut Off From Relief: Small Fraction of Food Aid Has Been Delivered," by Peter Goodman, WaPo, Tuesday Jan 4. With reporting by Colum Lynch and Alan Sipress.
"No Easy Access for Remote Islands: Car Nicobar, with an Indian military presence and indigenous tribes, is kept off limits to foreign aid workers." by Janaki Kremmer, Christian Science Monitor, Tuesday Jan 4
"Nicobar completely devastated, says Centre,"PTI, Monday, Jan 3 in The Times of India
Quake May Have Permanently Shifted Islands: Surveyors Begin Task of Determining Whether Disaster Altered Coastal Geography," by Rama Lakshmi, WaPo, Tuesday January 4
"US intensifies its role in relief: Its aid is proving crucial - and may lift America's image." by Liz Marlantes and Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, Tuesday January 4
December 29, 2004
Bloggers Rule the News World
via Blind Boy Grunt
fyi - mi chavo and I are going away tomorrow and will be incommunicado until Sunday night. So this is prolly my last post till 05. Happy New Year!!!
Snipers As Community Builders
In Tikrit, Iraq Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment combines community building with snipers on rooftops and house raids. It's a "delicate balance," that got jacked up yesterday when Iraqi soldiers were attacked yesterday on the outskirts of town. But on the bright side, there's Blues Clues in Tikrit.
From "Calm Is Broken in Hussein's Home Town," by Josh White, WaPo:
Soldiers have quietly monitored the people of Tikrit, implementing operations with such names as Orange Crush and Blues Clues to identify, photograph and tag all taxicabs and their drivers and all local Iraqi police vehicles. Those steps are aimed at securing the vehicles against use by insurgents. Operation Stock Market has logged all businesses in the city.This is the best we've done in Iraq. I'm not clear why we need snipers on rooftops and home raids to secure the peace. But there you go.
Sinclair has developed a relationship with the local sheiks, meets regularly with government councils, speaks to Tikrit University students and hosts a call-in radio show to answer questions. He walks the streets to encourage the sharing of information, and he has disbursed money to local stores to create jobs.
At the same time, U.S. troops have stationed artillery on the city's outskirts, placed quick-reaction forces in the surrounding desert, put snipers on rooftops and conducted frequent raids of area homes.
December 28, 2004
Guatemalan Travel Essay
In Guatemala, Bliss by a Blue Lake, by Joyce Maynard
At Least 50,000 Dead
Asia Struggles With Disaster Aftermath, 50,000 Dead Reuters report by David Fox via ABC News
December 27, 2004
Island of Sumatra Moved by Quake
Wow. I first heard about the quake in the Indian Ocean yesterday morning while watching the beginning of This Week (while I was waiting for Bozo Phil to get off my regular program). I knew that it had to be seriously major because they were already reported that it reached 9.0 on the Richter Scale. See, as a resident of Northridge during that quake, I heard many theories about earthquakes: including that they averaged the measurement for the Northridge Quake instead of reporting how big it was at the epicenter so as to calm the nerves of scared Angelenos. Frankly, that's probably hogwash conspiracy theories but there you go.
So the LAT reports:
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Indonesia on Sunday morning moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet to the southwest, pushing up a gigantic mass of water that collapsed into a tsunami and devastated shorelines around the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. ...I'm not sure how big Sumatra is, but it moved 100 feet and that's a signficant distance even if it was just a speck of land. Goodness. Someone else reported that the earthquake cause a glitch in the Earth's rotation. And to think that the land under our feet will be ringing like a bell for a long time. Exactly what does that mean? More earthquakes?
Seismologists will use the opportunity to learn a great deal about the Earth's structure, Hudnut said. Because of the magnitude of the temblor, "the whole Earth would be ringing like a bell for a long time," he said. That effect will be like a gigantic medical CT scan, allowing researchers to study the structure of Earth's interior in detail.
December 24, 2004
Corruption Keepin Oil and Gas From Iraqis
Here's the deal: ever since the interim government took over oil, gas, and electricity production and distribution, there have been more shortages and a bigger black market for the products. From WaPo:
Even if there were no sabotage, officials say, Iraq's fuel supply is clearly being diverted by the people who control it. The official system builds in numerous incentives for distributors to siphon gasoline before it reaches service stations. For one thing, the government sets an artificially low price for fuel -- so low that the government spends $5 billion to $7 billion a year subsidizing it.Hrm. Sounds to me like the main problem is that officials don't have to deal with the problems they cause. The bitch quoted in the WaPo story reminds me of school administrators in L.A. who say there's no money to pay for air conditioning in classrooms. Students and teachers sweat their way through the day, desperately trying to stay focused on teaching / learning whilst administrators sit in their air-conditioning chilled offices.
"It's bigger than the cost of the food ration," said Adnan Janabai, a government minister of state, referring to the massive subsidy for staple foods that, along with the fuel subsidy, eats up half of Iraq's budget, according to officials. "What's doing the damage is the smuggling."
For anyone entrusted with distributing gasoline, the temptation is obvious. At the pump, the price of a gallon of gas is officially set at 80 dinars, the equivalent of one American nickel.
Ten days ago, customers unwilling to wait in line were handing over $2.70 for the same gallon. On Saturday, the black market rate had dropped to perhaps half that, but the 2,500 percent markup remained a powerful enticement to sell the stuff on the side.
"Yes, the people blame us, but what can we do?" said Atiyaf Abdul Sattar, an Oil Ministry employee, who was driving a Toyota van so new it had no license plates. Because she works for the ministry, she had to wait in line only an hour at a Baghdad filling station. "The main problem is the security situation."
December 16, 2004
Plundering Iraq Uses Up Too Much Power / Influence
The Baltimore Sun has a great editorial explaining that our imperial ambitions in Iraq sapped up all available military and stretch us too thin to be of use to stop a true humanitarian crisis in Sudan. (Free registration required.)
It's rather dispicable. I get angry knowing that the only time The Today Show mentions Darfur is to hock bears, where a portion of the proceeds go to Save the Children, the leading NGO working in Sudan (whose supply truck was attack last week, killing two people). As important as it is to know what NGO is working in Sudan, wouldn't it be more useful to do news stories on the situation? To care about the world a little more during a morning news broadcast instead of yacking to every cast member of the latest movie or rehashing the death of one pregnant women ad naseum? (Recognizing that every human life is sacred, shouldn't more air time be spent preventing death from starvation and genocide rather than rehashing the horror of one person's death?)
December 13, 2004
Pinochet Indicted and His Bank Accounts Investigated
Thank goodness there are still some good judges left in the world. Judge Juan Guzman indicted Chilean dictator Pinochet and put him under house arrest for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them. In other news, a US Senate investigative committee found $8 million stashed in Riggs Bank.
December 8, 2004
No Police in Mosul
Apparently, it's not necessary to create a police force these days for towns with a small population...of 1.2 million people.
In the northern city of Mosul, insurgents bombed two churches, although there were no fatalities. The first bomb struck a Chaldean church about 5 p.m. It was followed by another blast 15 minutes later across town that struck an Armenian church.From WaPo
Residents realized a car near one of the churches was rigged with explosives before it detonated.
"We did not know what to do," said Sami Dahhan, 24. "There are no police to go to. People started throwing stones at the car to try to detonate it, but they couldn't. The car just exploded when the timer went off."
December 7, 2004
US Senate Authorizes Aid for Sudanese Refugees
Finally, someone in the USG is doing something about Sudan. Not enough, but maybe this will lead to something bigger.
The Senate cleared legislation today that would authorize aid for victims of government-sponsored attacks in the Darfur region of Sudan and press the United Nations and U.S. allies to impose sanctions on officials in Khartoum. The bill (S 2781), sent to the White House by voice vote, would authorize $300 million in aid, $200 million of which would be immediately available for humanitarian assistance in the Darfur region and eastern Chad, mainly for aid groups working in the region. The other $100 million would be available after conclusion of a peace agreement that has been in the works for months. Sudan's government and southern rebels signed a pledge at the United Nations on Nov. 19 to end Africa's longest civil war by Dec. 31. The bill also includes language added by the House that urges President Bush to impose sanctions on Sudanese officials involved with the alleged genocide in Darfur and freeze the assets of businesses controlled by the government or the National Congress Party.From CQ Midday Update