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December 31, 2005

Chicago Rejected Cheap Diesel for CTA

Citgo, a Venezuelan company, offered the CTA heavily discounted diesel fuel. In exchange, they asked Chicago to offer free or heavily discounted transportation to its poorest residents. Chicago refused; probably because it gets a lot of funding from the federal government. As we all know, the Bush administration abhors Hugo Chavez and Venezuela for defying corporate capitalism and leading a Latin American uprising against USG sponsored "free" trade agreements.

More info: "Chicago Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil," by Jessica Pupovac in The New Standard

Posted by cj at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

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 [...]

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

From the UN website (pdf)

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.

More information:
"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

Posted by cj at 9:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

This is What Democracy Looks Like

Evo Morales is poised to become the first indigenous president in Bolivia's history. The USG is fearful of his ties to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Fidel Castro in Cuba. Morales is a staunch supporter of the right to grow coca - which is traditionally used in tea, medicine, and religious uses. There is some concern that his political party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) is not left enough to maintain support among the more radical Bolivians who voted for Morales; and that if the government doesn't make sweeping changes in its first three to six months it is doomed for failure.

Bolivia has been a beacon of hope for global justice activists since 2000, when residents of Cochabamba took back the right to their water from Bechtel, the multinational corporation the Bolivian government had sold it to. (At one point, it was illegal for residents to catch rainwater because it was the "property" of Bechtel, which is based in San Francisco.) I learned about this struggle through WILPF and "The Corporation," which doesn't mention the fact that half of residents are still without water and water service is sporadic for residents who do have it, according to the NYT.

Despite the serious problems Bolivians still face, I believe they are part of the beacon of hope in South America. In Chile, the presidential elections don't hinge so much on a choice between right and left-leaning candidates as on their gender. On December 11, during the first-round of elections, the center-left ruling coalition's candidate, Michelle Bachelet, garnered 45.9% of the vote. Because she did not receive a majority, she'll face millionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera in a run-off election on January 15. Its a tight race, but if elected, Bachelet will be the second democratically-elected female head of state in Latin America.

In other news, the US continues to exemplify how to corrupt democracy, as POTUS rambled for an hour during his end-of-the-year press conference about why occupying Iraq is great for liberty, the Patriot Act "defends" liberty, and spying on US citizens without even the pretense of a warrant is actually a "constitutional right" of the Commander in Chief.

More info:
"Leftist Morales Claims Victory in Bolivia," by Fiona Smith with contributions from Bill Cormier for the AP via Yahoo News

"Evo Morales Becomes Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begin," by Gretchen Gordon on Znet

"Chilean election set for run-off," in BBC News

"Continuity and Change in Chile," editorial in Stabroek News of Guyana (home of the first democratically-elected Latin American female head of state)

"Chileans give a woman a boost toward presidency," by Jack Chang of Knight Ridder News Service in the Miami Herald

"Bush: Secret wiretaps won't stop," on CNN

Posted by cj at 8:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Sunday Mornin Talk Show Feedback

I'm struck by the narrowness of mainstream media's political spectrum. The only people taken seriously are Republicans and Democrats. If you're a "maverick," aka don't follow every single talking point from your party, then you are met with skepticism and hype. If you're a nut job, aka think completely for yourself and reject the mainstream world view of 9-11 SECURITY BUILDING DEMOCRACY, then you are occasionally invited to the table and mocked the entire, paltry sum of time you are engaged by the host. Doesn't matter if you're a right-wing jingoist or a left-wing internationalist, you aren't taken seriously by Sunday morning talk shows if you don't follow a party line. Furthermore, none of the mainstream media hosts ever question the paradigm of US politics. Its never important to include pundits from across the political spectrum, and forget about diversity. If there is a black man and a white woman on the panel, not only are you lucky, but its a sign of complete political correctness regardless of the views your token "minority reps" spew.

I'm trying to figure out where there's room in the national discussion for serious people who are dedicated to international cooperation and collaboration in order to create a peaceful and just society. Not just hand-wringing over the death of New Orleans or the horrifying and increasing gap between the rich and the poor in the US and the world. More than hot air, we need a place at the decision making table for peacemakers and social justice activists. I think our inclusion starts when we're taken seriously by the pundit class.

At least Now, the investigative journalism program on PBS continues to take activists seriously. This week's topic was Do It Yourself Democracy, with guests Frances Moore Lappe (author of Democracy's Edge) and activist Diane Wilson (author of An Unreasonable Woman). After being demoralized by the increasingly obvious right-wing slant of Chris Matthews, and former SecState Albright's refusal to call the US occupation of Iraq a mistake, I was happy to view an uplifting reminder that we individuals have the power to create the democracy we wish to see.

Posted by cj at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 7, 2005

Dr. Al-Arian Not Guilty; Patriot Act Dealt Blow

The Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP) campaign of US WILPF issued an action alert regarding Dr. Al-Arian's case on November 11, 2005. I am pleased to report that Dr. Al-Arian was aquitted on 8 charges, although the jury was deadlocked on 9 other charges.

At this point, Dr. Al-Arian remains in custody. He could be re-tried for the nine charges the jury was deadlocked on. The US government could also try to deport him.

I am very happy to report that none of the defendants in Dr. Al-Arian's trial were convicted of any crimes. I will continue to watch this case closely, since justice will not be served until Dr. Al-Arian can return to his life with his family in Florida.

From "Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.," by Eric Lichtbau with contributions from Lynn Wanddell in the NYT:

"This was a very important case for us in that it tested both the Patriot Act and the right to political activity," [Ahmed Bedier, director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations,] said. "The jury is sending a statement that even in post-9/11 America, the justice system works, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and political association - while it may be unpopular to associate oneself with controversial views - is still not illegal in this country."

From "Fla. Professor Is Acquitted in Case Seen as Patriot Act Test," by Spencer S. Hsu and Dan Eggen with contributions from Caryle Murphy and Julie Tate in WaPo:

"They have long proclaimed this as Exhibit A in the successful use of the Patriot Act and as one of their most important prosecutions in the war on terror," [David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law expert who represented Dr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar] said. Prosecutors proceeded "on a kind of extremely sweeping guilt-by-association theory ... without any showing that he specifically furthered or sought to further any violent act of any kind."

More info: "Al-Arian acquitted on 8 terror counts: Trial tests power of Patriot Act after 9-11," by Pedro Ruz Gutierrez from the Orlando Sentinel, posted by NY Newsday

Posted by cj at 8:04 AM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2005

Sunday News Roundup (not really)

Watched MtP today. It made me realize how severely stuck-in-war-mode Senator John McCain is. I cannot believe he actually believes the US occupation of Iraq is a good thing. Furthermore, he believes that to win the "propaganda war" its a good thing for the US military to pay media outlets in Iraq to publish phony news articles. So much for a free press being a cornerstone of a democratic society.

Shockingly, no one at any level of government has taken the 9-11 commission's report to heart. Government is corrupt and doesn't take its responsibility to keep its constuents safe seriously. Instead of no fly zones over nuclear reactors (which we probably shouldn't be using to begin with), we've got a permanent no fly zone over the VP's summer house.

And then there was prattle on the Chris Matthews Show. Katty Kay continues to be the pundit I dislike the most for her insipid commentary. But nowadays, since the show comes on after both MtP and Ebert & Roepert, I find myself not really tuned into the dialogue; instead, I read my paper and glance occassionally, wondering why Kay gained so much weight. Apparently, I'm reacting to the fact that she spouts Republican talking points, according to chatter on the web.

Speaking of Matthews, he seems unable to deal with knowledgeable progressive pundits. He mocks and dismisses Amy Goodman on Hardball, and I haven't actually seen a progressive as a pundit on the NBC Sunday morning show. Last week his personal thought was based on the cover story of Esquire magazine - not exactly reaching very far to learn that Clinton has created another chapter in his political career around public health and economic development in Africa.

I haven't been inspired by anything in the newspapers today. I was annoyed that none of the female politicians were featured in the Week in Review's roundup of Afghani politicians. In the print version, none of the female politicians were given photographs - only disparagingly revealed that many of them "didn't win their elections outright" but were put into power by the Afghan constitution's insistence that 25% of the lower house be filled with women. Mind you, this is only about half-way towards the goal of Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal participation in post-conflict resolution. And nevermind the fact that many people believe there were anomolies in the counting process for Afghan elections. Let's just complain that women might actually have a voice somewhere.

Actually interesting news I read today (not written today):
"Women gain ground in Afghan parliamentary polls: Amid cheers for increased representation of women, polls show most victories were result of constitutional quota requirements rather than preference," in The Daily Star of Lebanon.

Posted by cj at 8:24 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2005

Using Political Hacks to Dismantle Voting Rights in Texas

Someone leaked a Justice Department memo to WaPo that clearly points out how illegal the redistricting of Texas House seats in 2003 was. Career employees figured out how messed up it was that Tom DeLay and his aides used back door politics to significantly change the redistricting map without oversight from the public. Further, the opinion of 8 career employees was overturned by a higher-ranking political hack. The Justice Dept decision that the redistricting did not violate the Voting Rights Act (created by the political hack) significantly bolstered the Texas Republican swindlers' case in court. The memo was not made public during the 3 judge review panel and only the Supreme Court can overturn the decision.

It's a complicated case, including the use of token minorities who don't represent the views of the larger minority population in their area:

The complexity of the arguments surrounding the Voting Rights Act is evident in the Justice Department memo, which focused particular attention on seats held in 2003 by a white Democrat, Martin Frost, and a Hispanic Republican, Henry Bonilla.

Voting data showed that Frost commanded great support from minority constituents, while Bonilla had relatively little support from Hispanics. The question to be considered by Justice Department lawyers was whether the new map was "retrogressive," because it diluted the power of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice. Under the adopted Texas plan, Frost's congressional district was dismantled, while the proportion of Hispanics in Bonilla's district dropped significantly. Those losses to black and Hispanic voters were not offset by other gains, the memo said.

I continue to be aghast at the blatant corruption within the Republican party. While I don't agree with the Democratic leadership on all issues, I still don't understand why people continue to believe there is no difference between a Republican and a Democrat. Furthermore, redistricting in general infuriates me. Whoever gets in power changes the maps to get their political cronies more seats. Political maps should be based on geographic communities, with an eye on insuring a political base for ethnic communities.

More info:
"Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal: Voting Rights Finding On Map Pushed by DeLay Was Overruled," by Dan Eggen in WaPo

Posted by cj at 8:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 1, 2005

USG Continues Push To Shrink UN

The USG is pushing behind the scenes to dismantle and/or bankrupt all UN programs related to Palestinians. Apparently, a two-day stop over by SecState Rice is all it takes to alleviate the horrid humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The Palestinian Observer Mission to the UN, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Conference have strongly protested the proposal, which was put forward by the USG and Israel.

More info: "Move to Shrink Palestinian Programmes Spurs Protest," by Thalif Deen in the Inter Press Service News Agency

Posted by cj at 8:31 AM | Comments (0)