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September 30, 2006

Dateline Lebanon: Cluster Bombs, Check. Intl Support, MIA

Let's get this straight. There are about a million undetonated cluster bombs scattered throughout south Lebanon by America's number one ally, the Israeli army. These highly volatile instruments of death are scattered throughout villages and fields. Add that to the demolition of villages by the Israeli "Defense" Forces, and you've got 200,000 Lebanese unable to return home.

The UN made a big fanfare about its role negotiating a ceasefire and promising to send in 15,000 person force to secure the peace. Aint happened - they're nowhere near that number. Nor has the world community provided enough money - cold hard cash - to pay for reconstruction. But all this is okay, because Lebanon is a a "safe haven for terrorists." Nevermind that Hezbollah was created to resist the Israeli occupation of sovereign Lebanese territory. Nevermind that Hezbollah has a political arm that is part of the national government. Nevermind that Hezbollah, like Hamas, provides desperately needed social services to local populations. We live in a black and white world. And Bush and Olmert (Isreal's Prime Minister) get to decide who is a terrorist and who is a white hat crony.

I'm glad that Reuters is publishing articles about Lebanon. And I'm glad the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University wants the world to strap on some huevos and pay for the UN. But if mainstream people in the mainstream press aren't willing to point out the underlying fallacy of the story, they are continuing the lies of hegemony. Terrorism seems to be the new communism. Diplomacy and international cooperation is dead. G'd help us all.

L'shana tova - Happy New Year.

"U.N. shifts from aid work to rebuilding in Lebanon," by Matthew Verrinder on Reuters AlertNet

"Big headlines, small results at the UN," Commentary by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Daily Star of Lebanon

articles found via UN Wire, a weekday email service of the UN Foundation

Posted by cj at 9:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2006

USG: Still Pro-Torture

The LAT decided to lie to its readers today. It leads with "Bush Bows to Senators on Detainees." Apparently, the headline writers only read press releases. In reality, the military veteran senators acquiesced to the Torturer in Chief.

To be clear: the US is less safe because its government refuses to acknowledge the primacy of the Geneva Conventions. The US is less safe because its political leadership insists on torturing people they label terrorists. The US is less safe because it refuses to join the international community and support the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. Apparently, the rest of the world is only important when they bow to the will of our Torturer in Chief.

Editorial from WaPo: "The Abuse Can Continue: Senators won't authorize torture, but they won't prevent it, either.

But the senators who have fought to rein in the administration's excesses -- led by Sens. McCain, Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) -- failed to break Mr. Bush's commitment to "alternative" methods that virtually every senior officer of the U.S. military regards as unreliable, counterproductive and dangerous for Americans who may be captured by hostile governments.

Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday. Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of torture and bear responsibility for the enormous damage that has caused.

"Our Torturer-in-Chief: Until Bush took office, the U.S. had no problem defining what is cruel and inhuman." Op-Ed by Rosa Brooks in the LAT

Posted by cj at 9:37 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

Spinach Recall Caused by Overflow of Crap from Livestock

Warning - the following post contains a word some might find offensive. I find it more offensive that it occurs throughout our food system, and have decided to use the impolite term for feces.

Let's get this straight - all fresh spinach has been recalled from the US because there is no oversight of the livestock industry in this country. Factory farming and a complete lack of oversight from the USG means that animals are crammed into smaller and smaller feedlots and their shit is allowed to seep into area waterways. Owners are never fined and never required to clean up.

This has led to every single stream of ground water in the Salinas Valley to have huge amounts of E. coli bacteria. And since Salinas is the lettuce bowl of the country, an outbreak there spells trouble everywhere.

The thing is - this has been going on for years. It hasn't changed since the first E. coli scare based around fast food hamburgers. To read mainstream news you'd think there's absolutely nothing we can do to prevent the problem. Prevention is fairly simply: stop the overproduction of livestock. Force the industry to properly dispose of its shit. Slow down the butchering process so that shit doesn't splatter on the meat. And spend the money to clean up our ground water. Make the fat cats of agri-business pay for it - they've broken the back of meatpacking unions, they've forced us to eat shit for years, they deserve to pay.

Furthermore, let's bring back the public works administration - pay some people to clean up after dogs, cats, and wild animals in our cities so that their shit doesn't end up in the ground water system either. Then the birds will stop eating E. coli-contaminated crap and will stop crapping E. coli all over the lettuce / spinach fields. It's really quite simple - we must hold agribusiness accountable for this public health disaster.

More info:

"E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area: Salinas Valley waterways are known to carry the bacteria that poisoned at least 145 people and killed one who ate tainted spinach.," by Marla Cone in today's LA TImes

"Lab Definitively Links E. Coli Outbreak to Contaminated Spinach," by Mary Engel in today's LA Times

Posted by cj at 7:10 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

To Canvass or to Create a Community?

Ezra Klein blogged about the Democrats' ineffective GOTV strategy. Basically, he quoted an American Prospect article by Dana Fisher, The Activism Industry.

According to Fisher and Klein, it is unacceptable to rely on paid activists to create your grassroots base. Canvassing can yield an uptick in membership, money, or voters at the polls; but since it is a one-off event, it does not build depth to your base. Apparently, the solution is to rely on the left-wing equivalent of Christian fundamentalists: volunteers who create communities of faith.

As a former union organizer and a former paid canvasser, I think this is all hogwash. Activism should involve a combination of paid staffers and volunteers. Instead of only teaching staffers the art of door to door selling, paid activists should be developed into truly grassroots community organizers. This does not mean they should follow union-style organizing techniques. Instead, they should learn from Saul Alinsky, Ernesto Cortes and the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Then again, the IAF doesn't get everything right. Their reliance on the grasstops to create a unified citizens' voice leaves out a lot of people. But I still think it's a helluva lot better model than using people solely for financial or political gain.

The thing is that the Democratic party and the progressive movement will never get ahead by relying solely on winning campaigns. We've got to develop relationships with each other - starting with our neighbors - if we're going to change the corporatocracy that rules this country. I've been inspired by independent political activists in Chicago - where 100 years of synergy between business and politicians has upheld the most robust political machine in the country. Though Daley is still in office, and the machine won the primary election for City Council president, there are cracks in the system. And if people can crack through Chicago's system, then it is possible anywhere in the country.

Posted by cj at 6:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2006

"Testing" a Democratically Elected Government

The NYT wrote an editorial calling for Hamas to not only acknowledge Israel's right to exist, but to act on it as well in order to receive financial aid. In passing, they mention that Hamas was democratically elected and that Israel is withholding Palestinian tax revenue from their government.

The US can use any litmus test it wants before giving aid to another country. Its within the USG's legal rights to cut off aid to one of the few truly democratically elected governments in the Middle East because said government doesn't bow down to the US or Israel. But it is illegal for another government to withhold a sovereign state's taxes. And therein lies the crux of the problem: Palestine is not a sovereign state because Israel continues to occupy it.

Make no mistake about it - there is a crisis occurring in Gaza everyday. And everyday that the media does not show you the people going hungry, their infrastructure destroyed by the Israeli military, their land occupied by the Israeli army, is another day that the media lies to you.

I have no love for extremists, be they from Hamas or Evangelical Christians. Both groups contain peaceful, community-building factions and both groups contain hateful, community-dividing factions. But I'm not going to call for a moratorium on evangelical Christians, and I can't understand why it is okay for the US to stop talking to Palestinians because they chose the party that promised to rid their land of corruption and nepotism and which has shown through their local leadership that they can effectively bring food to the table.

The real issue here is racism wrapped in pro-Israel bias. Arabs and Arab countries must prove their loyalty to the US before we accept them as friendly, whereas Israel enjoys a "special relationship" with this country regardless of how racist and extremist its political leadership gets. You don't believe me? Take a look at Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's "convergence plan:" He plans to give up a few out-lying Israeli settlements in the West Bank; but also to expand the size of the largest Israeli settlements; continuing to build his separation wall and continuing to expand the Jewish-Israeli only highways and settlements within the West Bank.

How can we expect the Palestinians to give up their right to self defense when the Israeli government continues to meet with them at the point of a gun or a lethal Caterpillar bulldozer? As a Jewish American, I am appalled at all that is done in my name. I don't need Palestinians to starve to death to make myself safe as a Jew. I don't need Lebanese families to die picking their olive harvest in Lebanon from cluster bombs left by the Israeli army to make myself safe as a Jew. And I certainly don't need the US government hypocritically cutting off aid to a democratically-elected government to feel safe as an American.

See also: "US Women Demand US Restore Aid to the Palestinian Authority," a press release from Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section

Posted by cj at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2006

Liberal Bloggers: More Mainstream Than You Think

This week's Now program focused on liberal bloggers. The newest information for me in the piece was that I pronounce Daily Kos wrong. It's not "cos" as in "cost," it's "coas" as in "coast." Huh. I knew it came from the guy's name (Markos) but I never put two and two together. I also didn't know he was a refugee from the civil war in El Salvador (a war courtesy of US military and corporate intervention).

The meat of the piece was thing you'd know if you read the blogosphere: most bloggers are middle-aged, married, with kids. They're not radical, they're just political junkies. And Daily Kos is 100% focused on domestic politics.

Here's what's wrong with this picture: the mainstream media aint tellin you about world affairs and neither are the most widely read blogs. They might talk about the political infighting around so-called homeland security, but they wont tell you that there is no war on terror, there's just fearmongering. No one, generally, is communicating with activists around the world in either the mainstream media or the mainstream blogosphere.

Watching the segment got me riled up. Made me realize that it's acceptable that I spend a lot of time doing my work as the Program Chair of WILPF US, but that it's vital for me to take time out of that work to blog so that people outside the 20 or so who know about the oldest women's peace organization in the world can hear about our work and the reality of the world.

The other segment of Now was on the corruption in the Interior Department. Interior's Inspector General brought up the same point Molly Ivins did in her book, Bushwacked (which I'm currently reading, several years late). That is that when you put the chief lobbyist for the coal industry in the 2nd most powerful position for protecting our public lands, the results wont be so great. We're so lucky that he resigned. Of course, you don't need a coal lobbyist in place to make bad decisions - incompetency will do the trick just as well; like the 1000 or so contracts written during Clinton's administration that doesn't make energy producers pay royalties when pumping gas and oil out of public lands. Thank you, public servants, for defrauding the American people out of $10 billion!

"Blog The Vote" - this week's Now on the net

Posted by cj at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)