November 4, 2009 archive

Peace too ‘political’ for Veterans Day parade

When is a veteran not a veteran?

When he or she is a Veteran for Peace, according to the committee which runs Milwaukee’s Veterans Day parade.

According to the committee’s logic, inviting non-veteran politicians to march in the Veterans Day parade is not political, but having the word “peace” in an organization’s name is.

Members of Veterans for Peace have again been barred from participation in Milwaukee’s Veterans Day Parade, although the parade website says the event is “Honoring all Americans who have served.”

The committee has refused to allow Veterans for Peace members – many of whom are combat veterans with Purple Hearts – from taking part in the observance on Saturday, Nov. 7, saying Veterans for Peace is “a politically motivated group,” and therefore not welcome.

So much for “honoring all Americans who have served.”

Chapter 102 members (I am one) did not ask to participate in the parade to make a political statement, but to take our rightful place in the annual event saluting all who served our country in uniform.

Yet the committee, which finds us “political,” invites non-veteran politicians — Scott Walker, Gwen Moore, Tom Barrett — to march in the parade, and welcomes veterans groups which are outspoken in support of military action and war.

The committee’s reply, from Chairman David Drent, said,

“There is no doubt that your organization is a politically motivated group. One visit to the organization’s website makes your views perfectly clear.

“We don’t make judgment on your purpose. End the war or escalate it carries the same weight with the board. A political statement is being made and there is no room in the parade for it.”

“We thank you for your service in our Armed Forces, but our goal has always been to have a day of honor that is 100% politically free.”

The committee’s decision was unanimous, he said.

Pony Party: Travel

Something different this week.  The NYT always has some interesting stories in its travel section, and I’m going to post quotes & links to some of the more…adventurous…of them.

For example, there’s whitewater rafting down the Nile:

WHEN I showed up to go white-water rafting in Uganda, Josh, the Canadian rafting guide who stood barefoot in board shorts and looked like a hardier, hairier version of Brad Pitt, greeted me with a simple question: Wild or mild?

My advice, if you’re ever going to do this, is to choose wisely. Because the next thing I knew, I was upside down in an infuriated patch of the Nile River, a ceiling of white water above me, all those tranquil birds and flowers along the banks a violently disappeared memory and Josh screaming, “Dude! Watch out for the rocks!”

snip

We plunged. The curl of a wave lifted our boat straight out of the water and flipped us upside down like an egg in a skillet. But instead of immediately popping back up, a bunch of us got trapped under the raft, with the rapids pushing it down on top of us. It was terrifying, because there was no way out. I kicked. I thrashed. I felt as though I swallowed a gallon of river water. I started thinking of that scene at the end of “Titanic” in which Leonardo DiCaprio drowns. And then, pop, the raft shot away, and I broke through a fury of white water and feverishly gulped for air. That’s when I noticed everything was a little fuzzy, which leads me to casualty No. 2, my right contact lens. Gone. I spent the rest of the trip squinting through one eye.

http://travel.nytimes.com/2009…

The slide show:  http://www.nytimes.com/slidesh…

Please note: everything I’m linking to here has a sidebar with extra pics & slide shows for more vivid photos.  (Can’t post the photos here: they are proprietary of the NYT.)

Pony Party is an open thread.  Please do not rec the party.

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.  61 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Karzai re-election as leader illegal: Abdullah

by Sardar Ahmad, AFP

30 mins ago

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan’s former presidential challenger on Wednesday slammed Hamid Karzai’s re-election as illegal, piling pressure on the head of state as his foreign allies warned him to deliver on reform pledges.

Three days after quitting a scheduled run-off, Abdullah Abdullah said the subsequent decision by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to hand Karzai another five years in power had no basis in law and underlined its bias.

“This (IEC) decision does not have a legal basis,” the former foreign minister told reporters, albeit refraining from calling on his supporters to take to the streets in protest.

Goldman’s Near Perfection

  Goldman released its trading records from the 3rd Quarter today, and it was impressive.

 (Bloomberg) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, reaped more than $100 million of trading revenue on 36 days in the third quarter, down from a record 46 in the preceding three months.

  The firm’s trading division lost money on only one day during the quarter, down from two days in the second quarter, according to a quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. New York-based Goldman Sachs made at least $50 million on 53 of the 65 trading days in the period, or 82 percent of the time.

 The statistical probability of losing money on only 1 out of 65 days goes a little beyond just skill.

HONORING THE FALLEN: US Military KIA, Iraq & Afghanistan/Pakistan – October 2009

April 5, 2009 Dover ‘Old Guard’



Dover ‘Old Guard’ team shoulders heavy burden

Statement By Dennis Kucinch

Congressman Dennis Kucinich made the following statement today:

“Before we celebrate the new health care legislation, keep in mind that the American people will be required by law to buy private insurance and that they will pay a penalty if they don’t.  

That insurance companies will be subsidized by the government.

That insurance companies have had double digit increases in premiums in the past four years.

That we are locking in a for profit structure.

This is the result of a health care debate of which the flawed premise is that health care reform can not happen without the cooperation of the insurance companies, which make money by not providing health care.  

The truth is that reform can not happen with them. The insurance companies are the problem not the solution. This legislation, no matter how well intended, will likely not be able to deliver, cost too much and be another bail out for big business at the expense of the American people.”

    –Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-OH

A Thank You Long Overdue

On Running Away with the Circus

A short essay on gratitude inspired by Diane W’s melancholy ruminations about being a mutant in a world full of ‘bots, which struck an intimately familiar chord in so many of us.

While we were in Chapel Hill last week for Bob Del Tredici’s presentations we got to meet Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies, who wrote that excellent article about our long-ago adventures in being and becoming. She told us that the article generated a lot of complaints from the ‘usual suspects’ that have dedicated their ‘bot lives to defending the nuclear beast, yet those complaints included nothing that could have been considered pertinent to the facts we reported to Congress and the NRC way back then and Sue reported to the world in April of this year. In fact, the primary objection to our existence was the entirely predictable lament…

“But they’re just clowns!”

The Verdict is In

The verdict:

MILAN (Reuters) – An Italian judge sentenced 23 former CIA agents to up to eight years in prison on Wednesday for the abduction of a Muslim cleric in a landmark ruling against the “rendition” flights used by the former U.S. government.

Judge Oscar Magi dropped the case against another three American defendants and the ex-head of the Italy’s Sismi military intelligence service, Nicolo Pollari, as well as his former deputy.

From the Guardian:

The Americans are accused of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003, off a street in Milan, then transferring him to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany. He was then moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He was released after four years in prison without being charged.

The trial is the first by any government over the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, which transferred suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates charge that renditions were the CIA’s way to outsource the torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted.

The convicted Americans have been tried in absentia.

It would be good to have a copy of the decision in this case – in English, as I don’t speak Italian.

‘Death to no one’

By Bitta Mostofi

November 4, 2009

Today marks the 30th year since the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis began in 1979. On this day the media traditionally offers us images of  Iranians burning American flags and effigies of Uncle Sam. We are reminded of the great chasm of mistrust and misunderstanding that has marked the last three decades of US-Iranian relations.

But, in the past year both Americans and Iranians have asked for something new. Americans  have elected a president that promises to pursue diplomacy and Iranians have given birth to a popular democratic movement. So, we should not use this 30th anniversary of the hostage crisis to simply re-live tragedy and tension. Rather, today Americans have an opportunity to honestly reflect on our relationship with Iran and think about how to move forward.

For the past 30 years our government has dealt with Iran through policies of isolation and sanctions.

As we all witnessed amidst post-election unrest, Iranians have created a new dialogue within their country about respect for human rights and the democratic process. Now, those of us concerned with human rights must drastically alter our own dialogue towards Iran. If we herald the bravery of the “Green Movement,” we should ask what effect crippling sanctions would have for Iran’s human rights prospects?

Days before the United Nations General Assembly opened in September 2009, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and thousands of Iranians standing in solidarity with the Green Movement, called on the United Nations to prioritize human rights in discussions about Iran. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights avows that all Member States have pledged themselves “to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Yet, in recent discussions regarding Iran, the United Nations Security Council plus Germany focused on the nuclear issue in every instance. In doing, so they have consistently neglected all critical and serious conversations about Iran’s human rights violations.

Furthermore, the negotiating states chose to threaten the very fabric of the domestic resistance with “crippling sanctions.” Economic sanctions that directly affect and isolate a civilian population weaken the ability of people committed to creating a better, more just governance.

Consider, for example, the effects of comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq for a period of 13 years. Those who bore the brunt of brutal and lethal punishment caused by economic sanctions were the elderly, the sick, the poor and the children.  The economic sanctions directly contributed toward the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.  We should also remember that imposition of comprehensive, multilateral sanctions against Iraq proved to be a rallying cry for support of Saddam Hussein in countries where there was high antagonism against the United States. Saddam Hussein could claim to provide for the Iraqi people while the Americans insisted on starving them.

What effects would greater sanctions have on Iran? The Iranian regime has had years of practice in avoiding sanctions by relying on economic relations with China and Russia. The rising revenue and power of the underground economy has bolstered Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allies who control it.

Meanwhile, sanctions leveled against Iran are creating hardships among the poorest communities in Iran. In 2007, the Iranian government announced fuel rations for private drivers. Due to Iran’s limited refining capabilities, Iran is not energy independent, despite its vast oil resources. The decision to create rations has led to massive uproar and protest for a people who have already suffered extreme rates of unemployment. Inflation has soared to twenty-five percent.

Also, in the last year, Iran has faced a serious drought. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated Iran’s loss of wheat production at thirty-three percent. The USDA also noted that, due to the drought and reduced reservoir levels, Iran’s hydroelectric generation capacity and supply have been severely cut. These conditions will lead to severe agricultural problems and possibly to food shortages.

Furthering morally bankrupt policies that focus on the nuclear issue and greater sanctions against Iran will harm the Green Movement’s capacity to struggle for democracy and human rights.  

Iran has become the world’s poster child for the deficit of democracy that plagues many nations. Citizens of all nations understand justice and agree upon its terms with remarkable consistency across borders. “The arc of history is long,” Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “but it bends towards justice.” For 30 years our policies have failed to stand up for truth or justice.

A flyer from Tehran University marking this anniversary declares “Marg bar hich kas”, “Death to no one”. The Green Movement is turning a page in Iran’s history, creating an opportunity for us to stand up for new policy based on human rights and the will of the people.

Bitta Mostofi is co-founder of Where is My Vote, New York. She is an immigrant and civil rights attorney who can be reached at bittamostofi@gmail.com. Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, contributed to this article. Posted at Kelly’s request.

Election 2009: The Simplest Answer is Usually the Correct One

A few of the mainstream usual suspects are already billing last night’s elections as some rebirth of the Republican party.  While many lessons can be pulled from the results, sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.  To put it plainly–Democrats need to run better candidates next time.  Both Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds had serious flaws as campaigners, attempted to undercut their opponent rather than provide voters a reason to vote for them on their own merits, inspired neither loyalty nor enthusiasm among Democratic voters, and the relatively low turnout of both contests reveals it.  This might be a radical idea in American politics, but last year’s Presidential election showed that if a strong candidate with a compelling message runs then enthusiasm runs high and the results are tremendously successful, to say the least, at the ballot box.  To wit, Barack Obama was the first candidate I’ve ever voted for without needing to restrain the impulse to hold my nose while engaged at the polls.    

Out here in the grassroots liberal blogosphere, I see a lot of issue advocacy:  sign this petition, promote this legislation, block this vote, speak out against this person, advance this cause, and so on.  Rarely do I ever observe a means to draft worthy office seekers for upcoming races.  I’m sure there are any number of qualified candidates out there who would be fantastic leaders and inspirational figures.  Some complete unknown today could start at a low level and eventually work his or her way up to high elective office.  I mention this in part because I know transformational visionaries are found on this site and others like it; I’ve read their essays and their comments, so I know they exist.  However, so long as they resist a call to government service or refuse to throw their hat into the ring, we will be often forced to back the lesser of two evils and deal with the long-term consequences of bad policy and losing election nights.

Obama’s coattails might not have a massive reach beyond the immediate, but perhaps instead of relying on one impressive figure as a means to sweep less compelling candidates into office we ought to perceive of the President’s historic election as a different kind of bellwether, one that compels others into service.  Perhaps it is its own kind of mandate, one that tells us in no uncertain terms that leadership is not a passive endeavor.  Lest some people discount their own gifts, American history is full of successful politicians and leaders who were much more than the sum of their parts.  Thomas Jefferson’s angelic, erudite prose shaped much of the backbone that formed the American experiment in democracy, but he was a sub-par public speaker at best and a frequently shy, underwhelming, socially awkward presence in person.  Andrew Jackson lacked rhetorical polish to such an extent that his opponents often rendered him illiterate and barely qualified to hold the office, but his shortcomings in eloquence were more than countered by a force of will and leadership strength which insured that much of his stated agenda was implemented in the course of two terms in office.  These are but two examples pulled from the past and I can invoke the names of many more if need be.            

The reasons not to be involved, to be sure, are legion and indeed I cannot fault anyone for his or her reservations.  Successful politics requires a certain kind of personality type and skill set, one that demands a thick skin, a compulsion to shift position for the sake of expediency, a constantly uneasy relationship with moneyed interests, an occasional need to head directly to the jugular of one’s opponents, and the nimble dexterity to say what one means in diplomatic language which is perfectly clear to all but not incendiary in tone.  To be sure, some have neither the skill, nor the stomach for what can be an odd combination of narcissistic and debasing.  Yet, as long as we keep saying, “I don’t know why ANYONE would be in that dirty business”, we will get exactly that which we do not need and we will continue to elect weak legislators.  I sometimes think that perhaps the antidote would be found in teaching courses to our young adults entitled “Politics 101”, which would focus on the real job responsibilities required of those called to service more than a high-minded synopsis of the system and its multitudinous peculiarities.            

Political junkies and sports fans both like to examine numerical data from almost every conceivable perspective.  Sometimes statistics exist in both areas simply for the love of statistics.  To be sure, for example, I know this morning that someone is taking yesterday’s results from one particular race, examining the raw data on a precinct-by-precinct basis and in so doing is coming up with some new fascinating means of analysis.  What is produced is often either minutia or pleasantly inconsequential, but it does serve as food for thought, in any case.  The same people who brought you such specialized stats as passing efficiency against teams in the NFC West or the number of interceptions thrown by a quarterback over the age of thirty-five are about to unleash their latest bit of creative color analysis and like you, I will read it with rapt attention.  This is political science, after all, but in observing the particulars it might be more helpful to put a bit more effort behind that which cannot be defined in voting numbers and overall turnout.  Before internalized polling, before debates, before party primaries, before party identification, before a ranking of important issues from most important to least important, before any early measurable indicator comes the individual decision:  Do I run or not?

Oh sure, I know that it’s not as simple as will alone.  The recent mayoral race in New York City reveals that one can spend $100 million of one’s personal fortune and still barely eke out a win.  Being a national player requires friends in high places, powerful boosters, an experienced inner circle and staff, and the organizational structure to get the whole process off the ground.  Even so, one must crawl before one walks, and almost everyone who isn’t independently wealthy has to toil in the relative obscurity of the minor leagues before getting called up to the big time.  Those who do run need to ask themselves if they are called to serve purely to court the adoration of the crowds or whether they owe their devotion to some higher purpose.  So long as we consider politics a thankless profession, the Barack Obamas of the world that are printed on the ballot sheet ready to be marked up or displayed before us on a computer screen will be few and far between.  I for one would like to see a blogger or two in future making his or her first tentative steps towards changing the system on the inside.  We’ll continue to work on the outside, if they’ll do their part from within.  

Team In Training Update and post Election thoughts

Cross posted at DK

Morning all (cant say good cause it’s not)

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement is an Open Thread

27 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Science

1 Obama urges action as Europe ups pressure on US

by Michael Mathes, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama stood shoulder to shoulder with Europe pressing to “redouble” efforts to combat global warming, but opponents in Congress made clear there would be no smooth path to a climate deal.

Fresh from a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also made a heart-felt plea for a climate protocol in a speech to US lawmakers, Obama held talks with European Union leaders to assure them his administration supported a new treaty at next month’s summit in Copenhagen.

At a EU-US summit here, which continues Wednesday with talks with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the Europeans pressed Washington to take action on climate change ahead of December’s climate summit, warning that not enough had been done.

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