Friday Night at 8: MANIFESTO!

My Unified Theory of Everything

Well not really.  It’s not anything so fancy as a theory.

My manifesto, by the way, can be expressed in one phrase:

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Let us assess where we are now in the grand old blogosphere:

We have performed approximately seven trillion “gotcha” attacks on the media, reversing memes at the speed of light!

We have helped to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate and Congress.

We have spouted bloviations on every imaginable topic that if laid end to end would easily wrap around the circumfrence of the universe 50,000 times.

We have called to the media’s attention stories they would not otherwise have covered.

What we have NOT done is change policy in our government.  Bush and Cheney have more power now than they did before the 2006 election.  The War in Iraq is still raging, and I see no end in sight, no vote that points to our representatives ending this war.  We have seen no real opposition — NONE.

So, athough the blogosphere has accomplishments to its credit, ultimately we are all frustrated … which is why we are clamoring for a manifesto in the first place!

I’m going to throw some words out here.  They are words that have been so distorted, misused, misinterpreted and misapplied, that I ask you to try and capture your first impression of them as you read them:

SOLIDARITY

DIVERSITY

FEMINISM

RACISM

SEXISM

Solidarity.  Sounds kind of old-timey, doesn’t it, brings up memories, perhaps, of union halls and labor fights, communists arguing over coffee at a CUNY college in the 1930’s, hippies planning love-ins, ah good times, good times.

Diversity.  Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?  A real clunker of a word, brings forth notions of stridency, political correctness, conflicts, guilts and resentments, feelings of being threatened, privileges taken away.  But mostly boring.  No real resonance to that word, is there?

Feminism.  Now this is a real winner, isn’t it?  No three women agree on the definition, and no three men do, either.  This word has been tossed around so much, it’s dizzy!

Racism.  Ooh, hot button, eh?  Flung as accusations to hurt another, flung by haters who wish to defend themselves with preemtive strikes against those whom they hate, another term misused so often, too often.

Sexism.  Well, there’s so many folks who never gave this word a how-dee-doo to begin with, aren’t there?  And yet another word flung back and forth like a volleyball at the beach.

So I’m going to try to refresh some of these words.

On this essay, I shall tackle the first two words, Solidarity and Diversity, with diversity being a subset of the former.

SOLIDARITY

We hear what is going on in Burma and it breaks our hearts.  We hear what is going on in Darfur and it destroys our hope.  We know what we have done in Iraq and it sears our souls.  We see what is going on in New Orleans and it brings us to tears.  We watch what is going on with our migrant workers, families ripped apart, detention centers no better than gulags, and it makes us crazy.  We read what is going on towards the poor, families without food or healthcare or hope, and it makes us rage.

Problem is, if we try to focus on one of these issues, all the rest vanish.  Eventually we feel so helpless we don’t do much at all, the problems seem so overwhelming.

In our liberal blogosphere, these issues are mentioned, sure, they’re mentioned often.  But rarely on a consistent basis.  And rarely in a prominent way.

In the diverse bogosphere, these issues are spoken of quite differently and given center stage.  There are blogs founded by people of color who exclusively deal with racism, immigration law, social justice.  There are the local NOLA blogs that point out in excruciating detail just what is really happening in the region, from politics to social justice, to racism and to cultural events as well.

Yet we are fragmented, we have different goals.  We don’t have as much power as we could.

Blogs founded by people of color broke the Jena 6 story, did you know that?  Those bloggers were indefatigable, and often under threat, and they pounded this story until the traditional media got ahold of it.  And only then did places like Daily Kos cover it — and not too well, either.  Daily Kos quoted The New York Times, not Zuky or Sylvia or Afrospear.  No, didn’t cover it well.

We all talk about how the blogosphere can change things.  And I believe it can, I really do.  But not without …

SOLIDARITY

Solidarity and diversity go hand in hand.  In order to unite, we have to know who’s out there to unite with.

And because we are bloggers, we want everything YESTERDAY!

This will not happen when it comes to SOLIDARITY.

Let’s think for a moment — about those monks in Burma.  About those poor folks exiled from New Orleans.  About those victims in Darfur.  About migrant workers living in terror in America.  About Palestinians living in Gaza with no hope.  And these are a small sample of examples.  They all have something we do not – an understanding of how to survive under oppression.

How many of us have had to live under real oppression?  I’m not asking that rhetorically – the blogosphere is a big place and there are no doubt folks here at DocuDharma who could answer yes to that question.  But the majority of us?  How many of us came to blogging because we had our first taste of oppression?  How many of us?

These folks have had to survive under lifetimes of oppression.  Is it so outlandish to think we might learn something from them?  Something we do not already know?

And how do we learn?  By coming up with a recruiting drive to ask these folks over to post at DocuDharma?

Well, I have no objection to that, it is a small piece, a very small piece of the answer.  Fact is, we’ve already had Duke1676 post front page essays here at DocuDharma twice — they haven’t garnered many comments, though.  Duke is one of the best bloggers on immigration issues you can find.  His blog, Migra Matters, is on our blogroll.  Perhaps we could visit that site every now and then.  Same with Nezua over at the Unapologetic Mexican.  Or Kai at Zuky.

And those are only a very small fraction of what’s out there, and those are only US blogs – and we have blogs all over the world!

SOLIDARITY

What does that mean?  Solidarity.  To me, it means coming together, defying the artificial divisions that have been deliberately placed between us by powers who wish very much for us not to come together.  And it means effort, real effort — thinking outside the box — dropping preconceptions and prejudices — and before that simply finding out what our preconceptions and prejudices are!  It means expanding our view, expanding our minds.  It is a powerful force, and we are not taking advantage of it.

Until we do, I believe no Manifesto of any kind will lead us to REALLY “blogging the future.”

Thank You Everyone, please unrecommend this ESSAY oops

Thank You All for your kind words and wonderful pictures.  This helped make a special day in a troubled world.  Now please unrecommend, so our important essays get the attention they deserve.

I love you all,  Alma

Ponies for Katie

My daughter Kate loves animals and always has.  She’s a vegetarian even.  Every year for her birthday, she asks for a pony.  I told her “yes” this year.  (She’s 24 so, no, she isn’t expecting a real live pony.)  LOL

I thought maybe this year I could get some help from all you kind folk here.  If you have time, and know how, could you post a pony (or really any animal) pic here to help me out?  Birthday wishes are always welcome too.  🙂

Thanks!

Deerfield Fair

A welcome family fall tradition is a country fair.  Being 52 and having many country fairs in memory this year I noted two changes.

Approaching the free parking lot last year’s sign “Designated Protest Area” was not there.

The patriotic exhibit last year sponsored by Jeep was not there.  That and the Army recruiting station was mostly visited by fourteen year olds looking for “free stuff”.  The armament displays, a howitzer, Saw machine gun and the full camo bunker which were in place after 911 were not in evidence this year.

As suburbanites who are actually wannabe way back up in the woods on a secluded farm somewhere have this clash with the usual country redstate Bush is Christlike mentality.  Yes, we know people suck and wish to be far away from them yet we could never bring ourselves down to the mental level of redstaters.

People on political boards often comment on my “sources”.  This time I am going to link here only because the tazer event of Andrew was in fact commented on ad nausium by the likes of Faux News.

http://www.infowars….

I do realize “infowars” as a tin foil hat keyword yet it quotes an ever rising number of “Diggs”, which of course may only be going to NSA HQ room 4099.
Do my slight observations of a country fair indicate a change in attitude in this country?  I would hope so.  I would hope people tire of six full years of terra, terra, terra marketing backed up by scant facts, outright lies and C-Span tesimony of how Halliburton bilked taxpayers with their billing practices in creating “recreation centers” for our beloved troops.

As it stands now, from my very brief survey the attack Iran date is October 15.  I’m thinking with my Boy Scout “Be Prepared” motto as to how.  Given my financial restrictions how can I prepare for things like food not coming to the supermarket because the gas is gone.

Oh, ya, the federal government can “handle” that, just like Katrina.

Friday Philosophy: Learning to Count Past Two

If I were not exhausted and didn’t have an afternoon meeting…or if maybe sometime during the week I would have seen this coming and managed to set aside some time to write about it, this is where I would have posted a piece about the talk about the removal of protections for transgendered people from the Employment Non-Discrimination  Act.

But I am tired.  Oh, so tired.  As Fanny Lou Hamer said,

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired

Since I am having a meeting today to discuss trying to get my stuff published in book form, I have no time.

So I went back in the stacks.  Way back.  This was presented first to a Psychology class at the University of Central Arkansas in the mid-90s.  The professor who invited me to give this and several other lectures did not earn tenure at UCA.  I’m sure there was no connection.

Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by

Learning to Count Past Two

I read a paper by Jamison Green which includes some interesting thoughts about baring yourself to people.  It includes the following, which I include as an example of transgender humor:  It certainly beats the so-called “jokes” about Ann Coulter…

Stepping in front of the class we become laboratory rats, frogs in the dissection tray, interactive multimedia learning experiences.

‘How old were you when you first realized you were a frog, Mr. Green?’

‘How did your parents react when you told them you were a frog?’

‘Do you date? Do you tell your partners you’re a frog?’

‘So how does it work? I mean, uh, can you, like, do it?’

Well, I’m not a frog.  I’m an educator.  It used to be that I educated only about mathematics.  Lately I’ve been teaching computer programing.  But I also teach about many issues surrounding the question of diversity in human society.  My purpose in this series is to teach about gender.  Some of what I write may sound more like politics, but that’s because being who I am has been politicized by this society.

Gender is perhaps the first abstract concept that a human learns.  Long before we have any knowledge of anatomy, we have been taught in many subtle ways, and in some ways that are not so subtle, the difference between boys and girls.  Indeed, the first question that a new parent is asked about their new baby is, “Is it a boy or a girl?”  No other option is provided or even acknowledged.

From birth children are interacted with differently based on their sex.  The sometimes unconscious, and sometimes very conscious, intent of this difference in treatment is to make sure that children will “fit in” to society at large.  Parents are inculcated with the belief that what is ultimately important is that their child “be normal.”  The effect, however, is to limit the behavior of the child…to place gender barriers around them.

If sex, which I use as a descriptor of an individual human’s bio-chemistry, were a binary function, perhaps there wouldn’t be any problem with this arrangement.

I will use “gender” to refer to an individual’s personal view of hermself. If gender and sex were equivalent, then I wouldn’t be writing this.

If those were true, at the very least, there wouldn’t be a problem which would likely be noticed.

But sex is not two-valued.  The Intersex Society of North America estimates that 1 in every 2000 births results in an intersexed child…what used to be called an ‘hermaphrodite’, which intersex friends of mine have informed me is a term which they wish would vanish from our vocabulary (as one of my friends once said, “This has nothing to do with Hermes and Aphrodite”).  I’ve heard other intersexed people discuss a study in which exit interviews with delivery room nurses supposedly revealed that as many as 4% of the population are born with at least somewhat ambiguous genitalia.  Additional human babies are born with karotype XO, meaning that they are lacking the chromosomal sex determining factor entirely.

Sex and gender also seem not to be congruent.  The existence of transsexual people like myself and the many other gender-variant people that some describe with the umbrella term “transgendered” cannot be ignored when examining gender.

It has been suggested, the accusation has been made, that transpeople are delusional, that the tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of us apparently suffer from some severe group neurosis, if not mass psychosis, or are in the grip of some malevolent force, if not being ourselves the embodiment of that evil.  So strong is the cultural imperative to be either female or male, either girl or boy, either man or woman, that derision, humiliation, marginalization and vilification of transgendered people is considered “normal.”

Is it believable that the multitude of us, relatively tiny though that multitude may be, are all neurotic or psychotic?  Is it believable that we are the pawns, if not the source, of evil?  Or is it easier to believe that the descriptive system for gender is inadequate.  Given those options…and I don’t deny that other viewpoints may exist…and the demonstrable fact that sex is not binary, application of Occam’s Razor leads me to opt for the failure of the binary gender classification scheme.  [Occam was a philosopher of olden days. Occam’s Razor is the principle that “All things being equal, the simplest answer to a question is the best one.”]

I didn’t readily understand all this in my formative years.  No child does.  All we know as children is that there are boys and there are girls and that they are different, that they are to be treated differently and that they are expected to behave differently, and this behavior is expected to fall within those culturally acceptable limits I mentioned;  that is, they must be classifiable into one of only two allowable “gender roles.”  Violators are persecuted to the full extent of cultural oppression.

But even in the face of that oppression, there are people upon whom this gender conditioning just doesn’t take.  To answer an unasked question: No…it is not easy to overcome.  For some of us it takes a very large portion of our lives before we reject that Pavlovian conditioning, but eventually we do.

The very language we speak fails to acknowledge that any variation from binary gender is even conceivable:  we all know pronouns for female humans, for male human and for things, but what are the pronouns for non-female, non-male humans?.  The language does make an admission that there are people who supposedly fail at the supposedly “natural” gender-roles they are assigned:  we have the words sissy and tomboy, faggot and dyke, for example.  The logical inconsistency of the concept that a human may be a failure at what is supposed to be natural boggles my mind.

If my gender destiny was determined as soon as the doctor made a choice of what to put on my birth certificate, then how did I manage to escape that destiny?

One might, I suppose, follow the semantic trail and reach the conclusion that I and people like me are being “unnatural” (which unfortunately is synonymous with evil in the eyes of some).  But then what does “unnatural” mean?  For far too many people, “unnatural” doesn’t mean “not of nature” but rather means “not specifically approved of in the appropriate religious literature.”  Given that definition, gender becomes culturally relative, for in many creation myths, gender-variance was not only acknowledged as existent, but was actually revered.  Gods have been known to change sex and to change the sex of humans.  Indeed the god of the Old Testament is said to be both male and female.  Are not transgendered people then created in this image?  One has to ask how being gender-variant manages to gets labeled as “sinful” by the religious given this context.

No…nature is not to be blamed here.  Rather it is the case that we live in a society in which diversity is found to be threatening.  When people have difficulty determining our gender…when they become confused about the use of pronouns…when they have to think for any period of time, no matter how small, about the inexactness of binary sex and gender…the reaction inevitably encouraged by their conditioning is anger and hostility…if not outright hatred and sometimes even violence…directed not towards their own inability to cope with our existence, but directed towards us…the people who in their eyes caused the mental or linguistic dilemma.  Acknowledging the existence of people who are differently gendered as fully functional, fully participating members of the society requires work on the part of the rest of society, work that too many members of that society are incapable of doing…or perhaps more pointedly, unwilling to do.

I tend to think that too many “traditionally-gendered” people believe that if they acknowledge that there are…or even, can be…functional people who are perhaps neither gender, or perhaps both genders, then their own interpretation of their personal gender comes under scrutiny.  I can tell you from personal experiences that examinining your gender can be quite painful.  But it can also be intensely liberating.

Do people perhaps believe that the existence of people outside of the culturally approved genders means that the categories “man” and “woman” will no longer exist?  Surely that’s not the case.  The traditional classifications that currently hold sway for the vast majority of humanity will undoubtedly still be numerically dominant.  But certain concepts would become somewhat nonsensical.  For example, homosexuality would still exist, but what would it mean to be heterosexual if there is more than one “other” sex/gender?

And if heterosexuality becomes passe as a concept, what happens to the cultural advantage we assign to being heterosexual?  What happens to human interaction if we cannot automatically assume that we know how a person gender-identifies…if gender becomes blurred or fluid.  Would male advantage remain the law of the land?

Perhaps some people do have reason to fear us.

Gender-variance and multiplicity of gender were part of human history, they are part of the present, and they will be part of the future. The question is how human society will adapt to that existence.  We gender-variant people are waiting for an answer.

Pony Party, Riddikulus Edition

my sincerest apologies to alan rickman

If you don’t know what “Riddikulus” refers to, this might be a good time for you to scroll your way past the body of this Pony Party and jump right in to the comments…though you’re welcome to stay and be entertained anyway. 

Ok, now that we’ve gotten rid of the Muggles (and any stray boggarts, thank goodness, because they always turn into Dick Cheney around me, and who needs that late on a Friday?), I submit for your approval 4 “better” Harry Potter endings.  They are roughly and amateurishly animated, contain loads of cartoon violence, and in the end have really no real redeeming qualities whatsoever….( /disclaimer)

Better ending for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?


Better ending for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?

better ending for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?


Movie trailer spoof of a better (?) ending for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

It’s late on a Friday….and I’m patronusing it in.  I could tell you I’d been imperiused, but that would be a lie….

The ponies don’t have an hourglass in the Great Hall, so no points should be awarded.


Without further ado, the floor is yours…

~73v

Epilogue:  It might be best if pfiore8 didn’t know I used her Pony Party slot to post this…..just sayin’…

“River Rising”: The Washita Flood of 1934

Seventeen lives were lost in the Washita Flood of 1934, that brought about the
  flood prevention system for the surrounding area.
Little known is this flood with its impact and death toll. Less known than that is the Cheyenne Arapaho band that escaped that flood and why they survived. Nearly completely unknown is the short conversation my grandfather had with their Chief as he led his people to higher ground…

The Cheyenne Arapaho had not completely conceded their nomadic ways to the policy of extermination that had preceded them. Nor, had they totally surrendered returning to their old ways in the devastating midst of Indian Boarding Schools.They still rode on horses for transportation at this general time. Teepees were less commonly used, yet their nomadic lifestyle was yet being preserved up to a much lesser point by the use of tar paper on poles as substitutes. The justification for using tar paper over another material like canvas, was that tar paper was superior in its water repelling capabilities.  Ceremonial teepees were still used then, and are  still used today at certain times. Although they had no need for money prior to the invasions, white encroachment, and Manifest Destiny; they were having to bend to a “new way of life.”

The Cheyenne Arapaho had two primary sources of income there that I’m aware of. One was government subsidies, while the other was farm work. My grandfather, a poor farmer, hired a couple as farmhands. One happened to have been a Chief at that time.
That relationship combined with some cultural misunderstanding led to a short talk with enormous implications then and now.

My grandfather had been traveling near the Washita, when he observed that Chief with his people moving to an unknown destination. They had been camped right by the river, yet all their things were loaded into the moving wagons being drawn by horses. “What the hell is this?” he probably thought to himself. It must have been quite a scene to witness that whole band moving themselves for no apparent reason. My grandfather walked up to him and met him. Curious and bewildered, he asked the Chief by his first name, “What are you doing?” Getting straight to the point and in haste, the Chief answered, “River rising.” “‘River rising,’ what do you mean? There’s not a cloud in the sky.” The Chief simply gave the same answer as before, “River rising.” My grandfather’s curiosity peaked, “River rising, how the hell do you know that?” “Owl hoot in daytime,” the Chief said (the owl is believed to be a messenger of death by the plains tribes that I’m aware of).

My grandfather was most confused now and reacted, “What the hell do you mean `Owl hoot in daytime’?” That’s where the conversation ended. They parted ways and continued towards their original destinations with “no cloud in the sky.”


Source (for historical verification only)
Washington, D.C.- The Hammon Flood of 1934 hasn’t been forgotten by those old enough to have lived through it.  What started as a stormy spring night in Roger Mills County 70 years ago ended up killing 17 Oklahomans, causing massive crop and property damage, and prompting survivors to keep it from ever happening again…

It was in response to disaster like this that the government decided to take on the role of creating a system of dams and watersheds, to keep Mother Nature in check.  Today, these watershed dams protect lives and property, yet few people even know they exist. That’s probably because the only time people notice a dam is when it fails.  Because they don’t fail, the possibility today of a disaster like that of the Hammon flood seems more like a movie storyline than something that could actually happen.



Source
Flood Control

The Washita River Basin is long and narrow. The river flows generally from northwest to a southeast, perpendicular to the axis of the major frontal storms. This basin shape and orientation results in the generation of damaging floodflows. It is not unusual for several consecutive flood crests to follow within comparatively short periods.

Personal Conclusion

“River rising” then meant one of the worst flooding tragedies many might face in their appropriate regions; however, it is now true that enormous amounts of ice are melting, thus making seas and oceans rise.
The Chief listened to the owl and heeded its warning. I sure as hell hope that everyone is listening to all the scientists’ warnings…


‘Doomsday Clock’ moved forward
POSTED: 10:16 p.m. EST, January 17, 2007



Source
LONDON, England (AP) — The world has nudged closer to a nuclear apocalypse and environmental disaster, a trans-Atlantic group of prominent scientists warned Wednesday, pushing the hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight.

It was the fourth time since the end of the Cold War that the clock has ticked forward, this time from 11:53 to 11:55, amid fears over what the scientists are describing as “a second nuclear age” prompted largely by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

But the organization added that the “dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons.”
(Watch as the hands of time are moved closer to global disaster)

These Boots are Made For Walking

Magnifico said:

These boots are made for walking (4.00 / 2)

Marching right over the Bill of Rights.
Someone clever could do a mash-up with Nancy Sinatra’s song and Condi Rice’s fascist fashions.

Well, I searched around for somebody clever, but I couldn’t find anyone. I decided to give it a go myself…

Condi Rice Sings!:

You keep saying your Constitution’s precious.
something you all love, but confess.
You’ve been lettin’ my boss George run roughshod
and now the paper’s not worth what it cost to press.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

We keep lying, when we oughta be truthin’
and you keep losin’ even though you’re right.
Your Congress is weak, and you oughta be yellin’.
But we just laugh, you don’t know how to fight.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

You keep whining when you should be out there marchin’
and you keep thinkin’ that we’re just going to go away.
Ha! I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah
and Ahmadinejad is gonna make my day.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Are you ready boots? Start walkin’!

Breaking: Coup/Army Mutiny in Myanmar

(New News. Made the Rec List at dK, and we were fortunate enough to be xposted (and spelling corrected) by a relatively new member with specialized knowledge. 9:45 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

(cross-posted from Daily Kos)

Note – as I prepared a previous Diary, I recieved news via Cbox that a coup had been initiated and quickly drafted the following story first posted at Daily Kos you may refer to updates and discussion there.

******

The dissident website The Burma File in London is reporting news of an Army Mutiny and Political Coup with Than Shwe disposed by No. 2 General Maung Aye.

Since Internet service was cut by the Junta yesterday I have been monitoring dissident sites, Chinese sources and Western MSM.

Unconfirmed rumors of escalated violence against Buddhist monks by the army overnight are likely to be true but apparently many solders refused to attached religious leaders and an insurrection ensured.

Separately, a Coup appears to have been organized by General Maung and the army is reported to be guarding the house of dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.

It’s now 2:13 AM Shanghai time but I will try to confirm the above reports through other sources.

Hope for the best.

Peace.

[edited to correct spelling]

[edited to add a link to koNko’s other excellent essay on the Rec List- ek]

“Fuck you, army. We only want democracy.”

“Fuck you, army. We only want democracy.”

Myanmar: Junta Cuts The Line, People Crank The Volume Up

Protests turn to hit & run confrontation as people follow monks into the streets

Following two days of violent suppression and mass-arrest of Buddhist monks that left at least 13 and as many as 35 dead, workers and students took to the streets of Yangon Friday to continue protests in defiance of a mid-day curfew.

Taunting Police across barbwire barricades erected to cordon-off the area surrounding the Sule Pagoda in central Yangon, protesters outraged at the beatings and mistreatment of monks pushed the limits but remained non-violent, retreating to back streets when Police charged, reportedly shooting rubber bullets.

.  .  .  .  .

AP reports sporadic protests throughout the day with the largest organized march limited to approximately 500 people.

With numerous Buddhist leaders under arrest, political activists and student leaders have stepped-up activities and a coalition with dissident monks has been reported. 

Since the Junta cut Internet service and severely restricted Telecom, news from inside Myanmar slowed to a trickle. Foreign media and humanitarian organizations within the country are now under heavy surveillance, but dissident groups and ordinary citizens are still passing news by alternative means.

A few dissident blogs such as Cbox and Burma Genocide are posting messages and photos as available, and these suggest the Junta is continuing to raid Buddhist monasteries overnight including shootings, but it is impossible to verify the accuracy of reports. If you choose to monitor these sites please restrict your airtime as bandwidth is limited and these are vital information pipelines in/out of the country.

Meanwhile, international response to the crisis escalated:

– The Junta agreed to receive UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari who is set to arrive from Singapore Saturday.
– Sympathetic rallies were held in cities across Asia and Australia Friday with marchers wearing red shits to symbolize the bloodshed. Marchers in Bangkok, Canberra, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Phnom Penh and Singapore numbered in the hundreds to low thousands.
– Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda stated no intention to impose further sanctions against Myanmar citing humanitarian concerns, however, he phoned Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who assured him China will exercise it’s influence. US President George Bush also urge China to continue it’s support.

From what I have researched through Chinese sources, the situation seems to be worsening and appears to be at a critical juncture in terms of pressure on the Junta and their escalating response. Working through sources in Hong Kong and Singapore I’ve heard reports that death tolls could be as high as 100 with the suppression of Buddhist activists intensifying. However, most news at this point is word of mouth through SMS, blogs or mobile phones and it’s impossible verify accuracy, so I suggest to continue relying on MSM sources who have deeper and more reliable sources in the diplomatic community.

Some updated links

AP story 1
AP story 2
AP story 3
International Herald Tribune story 1
International Herald Tribune story 2

I would also like to briefly comment on Thursdays [Washington Post Editorial ],  which suggests any further bloodshed in Myanmar would be the responsibility of Russia and China since they refused to agree to UN Security Council sanctions, as if they would be effective in stopping a Junta with a 45 year history of violent political repression.

This is not only irresponsible grandstanding, but distracting and counter-productive in a situation where diplomacy by China supporting the pending UN Special Envoy, who represents the global community, offers the best chance to persuade the Junta to back-down.

China has been pressuring Myanmar for moths to proceed with social and economic reforms to no avail. The fact that China chooses to stay engaged offers a pipeline for negotiations that could save lives – so please, Sirs, save your words for another day.

Peace in our time.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. The New York Times reports that a senior State Department calls the Kurd oil deal at odds with Baghdad. “A senior State Department official in Baghdad acknowledged Thursday that the first American oil contract in Iraq, that of the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas with the Kurdistan Regional Government, was at cross purposes with the stated United States foreign policy of strengthening the country’s central government… ¶ Hunt Oil, a closely held company, signed a production-sharing agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government this month. The company’s chief executive and president, Ray L. Hunt, is a close political ally of President Bush and serves on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board… ¶ The embassy official said at least four other American and international oil companies had consulted with the State Department about energy investment in Iraq… ¶ Iraqi Kurdish officials bristled Thursday at word that the Iraqi central government would sign an agreement with Turkey on Friday that Kurds fear might pave the way for Turkish soldiers to cross into Iraq to pursue Turkish Kurdish separatists who take refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.” In semi-related news, Spiegel has an interview with Seymour Hersh claiming Bush has ‘accepted ethnic cleansing’ in Iraq.

    The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he’s talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He’s not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You’re going to have a Kurdistan. You’re going to have a Sunni area that we’re going to have to support forever. And you’re going to have the Shiites in the South.

  2. News from Aghanistan in The Guardian today — Taliban stands to recapture territory, warns Nato commander. “The Taliban stands to recapture ground this winter previously lost to British forces, the Nato commander in Afghanistan has warned. ¶ General Dan McNeill said the alliance had made important military gains in the past six months. ¶ But he said Afghan security forces might not be able to hold the territory as the Taliban regroups during the winter.” The BBC has more with Gen. McNeill in Afghan gains ‘could be lost’. Even more on McNeill and the detiorating situation in Afghanistan in my essay, ‘Top Commander in Afghanistan Doubts Taliban Ever Defeated‘.

  3. According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Army looks to accelerate expansion. “Army Secretary Pete Geren said the planned expansion from its official size of 482,000 to 547,000, announced by President Bush in December as the first post-Cold War increase in U.S. forces, should be completed in four years rather than five to alleviate the strain on troops from frequent combat tours… ¶ The new Army plan would attempt to build the larger force in a shorter time by instead moving aggressively to retain personnel. ¶ The military has begun to consider options beyond the traditional cash bonuses and college scholarships to entice soldiers to continue service. New approaches under consideration include the promise of graduate school for young officers and the offer of educational benefits for career soldiers’ children. ¶ The new approaches reflect the continuing fallout of the 4 1/2-year-old Iraq war… ¶ Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that he was inclined to support the Army plan to speed up the expansion. But he said he would not allow the Army to enlist more recruits without high school diplomas.” The AP has more in Gates expects to approve Army expansion. The Army’s proposal would cost “nearly $3 billion extra”.

  4. Of course, more Blackwater coverage today.

    • Reporting for The New York Times in ‘Blackwater Shooting Scene Was Chaotic‘, James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise write “Participants in a contentious Baghdad security operation this month have told American investigators that during the operation at least one guard continued firing on civilians while colleagues urgently called for a cease-fire. At least one guard apparently also drew a weapon on a fellow guard who did not stop shooting, an American official said.” After an IED detonated near to where “senior American officials” were meeting, Blackwater mercenaries decided to evacuate the officials from a “secure compound” instead of remaining in lock down until the situation on the Baghdad streets calmed down. During the September 16th Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater first shot a man driving a car and his passengers, a woman holding an infant.

      After the family was shot, a type of grenade or flare was fired into the car, setting it ablaze, according to some accounts. Other Iraqis were also killed as the shooting continued. Iraqi officials have given several death counts, ranging from 8 to 20, with perhaps several dozen wounded. American officials have said that no Americans were hurt.

      At some point during the shooting, one or more Blackwater guards called for a cease-fire, according to the American official. The word cease-fire “was supposedly called out several times,” the official said. “They had an on-site difference of opinion,” he said.

      In the end, a Blackwater guard “got on another one about the situation and supposedly pointed a weapon,” the official said. “That’s what prompted this internal altercation,” the official said.

      The official added that in the urgent moment of a shooting events could often become confused, and cautioned against leaping to hasty conclusions about who was to blame.

      AFP has more coverage in Blackwater besieged by more Iraq allegations. “‘The Americans are embarrassed,’ said Jalal Al-Din Al-Saghir, a member of parliament from the ruling Shiite majority. ‘What happened … is a crime.’ ‘To deter the company it is not enough to accuse it, it should first be condemned then closed down,’ he added.” The Washington Post has even more in ‘First Blush’ Report Raises New Questions on Shooting. The story details how the Army had to restore calm and extract Blackwater from the shootout. “‘The U.S. Army QRF’ — quick-reaction force — ‘arrived on scene at 12:39 hours and mediated the situation,’ the report said. ‘They escorted TST 22 out of the area and successfully back to the [Green Zone] without further incident.'” TST is a Blackwater ‘tactical support team’.

    • The New York Times reports by State Department count, there have been 56 shootings involving Blackwater so far this year while guarding American diplomats in Iraq. According to a State Department letter signed by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, Blackwater made 1,873 “convoy runs” in Iraq and its employees fired weapons 56 times.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Mr. Negroponte to oversee the department’s response to problems with security contractors. A government official who was briefed on an hourlong meeting involving State Department officials on Thursday morning said that Ms. Rice had appeared surprised at the report that Blackwater had been involved in a higher rate of shootings than its competitors.

      “She needs to be convinced that Blackwater’s hands are clean,” the government official said. Ms. Rice was also said to be taken aback by pressure from Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who issued an angry letter to her this week complaining about what he saw as the State Department’s efforts to block his panel’s investigation into Blackwater.

      The meeting on Thursday with Ms. Rice seems to signal that the State Department’s leaders now recognize that the Blackwater issue is more serious than they had first thought, and that it may become harder for the Bush administration to defend Blackwater and allow the company to retain its prominent role in providing diplomatic security in Iraq.

    • According to McClatchy Newspapers, Blackwater guards killed 16 as U.S. touted progress. “As [U.S. Ambassador Ryan] Crocker and [Army Gen. David] Petraeus told Congress that the surge of more U.S. troops to Iraq was beginning to work and President Bush gave a televised address in which he said “ordinary life was beginning to return” to Baghdad, Blackwater security guards shot at least 43 people on crowded Baghdad streets. At least 16 of those people died… ¶ It was an astounding amount of violence attributed to Blackwater. In the same eight-day period, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers, other acts of violence across the embattled capital claimed the lives of 32 people and left 87 injured, not including unidentified bodies found dumped on Baghdad’s streets.” The article gives accounts of many Iraqis being gunned down by Blackwater in cold blood including Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein, a clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, and four others in Khilani Square.

    • The House oversight commitee has released their findings on the death of four Blackwater USA employees in Fallujah, Iraq. “These eyewitness accounts and investigative reports conflict with Blackwater’s assertion that they sent the team out with sufficient preparation and equipment.” The committee’s full report (pdf) is available. The Virginian-Pilot has coverage on the report, Congressional probe faults Blackwater in Fallujah ambush. ” A congressional investigation has found Blackwater USA at fault on multiple levels in the infamous 2004 Fallujah convoy ambush in which four of its operatives were killed by Iraqi insurgents. The report, issued Thursday, also accuses Blackwater of repeated efforts to stonewall the investigation, even defying a congressional subpoena at one point.”

      The March 31, 2004, ambush in the restive Sunni Arab stronghold of Fallujah, in which two of the victims’ mutilated bodies were hung from a bridge, drew worldwide attention and prompted a devastating retaliatory assault on the city by U.S. military forces that fueled the Iraqi insurgency to new heights.

      The report by investigators on the staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says Blackwater “ignored multiple warnings about the dangers of traveling through Fallujah, cut essential personnel from the mission, and failed to supply its team with armored vehicles, machine guns, sufficient threat intelligence, or even maps of the area.”

      Based on reports from Blackwater, the company that held the contract previously, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the investigation found details of the incident “disturbing, revealing an unprepared and disorderly organization operating in a hostile environment. Mistake apparently compounded mistake.”

      The investigators concluded that Blackwater’s actions “raise serious questions about the consequences of engaging private, for-profit entities to engage in essentially military operations in a war zone.”

      One of the four sections in the 18-page report was labeled “Impediments to the Committee Investigation.” The report says Blackwater consistently delayed and impeded the inquiry, erroneously claiming that the relevant documents were classified and then seeking to get them retroactively classified. The committee finally issued a subpoena for the documents, but Blackwater still refused to comply. It was only after the committee threatened a vote to hold Blackwater in contempt of Congress that the company produced the documents, according to the report.

      The Washington Post story seemed surprised to report that Blackwater is focused on cost, not safety, report says. “The private security firm Blackwater USA brushed aside warnings from another security firm and focused on cost, not safety… ¶ The report disclosed that another complicating factor was a contract dispute with a different company. The report suggested that Blackwater never intended to armor its own vehicles. Instead, Blackwater employees were told to ‘string along’ the other company in hopes of forcing them out of their contract or giving them ‘no choice but to buy us armored cars,’ according to interviews by the committee staff with Blackwater officials.” Blackwater, of course, claims the report is “one-sided”.

    • The Pentagon announced on Thursday that Blackwater was awarded a $92 million contract to deliver people and cargo. “Presidential Airways, Inc., an aviation Worldwide Services company (d/b/a Blackwater Aviation), Moyock, N.C., is being awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) type contract for $92,000,000.00. The contractor is to provide all fixed-wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger, cargo and combi Short Take-Off and Landing air transportation services between locations in the Area of Responsibility of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. This contract was competitively procured and two timely offers were received. The performance period is from 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2011. The United States Transportation Command Acquisition Directorate, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the contracting activity (HTC7 11 -08-D-0010).”

News on mammoth cloning beneath the fold…

  1. The Los Angeles Times reports that mammoth hair is a rich source of DNA that could accelerate interest in cloning the extinct mammal. “Using samples of fur from mammoths that roamed Siberia 17,000 to 50,000 years ago, the researchers were able, they say, to reconstruct the complete mitochondrial genomes of 10 animals, even though some of the hair had been stored at room temperature for 200 years. ¶ By multiplying the potential sources of ancient DNA, the discovery could accelerate efforts to clone woolly mammoths and other extinct beasts, though scientists said it would take millions of dollars and decades of work to overcome the daunting technical hurdles that remain. ¶ The findings, released today by the journal Science, suggest that heaps of ancient DNA are readily available in natural history museums and other collections, not just in fossil bones buried beneath layers of permafrost, said Tom Gilbert, a biologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who led the study.”

So, what else is happening?

Writing to George: Pledges, Oaths, and White Rabbits

I have never been a truly religious person. I have my faith. And as my grandfather used to tell me, that’s between me and…well at the time, Harvey. Yes…the big white, invisible pooka of Jimmy Stewart fame.

That was pretty useful since my other grandfather a) never went to church, b) growled at the minister when he did show up at the farm, and c) had an interesting relationship with the land that I would now call magical.

In their own ways, both of my grandfathers instilled some basic things in my brain.

1. Faith is personal.
2. Question Authority…or even those who carry the trappings of authority.
3. Think critically about stuff…don’t just accept stuff, even loyalty to country, blindly.
4. Oaths and pledges are supposed to be taken seriously.
5. Eat my veggies.

So up went my hackles last night when I was listening to Coast to Coast AM, as is my habit, and George Noory came online with a comment about how he was surprised that some students at Boulder High School walked out in protest over the “under God” bit in the Pledge of Allegiance.

This sent George off into a nostalgic ramble about how as a kid he and his friends never even thought to challenge the Pledge. And that he wasn’t sure if he was completely comfortable with these kids, albeit using their rights as citizens, walking out in protest over the “nation under God” thing.

Naturally, he got several calls and more than a few FastBlasts re: the issue…and he apparently was getting quite a few that never made it on air.

Seems that many of them were ummm…more than a little heated about the damn liberals and their moonbat ways. Cause he was very quick to backtrack and point out that he’s really frustrated with the heated level of divisiveness that seems to permeate the country. And were protests like this part of the reason there was so much hate.

So…this came rolling out of my head after a long night of pondering my annoyance…

Dear George,

The original Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Baptist minister-Francis Bellamy: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” in an effort to bring a nation, torn apart by civil war, together…united.

The addition of “under God” as lobbied for by the Knights of Columbus didn’t happen until some time in the 1950s, which means that my parents remember a time where there was no “under God” in the pledge. And, I suspect, so do you…if you really think about it.

Last night you spoke of “not even thinking about it” when it came to making that pledge every day. Last night you spoke of taking an oath like that with a blind, unthinking loyalty. And last night you mentioned that your friends did the same.

No thought. Just saying the words.

Tell me, when you took your oath to join the Navy. You know, the one where you swear to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies-foreign and domestic, did you take that without thinking also?

Last night you questioned the judgment of several high school students for “thinking” about what the Pledge of Allegiance means and not wanting to use the words “under God.” And you wondered if they were part of the reason this country is so divided.

No, George. They aren’t. Not. Even. Close.

What you have here are some students who are actively thinking about what it means to be citizens of the United States of America. They are thinking about the meaning that goes into an oath.

They aren’t just thinking about Paris Hilton. They aren’t just thinking about the Denver Broncos. They aren’t just thinking about Friday’s party. These kids are similar to the young people who thought that Jim Crowe laws should never have existed in the first place and fought like hell to get rid of them.

They are thinking about who they are and how they fit within their country.

The real reasons this country is having issues can be found in the acts of violence and hate against those who would think the Big Thoughts about active citizenship.

These people:

The guy who drives his car into the mosque.

The guys who would blow up clinics: Maryland and Texas.

The woman who tells Americans who disagree with her to “shut up and sing.”

The person who runs his truck over the display of crosses for fallen soldiers.

The person who questions the credibility and intelligence of a Staff Sergeant in the 82ndAirborne who was part of a letter published in the NYTimes-after he’s died.

The guy who dressed up as Secret Service and kicked participants, with tickets, out of a federally funded Presidential Townhall meeting on Social Security.

The officials/people who have forgotten Teddy’s charge that dissent is patriotic and assert through inference that any who and disagree with them are either traitors or terrorist sympathizers.

The people who stood idly by as Senator McCarthy destroyed the lives of hundreds of people during his HUAAC hearings.

The people who will, no doubt, now send hate mail to the kids at Boulder High because these kids had the temerity to ask questions and think for themselves about what the Separation of Church and State means.

Those are your reasons, not the kids who’re asking questions.

What you should be worried about are the thousands upon thousands of kids out there who aren’t thinking beyond what they are told to think…or simply take the oath/pledge without even thinking about it…or are so focused on Michael Vick and Paris Hilton that they haven’t a clue about the world they live in.

And you, George, should be thanking your lucky stars that there are kids like this wandering around thinking the Big Thoughts. They were there when you were blindly saying the Pledge without even thinking about it…with that “of course, I’ll swear” attitude.

The blank faces that appear in my classroom and think they can skate through without thinking are the ones who scare the crap out of me-daily. They are the ones who didn’t think twice about the passing of the Patriot Act, and they won’t think twice about our bombing Iran.

Rest assured George, those unthinking ones? They are the ones who will keep saying the oath just the way you like it.

x-posted over at Dkos.

The Dollar Got It’s Ass Kicked Overnight — Pluto Gets Rich

The dollar is got pummeled against all major currencies today.  It’s a dangerous time for the greenback because it has plunged below its all-time lows (set back in 1992).  Often major breaks below key levels can lead to a whole new wave of selling. I’m seeing that start to play out against the dollar today.  It’s going to get very ugly for the dollar before it gets better. 

This is fabulous news for YOU!

Remember when Marty McFly got his hands on that sports almanac, and took it back to the past? That cleap little almanac became the most valuable item on the face of the planet — because the person who possessed it knew how reality was going to unfold — and could wager on it.

It was a sure thing! And so is the dollar (for the next 6 to 18 months) — as long as you bet against America you can be a millionaire lickity split. I’ll show you one way I’m doing it, below the fold.



Before I begin, let me tell you about another sweet bonus I experience doing what I am doing. Like most of you, I am infuriated that the Military Industrial Corporations, who are our overlords, are getting billions and billions of dollars next month (for its shareholders) and there is nothing the people or the congress can do about it. (You know in your heart that’s what going to happen.)

My sweet bonus is that I channel my fury into riches by investing cynically right along side our nation’s corporate owners. It makes me feel better. It also makes me feel better because the Republican moron voters can’t bring themselves to do what what I do — because you have to hate America to do it. They have an ideological conflict that fries their wetware motherboards. This makes me unreasonably happy, as well.

I use many methods to get rich from the destruction of the United States economy. All of them have to do with currency trading of various forms and risks:

Low Risk — U.S. Bank Certificates of deposit denominated in various currencies.

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