Four at Four

Some news and your afternoon OPEN THREAD.

  1. The Age reports Vital facts ‘deleted’ from UN report on climate change. “A major United Nations report on climate change has been watered down as a result of influence from government officials from countries opposed to taking radical action, conservation group WWF claims… The group fears that the report will play down the need for deep cuts in emissions. The report, which will be released on Saturday, will say that almost a third of the world’s species will face extinction if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. A draft copy of the report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns that if temperatures rise by more than two degrees – now expected before 2050 – 20 per cent of the world’s population will face a great risk of drought.”

    AFP has more details in UN panel in ‘difficult’ debate over global warming paper. “UN climate experts wrangled here Tuesday over a landmark document on global warming amid criticism that the draft report was bland and some of its findings out of date.”

    The source said there had been by sharp exchanges over what the document should include and whether it should reflect findings published after a cut-off date for new material…

    The United States, meanwhile, questioned a reference that implied that powerful tropical storms would increase this century. It argued that observational data could be interpreted variously…

    Some delegates, notably those from Britain and India… pointed out that the draft failed to take into account recent evidence of accelerated warming, including the shrinkage of the Arctic ice cap, glacier loss in Greenland, a surge in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and an apparent slowing of Earth’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases.

  2. The Washington Post reports the Bush veto sets stage for budget battle. “Bush vetoed a $606 billion spending bill Tuesday that would have funded education, health and labor programs for the current fiscal year, complaining that it was larded with pork and too expensive as he took aim at a top priority of the new Democratic Congress… At the same time, the president signed a $471 billion Defense Department spending bill that funds regular Pentagon operations other than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    Bush called it a matter of setting priorities in a time of war. “Their majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it is acting like a teenager with a new credit card,” Bush planned to say in a speech here, according to excerpts provided by the White House.

  3. Meanwhile, the Credit-Card-in-Chief runs his wars-of-choice by borrowing. The Associated Press reports Iraq, Afghan War Costs Are $1.6 Trillion. “The economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to total $1.6 trillion – roughly double the amount the White House has requested thus far, according to a new report by Democrats on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee. The report, released Tuesday, attempted to put a price tag on the two conflicts, including ‘hidden’ costs such as interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars, lost investment, the expense of long-term health care for injured veterans and the cost of oil market disruptions. The $1.6 trillion figure, for the period from 2002 to 2008, translates into a cost of $20,900 for a family of four, the report said. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report stated.” The Washington Post notes that the report found “the United States is dangerously increasing its reliance on foreign debt and that Americans will be paying the price for generations.”

  4. The Washington Post reports Middle-class dream eludes African American families.

    Nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults, according to a new study — a perplexing finding that analysts say highlights the fragile nature of middle-class life for many African Americans.

    Overall, family incomes have risen for both blacks and whites over the past three decades. But in a society where the privileges of class and income most often perpetuate themselves from generation to generation, black Americans have had more difficulty than whites in transmitting those benefits to their children.

    Forty-five percent of black children whose parents were solidly middle class in 1968 — a stratum with a median income of $55,600 in inflation-adjusted dollars — grew up to be among the lowest fifth of the nation’s earners, with a median family income of $23,100. Only 16 percent of whites experienced similar downward mobility. At the same time, 48 percent of black children whose parents were in an economic bracket with a median family income of $41,700 sank into the lowest income group.

So, what else is happening?

$15,000,000,000 to fight the “narcotics trade,” and Blackwater may get some

It gets more and more surreal.

Since the U.S. government is now a wholly owned subsidiary of a conglomerate of defense contractors and the fossil fuels industries, it’s important to find new and better ways for our tax dollars to support those murderous kleptocrats- preferably ways that attract little scrutiny, and play into the warped values so carefully calibrated by our corporate media. We can’t spend money on things that might actually help children, like ensuring that they have safe homes, nutritious food, clean clothes, and quality educations and health care. That would be socialism! But we can try to keep them from having sex! And we can try to keep them off drugs! Homelessness, hunger, and lack of opportunity are of little import, but kids on drugs is bad! And it exists in a vacuum. It has nothing to do with that homelessness, hunger, and lack of opportunity!

So, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that:

A Defense Department contract involving antidrug training missions may test the durability of the political controversy over Blackwater Worldwide’s security work in Iraq.

The Moyock, N.C., company, which was involved in a September shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead, is one of five military contractors competing for as much as $15 billion over five years to help fight a narcotics trade that the government says finances terrorist groups.

Also competing for contracts from the Pentagon’s Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office are military-industry giants Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., as well as Arinc Inc., a smaller aerospace and technology contractor.

Of course, the first reaction is to wonder why in hell we’d be considering giving more money to a bloodsucking private army that murders civilians and is run by a fundamentalist religious fanatic. That’s the obvious question, and it will remain unanswered. As our nation is dismantled and sold for scrap, Blackwater is the future. But the bigger question, which is, of course, overlooked by the Journal itself, is why are we looking to spend $15,000,000,000 on the war on drugs?!

(more)

The article, of course, makes the offhand assertion that the money is needed because the narcotics trade finances terrorism. Right. You know what really fuels terrorism? According to our own spy agencies, the Iraq war fuels terrorism. You know what fuels the narcotics trade? The fact that by invading Iraq, Bush failed to defeat the Taliban, who are now resurgent, and enjoying the profits of record opium crops.

But why deal with the actual facts, and the actual failures of this astonishingly inept and corrupt maladministration. We’re all still paying tax dollars, and corporate welfare is no longer just a means of siphoning some of it away. Corporate welfare is now one of the primary functions of our government. That and shifting the very functions of government to private institutions that are accountable to no one.

As the Journal article concludes:

Richard Douglas, deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics, counterproliferation and global threats, said Blackwater’s training of Afghan antidrug forces has made them more effective. “We’ve been very happy with the results of our association with them in Afghanistan,” he said.

Of course they’re happy with the results. Because record opium crops means just another excuse for more money to be stolen from the people and given to the corporate kleptocrats.

Next time you’re frustrated with DKos remember this magic

I know the Docudharma community exists because of some of the frustrations people have had with some aspects of the culture over at Big Orange.

So, I want to tell you about something special that went on over at the Daily Kos last night that will remind you what the DKos community has at its heart – underneath some of the sniping. Yesterday at 3pm, AndyT posted what is probably the definitive diary on the Pretty Bird Woman House, partly because he did a lot of extra research on the shelter itself. Devilstower then Front Paged it around 4pm. Well, then something amazing happened. People were touched. Momentum Happened. A matching grant happened. We went from having $3600 at 4pm to having about $11,500 at 10pm, when the challenge expired. We now have $12,800 at 1pm EST, and this isn’t even counting the match.

Because this community is derived from that community, the same kinds of big hearts are over here as well (minus the candidate wars :)). Both communities are really special.

Of course, if you haven’t chipped in yet (and it doesn’t have to be a monetary contribution if you’re short on cash), this is an invitation to do so. But read this diary first.

Namaste.

This is Andy Ternay’s diary, cross-posted with his permission.

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If you are a progressive, odds are you want to make the world a better place – not just for you and your cronies, but for everyone. This diary gives you a concrete chance to do exactly that – to make the world a better place for families.

The diary below the fold largely comes from an interview with the Director of Pretty Bird Woman House, Georgia Little Shield and from the Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice – The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA, published in April 2007.  When I have drawn from other sources I have provided a link or citation.

If you already know you want to contribute, donate here.

Origins of Pretty Bird Woman House

In October of 2001 a monster in the body of a fifteen-year-old boy stalked the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota. Since his tenth birthday he had racked up twenty-five separate criminal charges, included among them was torturing a kitten to death. Another incident involved his shattering a beer bottle over the head of an eight year old. Thirty one year old Ivy Archambault had the misfortune of being home asleep when he broke into her house intent on burglary. Before the night ended he kidnapped, raped and beat her to death.  In the six years since this crime was committed, he has never been charged with the murder despite eyewitnesses willing to testify, thanks to a nightmarish maze of confusing tribal, federal, state and local jurisdictions and laws.  (Sources: Indian Country News , Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Citizen’s Equal Rights Alliance)


Pretty Bird Woman

Ivy Archambault’s murder might well have passed from memory without any impact. But Jackie Brown Otter, her sister, had other ideas; she envisioned a shelter, a place where threatened women could go. A base for the fight to prevent these crimes and when they occur, seek justice on behalf of the victim. She wanted to name this place with her sister’s Lakota name: Pretty Bird Woman. Over the course of three years she and a small group of women struggled to make this happen. Then, in late 2004, the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence came through with a grant and hired Georgia Little Shield, a nurse with ten years experience in the domestic violence as Director of Pretty Bird Woman House.  

Georgia Little Shield knows a little about domestic violence:

I’m a survivor. I was abused as a child. It was real bad. I almost succeeded in committing suicide – you see, back then, the only place I had to go was to die. There was nothing, no shelter, no counseling on the reservation,  nowhere I could turn. There was no help for me and I just wanted to die. No woman should have to go through that. No woman should feel that way…

Nobody’s going to talk for these women but us. We have to help them. We have to let them know, there is help. We don’t have to tolerate it no more. We have rights.

Georgia started in October 2005. The local tribal district government donated office space and on January 5th, 2006, Pretty Bird Woman House opened for business and has not closed since despite a constant struggle to survive.


Jackie Brown Otter. Photo from Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice – The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA and © Adam Nadel.

Scope of the Problem

Standing Rock Reservation is not particularly friendly to women.  According to the Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice – The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA:

High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime. South Dakota has the highest poverty rate for Native American women in the USA with 45.3 per cent living in poverty. The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of “forcible rapes” of women of any US state.

Amnesty International was told of five rapes which took place over one week in September 2005. Many survivors reported that they had experienced sexual violence several times in their lives and by different perpetrators. There were also several reports of gang rapes. One survivor and activist told Amnesty International that people have become desensitized to acts of sexual violence. A common response to such crimes is blame, but directed at the survivor rather than the perpetrator.

Making things worse, Standing Rock Reservation has a tiny police force to patrol all 2.3 million acres. At the time of the murder of Pretty Bird Woman, Standing Rock had only one police officer on duty during the night shift. As a result, it took over a day for anyone to even come out to start to investigate the disappearance. Since then the night patrol has doubled in size… 2 officers for 2.3 million acres each night.

Further compounding the problem, Amnesty reports on the legal nightmare facing the victims, their advocates and the police:

Tribal and federal authorities have concurrent jurisdiction on all Standing Rock Sioux Reservation lands over crimes where the suspected perpetrator is American Indian. In instances in which the suspected perpetrator is non-Indian, federal officials have exclusive jurisdiction. Neither North nor South Dakota state police have jurisdiction over sexual violence against Native American women on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. State police do, however, have jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed on tribal land in instances where the victim and the perpetrator are both non-Indian.

This legal mess has produced three distinct and uniquely horrifying results.

Police agencies often work at cross purposes when it comes to investigating and prosecuting the crime.

“When an emergency call comes in, the sheriff will say ‘but this is Indian land.’ Tribal police will show up and say the reverse. Then, they just bicker and don’t do the job. Many times, this is what occurs. And it doesn’t always get resolved, which means no rape [sexual assault evidence] kit, etc.”

Juskwa Burnett, support worker for Native American survivors of sexual violence, May 2005

Georgia Little Shield told me that when her daughter was beaten by her husband, the husband, remorseful after hitting her daughter, took her daughter to the hospital and asked to be arrested. As emergency workers rebuilt her daughter’s shattered nose the police argued over who was responsible for handling the crime. Finally, the city police gave the husband – who was still wearing the t-shirt covered in his wife’s blood – his car keys and told him to just go home, nothing was going to happen. And nothing has.

The next result is the predictable outcome of this legal mess – women do not report rapes and domestic violence because when they do, they will suffer victimization by the system. Georgia Little Shield told me: Women don’t report because not a darn thing will be done for them. The Amnesty International report bears this assertion out:

Amnesty International’s interviews with survivors, activists and support workers across the USA suggest that available statistics greatly underestimate the severity of the problem. In the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, for example, many of the women who agreed to be interviewed could not think of any Native women within their community who had not been subjected to sexual violence.

The legal mess surrounding the prosecution of offenders on tribal lands has essentially created new variant on sex tourism: Rape Tourism:

“[N]on-Native perpetrators often seek out a reservation place because they know they can inflict violence without much happening to them.”

Andrea Smith, Assistant Professor of Native Studies, University of Michigan

So this is the battlefield on which Georgia Little Shield and her tiny team fights. She tells me that there are police officers there who want to help and want to prosecute but cannot do so. So essentially, the three women who work for Pretty Bird Woman House work alone.

Services Offered by Pretty Bird Woman House

What can Pretty Bird Woman House do against all of this injustice? Small miracles, one day at a time. In the first ten months of 2007 Pretty Bird Woman House accomplished the following:

  • answered 397 crisis calls
  • gave emergency shelter to 188 women and 132 children
  • helped 23 women obtain restraining orders, 10 get divorces, and 16 get medical assistance
  • provided court advocacy support for 28 women
  • conducted community education programs for 360 women.
  • These impressive achievements achieve a new stature when put into the context of what happened to Pretty Bird Woman House during the exact same time frame. In April, the grant from the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence ran out. Georgia Little Shield’s salary ended as did the phone service (including crisis line). Pretty Bird Woman House had a staff of three, Georgia Little Shield and at that time, one part time advocate and one volunteer advocate. They were waiting, hoping for a Federal grant to come through at the time they ran out of funding. By the complex rules of the grants, that should have ended Pretty Bird Woman House right there because they could not have provided the services (the crisis line) required to receive the Federal grant. Georgia Little Shield prepared to continue work without pay, realizing that she would not even have the gas money to drive into town many times.

    Pretty Bird Woman House needed over $25,000 to make it until September when the Federal grant might kick in. Raising that kind of money on Standing Rock seemed an impossibility. Tribal government remained supportive of the shelter but had no further resources to share after donating a small building at the end of 2006. Further compounding the problem, the three staff members of Pretty Bird Woman House needed to spend their time helping women, not scavenging for non-existent funds.

    The Progressive Netroots Miracle

    At this time this situation came to the attention of Daily Kos user nbier(I’m not clear how) and he created a chip in page for the effort and followed up with a series of diaries trying to raise funds. And then a miracle happened. Other Daily Kos members diaried about this:  flautist, sarac, njgoldfinch and frontpager Devilstower jumped in.  From Daily Kos the news spread virally and Christy Hardin-Smith at Firedoglake, mole333 at Culture Kitchen, DB at Queen of Pentacles, William Neuheisel at Creative Evolution…. and many more I have missed kept the torch lit.

    The result? Over 680 strangers donated $27,500…


    Norman Bier’s thank you post at the completion of the first successful fundraising drive

    This money functioned as the operating funds for the shelter from May through September of 2007. The Progressive Netroots paid for crisis phone lines, Georgia Little Shield’s salary, a financial advocate for the shelter, court costs, operating expenses, food, clothing, toiletries and other incidental expenses. This money literally saved the lives of women on the Standing Rock shelter:

    I just got off the phone with Georgia Little Shield, Director and Advocate at the Pretty Bird Woman House.  Over the weekend, the shelter received a call from a woman who needed to be evacuated.  If this had happened on Thursday, the shelter would not have been able to do much more than take the call.  But because of your efforts, Georgia was able to tell this woman: “Don’t worry about the money–we have money coming.  Just get out and come in.”

    In late September the Federal grant was awarded, paying the salaries for Georgia Little Shield and two more full time shelter staff/advocates. The future of Pretty Bird Woman House seemed assured. With the support of the Tribal Government, a shelter to house women in danger and the federal grant the pieces had finally come together and the women of Standing Rock had a permanent sanctuary.

    This security proved illusory.

    Losing the House

    Georgia Little Shield described the abandoned building donated to Pretty Bird Woman House by the Bear Soldier District government in late 2006 as being able to house one family and two single women at a time with room for office space on the bottom floor. While not luxurious by any means, it had all the necessities; running water, electricity, telephone lines, a small amount of storage and shelter from South Dakota’s harsh winter. The biggest drawback lay in the fact that the building’s remote location made it difficult for the small police force to quickly respond.

    The first signs of danger came when Pretty Bird Woman House offered shelter to a woman whose batter had a record of extreme violence. Fearing for her safety, they transferred her to a shelter off of the reservation. The next day someone cut the shelter’s phone lines. Police did not have the manpower to come out and see the cut phone lines and eventually the phone company fixed them.

    Shortly after this unknown men entered an adjoining abandoned building. They kicked and tore a hole through the drywall wide enough to walk through and looted the shelter of anything they could carry: televisions, computers, clothing, toiletries (all donated or purchased with donations) – literally anything that could be carried. This happened in broad daylight while the shelter was empty – the staff were all absent transporting women to court or other shelters. Clearly the perpetrators watched the shelter for such an opportunity.

    After a second break in, local government and Pretty Bird Woman House realized that the shelter could not function safely. The staff moved out and returned to the unheated donated office space.  The day after they moved out the crisis line got a telephone call:

    Lady, your shelter is on fire, they are burning down your shelter.

    Arsonists had thrown some kind of molotov cocktail through a basement window, setting fire to the building.

    This blow dealt a terrible setback to Pretty Bird Woman House. Some of the grants they depend on require that they provide shelter to battered women and their children. All the advantages they gained – not having to make three and four hour trips transporting women to neighboring shelters (assuming those shelters had room), having a stable base of operations, having the extra time not spent driving, or calling to place women doing grant writing – all of these advantages vanished.

    While Georgia Little Shield maintains a stoic resolve that Pretty Bird Woman House will survive regardless, others wonder if the shelter can make it. Some feel the shelter has been targeted (sorry for the “some say” construction – anonymity is a real concern for these people) for destruction.


    Georgia Little Shield. Photo from Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice – The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA and © Adam Nadel.

    Fears and Hopes for the Future

    Georgia Little Shield has modest dreams for Pretty Bird Woman House:

    I want to have a shelter and four paid advocates. Two advocates would focus on sexual assualt – currently  we must travel 120 miles to get rape kit. We need two advocates  for domestic violence as well. Domestic violence calls make up most of our crisis calls, but sexual assault requires a lot of resources. I want  to be able to teach women’s safety classes, parenting classes, offer assistance in getting GED’s, have a place for women to look for jobs on line. These are the kind of support services I want to offer.

    She has not forgotten the men who batter either:

    I want to offer them classes to help them stop being violent. Anger management  and things like that. Hopefully it would make a difference.

    Georgia Little Shield hopes these things can happen but the most important goal for her:

    Pretty Bird Woman House must be self sufficient. I have chronic heart problems and diabetes… my health is real bad. I just want to make sure Pretty Bird Woman House will be able to continue without me.

    What Your Donation Buys

    Pretty Bird Woman House already has two potential replacement houses in mind. Both offer significantly more space than the previous building. Georgia described how they both had full basements, storage room and would house more than double the families and women than their previous building. Both buildings have yards which means possible playgrounds for children.

    One house has a major advantage in location –  a police station across the street.

    Because of difficulties obtaining loans (banks are allergic to both Native Americans and poverty) the best solution lies in purchasing the house outright. The Tribal Council could hold the mortgage but coming up with the mortgage payments every month creates an ongoing problem. Since both houses are on the market, they could be gone anytime. Depressed property values on Standing Rock mean that $60,000 gets the house. An additional $10,000 is required to make them secure, with proper fencing, video cameras, reinforced doors and other measures.  Neither house is in great shape, but both offer shelter and that remains the bottom line for the survival of Pretty Bird Woman House.

    This is urgent for many reasons:

  • Pretty Bird Woman House cannot serve the women who need help now – if neighboring shelters are full battered women and rape victims needing a place to go have nowhere at all.
  • the lack of a shelter disqualifies Pretty Bird Woman House from many grants
  • the situation requires Pretty Bird Woman House to stretch its resources to the breaking point – it cannot be sustained.
  • Once Pretty Bird Woman House has a permanent home, the future looks much brighter. Again, they will meet the criteria for grants. The permanency of a home opens many doors for them and makes a huge impact on the future of the shelter. Beyond this, a permanent women’s shelter on Standing Rock creates an infrastructure to begin to tackle the nightmares detailed above. That infrastructure will function to erode the resistance to change. In a very real sense a women’s shelter is the foundation upon which progress can take place.

    In short, if we meet this goal, Pretty Bird Woman House should not need constant fundraisers by the progressive blogosphere.

    Please: DONATE NOW. Pretty Bird Woman House is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.

    Our goal for this week is to raise 10% of our total goal by Thursday afternoon. This is important because on Thursday there is an Amnesty International fundraiser and we need to show this is a viable project by then! We need $4k to make it happen – four days to raise $4k. Please help.

    What Else Can We Do?

    Material donations

    If you have clothing, toiletries or other goods (or checks if you don’t donate online) donations you can send them via USPS to:

    Pretty Bird Woman House

    P.O. Box 596

    McLaughlin, SD 57642

    If you use FedEx, UPS or DHL ship to:

    Pretty Bird Woman House

    302 Sale Barn Rd.

    McLaughlin SD 57642

    If you have ideas for helping, please join the Yahoo Group.

    Perhaps most importantly, BLOG. Spread the word. Make it go viral. That is the genius, the magic, of the netroots – our amazing power. No one of us has to do this all on their own. We do this as community. Pass this on throughout the community. Feel free to take anything from my diaries or from the Pretty Bird Woman Blog for this purpose. That’s what it is there for. Please, if nothing else, do this.

    Anything you do for this effort is appreciated. You are helping make the Bird in Pretty Bird Woman House into a Phoenix – literally rising from the flames. Please take a second to tell us in comments what you did so we may thank you – and maybe your comments will inspire someone else to give as well.

    Georgia Little Shield said:

    Someone has to hear these women. Someone has to listen to them.

    Let’s make sure someone can be there to listen. Thank you so very much.

    Links

    Friends of Pretty Bird Woman House Yahoo Group

    Pretty Bird Woman House Blog

    Amnesty International Report-Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA


    Artwork by Tigana.

    Generic Drug Bill Held Up

    Disclosure: I have represented and represent both brand name and generic drug manufacturers. I know of no conflict with my representations and my position on this issue.

    The problem with lobbyists is not with their lobbying, it is with our political system that lets our representatives get away with this type of behavior:

    Legislation aimed at speeding the availability of cheaper generic drugs has stalled in Congress in the face of major lobbying by the drug industry. The Senate bill would ban most settlements known as “reverse payments,” in which a brand-name company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the introduction of the generic drug. The Federal Trade Commission, which has called on Congress to take action, says such settlements could cost American consumers billions of dollars.

    . . . “Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights. “If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty hard for people to vote against it. A vote against this is a vote against consumers.” . . .

    It is important to understand that the need for such a law is due to some atrocious antitrust decisions by the Supreme Court. The issue is a bit complex, but the basics of it is that the Supreme Court has adopted the unproven thesis of conservative economists that intrabrand competition (between retailers of the same brand product) has no effects on market competition and that it is only interbrand competition (competition between differently branded products) that promotes competition. Anyone who has gone shopping at a Target, Wal-Mart, CostCo or Walgreens, knows this is a sham. But such is the effect of 7 Republican appointees to the Court. The antitrust laws have been gutted by the Court in the past 20 years.

    Lessons Learned

    Last week my friend and co-worker Pakou Hang lost the election to become a member of our City Council. Some of you might remember that I mentioned her as part of the legacy of Paul Wellstone. It was a huge disappointment to many of us in this community, and especially to Pakou.

    But the disappointment is not so much in the fact that she lost, but how it happened. Pakou managed her campaign the old fashioned way – true grassroots organizing. For an election that only produced about 5,000 votes total, she had over 400 volunteers on the ground working to get out the word and the vote. This was extremely encouraging in that just a few weeks before the election, no one had seen or heard much from her opponent, the incumbent.

    But just a week before the election, things began to look a little more dark. You see, her opponent had two significant groups in his camp: the city’s police federation and the local Chamber of Commerce. We’re talking money and muscle. The first sign of what these folks had planned was a radio ad that broke just days before the election saying the police federation backed her opponent because he was the candidate who was “tough on crime.” We’ll never know who paid for the ad, but I think its pretty clear that the only folks who can afford that kind of media is the Chamber. While our community has its problems with crime and it is the top concern of most voters in local elections, overall this is a pretty safe city, as urban centers in the US go these days. The tone of the ad was definitely designed to “gin up the fear” about this issue though.

    But the most disturbing turn of events happened on election day. Pakou reports that several precincts in her ward were circled by police cars all throughout the day with some officers challenging voters and election judges. This is even more significant than it might have been in other areas because, as you can see, Pakou is Hmong and was mobilizing the very large Hmong community in her ward. They are even more intimidated by a police presence than other communities because of the ways they were traumatized in Laos prior to immigrating to the US.

    We’ll never know if these activities were the reason Pakou lost the election, but its clear that while she was organizing the grassroots, her opponent had other tactics in mind for winning the election.

    As I talked to Pakou yesterday about all of this, it came to me that this could be the lesson she and other progressives need to learn. I think its natural for people to project their own values and beliefs onto their opponents in political races. We see this all the time with the rabid right accusing the left of all of the things they are actually doing.

    I also think that progressives, who believe in grassroots politics, tend to assume that their opponents do as well. We can be naive in too often believing the best about the opposition and don’t prepare for the low blows they are capable of using.

    I think its time we learned our lesson and wise-up a bit. That doesn’t mean we need to join the opposition in the gutter. We just need to loose the naivete that tends to hold onto believing the best about people and prepare as best we can for the low blows.

    During this Bush administration, we’ve seen that no matter how much we try to comprehend the depths to which they are willing to go, they continue to surprise us with their capacity for evil. That’s why I embrace alot of what passes for “tin foil hat” theories. We’ve never been wrong when we’ve thought the worst. I think our errors are usually in the other direction.  

    scrolling news

    Todays Headlines, ‘Hidden Costs’ Double Price Of Two Wars, Sticky issues for Coast Guard, Chalabi returns to prominence and power, Bhutto Put Under House Arrest, Panel Decries Terrorism Blacklist Process, Airline websites ‘are misleading’, The ANC is not known for its fondness of multinationals, plight of Zimbabwean refugees, Japan’s Leader Cites Limits In Global Security Abilities, Vietnam struggles with new flood disaster

    Philosofactory: The Cynics

    (by pyrrho for publishing jointly at MLW and DocuDharma)


    Cynicism: Diogenes
    philosophy for life in
    the streets


    zeno I will be using the print version of the Oxford “Dictionary of
    Philosophy” to refresh myself for this series.

    Links offered may or may not have been referenced to research this post. I
    may or may not believe their assertions or have been exposed to them, but
    they are given to ease your direct research further into The Cynics.

    This school of philosophy has a bit different origin. You have the Garden
    of Epicurus, you have some pythagorean retreat, and you have even the
    hardship embracing stoics, chatting on a painted porch, but the founder of
    cynicism had a very different origin, the streets. He was homeless, he
    begged, he lived in extreme poverty. He made a virtue of it, he was a student
    of Antisthenes, whom Plato said was present at the death of Socrates… he
    was known and respected, but his worldview involved waging “a crusade of
    antisocial mockery, hoping to show by their own example the hollow illusions
    of social life”, in the words of the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.

    This series is presenting five ancient schools of philosophy as
    archetypes, places in the western mindset which are the source of a lot of
    conventional wisdom.

    By no means are these five archetypes meant to be limiting, there’s six
    billion schools of philosophy really, but these really are sources for lots
    of common ideas and themes over thousands of years so far.

    Have you seen anyone, say, on the internets, wage such a crusade of
    antisocial mockery? I have as a matter of fact. Cynicism is probably the most
    defensible of all these schools on relevance to the modern condition, it
    reflects a condition we have had consistently for the 2400 years since
    Diogenes, and longer than that before. One seeks to condemn the philosophy
    and philosopher, but it is drawn from realities in our culture.

    I think it’s fair to think of each of these philosophies as suiting, or at
    leasts adapted to, different specific niche environments, contexts within our
    culture, certain subcultures or roles in culture that lend themselves to
    certain realities… realities being what honest philosophers (perhaps a rare
    breed) attempt to make world views of. And for the cynics, that is life in
    the streets.

    There are many contexts in which cynicism does one good, for example,
    politics. Sometimes, it’s vital for understanding business in a capitalist
    economies. Also, I think it is valuable in art. I love a good dark comedy. I
    love a wry look at life. For me it’s a perspective that is useful to find in
    fiction if one hopes to return to a more positive and sustainable
    perspective… non-fiction cynicism is draining, but also, someone a realist
    must endure.

    The modern meaning of cynic is perhaps most true of all to the general
    philosophy of the cynics, though some technical details follow below as the
    cynics too have a philosophy in terms of how to live the best life, most
    satisfied or content. They sought to desire nothing, and therefore lack
    nothing. Expect nothing of humans, and not be disappointed. They also
    contributed to the logical systems and the history of logic with many
    “antinomies”. An “antinomy” is a kind of paradox which (Oxford DoP) “show
    that contradictory conclusion about the world”, such as assuming the world
    has a beginning and is limited in space and arguing that it is therefore
    without beginning and limitless in space. This example is drawn from Kant, who
    was not a cynic, for these serve as general paradox’s addressed by many
    philosophers.

    My premise is elements of each of these philosophies is seen in wide use today in Western Cultures, so called.

    The archetypes are so far as follow:

    • Epicurean: “Enjoy the simple pleasures, such as friendship, food and
      wine. Nature is filled with pleasure and suffering alike.”
    • Stoic: “Live with virtue and be indifferent to the harshness of life.
      Nature is indifferent but ordered.”
    • Pythagorean: “Truth and beauty lie in the abstractions of mathematics
      and geometry. Nature can be described with number.”
    • Cynicism: “Desire nothing, live desiring nothing, and be satisfied.
      Nature cannot be wholly described, logic leads to equally contradictory
      conclusions.”
    • ???

    The Cynics lived by example, and the greek culture was able to recognize
    this poverty as part of their philosophies. The anarchy of their approach
    really did defy presentation through the philosophy of just one of them,
    moreso than any other philosophy. Diogenes, the founder, is certainly a
    candidate for that role epitomizing the philosophy nonetheless. He felt that
    whatever is natural is honourable and decent, and can therefore be done in
    public without shame, such as copulation. It was the shamelessness that
    earned the cynics the nickname of the dog philosophers, for dogs were a
    symbol for a lack of shame. The word “cynic” comes from “dog-like” in greek.
    But furthermore Diogenes himself praised the dog’s virtues.

    It is said that Alexander the Great appreciated Diogenes a great deal, and
    had said if he were to be a philosopher, it would be Diogenes. It is said
    that once when Alexander asked Diogenes if there is something he could do for
    him, Diogenes told him to “stand out of my sunlight”.

    Personally, I always liked Zeno of Elea, not to be confused with Zeno of
    Citium, founder of the stoics, who created Zeno’s paradoxes, which for me
    encase a great moment in human cognition, that is, the solution of the
    paradoxes. The Oxford Dictionary which I decided to rely on to inject some
    consistency, suggest Crates and Hipparchia as examples as well. Crates was
    also poor, but a traveler, and a good guest, being represented universally
    as respected and beloved. Welcomes for him were written on doors. The honesty
    of cynics has been appreciated by ancient societies, and, of course, though
    some of us bemoan it, today. Hipparchia was Crates wife. She and Crates are
    reported to have had sex in public on the grounds that all natural acts are
    decent.

    Iraq Moratorium Friday: Do something!

    Friday is the third Iraq Moratorium.

    Organizers ask people to do something — anything — to call for an end to the war in Iraq.

    Cynics say it won’t do any good.

    But I am participating because it seems obvious that doing something is infinitely more likely to have an impact than doing nothing.

    It’s a largely unstructured, grassroots event, designed to continue to grow, expand and escalate.  It recognizes that it’s going to be a long haul to stop the war, and is digging in for a prolonged effort. It happens on the third Friday of every month.

    There’s no shortage of ideas of things you can do.  A few suggestions:

    A few ideas from the national coordinators:

    Wear an antiwar button or sticker to work or school.

    Wear a black armband to let people know you mourn the overwhelming loss of life in this war.

    Distribute black armbands to others.

    Hang an antiwar sign in your window, or put one on your lawn.

    Call a local radio talk show and explain why you want this war to end.

    Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper and let people know about the Iraq Moratorium and how they can get involved.

    Make a large antiwar sign or banner and hang it from a busy overpass where people traveling to or from work will see it, or from some other highly visible location.

    Put together a group to stand vigil in front of a military recruiting station, your local federal building, or the office of your senator or representative in Congress.

    Call the Washington, DC, offices of your senators and your representative.

    Buy no gas on Moratorium days

    Pressure politicians and the media

    Hold vigils, pickets, rallies, and teach-ins

    Hold special religious services

    Coordinate events in music, art, and culture

    Host film showings, talks, and educational events

    Organize student actions: Teach-ins, school closings, etc.

    But there are no limits on what anyone can do.  Creative ideas that stir discussion or attract media attention are what’s needed.  

    The moratorium idea is reminiscent, of course, of the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium, which mobilized millions.

    Opposition to Bush’s war, while widespread and including a solid majority of Americans (and Iraqis) is not at that fever pitch yet.  But the moratorium is a vehicle that could mobilize more people over time, as the senseless, endless war drags on.

    National groups endorsing the effort include United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 1,300 groups which sponsored the January march in DC and 11 regional demonstrations on October 27.

    Think it won’t help?  The Moratorium won’t end the war by itself; that’s for sure. A bull-headed President and a chicken-hearted Congress seem immune to public opinion. It can be disheartening.

    But if the choice is between doing something, however small, and doing nothing, I’ll opt for doing something every time.

    To Be a Fighting Centrist

    I am a Centrist. I believe the Democratic Party is a centrist Party. I wish the Democratic Party would fight for its centrist ideals. Like ending the the war in Iraq. Like not going to war in Iran. Like bringing balance to our tax system by reversing the extreme and radical Bush tax cuts. Like doing something about global warming. Like protecting equal rights for all Americans. Like protecting the right to choose. Like offering health care to all Americans. And so on. These Democratic principles stand in the center of American public opinion, held by a strong majority of Americans.

    The Republican Party is an extreme party whose views are completely out of the mainstream of American thought. The views espoused by the GOP must be marginalized and beaten at every turn. It is because of this that I strongly dislike this view articulated by Sen. Hillary Clinton:

    During this campaign, you're going to hear me talk a lot about the importance of balance,” she began, after acknowledging that the Bush Administration had gone too far toward deregulation in most areas. “You know, our politics can get a little imbalanced sometimes. We move off to the left or off to the right, but eventually we find our way back to the center because Americans are problem solvers. We are not ideologues. Most people are just looking for sensible, commonsense solutions.”

    I think the views may be correct but it is poor politicking. Clinton needs to espouse her views on issues. Her problem solving views, not give silly buzzwords that implicitly relegate her Party to the extremes. It ignores that there is an extreme political party in the United States. The Republican Party. It ignores that there is a pragmatic, centrist problem solving party, the Democratic Party. This fight is not beyond politics. It is the CENTRAL political fight going on in this country. I wish Democrats, including Hillary Clinton would get that.

    Herbert Must Reading Today

    Bob Herbert provides must reading today, especially for Brad DeLong, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, Brendan Nyhan, and of course, David Brooks.

    Herbert writes:

    Andrew would not survive very long. On June 21, one day after his arrival, he and fellow activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney disappeared. Their bodies wouldn’t be found until August. All had been murdered, shot to death by whites enraged at the very idea of people trying to secure the rights of African-Americans.

    The murders were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.

    That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”

    Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

    . . . Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

    Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

    And while I expect nothing better from Brooks, Nyhan and Sullivan, I do expect better from people like Drum and Yglesias. And maybe now DeLong sees some value in Herbert's work.

    Pony Party, Holiday Giving

    Military Cheer Packs is just one of many sites where you can send a package to a service-person….you can click the ‘donate’ link to send it randomly.  There’s also a link to submit the name of a ‘troop’ to be included to receive a package.

    And we cant forget murrayewv’s excellent essay with links for donation to disaster relief in Mexico.

    or there’s this, from Yahoo!News

    Starting Monday, Nov. 12, Americans and Canadians will have the chance to add charity and innovation to holiday shopping lists. The One Laptop Per Child organization is offering the chance to purchase two XO laptops-one to be given to a child in the developing world, the other to keep or donate locally.

    This is what would be considered an extremely low-end laptop, but i think it’s pretty cool that it can be powered solarly, by a foot-pump, or by a pull-string.  It’s a great way to distribute technology globally, even if you dont get as much technology as with a standard plug-in type….

    And there’s always the option to just do something nice for someone you know who could use it….even if that someone is YOU!!  

    The ponies are set…they dont need care packages, laptops, or recommends…

    ~73v

    Wishful thinking would be the kindest way to characterize it

    Today Bob Herbert takes his whack at the “Ronald Reagan didn’t use racist tactics” piñata. He scores a  direct hit:

    To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like “states’ rights” in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.’s Southern strategy. That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency.

    Ronald Reagan was an absolute master at the use of symbolism. It was one of the primary keys to his political success.

    The suggestion that the Gipper didn’t know exactly what message he was telegraphing in Neshoba County in 1980 is woefully wrong-headed. Wishful thinking would be the kindest way to characterize it.

    Thank you Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman. Shame on you David Brooks.

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