Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Bridget

So today, my daughter enters that "magical stage" in which she is now called a teenager. A time where both a cultural/social phenomenon are part of the human development phase.

As parents we begin to teach our children to move the focus away from that ever constant draw by businesses. They target this generation with the lure of mobile phones, movies, television, teen magazines, video games and clothes. It is an extremely hard period but well worth the end effort when our children become involved in movements for positive social change around the world.

Adolescents participating in these movements may perhaps start with community service, youth activism, student activism, and other efforts to make the youth voice heard.

May your road to wisdom, knowledge and the pursuit to happiness have few bumps Bea.

Memorial Taps


Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, must thou go,
When the day, and the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; and afar
Goeth day, and the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars,
'Neath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A hero is buried-- and what his community still needs

Today was a long, hot day.

I went as an invited guest of the Birdsprings chapter (Navajo communities are called chapters) to the funeral of U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher N. Gonzalez, a native of Birdsprings who was killed on May 14 when his unit was attacked near Salman Pak, Iraq.

Sergeant Gonzalez was part of the first battalion of the 15th Infantry regiment of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.of the 3rd infantry division based at Fort Stewart, Georgia (where he and his wife had bought a home). He was in his second tour of duty in Iraq. He leaves a wife and a young son.

His family asked that the media not report specifically on the funeral (which was planned and arranged by Sgt. Gonzalez himself, pre-planned in the event it occurred) so although as a blogger I am not a member of the media, I will honor that request and not discuss the details of the funeral, except to say that it was clear that Sgt. Gonzalez was very proud to be a member of the United States Army.

I will also say that I've been honored to be going out to Birdsprings for almost two years. Originally it was to do political work, but as I've been going out there I've discovered a most amazing and wonderful group of people. They are willing to open their doors and their hearts and share what little they have (and believe me, it is little) with even a stranger (though by now I'm not such a stranger anymore.) I’ve always felt very welcome there.

Poverty in Birdsprings is extreme. I've tried to describe it to some people who haven't been there and been accused of exaggerating (I've been told that 'nobody in America lives like that,' by people who have themselves never had to face it.) The unemployment rate there is in the neighborhood of 50% (though most who are unemployed are simply classified as 'not in labor force'). But even in 2000 when jobs were plentiful elsewhere the reported unemployment rate of those who were actively in the labor force was still over 16%-- about the same level as it was nationally during the Depression-- and it's risen since then. And everyone is very poor-- even the people who are fortunate enough to have a job end up sharing their paycheck because they certainly have family members who don't have a job; the per capita income in 2000 was less than $8,000 per person, and almost half the homes lack some or all plumbing (no surprise because of how many don't have running water). Two thirds have no phone.

There are dozens of homes in Birdsprings (and over 18,000 on the Navajo Nation as a whole) which have never been hooked up to the electric grid. If they were then it might even be possible to drill some wells and provide running water (right now they have to haul water for miles, which is itself very expensive using old, inefficient trucks that get poor mileage-- but that's all most people have, because not very many people on the reservation can afford a new vehicle, or even a relatively new used one-- but then when the weather is bad some of the roads are impassable anyway-- except maybe by horse.) And yes, some people go to the outhouse in the dark, year round with a flashlight or an oil lamp-- I've met quite a few of them by now. So many of the young people leave the reservation to go to work, and many of them go into the military (like Sergeant Gonzalez); if they did not then the unemployment rate would be even more horrific than it already is.

To hook the dozens of homes in Birdsprings that need it to the electric grid would cost $700,000. Then wells could be drilled and pumps operated to provide them with water.

And here is where it went instead: The cost of the Iraq war is now at about $1,150 per person (plus whatever is being allocated in the 'new' Congressional funding sham). There are (census data) 829 people in Birdsprings. That means that Birdsprings chapter's share of the 'investment' (all borrowed, to be paid back later) in Iraq is just under a million dollars (with the new funding bill, it will go over that). Ironically, we’ve spent millions to build electric, water and other infrastructure—in Iraq (in addition of course to the hundreds of billions that have gone to destroy what was built before.)

So if they just had their proportion of the money we've been spending in Iraq, Birdsprings chapter could pay for these basic needs for their own people. But instead they've received, like most communities, no return for their 'investment' in Iraq.

Until now. They've finally gotten a return for their share of the debts run up to finance the war in Iraq. And they buried him today.

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Monday, May 21, 2007


President Bush insisted on Monday that embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales still has his support and denounced Democratic plans for a no-confidence vote as "pure political theater."

"He has done nothing wrong," Bush said in an impassioned defense of his longtime friend and adviser during a news conference at his Texas ranch.

Well one thing must be said, GOP's sure don't throw their own kind under the bus.

digg story

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Bombings killed seven U.S. soldiers in Baghdad and a southern city, the U.S. military said Sunday, and the country's Sunni vice president spoke out against a proposed oil law, clouding the future of a key benchmark for assuring continued U.S. support for the government.

I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away

How long...

How long must we sing this song?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Girl stoned to death for falling in love

What was the crime which Du'a Khalil Aswad committed? The seventeen year old Iraqi girl did something that millions of other seventeen year old girls do. She fell in love. With a boy about her age (sixteen, to be exact). She left home for a few hours to be with him, in fact she was gone all night. Maybe she had sex with him-- we don't know whether she did or not, and it doesn't matter whether she did.

And what was her punishment? She was stoned to death (warning-- the link contains two still photos of her dying on the street, taken from a video that was shot of the murder).

A 17-year-old girl has been stoned to death in Iraq because she loved a teenage boy of the wrong religion.

As a horrifying video of the stoning went out on the Internet, the British arm of Amnesty International condemned the death of Du’a Khalil Aswad as "an abhorrent murder" and demanded that her killers be brought to justice.

Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.

Miss Aswad, a member of a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, was condemned to death as an "honour killing" by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.

Oh. Not only did she spend a night with her boyfriend, but (horror of horrors) he belonged to a different religion.

And somehow that is supposed to justify what happened after that. A group of eight or nine men, some of whom were her relatives, went into a home where she was taking sanctuary, dragged her out onto the street and over a period of about half an hour murdered her by throwing stones at her.

It is tempting to blame the U.S. presence in Iraq, but that would be wrong. This may have happened in Iraq, but the U.S. occupation has nothing to do with it (though the failure of local authorities to do anything about it is typical of what we've seen from Iraqi police and government officials.) For one thing, this sort of thing happens all the time, all over the middle east. Women or girls who even look at a man the wrong way can face the most severe punishment, including not only death by stoning but also by stabbing, beating with clubs, fists or rifle butts, burning to death, being boiled alive and pretty much any other unspeakably brutal way you can think of that a man or a group of men could kill a woman. As religious fundamentalism has spread in Iraq (not just Islamic-- these people were members of a cult opposed to Islam), so have age old, and truly monstrous traditions for 'dealing' with anything other than a 100% subservient, docile, cowering and obedient woman.

We've also seen that post-Saddam Iraq has only followed along with the rest of the middle east in that most nations now deny women equal rights and privileges pertaining to civil matters like divorce, custody and inheritances as they give to men. In fact, some of the first laws passed by the Iraqi parliament under the new Constitution codified in law that women would be second class citizens. Girls still have the right to get an education beyond the elementary school level, but one wonders how long even that will last.

We must condemn 'honor killings' as nothing other than barbaric acts of the most hideous, cruel and foul murder. There must never be any such thing as 'honor' associated with such heinous crimes.

A start that we could do as Americans would be to press our government, when considering whether to grant asylum to refugees, to give preference to women over men from the middle east, specifically because they have reason to fear persecution. Just living as a typical woman in a place where the smallest transgression can lead to a grisly murder is a type of persecution.

And if we did publically do this, at least it would make much more clear that we as a people disapprove of this sort of thing than the lack of action that we have taken in the past seems to suggest.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

The"Mother's Day Proclamation" by Julia Ward Howe was one of the early calls to celebrate Mother's Day in the United States. Written in 1870, Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War.

The Proclamation was tied to Howe's feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level.

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

Read the rest here.

In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honour of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Some get it!

Daily Kos has a post up by Congresswoman Lynn Woosley:

For four years those of us in the progressive movement, in Congress, online, and in the streets, have stood firm in our opposition to the President’s failed occupation. We have been called traitors; we have been accused of not supporting the troops; and some have even questioned our patriotism. But four years later our voices have now become part of the mainstream position held by the majority of Americans.

Lynn sure does get it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

First Molly Ivins Award Goes To Keith O.

K.O. Presented First Annual Molly Ivins Award

Posted by Countdown
The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) announced today that MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann is the winner of its first annual Molly Ivins Award. Olbermann's achievement will be recognized in a ceremony to be held this afternoon in New York City.
"I'm utterly honored," said Olbermann, "largely because I'd still like to be Molly Ivins when I grow up."

Congratulations, Keith.

Stuck in Reverse

There is a new study out that says the United States is “stuck in reverse” when it comes to offering consumers a wide selection of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The research from the Civil Society Institute, a not-for-profit think tank that focuses on energy and ecological issues, shows a growing “fuel-efficient car gap.”

CSI found that the number of vehicle models sold in the United States that achieve combined gas mileage of at least 40 miles per gallon actually has dropped from five in 2005 to just two in 2007 — the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Overseas, primarily in Europe, there are 113 vehicles for sale that get a combined 40 mpg, up from 86 in 2005. Combined gas mileage is the average of a vehicle’s city and highway mpg numbers.
A plan to increase fuel efficiency standards to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 won approval from a Senate panel Tuesday in a vote closely watched by automakers and environmental groups.

Hmmm....just wondering what Europeans will be driving in 2020.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Leadership Crisis

From Yahoo:

One of two key aides to World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz resigned on Monday, saying he could no longer effectively help advance the mission of the institution under the current leadership crisis.

Kevin Kellems, who was an advisor to Wolfowitz since 2002 at the Pentagon and throughout the planning of the Iraq war, told Reuters he was leaving "for other opportunities."

"Given the current environment surrounding the leadership of the World Bank Group, it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution," Kellems said.
Though this news release is rather short, the words picked by Kevin tell us a lot.
  • Mission: a group or committee of persons sent to a foreign country to conduct negotiations, establish relations, provide scientific and technical assistance, or the like.
  • Leadership: an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction
  • Crisis: a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
Leadership does not involve changing the mindset of the group, but the cultivation of an environment that brings out the best (inspires) the individuals in that group.

For A Friend, who taught me this

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Protection for Wolves

Wyoming and Idaho are poised to start the biggest wolf massacre in decades.

  • Federal protections under the Endangered Species Act must be kept intact for wolves in the Northern Rockies until adequate state plans are in place that would protect and conserve wolves.
  • Idaho is not ready or willing to manage wolves to ensure their existence into the future. Idaho’s official position on wolves, passed by their legislature, is that wolves should be removed "by whatever means necessary." The state’s Governor supports a plan to kill 80% of Idaho's wolves.
  • Wyoming's proposed state wolf laws are designed to kill as many wolves as possible - kill more than half of its wolves (16 of 23 packs) immediately upon delisting and to maintain extremely low wolf numbers thereafter through any means including poisoning, pulling pups from their dens and aerial gunning.
Speak up for our wolves! Submit your comments today to federal officials. Tell them to keep critical protections in place for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Anything Can Happen

Rolling Stone posts:

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.
Think Progress has the clip of Limbo:
“Long after we’re all dead and gone, when historians who are not yet born begin to write about this era, they’re going to place George Bush in the upper echelon of presidents who had a great vision for America, who looked beyond our shores, who didn’t just restrict himself to domestic policy niceties.”

Time will come when we know what happened here
Change will come in time and make it clear
We learn one thing if we learn at all
In the secret wars we call our lives
Anything can happen
~Jackson Browne~

Friday, May 04, 2007

For A Friend

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico which is also widely celebrated in the United States. It commemorates the victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin over the French occupational forces in the Battle of Puebla.

The reference to the Battle of Puebla is seen as a symbolic cultural link to those who had to overcome insurmountable odds while facing adversity.

My friend is facing some pretty difficult odds and I wish my friend only the best.

So we are going to put "the lime in the coconut and drink it all up," throw salt over our left shoulders and plant lavender for luck.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

Above the GOP Debate there are planes flying with banners.

Nobody says it better...

than Madame Speaker:

Today, the President faces consequences of his own making. This is the seventh supplemental for the war in Iraq. Certainly, somebody was planning something at the White House and could have put, over the years, the funding necessary for this war into the budget. Instead the President did not do that. I don't know why, maybe they don't want the American people to see the real cost of this war in dollars. Certainly, we know the price that we have paid more seriously, in lives, in health, in reputation, in the readiness of our military and in probably two trillion dollars now for this war.
Crooks and Liars has the video.

Commando Bush

Oh my...

And you thought he was still “the decider.”

President Bush coined a new nickname for himself — ‘’the commander guy” — on Wednesday, as he criticized Congressional Democrats in a speech to the annual gathering of the Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry trade group.

The man who last year proclaimed “I’m the decider,’’ in response to a question about whether he would fire Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, came up with this latest moniker in explaining why he vetoed an Iraq war spending bill that dictated a timeline for troops to withdraw from Iraq.

“The question is, ‘Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?,’’ Mr. Bush said. “As you know, my position is clear – I’m the commander guy.”

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