Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lies of False Prophets

The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, say to it: You are a land that is not cleansed, not rained upon in the day of indignation. Its princes within it are like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows within it. ... Its officials within it are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. Its prophets have smeared whitewash on their behalf, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, "Thus says the Lord God," when the Lord has not spoken.


- Ezekiel 22:23-28

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Kill Your Television!"

Dutch woman to donate kidney in reality TV show
Published: 29 May 2007


A terminally-ill Dutch woman will select a recipient for one of her kidneys in the latest production from Endemol, makers of Big Brother.

The Big Donor Show will be shown in the Netherlands on Friday despite calls from the Dutch Government for it to be scrapped, according to Newspaper De Telegraaf.
Broadcaster BNN said the programme would go ahead in which a 37-year-old, named only as Lisa, would choose a recipient from one of three people with kidney problems.
BNN said the programme was designed to highlight the problems facing people needing organ transplants and was also a tribute to BNN founder Bart de Graaff, who died of kidney failure five years ago, despite several transplants.

Political critics in the Netherlands have called the show "wretched" and unethical, news reports said.

Good Riddance Attention Whore

Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 by CommonDreams.org

by Cindy Sheehan

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such “liberal blogs” as the Democratic Underground. Being called an “attention whore” and being told “good riddance” are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a “tool” of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our “two-party” system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the “left” started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of “right or left”, but “right and wrong.”

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt “two” party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an “attention whore” then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a “grateful” country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too…which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the “face” of the American anti-war movement. This is not my “Checkers” moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America…you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It’s up to you now.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother’s Child and Dear President Bush.

Monday, May 28, 2007

U.S. Deaths Near Grim Memorial Day Mark

STEVEN R. HURST | May 26, 2007

BAGHDAD — Americans have opened nearly 1,000 new graves to bury U.S. troops killed in Iraq since Memorial Day a year ago. The figure is telling _ and expected to rise in coming months.

In the period from Memorial Day 2006 through Saturday, 980 soldiers and Marines died in Iraq, compared to 807 deaths in the previous year. And with the Baghdad security operation now 3 1/2 months old, even President Bush has predicted a difficult summer for U.S. forces.
"It could be a bloody _ it could be a very difficult August," he said last week.

U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus on Saturday acknowledged the increase in casualties as a result of the American surge in forces to regain control of Baghdad.

"We're doing heavy fighting. This is a fight. There's a war on out there," he told reporters at al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq.

Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution and a consultant to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, said the increased casualties were a result of the security operation.

Thousands more American soldiers are patrolling the streets and living in isolated outposts across Baghdad, leaving them more vulnerable to attack. He also said the increase in raids on extremist Shiite militiamen had brought a wave of retaliatory attacks.

"We're out there on the streets a lot more. There are more patrols going on every day, so we're more open to attacks," O'Hanlon said.

Stephen Biddle, a military expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of a group that spent weeks in Iraq assessing the situation for Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, agreed that more American deaths were likely.

"The biggest change in their (insurgent and militia) tactics is that they've changed to exploit the vulnerabilities we've opened ourselves up to. They see a new, small American base in their neighborhood, three blocks away, and they're going to car bomb it," said Biddle.

"We're going to see a spike in the short term," said Biddle. "But the likelihood is that in six months we'll see a drop in casualties as these areas become more secure. The problem is, what about the rest of the country?"

By the end of Saturday at least 100 American troops had died in the first 26 days of May, an average of 3.85 deaths a day. At that pace, 119 troops will have died by the end of the month, the most since 137 soldiers were killed in November 2004, when U.S. troops were fighting insurgents in Fallujah.

As of Saturday, May 26, 2007, at least 3,451 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,817 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military.


To all the families who lose loved one's in the above-mentioned "spike" in casualties, my condolences. Calling it a "spike" is perverse, just like war. There are no just wars.

And Now, From the "Awwww, poor baby" Department

Wolfowitz Blames Media for Resignation
May 28, 2007
borrowed from the Huffington Post

LONDON — Departing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in a radio interview broadcast Monday blamed an overheated atmosphere at the bank and in the media for forcing him to resign.

Wolfowitz, who has announced he will step down June 30, denied suggestions that his decision to leave was influenced by an apparent lack of support from the bank's employees.

"I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank and I'll leave it at that," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. "People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend."

Wolfowitz said that he was pleased the bank's board accepted that he had acted ethically, and in good faith in his handling of a generous compensation package for his girlfriend and bank employee Shaha Riza in 2005.

'acted ethically'? When exactly was that, Paul?
Oops! My passions are 'around the bend' again......sounds like the media was actually doing it's job. Sorry, Paul. I'm sure you won't starve.......

Who Says One Person Can't Make a Difference?

Rachel Carson’s Alarm Still Echoes
by Rebecca Clarren
Published on Sunday, May 27, 2007 by The Oregonian



Today marks Rachel Carson’s 100th birthday.

She has been dead for more than 40 years, but the environmental movement she gave life to with her seminal book “Silent Spring” has evolved from the grass-roots movement to a politically expedient force embraced by mainstream Americans.

More than a movement, though, Carson inspired real change.

In my own backyard in Northeast Portland, I wonder how my narrow slice of the ecosystem would be different if not for Carson. Here, as late afternoon sunlight threads the tall grass and spring flowers, bugs dive and weave, bird songs pierce the din of a distant lawnmower. Without Carson, the world in my own backyard would look and sound far different.

Carson, concerned about indiscriminate use of the pesticide DDT, worried about a silent world. In the first chapter of “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, she imagined an entire community destroyed by “a white granular powder.” Her best-selling book challenged the mid-century assumption that pesticide use was for the greater good. A shy biologist, unmarried and in her mid-50s, Carson created a public outcry with her thorough research and lyrical prose.

Change happened fast. President Kennedy appointed a science advisory committee to examine the book’s conclusions. Congress debated legislation to require pesticide labels on how to avoid damage to fish and wildlife. In less than a decade, we celebrated the first Earth Day, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the National Environmental Policy Act as well as a host of the nation’s bulwark environmental laws.

Here in Oregon, where the economy has forever been intertwined with the health of natural resources, the environmental movement quickly flared. We passed the nation’s first bottle bill in 1971. Looking south to California’s suburban sprawl, former Gov. Tom McCall created landmark land-use planning laws. The fight about the spotted owl and logging in the late 1980s and early ’90s made Oregon a flash point for a national tension that pitted urban environmentalists against the rural working class.

Clearly, debate about environmental issues isn’t done: We’re still grappling with land development and Measure 37, and how to protect endangered species without hurting local economies. There are fringe eco-saboteurs, some convicted just this past week in Eugene, who committed arson to raise public awareness about threats to animals and the environment.

Yet on a larger scale, caring about the environment has become the accepted norm.

Wal-Mart stocks organic produce and uses compact fluorescent lights. Energy companies accept the science about global warming and hawk green energies. Last month at least four glossy magazines, including Vanity Fair, Fortune and Elle, had “Green Issues.” Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming is the third-highest-grossing documentary film ever in the United States. The City of Portland’s Water Bureau trucks run on biodiesel. Recycling bins are as ubiquitous as rain puddles. Hunters, farmers, corporations, schoolkids and simplicity advocates all say they care about nature.

That’s a good thing because critical environmental concerns remain. When “Silent Spring” was published, Carson reported that 200 basic chemicals were created for use in killing pests, insects and weeds, sold under thousands of brand names. Today, in Oregon alone, there are 10,480 registered pesticide products with more than 500 pesticide ingredients. When we use these pesticides on our agricultural land and urban lawns and golf courses, rain and runoff carries them into our rivers. Twenty-seven pesticides have been detected in the Clackamas River Basin, and 36 pesticides appear in the Willamette River Basin, a recent U.S. Geological Survey reports. However, the USGS only tested for the presence of 86 pesticides, meaning that far more could exist in the rivers. Furthermore, the EPA hasn’t established maximum contaminant standards for the vast majority of chemicals to protect fish and other aquatic life or humans who drink the water.

This failure to know all the effects of chemicals on our environment before their application is exactly what troubled Carson nearly a half-century ago. Her birthday should inspire us to question the status quo. We can begin with issues right here in our Oregon backyards. It was, of course, such a close-to-home concern that motivated Carson.

While Carson was visiting two friends, Stuart and Olga Huckins, at their two-acre private bird sanctuary in coastal Massachusetts, a plane spraying DDT to control mosquitoes flew overhead. The next morning she and her friends paddled through the estuary and saw dead and dying fish everywhere. Crayfish and crabs staggered, their nervous systems destroyed. This captured Carson’s curiosity and sparked more than four years of research, which resulted in “Silent Spring.”

Only two years after her book’s publication, Carson died of breast cancer at age 56. But her voice continues to inspire. To date, “Silent Spring” has sold more than 250,000 copies in at least 59 countries. Her birthday reminds us of what one individual can accomplish, if she only pays close attention to places she cares about and asks critical questions with a calm clear voice.

Rebecca Clarren writes about the environment for national magazines from her home in Northeast Portland. Her work is frequently supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism. She can be reached atrclarren@yahoo.com.

Happy No More War Day. My Wish.

The Last Laugh
by Wilfred Owen
2/18/1918



'O Jesus Christ! I'm hit,' he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped---In vain!vain!vain!
Machine-guns chuckled, ---Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.

Another sighed,---'O Mother, mother! Dad!'
Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
Leisurely gestured,---Fool!
And the falling splinters tittered.

'My Love!' one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till, slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
And the Gas hissed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Everything old is new again....well, sort of....

Published on Sunday, May 27, 2007 by Mother Jones

Fear-Mongering and Fiction: Cheney Addresses West Point Grads

by Paul McLeary

With the poise and purpose that has been drilled into them during the past four years, the cadets filed slowly into West Point’s Michie Stadium in crisp lines, standing at attention as they reached their seats. Here stood the graduates of the nation’s premier military academy, nearly a thousand of them, who would soon swear the oath of the United States Army and be commissioned as second lieutenants.

The class of 2007, the first to enter the academy after the invasion of Iraq, has chosen the motto “Always Remember, Never Surrender” and a crest that includes these words emblazoned above a scene that shows the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Before long, it’s likely that many of these men and women will deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, complex and asymmetric battlefields that have forced the military to rethink its approach to warfare. The nature of the war on terror has caused the staid military academy itself to revisit its curriculum. In Iraq and Afghanistan these soon-to-be officers will lead platoons, where they will be called upon to carry out their missions not just as soldiers, but as diplomats and cops and sometimes a combination of the three.

Vice President Dick Cheney, on hand to deliver this year’s commencement address, acknowledged that this crop of West Point grads is unique. “It is rare in West Point history for a class to have joined during war time and graduate in the midst of that same war,” he said. Addressing the academy’s graduates, the vice president, who drew a crowd of protestors outside one of West Point’s gates, relied on the same brand of doomsday rhetoric that has characterized his remarks since 9/11. “We know,” he told the audience at one point, that Al Qaeda is “working feverishly to obtain even more destructive weapons and using every form of technology they can get their hands on. This makes the business of fighting this war as urgent and time sensitive as any task this nation has ever taken on.”

Not only is the threat real, he warned, it’s immediate. “The timeline is no longer a calendar, it’s a watch,” he said, quoting a line used recently by Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence. Cheney then claimed that the “enemy likely has cells inside our own country.”

As Cheney told the graduates of the enemies they may soon face — terrorists “who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character” — there were moments when it seemed that he had simply recycled an old speech from 2002. Indeed, long after most members of the Bush administration have distanced themselves from some of the more insidious claims that propelled the U.S. into war with Iraq, the vice president continues to repeat them as fact. At one point today he cited the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda (which has been thoroughly debunked) as the reason why the U.S. invaded Iraq. “America is fighting this enemy in Iraq because that is where they have gathered,” he told the West Point graduates. “We are there because, after 9/11, we decided to deny terrorists any safe haven.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran

by Brian Ross / Richard Esposito

It's hard to find words to describe the anger I feel about this latest "revelation" of Dr Strangelove's not so secret plans. What do they REALLY mean by "non-lethal"? Is it about to become "lethal"? Moving to Newfoundland sounds better and better.....no, I and others need to continue to fight this proto-fascist "regime" that is trying to run the world, with the apparent consent of the Democrats.........Yes, Bush will be gone in what, 600 days but I wonder-----what foundation is being built here? George Orwell's prophecies all coming true......

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.

“I can’t confirm or deny whether such a program exists or whether the president signed it, but it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime,” said Bruce Riedel, a recently retired CIA senior official who dealt with Iran and other countries in the region.

A National Security Council spokesperson, Gordon Johndroe, said, “The White House does not comment on intelligence matters.” A CIA spokesperson said, “As a matter of course, we do not comment on allegations of covert activity.”

The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community.

Officials say the covert plan is designed to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program and end aid to insurgents in Iraq.

“There are some channels where the United States government may want to do things without its hand showing, and legally, therefore, the administration would, if it’s doing that, need an intelligence finding and would need to tell the Congress,” said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official.

Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.

“Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike,” said former CIA official Riedel, “but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides.”

The covert action plan comes as U.S. officials have confirmed Iran had dramatically increased its ability to produce nuclear weapons material, at a pace that experts said would give them the ability to build a nuclear bomb in two years.

Riedel says economic pressure on Iran may be the most effective tool available to the CIA, particularly in going after secret accounts used to fund the nuclear program.

“The kind of dealings that the Iranian Revolution Guards are going to do, in terms of purchasing nuclear and missile components, are likely to be extremely secret, and you’re going to have to work very, very hard to find them, and that’s exactly the kind of thing the CIA’s nonproliferation center and others would be expert at trying to look into,” Riedel said.

Under the law, the CIA needs an official presidential finding to carry out such covert actions. The CIA is permitted to mount covert “collection” operations without a presidential finding.

“Presidential findings” are kept secret but reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and other key congressional leaders.

The “nonlethal” aspect of the presidential finding means CIA officers may not use deadly force in carrying out the secret operations against Iran.

Still, some fear that even a nonlethal covert CIA program carries great risks.

“I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran,” said Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow,” Nasr said.

Other “lethal” findings have authorized CIA covert actions against al Qaeda, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Also briefed on the CIA proposal, according to intelligence sources, were National Security Advisor Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams.

“The entire plan has been blessed by Abrams, in particular,” said one intelligence source familiar with the plan. “And Hadley had to put his chop on it.”

Abrams’ last involvement with attempting to destabilize a foreign government led to criminal charges.

He pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about the Reagan administration’s ill-fated efforts to destabilize the Nicaraguan Sandinista government in Central America, known as the Iran-Contra affair. Abrams was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992.

In June 2001, Abrams was named by then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to head the National Security Council’s office for democracy, human rights and international operations. On Feb. 2, 2005, National Security Advisor Hadley appointed Abrams deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy, one of the nation’s most senior national security positions.

As earlier reported on the Blotter on ABCNews.com, the United States has supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan “tri-border region.”

U.S. officials deny any “direct funding” of Jundullah groups but say the leader of Jundullah was in regular contact with U.S. officials.

American intelligence sources say Jundullah has received money and weapons through the Afghanistan and Pakistan military and Pakistan’s intelligence service. Pakistan has officially denied any connection.

A report broadcast on Iranian TV last Sunday said Iranian authorities had captured 10 men crossing the border with $500,000 in cash along with “maps of sensitive areas” and “modern spy equipment.”

A senior Pakistani official told ABCNews.com the 10 men were members of Jundullah.

The leader of the Jundullah group, according to the Pakistani official, has been recruiting and training “hundreds of men” for “unspecified missions” across the border in Iran.

I say, send Jack Bauer. The ratings might out strip American Idol, which apparently has it's finals tonight. After a long day at work, a long drive home in the SUV, a watercooler discussion about those darned high gas prices, isn't it more relaxing to sit at home and people make idiots of themselves for money. Oh, that's Congress, not American Idol.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bill Shields Pentagon Aid Boost from Oversight

Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON, May 16 (IPS) - Newly proposed legislation would expand existing Pentagon security and military aid programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan to "coalition partners" in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Building Global Partnerships Act of 2007 would authorise the secretary of defence, in consultation with the secretary of state, to allocate up to 750 million dollars to help foreign governments set up security and military forces to "combat terrorism and enhance stability".

The White House has submitted the bill to the House of Representatives and Senate but it has not been reviewed in committee or sent to the floor of either chambre for a vote.

The new legislation is an expansion of an existing programme that initially provided funds to the Pentagon to train security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was renewed annually without State Department involvement.

State Department involvement in funding decisions was introduced when the programme expanded its reach to "coalition partners" in Algeria, Chad, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Yemen and Sao Tome Principe.

The Pentagon's ability to fund foreign aid programmes has in the past been contingent on compliance with the Foreign Assistance Act, which imposes restrictions on foreign aid recipients, including strict compliance with human rights standards.

"To ensure that commanders have adequate flexibility to meet operational needs, this section also would eliminate Foreign Assistance Act restrictions," the bill reads. "The joint approval process and advance congressional notification will ensure transparency and that respect for human rights and civilian authority remain a key component of programmes under this section without sacrificing flexibility critical to United States national security."

Last year, the Pentagon likely used a portion of its 200-million-dollar aid budget to provide military aid that may have been blocked had it not bypassed the Foreign Assistance Act, which insists on basic human rights standards to be observed by military units receiving U.S. aid.

"With Indonesia, the Pentagon has one foreign policy and the U.S. has another foreign policy," Ivan Eland, director of the Centre on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute, told IPS.

The Foreign Assistance Act has limited the allocation of military and security aid to Indonesia out of concern for the human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor.

"Section 1206 was intended to be a pilot programme. They were supposed to report back to congress about what happened but they have an extension until next January," George Vickers, senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Centre, told IPS. "There's been no reporting on if the pilot programme has worked so it's premature to be making it permanent and expanding its scope and authority."

Human rights advocates have expressed concern that the new legislation represents a structural shift that would allow the Pentagon greater leeway in setting foreign policy and permit it nearly complete protection from Congressional oversight.

"We are very concerned that this is another way the Pentagon is encroaching on territory traditionally occupied by the State Department," Scott Stedjan, legislative secretary at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, told IPS. "We're afraid this Pentagon programme will bypass the Foreign Assistance Act, and specifically the human rights component."

The new legislation would create more oversight than previous aid budgets allocated to the Pentagon because it would require State Department approval for allocation of funds, but the considerable increase in budget and its continued avoidance of congressional oversight is believed by many to give the Pentagon unprecedented leeway to distribute security and military aid with few restrictions.

Pentagon leadership would be able to more easily coordinate their military and security aid allocations with areas of interest in the "war on terror" without the congressional oversight and limitations of the Foreign Assistance Act, which have specifically limited the Pentagon's discretionary aid allocations in various African countries.

"(The Building Global Partnerships Act) will have an impact in Latin America but the area they're most interested in is Africa," said Vickers. "Sub-Saharan Africa, Somalia and Ethiopia are areas where they'd like to be able to do more to build the capacities for local forces. The way they've proposed it would allow them to make proxy armies."

The Pentagon's desires to set its own foreign aid policy independent of the state department and Congress has led a number of analysts to question the consequences of a Pentagon-led foreign aid policy with little or few restrictions.

"If you're giving aid to undesirable countries, by human rights standards, it usually backfires on you," said Eland. "It may provide short term benefits in the 'war on terror', but the long-term consequences may be unclear." (END/2007)

Memorial Day Essay: Supporting the Troops

by Col. Dan Smith (USA, Ret.)

This Memorial Day, young men and women will have been dying in combat in Iraq for more than four years. It is time to declare that “support for the troops” is not demonstrated by continuing to increase the number of tombs and monuments on which flags and flowers will be placed next year. To die for a cause is easier than to live for and in accordance with a principle.

Only when the majority of humans are willing to make the effort for life will Memorial Day become a memorial to the end of warfare.

Urge Congress not to continue to support the same failed Iraq policy.

for the complete essay, visit the FCNL (Friend's Committee on National Legislation) website: www.fcnl.org/smith/memorial.htm

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lefty "Revival" Meetin' !

Its been kinda grim lately on the political-world scene, so I was looking forward to seeing Stephanie Miller, the frenetic, scatological and scathingly funny progressive radio personality, carried locally on 92.1, the Mic.

I had to wait a long time, it turned out. This was made more challenging since I brought my twelve year old son along with his twelve year old friend, both savvy enough to appreciate political and of course, scatological humor. (Hmmm, is this good parenting?)

The evening began with the program director of 92.1 reading the following week's programming schedule in its entirety (or so it seemed). Then we were shown a film by local film maker Luciano about the "resurrection" of The Mic from the evildoers at Clear Channel radio. It was a good film, albeit a bit lengthy. The boys and I generally enjoyed it. It got people fired up with its inspirational story line of grass roots activism.

Then, I naively thought, out would come Stephanie, the energy would continue to rise, we'd have some laughs and go home.

This, alas, was not to be the case. Instead, we were "treated" to a panel discussion. The panel included Matt Rothschild of the Progressive Magazine, John Nichols of the Nation, the station manager of Clear Channel in Madison, and Tom Kelly who I wasn't familiar with. The discussion was moderated by Stuart Levitan. So.......five WHITE MALES discussing and discussing and discussing. The 12 year olds were becoming restless. (uh oh) Most of the discussion was by Mr Levitan who evidently thought he was the star attraction, and not Ms Miller. The WOMAN who organized the massive petition drive to get The Mic back on the air was not on the panel. The WOMAN owner of the Dardanelle's, a major player in this "resurrection" was not on the panel. Of the panelists, only Mr Nichols drew attention to the fact that it was a group of all WHITE MALES on the panel. The 12 year olds were becoming more restless. In the words of my son "this sucks".

Mercifully, Mr Levitan brought things to an end. It took him five minutes to give his "concluding" remarks, but finally, finally we got to the main event. I was tired by then. It was 9pm. I noticed a lot of people looking at their watches during the panel. About a third of the packed house had escaped to the lobbyduring the panel. In the time-honored traditon of the Left in Madison, they get an excited, high energy crowd and drain the energy right out of them. When will this lesson be learned? If you're going to have a revival meeting, you don't stop for a Tupperware party in the middle.

FINALLY, Stephanie came out and did not disappoint the mulitudes of fans. She was very funny at times. Lots of stream of consciousness speaking. Reminding people that she came from a Republican family (her father was Barry Goldwater's running mate in '64) she told how when she criticizes Bush, her mom alway replies "he's doing the best he can". She quipped that if W was having sex with a sheep on the White House lawn, then set it on fire, her mom would say: "Well, honey, the sheep was cold. And lonely. And he's doing the best he can". Thunderous laughter. The twelve year olds were definitely getting into it. I guess this was a good thing. She had lots of commentary on Bush and got lots of laughs about all those right wing pundits. Her vivid, frightening, revolting description of what it might be like to be in bed with Rush Limbaugh nearly brought the house down. By now, the 12 year olds were paying even closer attention. Then, she took questions from the audience which was sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic. After an hour or so, she had the good sense to wrap things up and left the stage to thunderous applause.

Mr Levitan, apparently eager to soak up some of that applause, rushed out on stage and started speaking AGAIN. This time, though, people just bolted for the exits. He may still be talking. I don't know.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

By The Fire: A Poem

Sliver moon
cradled in the trees.
Bats scamper among the stars.
Fire releases the warmth
of the sun
and flickers on the faces
of my friends.

My poodle is quiet,
finally,
at my side.

My son is smiling,
as he cremates
another marshmallow.

The GOP’s Torture Enthusiasts

This Week’s Republican Debate Was a Jack Bauer Impersonation Contest
by Rosa Brooks
Published on Friday, May 18, 2007 by The Los Angeles Times

It wasn’t an edifying spectacle: a group of middle-aged white guys competing with one another to see who could do the best impersonation of Jack Bauer, torture enthusiast and the central character on Fox’s hit show “24.”

In Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News moderator Brit Hume — who appears to have been watching too much “24″ himself — raised what he described as “a fictional but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it.” He then laid out the kind of “ticking-bomb” scenario on which virtually every episode of “24″ is premised — precisely the kind that most intelligence experts consider fictional and entirely implausible.

Imagine, Hume told the candidates, that hundreds of Americans have been killed in three major suicide bombings and “a fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured … and taken to Guantanamo…. U.S. intelligence believes that another, larger attack is planned…. How aggressively would you interrogate” the captured suspects?

Rudy Giuliani — a man who knows he has a few cross-dressing episodes to live down — didn’t hesitate. “I would tell the [interrogators] to use every method…. It shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of.”

“Water-boarding?” asked Hume.

“I would — and I would — well, I’d say every method they could think of,” affirmed Giuliani.

As governor of the State That Dares Not Speak Its Name — at least not in GOP circles — Mitt Romney naturally had to up the ante. “You said the person’s going to be in Guantanamo. I’m glad they’re at Guantanamo…. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.” I am politician, hear me roar! And, oh yeah: “Enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used.”

Not to be left out, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California boasted that, “in terms of getting information that would save American lives, even if it involves very high-pressure techniques,” he would offer only “one sentence: Get the information.”

And finally, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo: “We’re wondering about whether water-boarding would be a — a bad thing to do? I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you.”

Ha ha. This remark was greeted by uproarious laughter and applause from the audience because, after all, who doesn’t enjoy thinking about a hunky guy threatening to gouge out a detainee’s eye with a hunting knife?

Unlike Hunter and Tancredo, Giuliani and Romney took pains to insist that they didn’t favor torture, just … you know, “enhanced interrogation.” But water-boarding, which neither would disavow, is unquestionably a form of torture. It involves taking a bound, gagged and blindfolded prisoner and pouring water over him or holding him underwater to induce an unbearable sensation of drowning. It was used in the Spanish Inquisition and by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge — fellas who make Jack Bauer look like a softie.

In Tuesday’s debate, only John McCain and Ron Paul bucked the collective swooning over enhanced interrogation. Paul mused about the way that torture has become “enhanced interrogation technique. It sounds like newspeak,” he noted, referring to George Orwell’s term for totalitarian doubletalk in his novel “1984.” Paul obviously never got the memo. For most of the Republican primary candidates, “1984″ isn’t a cautionary tale, it’s a how-to manual.

Only McCain reminded the audience that “it’s not about the terrorists, it’s about us. It’s about what kind of country we are.”

McCain’s chest-beating Republican rivals would do well to listen to him, and to read the letter Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, sent May 10 to all U.S. troops there: “Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information…. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary…. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight … is how we behave. In everything we do, we must … treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect.”

In Tuesday’s debate, Tancredo brushed off “theoretical” objections to torture as a luxury we can’t afford: If “we go under, Western civilization goes under.” And what’s a little torture when Western civilization itself is at stake?

But Western civilization isn’t about speaking English, or flags, or football or borders. If Western civilization is about anything at all, it’s about the arduous, centuries-long struggle to nurture an idea of human dignity that’s not dependent on nationality or power. As Petraeus put it, there are some “values and standards that make us who we are.”

Tancredo’s right about one thing though. If we embrace the use of torture, we won’t need to worry that extremist Islamic terrorists might destroy Western civilization.

We’ll have killed it off ourselves.

Snowbanks North of the House

by Robert Bly

Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house...
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more
books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no
more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a
party, and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls
leaving the church.
It will not come closer----
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch
nothing, and are safe.

The father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room whre the coffin stands.
He turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.

The toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust...
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ding, Dong, Falwell's Dead

Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
by Sally Kohn

I know it sounds so..un-Quakerly, but I've just had it with the eulogizing of people such as Ronald Reagan and now Jerry Falwell. I believe there is that of God in these men, but let's talk about the reality of what they did in their lives. Just because there is that of God in this man, doesn't mean we need sing his praises. This article gets at some of my frustration......


Perhaps there’s something tacky about celebrating someone’s death. Perhaps, but I’m doing it anyway.

I remember when Ronald Reagan died. There were eloquent eulogies from conservatives and liberals alike. The New York Times, for instance, said that Reagan was “right on some of the bigger questions of his time,” notwithstanding the fact that the Times now opposes some of the answers to those questions as implemented by George W. Bush. Are we obliged to say nice things about the dead, even when they were evil, destructive people while living?

Jerry Falwell blamed the September 11th attacks on abortion providers, feminists and gay people because, he explained, “God will not be mocked.” Yeah, take that, God! We’ve clearly done wrong by you in demanding rights and liberty for all. Though, of course, it’s not actually our fault: Tinky Winky hypnotized us with his homoerotic cooing.

Falwell also blamed AIDS on gay people. Actually, going a step further, he said AIDS is “God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” Apart from appreciating the implicit victory over heteronormativity that Falwell’s statement implies, reading his quotes in rapid succession suggests gay folks should not only feel self-loathing on a personal level but much more broadly guilty for the all the awful things we cause in the world. I saw a pothole this morning. Maybe that’s my fault, too.

If he had just a few more weeks, Falwell could have pinned the failures in Iraq on the ACLU. Sorry we had to miss that one. Remember, Falwell once said, “The ACLU is to Christians what the Nazi party is to Jews.” Yeah.

He also said that, “If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.” Paired with his other statement that, “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions,” we realize that Falwell’s vision for the world is an army of people who blindly accept his translation of God’s word into hate. A mindless majority.

There are many wonderful Christian leaders and leaders in other spiritual traditions who do not pit religious values and justice against each other, as Falwell did, but rather see them as deeply intertwined. In writing against the war in Iraq, the Reverend Peter Gomes has preached on God’s words, “I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight.” The Reverend James Lawson has said, “Certainly from the perspective of Jesus, violence, war and hatred are always unfair, unjust, ungodly.” These are countless other examples of sane and loving voices in religious traditions.

One of the greatest questions for our future is whether these voices will triumph going forward. Will faith and spirituality be a path to liberation for all, the window through which we see our commonality with all beings and join together to pursue fairness and equality? Or will religion divide us, emphasizing our differences more than our similarities and privileging certain religious “truths” over others? From the sectarian struggles in Iraq to the Pope’s invective against liberation theology that has helped so many in Latin America to Falwell’s poisonous legacy, the danger in this second path is clear.

To take some “moral high ground” and praise Falwell even though he was a rabidly racist, sexist and homophobic asshole would be disingenuous at best. Yes, where we most depart from Falwell is in believing that we’re all in it together, equal and interconnected, children of God — which, presumably, includes him. But holding hands with Falwell’s corpse and singing “Kumbaya” would suggest that his vision of hate and our vision of love can co-exist, that we can all just get along. Instead, perhaps the appropriate response to Falwell’s vengeful moralizing is some moralizing of our own, calling a spade and spade and saying that Falwell was destructive and wrong. Period.

Falwell once said that gay folks are “brute beasts” who are “part of a vile and satanic system that will be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.” So I don’t feel badly for one moment in hoping heaven is now celebrating Falwell’s death.

Sally Kohn is director of the New York-based Movement Vision Project, working with grassroots organizations across the United States to advance our shared values of family, community and humanity.

Amy Ard: I'm Harboring an Undocumented Person

It’ll feel good to get this off my chest: I’m harboring an undocumented person. Growing at the rate of half a pound each week, somewhere between my rib cage and my bladder, this interloper is preparing to make his/her grand entrance sometime in the next four to seven weeks - and for the life of me, I can’t figure out whether he or she is a true-blooded U.S. citizen.

Unlike many of our uninvited, hard-working guests currently in the United States, this little stowaway doesn’t have so much as a library card for documentation. And what about this meaningless “birth certificate” I’ll sign with the aid of my coyote (okay, midwife)? I’ve looked that document over, and as far as I can tell it doesn’t offer any guarantee that this new citizen will be productive, good looking, or give a hoot about U.S. foreign policy. Do we really want such an unpredictable kid running wild on the streets of Washington, D.C.?

So what exactly has this child done to deserve U.S. citizenship? Should he/she expect a free ride on the American Dream Expressway just for passing through the birth canal of a tax-paying, hard-working, U.S.-citizen mother? Talk about cheating the system! This small fry hasn’t paid one cent of taxes (and if I read the IRS materials correctly, I actually get to pay less when he/she hits the scene!), I’d be surprised if he/she can speak more than a few words of English within a year of arriving on U.S. soil, and instead of contributing to the U.S. economy this little person will just take, take, take.

Right now the U.S. Senate is working hard to hammer out the details of building big fences on the border (mostly concerning themselves with the one to the south) and finding ways to make immigrants pay for the great honor of picking tomatoes for our Big Macs and turning down the sheets at our Hilton Hotels. They’re suggesting that these workers pay $5,000 (over 20 percent of the average yearly salary for an agricultural worker) and return to their country of origin to get a nice stamp in a visa book before returning to pick up where they left off in those high-paying gigs.

What’s wrong with coming up with a way to make sure that those lucky enough to be born on U.S. soil actually deserve the benefits of citizenship that are so casually bestowed to them when they arrive, all wrinkled-up and screaming? If some folks are willing to walk across a burning desert with no money, little water, and no guarantee they’ll make it past some over-caffeinated Minuteman’s pickup truck, shouldn’t we ensure that those who make the comparatively easy trip down the birth canal work a little bit harder for their journey to citizenship?

Here’s my proposal: nobody gets automatic U.S. citizenship. Instead, we give ourselves some time to get to know these new recruits. How about instituting a review board for toddlers? For those who show anti-social tendencies (remember, we've grown terrorists here, too) we’ll go ahead and install some wiretaps and video-cams for closer observation. And imagine having all 12-year-olds pass an English language and citizenship test. Additionally, the $5,000 citizenship fee should be extended to all who wish to live and work in this great land. Or, better yet, we institute a progressive fee determined by an individual’s net worth. Rich kids will pay more. A large number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. currently pay taxes, so that’s no excuse for those of us born here - from here on out you pay your taxes and you pay for the unwarranted privilege of being born in Atlanta, Georgia, Granville, Ohio, Sacramento, California, etc. Fair is fair.

Oh, and these kids shouldn’t be allowed to vote until enough pollsters have been dispatched to figure out exactly which way they swing. If they promise to disrupt the balance of power, we won’t allow them in the voting booth. Our democracy depends on stability and predictability. Who knows what upstarts are being born right now?

As one or two country music musicians remind us: freedom isn't free. And U.S. citizenship shouldn’t be either. A note to the little kick boxer in my belly – Immigration and Customs Enforcement may not be knocking down the door to our birthing room, but don’t think because you’re scheduled to be born on the 4th of July it means you deserve high-priced healthcare and the freedom to own a gun. Kid, you’re going to have to prove you deserved to be born here.


Amy Ard is the National Field Organizer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rachel Corrie is not Anne Frank

The Second Life of Rachel Corrie
By Jason Fitzgerald


Rachel Corrie died on March 16, 2003. In her place rose a pair of stories in conflict: first, of a woman either inspired or misguided into pro-Palestinian activism; second, of a play either victimized or not by censorship in America. In the murky waters of these two controversies, both Corrie herself and the documentary play she inspired have been hard to see clearly.

In late 2000, while an undergraduate at Evergreen State College in her hometown of Olympia, Washington, Corrie took it upon herself to travel to Gaza to join the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which identifies itself as "a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles." On March 16, barely three months after arriving, she was crushed by a bulldozer while defending a Palestinian home against demolition. All evidence suggests that the driver knew what he was doing--Corrie reportedly looked the driver in the eye before being killed. Almost immediately, both sides of the larger conflict in the area claimed ownership of the true meaning of her death. The ISM called her "a true American hero," and the Palestinian National Authority Web site announced on its Web site, "Israel killed another Angel." Memorial web sites, with pictures of Corrie as an innocent-looking young girl, quickly filled the Internet. Michael Moore dedicated his book Dude, Where's My Country to her memory.

In contrast, the Israeli military, which has argued that the demolition of Palestinian homes is a necessary measure to destroy terrorist cells, saw Corrie's death as the inevitable result of a larger problem. A spokesman was quoted on CNN: "This is a group of protesters who are acting very irresponsibly. They are putting everyone in danger, the Palestinians, themselves, our forces, by intentionally placing themselves in a combat zone." In the States, a photograph of Corrie burning an American flag with a group of Palestinian children was widely circulated, suggesting that her allegiances were anti-American. Rachel Corrie: martyr for the Palestinian cause? Hero of peace? Betrayer of her country? It depends on whom you talk to.

Corrie's theatrical journey home has been similarly fraught. Her story caught the attention of actor Alan Rickman, who, with the support of the Corrie family and journalist Katharine Viner as co-editor, turned her diaries and emails into a one-woman play. My Name is Rachel Corrie was produced by the Royal Court Theater in 2005. Not long thereafter, New York Theater Workshop announced and then unannounced the play for its 2006-2007 season, creating a storm of controversy. An open petition from members of the theater community was sent to artistic director James Nicola urging him to change his mind and "come down on the side of peace, justice, and open discussion" (available at: http://www.petitiononline.com/nytw/petition.html). Playwright Eduardo Machado, in a speech to the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, denounced the cancellation as "horrifying and the worst kind of censorship imaginable." Perhaps the harshest words came from Vanessa Redgrave, who called the cancellation a "catastrophe" and "The second death of Rachel Corrie."

Inside all the newspaper editorials, panel discussions, and email warfare was a self-congratulatory energy from those who cried censorship--a pride that they had found a martyr for the cause of politically relevant drama. James Nicola responded that he had intended a "postponement," that he was trying to be "sensitive to all communities," and that he felt unable to present the play "simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position," at least not until his theater had taken "more time to learn more and figure out a way to proceed." While his supporters could not rally behind so romantic a cause as free speech, many, including BAM's executive producer Joseph V. Melillo, acknowledged the difficult position of an artistic director and insisted on his right to choose or un-choose his season. Others, including the New York Times critic Edward Rothstein, sympathized with NYTW over the political difficulties of the play itself.

Regardless of one's position, Jim Nicola was, in the end, the best thing to happen to My Name is Rachel Corrie, at least in America, as his "postponement" generated attention the play could never have received otherwise. The rewards, as for most artworks that some people don't want others to see, belong to the author and presenters, who now find themselves with full houses in a month-long run at the Minnetta Lane Theatre. To speak about "Rachel Corrie" as though she were in fact performing on an Off-Broadway stage is not entirely inappropriate. In many ways, My Name is Rachel Corrie is a theatrical resurrection of a woman who had a great deal to say but, because of her death, lost the chance to say it. Thanks to a subtle performance by Megan Dodds, an American actress who originated the role in London, we are able to confront a woman who is complicated, contradictory, and complete, despite the fact that the controversy had reduced her to a bloodless object of debate.

That My Name is Rachel Corrie is interested in more than the stories of Corrie's martyrdom becomes clear in the first scene, which shows the activist lying on her bed beneath a pile of primary-colored sheets, bemoaning her messy bedroom. "I haven't done laundry in a month," she says, "and the other girl who lives in my room when I'm not here--the bad one who tends the garden of dirty cups and throws all the clothes around and tips over the ashtrays--the bad other girl hid all my pens while I was sleeping." Immediately, Corrie presents herself as not one but two women, a psychology of conflicting impulses, not surprising for a precocious 24-year-old confronting her adult identity.

Equally clear from the play's first moments is that Corrie, even in her private diaries, has an extraordinary capacity for language. "I get ready to write down some dreams or a page in my diary or draw some very important maps," she says on the bed, "and then the ceiling tries to devour me." Her refreshing description of cabin fever, together with the felt reality of a linguistic talent we know has been lost, suggests a twenty-first century Anne Frank, another girl whose personal writings about a violent, upturned reality have made her a symbol of lost human potential.

But Anne Frank was 13 when she wrote in her famous diary, not 24, and she was a victim of circumstance, not an activist. The first part of My Name is Rachel Corrie, whose set is her bed and a red wall covered with photographs and magazine cut-outs, concerns her growing restlessness to leave Olympia and immerse herself in the causes she is already fighting for on campus. As she says to her mother, "I love you but I'm growing out of what you gave me. I'm saving it inside me and growing outwards." The search for belonging and fulfillment, the problems of young adulthood, sit side by side with the problems of international politics. She later tells her mother: "Please think about your language when you talk to [local reporters about my trip]…if you talk about 'the cycle of violence'…you could be perpetuating the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a balanced conflict…I'll call you tonight." The primary tension of the play is between her self-described "nomadic" soul and her love for family and home, a duality that leaves her unsettled. "I look at things the wrong way," she later confesses, "I know how it feels not to be normal." Behind the bright bed and the red wall, however, stands a cement structure that runs the length of the Minnetta's wide stage, representing her stark lifestyle in Gaza, calling her inevitably onward.

Act Two, the Palestine portion of the play, introduces a tonal shift, signaled when Corrie pushes her bright and friendly bedroom offstage. She segu├ęs into a directness of purpose as her energies are pushed to exhaustion. The scene structure now follows the chronology of her diary, with more reporting than musing: "I went to the kitchen and stayed two hours. The tank stayed too, so no work, no school." She finds self-assurance, ironically, in one of the least self-assured regions in the world. If only from trying to stay alive, Corrie is not restless anymore. Her challenge now is to write down what she "has very few words to describe," the "reality of the situation" that "you can't imagine…unless you see it." Part of the triumph of My Name is Rachel Corrie is that the real Corrie's longing to find and, presumably, communicate to others "a connection to the people who are impacted by US foreign policy" is realized in the stage-Corrie's graphic, honest descriptions of life in the Gaza Strip. In a sense, the play completes at least the journalistic side of Corrie's mission, not to mention being the closest she could ever come to being published.

Her death is depicted in an epilogue, an audio recording of an eyewitness account followed by a video clip of 10-year-old Corrie speaking at a "Fifth Grade Press Conference on World Hunger," both shown after Dobbs walks offstage, the available diary entries having expired. These final moments, combined with an image of Corrie as a young girl in a field with a toothy smile--used on the posters, programs, and published script--are by themselves emotionally manipulative. The death of an innocent child is much less complicated than the death of a headstrong and flawed woman who chose to put herself in harm's way.

The epilogue confronts us with the story of Corrie-as-martyr that has hovered over her death, but in counterpoint to the rest of the play it forces us to consider that story's relationship to the woman Corrie became, and to our own conflicted feelings about her death. What My Name is Rachel Corrie has that The Diary of Anne Frank lacks (both works depend on child-murder for their emotional and dramatic power) are Rachel Corrie's politics. While Anne Frank protests Nazi cruelty, as uncontroversial a position as one could take, Corrie protests the behavior of the Israeli government against Palestine. While she is careful to "draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state and Jewish people," this disclaimer only licenses her unapologetic distaste for Israel's government. She is equally unafraid to criticize her own government, shaking her proverbial fists over the "thousand people [who] are still, as far as I can tell, being held somewhere in the United States." In short, Corrie holds relatively clean, black-and-white attitudes towards a conflict that is decidedly gray and contentiously disputed throughout the world.

Corrie's strong beliefs keep her story from being a predictable, value-neutral narrative through which we can all cry over an innocent girl who just wanted to help. In the theater, as in life, Rachel Corrie resists definition. While she may still be, for some, a tool for bipartisan catharsis, for many others she is a catalyst of political division. The night I saw the play, at least two audience members left the theater after Corrie's comments against the "balanced" nature of the fighting in Israel, missing (among other remarks) her attempt to say "Bush is a tool" in Arabic.

For Corrie, though, her understanding of the political situation in Palestine gives her the drive to travel around the world and support families in need, to make sacrifices (even before her death) that few would consider making. Such ideological clarity, flawed though it may be, is prerequisite for activism. Beyond its mimetic resurrection of the historical Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie is also a meditation on activism. The two different girls she sees co-existing inside her prefigure the many contradictions inherent in the activist's life. Corrie's own awareness of this split, and the decision on Rickman and Viner's part to make it the center of her dramatic journey, are what make the play neither agitprop nor emotional manipulation, but rather drama.

Presenting activism as the condition of a divided self locates Rachel Corrie within the gap between the girl who loves to "swim naked at the beach" and the global activist sacrificing her life for others, the gap between necessary optimism and the awareness that it might not be justified. Duality structures all Corrie's concerns in Gaza. There are the possibilities and the limitations of effectiveness--"I get really worried that it [a protest] will just suck." There is the sweeping generosity of reaching across cultural boundaries combined with the problem of authority in representation. Who is Rachel Corrie to intervene in, and to speak for, the lives of people whose experience is so different from her own? "If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else," Corrie admits, "needless death wouldn't be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn't be a metaphor, it would be a reality." What is the difference between activism and emotional tourism? "I have no right to this metaphor," she continues, "but I use it to console myself." Finally, there is the difficulty of activism as a lifestyle, and the problem of learning how to return home. "Let me know what you want me to do for the rest of my life," Corrie writes to her father.

Onstage, if not in real life, Corrie finds her sense of wholeness by embracing her fracturedness. In the play's final, longest, and most moving monologue, after describing multiple horrors she has witnessed, she says:

"I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop…I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world…Coming here is one of the better things I've ever done."

These words are a far cry from Anne Frank's "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart." In the end, Corrie embraces both halves of herself, and she sees clearly that they inform each other. The betrayal of the innocent young girl laughing in the fields took place not in her eventual murder but in her empathy with the pain of others. The resolution of her identity is in its dissolution, in seeing that she wants to be "the bad other girl" but, because cruelty continues to thrive in certain parts of the world, she cannot be. This betrayal may have benefited the lives that the real Rachel Corrie touched, but it is a betrayal nonetheless. In a perfect world there are no activists.

In this recognition of her failure to live the happy life of a girl from Olympia, there may be indeed something dangerous about Rachel Corrie, something to justify all the hullabaloo over her story and her play. While Anne Frank condemns the Nazis, Rachel Corrie condemns us. The former leaves us feeling comfortable, maintaining the myth that responsibility for evil belongs to a former generation or to a distant country. The latter leaves us unnerved, demonstrating a level of empathy and a will to sacrifice beyond the reach of many of us, and revealing our own complicity, however small, in her death. Rachel Corrie condemns us as complacent, and she condemns us as Americans. Perhaps this is why, at the end of the performance, the audience's applause was strong but not explosive. There were few tears except in Dobbs's eyes, and no sense of release.

Alisa Solomon, in a recent panel at Barnard College on the Rachel Corrie censorship scandal, pointed out, "this [American] theater community is upset, justifiably, about this play not going on, but this same theater community was never upset about a 23-year-old woman being crushed by a bulldozer in Gaza." What My Name is Rachel Corrie reveals is that both narratives of Corrie's martyrdom--IDF vs. ISM and NYTW vs. the anti-censorship petitioners--need to be reexamined in the light of Rachel Corrie herself. By celebrating Corrie as a symbol of peace, we miss her call to action and her implicit condemnation of our inaction. By holding up her up as a victim of American theater's conservatism, we turn the Minnetta Lane production into a victory rather than a challenge.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Democrat's Impeachment Plan Revealed!

In a stunning turnaround today, Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled her party's plan for impeaching Bush: "1-20-09", she said, and walked briskly off the stage into a waiting limo.

Pundits were quick to respond. Rush Limbaugh raged against this "insult to the democratic process!" Bill O'Reilly said on his popular "talk" show, that this "cold, calculated political ruse would aid the terrorists".

Other's were more positive about the Democrat's latest initiative. CNN's Wolf Blitzer felt this move demonstrated "the resolve of the Democrat's to hold the Bush administration accountable for it's crimes"

Wisconsin Democrats were generally positive about Pelosi's announcement. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, in a statement from her Madison office said "this is the kind of oversight we need when an administration has become involved in possibly, maybe, impeachable naughty offences. A staffer from US Senator Herb Kohl's office told this reporter that "the Senator has not yet formulated a position" on this historical "line in the sand".

President Bush, contacted at his ranch in the wilds of Texas, where he was clearing brush, promised a veto.

"Grannies" Raise Hell

Protesters Favor Soft Hats, Tough Lyrics

They operate with a sense of outrage, a commitment to nonviolence, a love of song, and an irreverent brand of humor. Meet the Raging Grannies, feisty women of a certain age who protest war, nuclear power, bio hazards, degradation of the environment, and a panoply of other causes.They protest with a smile while wearing outlandish hats and singing self-composed ditties that take biting, acerbic aim at the powerful.

“I know for a fact I was born with a gene for justice,” said Susan Gracey, a 72-year-old grandmother of two from Brookline, who dates her activism to a plea for better playing fields for the girls in her elementary school.

The Grannies unabashedly seek attention, and they usually succeed. Founded in 1987 in British Columbia by women whose targets ranged from nuclear submarines to clear-cut log ging, the Raging Grannies have expanded to a worldwide movement of more than 60 autonomous chapters, or “gaggles,” which include a Boston-area chapter with about 18 active members and a Western Massachusetts gaggle with 40.

Their activism has led to arrests — dozens of times for a few members — as the Grannies spread their message around the region at sites such as Army recruiting offices, high schools, and the gates of nuclear power plants. And while they use humor to attract attention, the members of this loosely organized group are deadly serious about their concerns.

In the South End on Sunday, amid the dreadlocks and scruffy beards of other protesters who dotted a rally against a nearby biological research lab, Gracey stood out with a broad-brimmed, hot-pink hat. With Jean Miller, a 69-year-old grandmother of eight from the Back Bay, Gracey held aloft the Raging Grannies banner and broke into song with the three other members.

In soft voices that competed with speeches lambasting the Boston University biolab, where scientists will study some of the world’s deadliest germs, Gracey and Miller offered these lyrics about Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Bio safety Level-4 lab, which is under construction on Albany Street.

Set to the tune of “Frere Jacques,” the age-old children’s round, Gracey and Miller sang:

“Frere Menino, Frere Menino,

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Warning bells are ringing,

Raging Grannies singing,

NO L-4! NO L-4!”


The group isn’t limited to grandmothers and imposes no firm age threshold to join — members range in age from their mid-40s to 80s. But age, apparently, does play a role, along with zeal and talent.

“You don’t have to be a granny, only raging,” said Miller, a former teacher and nurse’s aide. However, she added, “you ‘d better not be gorgeous and 25, but you have to be able to sing.”

For the Boston gaggle, which began about 10 years ago, the songs are polished and rehearsed at twice-monthly meetings at Gracey’s home. One source of these songs is Maddy McDowell, 76, a grandmother of three from Cambridge whom Gracey called a “popcorn machine” of new compositions.

McDowell, a professional registered architect who recently joined the Grannies, relishes this outlet to combine creativity and public policy concerns. “This is a wonderful time of life because your obligations are done,” she said.

The protest Sunday was a typical setting for the Grannies, who walked to the South End biolab site from Roxbury, singing along the way and displaying their banner, which shows an outraged granny in full attack mode, an umbrella raised menacingly above her head. Other area demonstrations have included a rally at Faneuil Hall on April 28 to call for the impeachment of President Bush for, among other things, the Iraq war and the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“Fundamentally, I feel that if we don’t impeach Bush, we’re negating the Constitution and what it stands for,” said Gracey, a former teacher and court reporter who joined the Grannies about three years ago.

The Western Massachusetts chapter has been especially busy.

Last month, seven Grannies were arrested as they protested at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. On Wednesday, they sang against the expansion of a Wal-Mart in Hadley. And on Saturday, they marched in a gay pride parade in Northampton.

Despite their frequently controversial stands, the Grannies said, they never hear jeers. “I don’t think heckling Grandma is a cool thing to do,” Gracey said.

Not all the demonstrations end benignly. In November, five Grannies from Western Massachusetts were arrested in Greenfield when they refused to leave an Army recruiting office, where they had brought home-baked chocolate-chip cookies and an inexhaustible supply of rhetoric to try to persuade the recruiter to quit.

“We sang some anti recruiting songs,” said Paki Wieland, 63, of Northampton, who also was arrested at Vermont Yankee. “At some point, [the recruiter] said, ‘This has been all well and good, but I have some work to do.’ ”

The Grannies, though unfailingly civil, remained undeterred. They told the recruiter: “This is where the rub comes, because we have work to do, too, and our work is to make sure that you stop your work,” Wieland said.

The state eventually reduced the charges from criminal trespassing to civil infractions. The women were “found responsible” for trespassing, but last month District Judge Herbert Hodos declined to fine them $50 each, as prosecutors had asked.

Among the Boston gaggle, neither Gracey nor McDowell has been arrested, and Miller said she can’t afford to be incarcerated because she helps care for her grandchildren.

But that doesn’t mean their zeal for nonviolent protest is diminished.

One example of that fiery emotion is part of an antiwar song that Gracey wrote to the tune of the World War I anthem “Over There”:

“So beware! Just take care!

Listen up! Read our lips! ‘Cuz we swear

That we are Grannies, and we are Raging,

And we WON’T SHUT UP

‘Til it’s over over there!”



Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 by the Boston Globe
by Brian MacQuarrie

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

My Name is Rachel Corrie

A while back, my good friend Luminiferous Ether, posted about the book "My Name is Rachel Corrie". I took her suggestion and finished it yesterday. I found it to be incredibly powerful in its simplicity. It's a pretty "short read" but it stays with you. Feel like I'm being followed by the ghost of Rachel. The ghost is respectful, yet challenging. She's not going away.

So I had this "leading", as we Quakers are wont to call it, that I'd like to help make it possible for this play to be performed in Madison. The fact that I was reading about Israeli "expansion" of their "settlements" into the occupied territories in the giant Fisk book (mentioned in previous posts) only made the Corrie book more powerful.

Yes, it is a "complicated" situation. However, the US government's blind support of Israel only makes this a bigger slauughter than it already is.......

We need to speak out, ask critical questions about this. The Corrie book brings out those questions in a very creative manner.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Unique Veterinary Experience"

I was driving home from my work at the veterinary school here in Madison, today, wondering how I'd ever pay off my student loans. Statistics today indicate that the average veterinary student graduates with a loan debt of $80,000.

Imagine my surprise(and horror) when I pulled my mail from the box and there, right on top, was a glossy postcard from the US ARMY offering me "unique veterinary experience". On the front was a picture of an enormous quarterhorse being gently groomed by a smiling young woman in her Army Uniform. Ahhh, the winds of fate!

Eagerly, I read the fine print on the back! If I joined up, "the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program" would offer me "up to" $50,000 for student loans over three years. This amount could be combined with "Special Pay Incentives" (I shudder to think what those might be...) of up to $30,000. "Your student loan debt will quickly become a memory". Ahh, how seductive!

But wait, there's more!!! This part sounds COOL: "Whether treating military animals, rebuilding veterinary infrastructure (Iraqi Vet Clinics perhaps?), or eradicating disease V, your service as a veterinarian in the Army Reserve will broaden your skills amd distinguish you among your peers. In fact, it could be some of the most rewarding work you've ever performed" Wowie!

Well, maybe they'll come out with an Army Veterinarian GI Joe action figure. One can only hope......

Saturday, May 5, 2007

"Honor the Warrior, but Not the War"

This slogan/bumper sticker has become popular among anti-war folk, including some Quakers. There's something appealing about it, but I've never been able to "rest easy" with the idea.

This came up for me today, when I was buying my Mom a Mother's Day card. The clerk said her kids were all older, and they sometimes forget Mother's Day. She looked sad. Then she mentioned her son was a soldier in Iraq, just went back for his second tour. I asked her if he was "out of harm's way" (as if that's really possible in Iraq). She said no, in his first tour he was a gunner on a Humvee, now he was on foot patrol. She didn't say what city. She said she was very worried. I said I hoped he came home safe. Then I took a risk and told her that although I was against the war, I still hoped he would be safe and that I would "hold him in my thoughts", which seemed very inadequate.

I've been wondering about this encounter. I didn't feel I could say that I would "hold her son in the Light", although I wanted to. The struggle for me, as a Quaker and human being is, how do I hold someone in the Light whose job it is to kill. Am I then part of the killing machine our "leaders" have unleashed in Iraq? Or should I say that I will hold him in the Light and all the Iraqis as well. That sounds good to me, but holding someone in the Light is not something to lightly toss around. I'm wrestling with this. I really do want her son home safe. I meant that. I don't want him to kill anyone. I don't want him to be there at all. I believe there is that of God in him and in all people. If I hold one person in the Light, is this a way of holding all human's in the Light. I'll have to let this simmer for a bit and see what comes up for me.

This is why I'm not comfortable with "Honor the Warrior, but Not the War"

Peace.

Is it OK for Quakers to Boo, Part 2?

So, I went to see a movie last night with my son, his best pal, and his best pal's dad.

During the pre-show "entertainment", which is mostly commercials, there was, as usual, an ad for our "fabulous" military. They are always so............seductive. Hghly polished production. Last night's "feature" was about the Marines. Showed them storming ashore at Iwo Jima, being sweet to little children (in Vietnam, Iraq...couldn't tell). The voice over was telling us all how the "Marines are always there, defending "our" freedom", and of course "helping" others. It would have made Goebbels (sp?) proud!

So..........instead of sitting in silence, I began to boo and hiss. I felt angry. I didn't throw things, shout obscenities or anything like that. People in front of me turned to look to see who this person was. My friend was obviously embarrassed. Then, I felt embarrassed. I started feeling like I needed to apologize to my friend. I think I mumbled something like that. But I am tired of "taking it". I heard the other day that military recruitment was up but that the "quality" of the recruits was down in terms of education, etc. So maybe these "commercials" are working? (I know it's more complex than that, but........)

I'm not trying to paint myself as some paragon of peace. I'm just pissed off at the silence of so many people to the lies that are being forced on us. I was imagining last night that I could go to a movie with a group of folks and all boo loudly together. Get people to think.

I like to go to sporting events. I am tired of the national anthem. It's a song that glorifies war. I've stopped standing for the National Anthem. It's weird yet strangely empowering to look around the stadium and see that I'm the only one I can see sitting among the 15,000. If the national anthem was the Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land", I just might stand.

Again, I'm not saying that I'm somehow better than any of those people. I hear the voices of "patriotism" hollering inside my head, too. I was raised on lots of war movies. My family thought Vietnam was a good thing. But one of my earliest memories was attending my neighbor, Eddie Sieben's funeral, killed in Vietnam in 1965. Right out of high school. So this is really the end result of these "commercials". You come home in a box.

So is it OK for Quakers to boo? In this case, I believe it is.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

"Journalism Can Be Lethal'

This is a passage from the "Great War for Civilization" by Robert Fisk on a page I was reading today. He wrote it in the wake of the missile attack by the Vincennes, a US Navy warship on an civilian Iranian airliner in 1988 over the Persian Gulf, which killed 290 innocents. Even though he did painstaking research, his paper The Times, which had been recently "acquired" by Rupert Murdoch, censored his story. He responded in a way which seems perhaps more relevant to our present situation:

"When we journalists fail to get across the reality of events to our readers, we have not only failed in our job; we have also become a party to the bloody events that we are supposed to be reporting. If we cannot tell the truth about the shootng down of a civilian airliner-----because this will harm "our" side in a war or because it will cast one of our "hate" countries in the role of victim or because it might upset the owner of our newspaper------then we contribute to the very prejudices that provoke wars in the first place. If we cannot blow the whistle on a navy that shoots civilians out of the sky, then we make future killings of the same kind as "understandable" as Mrs. Thatcher found this one. Delete the Americans' panic and incompetence-----all of which would be revealed in the months to come----and pretend an innocent pilot is a suicidal maniac, and its only a matter of time before we blow another airliner out of the sky. Journalism can be lethal."

This book is honest. This book is graphic. Read this book. I'm only on page 272. The book is 1041 pages long. More later.

For Me, a Challenging Quote..........

"You can’t take the evil of slavery out of the world and abolish it without making the world more just. You will never prevent people living in bonded labor or from getting caught up in sex trafficking while they are so desperate that they have no other choice but to sell themselves. As long as we in the West crave ever more excess, we conspire in their desperation, exploiting it and make ourselves sick in the process."

- Clare Short, Member of British Parliament and former Secretary of State for International Development. She resigned from the latter post over the U.K.'s involvement in the Iraq War.

from Sojourners email